WTF • Fun • Fact    ( /dʌb(ə)lˌju/  /ti/   /ef/ • /fʌn/ • /fækt/ )

     1. noun  A random, interesting, and overall fun fact that makes you scratch your head and think what the...

WTF Fun Fact 13232 – Belief in Conspiracy Theories

According to psychological research, conspiracy theorists tend to score higher on measures of paranoia, distrust, and cynicism. They are more likely to have a suspicious and skeptical view of the world which can make them more likely to see hidden motives and conspiracies in events and the actions of others. The belief in conspiracy theories is multifaceted.

What research helps explain some people’s belief in conspiracy theories?

There are several psychological factors that contribute to why some people believe in conspiracy theories. One is the need for a sense of control and predictability. Conspiracy theories may offer a sense of control and predictability in a complex and uncertain world. By attributing events to a hidden, powerful force, people can feel like they understand why things are happening and that they have some control over their fate.

A variety of cognitive biases, such as the tendency to seek out information that confirms their existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them help influence people’s beliefs and reasoning. This can lead to a reinforcement of conspiracy beliefs and resistance to accepting evidence-based explanations.

People may be more likely to believe in conspiracy theories if they have a low level of trust in mainstream institutions. These usually include the government and media. Believers may view these institutions as untrustworthy or corrupt. This forces them to turn to alternative sources of information that support their beliefs.

Conspiracy theories can provide a sense of uniqueness and identity, particularly for individuals who feel marginalized or disconnected from mainstream society. Believing in a conspiracy theory can make people feel special and part of a group with shared beliefs.

People are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories when other believers are part of their social circle. Social influence can be a powerful motivator too. Most people are often more likely to adopt beliefs and attitudes that are prevalent within their social network.

A complex context

Research on the belief in conspiracy theories suggests that there’s more to it than just a lack of critical thinking or an overactive imagination. Instead, people’s belief in conspiracy theