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A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, John examines 33 fun facts about US colleges.

Thanks to Audible.com for supporting this episode of the Mental Floss List Show. You can get Donna Tartt's The Secret History, or a book of your choice, free at Audible.com: audible.com/mentalfloss.

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 introduction


(0:00) JOHN: Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon. This is Mental Floss on YouTube and did you know that in 1978, students at Binghamton University built ramps for salamanders?

The migrating critters kept getting trapped in roads because the curves were too high for them to climb up, and then they would get run over by cars, so the students took action. And in fact, those ramps remain there today.

And that's the first of many facts about colleges I'm going to share with you today that you probably wouldn't hear on an admissions tour.

 theme


[music plays]

 video continues


(0:35) JOHN: The University of Michigan has a squirrel club which is actually one of the most popular campus clubs. It has over 400 members. What does the club do? It feeds squirrels.

The Boston University bridge is the only place in the United States where an airplane can fly over a car driving over a train driving over a boat.

Isn't that what the movie Inception was about?

Anyway, Crest toothpaste was invented at Indiana University thanks to an accident by a grad student who forgot to take a calcium phosphate sample out of a furnace one night. This error resulted in a substance that researchers were trying to develop, one that was compatible with fluoride.

The University on Pennsylvania was founded in 1740, 47 years before Pennsylvania actually became a state. The University of Pennsylvania, where its alumni say, "I went to an Ivy League university," and then you say, "Yeah, not really though."

I feel kind of bad about that joke, University of Pennsylvania people, so here's another fact about your school.

Spectators throw toast onto the football field after the third quarter of each game. Apparently, fans used to bring alcohol and would "toast" the team, but then alcohol was banned at Franklin Field, so they switched to actual and literal toast.

Ohio University is considered the most haunted university. There's even a closed dorm room, number 428, in Wilson Hall because it's allegedly haunted by a girl who practiced witchcraft and died there.

One of my brother's alma maters, the University of Montana, is also believed to be haunted, but by the first United States congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin. She graduated from UM and apparently haunts Jeannette Rankin Hall because, you know, where else would she haunt?

Now people tend to view Fenway Park as one of the most historical destinations for Boston sports, but actually Northeastern University's hockey arena is older. Matthew's Arena opened in 1910 and the Huskies still play there to this day.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home of UNC, the fire trucks are the school colors: Carolina blue and white. 

There's an iconic statue of Harvard founder, John Harvard, sitting in Harvard yard, but it's not technically a statue of John Harvard. When it was created in 1884, there was no picture of the founder of Harvard, so Harvard student Sherman Hoar modeled for the statue. The Hoars were actually one of the first families of the United States. Sherman Hoar would later go on to be a congressman. And lest you think that he had the worst possible name, he had a cousin named Ebeneezer Hoar.

You want to go to the same college that both Buffy Summers and Seth Cohen attended? If your answer isn't yes, then there's something wrong with you. The University of Southern California provided locations for Buffy's fictional UC Sunnydale, and the OC crew also transformed locations on campus into Brown University.

The word "campus" emerged in the 1770s and was invented to describe Princeton.

Oberlin College's Allen Memorial Art Museum rents paintings to students for five dollars a semester. These paintings include original works by artists like Renoir, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol... So if you're one of those people whose roommate puked on the walls of your dorm room freshman year, be grateful that there wasn't an original Renoir hanging up there. And let's be serious, it wasn't your roommate.

In 2013, a Dartmouth College fraternity caused chaos when they announced that their three-foot long python had gotten loose on campus. One of their dogs later found the snake in a hole next to the house.

Long-time fans of Mental Floss video will remember Nick Cage and his pet snake, but he would never be that careless.

At Villanova University's Vatican Internship program, students manage the Pope's social media accounts.

When the University of New Hampshire hockey team scores their first goal in a game, fans throw a fish onto the ice. That's kind of a bummer - I thought it was gonna be that they throw a tiny Incredible Hulk and a weird superhero monkey onto the ice.

Oh Mark, you know someone's going to know what that superhero monkey is and get mad at me for not having any nerd cred.

Cornell University could've been in Syracuse, New York, but, at least allegedly, Ezra Cornell was once robbed in Syracuse. So he convinced his co-founder, Andrew Dickenson* White "I-didn't-get-anything-named-after-me," to put the university in Ithaca. And ever since, Cornell students have been wondering, "Wait, why didn't you just build the university in Miami?"

*(NOTE: real name Andrew Dickson White)

Speaking of Syracuse, Syracuse University has a student magazine called "JERK." The website promises, to quote, "represent the jerk in all of us."

The oldest college marching band belongs to Notre Dame, whose band has been around since 1843.

The fear of diseases like cholera and yellow fever can cause hypochondria in people like me, but it can also cause, like, the foundation of universities. One example is Tulane University, which began as the medical college of Louisiana because people needed a place to study how to fight yellow fever and cholera.

In 1996, Kermit the Frog gave a commencement address at Southampton College. The school gave him an honorary doctorate of amphibious letters. I feel like that rather devalues my honorary doctorate from Butler University. 

You didn't think I was gonna make it through this whole video without mentioning that I'm a doctor... (honorary.)

The Georgetown University official cheer, "Hoya saxa!" is essentially meaningless. It's a combination of Greek and Latin words that literally translates to: "what, rocks!" But despite unknown origins, fans still yell the phrase during athletic events all the time.

While we're talking about cheers that mention rocks, the University of Kansas' chant is "Rock, chalk, jayhawk!" Apparently, it's just a shout-out to the limestone, called chalkrock, that can be found in Kansas.

You know you got yourself a great state when the thing you're proudest of is your limestone. I'm just kidding, Kansas people, you've got so much to be proud of. Meredith, can you do some research on what Kansans have to be proud of?

In 2012, MIT students put a life size Dalek on the roof of the Stata Center, a computer science and engineering building.

Speaking of schools that are better than the University of Pennsylvania, organic chemistry students at Columbia University have to beware of the night before the final, also known as "Orgo Night." The marching band pays a visit to the library where they play a few presumably unwelcome songs.

Cue the Mental Floss video: We, too, have a marching band. It's just down low.

Carleton College in Minnesota has an annual softball game called rotblatt. The game gets longer each year, as they play one inning for every year the school has been in existence, and it was founded in 1866. So in 2013 they played 147 innings.

In 2011, a 41-year-old SUNY Albany alum chained himself to the campus fountain in protest. The protest of what? The cancellation of an annual event called "Fountain Day," in which students all hopped into the fountain.

Rumor has it that George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, William Howard Taft, and John Kerry were all in Yale's infamous secret society: Skull and Bones.

President Nathan Hatch of Wakeforest University started a tradition, in which students camp out in the lawn of the president's house and participate in activities for one night of the school year, which is an excellent plan for keeping students out of your actual house.

In 2012, the University of Chicago received a package addressed to Henry Walton Jones, aka Indiana Jones. It contained a journal of Jones' fictional mentor, University of Chicago professor Abner Ravenwood. The admissions department hoped that this was some kind of extraordinarily clever college application, but in fact it was just memorabilia from the movie delivered to the wrong place.

File under "Reasons to Attend College in Texas": Rice University provides a "puppy room" during finals to relieve stress through pet therapy.

And lastly, we return to the salon, so that I can share with you that the Empire State Building lights up purple and white on the evening of New York University's commencement.


 Mind-Blowing Question


Thanks for watching Mental Floss, here on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these nice people.

Every week we endeavor to answer one of your mind-blowing questions, and this week's question comes from Stephanie Sweka. Sorry, if i mispronounced your name, Stephanie, but mispronouncing things is my thing.

Anyway, Stephanie asks: "What's the origin of people using 555-555-5555 when giving out a fake phone number?"

Stephanie, that's a great question, and the short answer is: "I don't know."

The long answer is: "I don't know, but movies and TV shows have been using the 555-555-5555 number since the 1960s when telephone companies and producers agreed that entertainment should use fictional phone numbers rather than real ones, you know, so like, Jenny doesn't get calls at like 867-5309.

 outro


Thank you again for watching, and as we say in my hometown, Don't Forget To Be Awesome.


 audible.com plug


Hey, PS- I'm coming to you from the future where we are remodeling, but I wanted to thank Audible.com for sponsoring today's Mental Floss video. Audible's the leading provider of audiobooks and other kinds of audio entertainment online, and Audible.com allows users to choose the audio version of their favorite books from a library of over 150,000 titles including my favorite campus novel: The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

You can download that or my novel, The Fault In Our Stars, for free at Audible.com/MentalFloss. There's also a link in the dooblydoo.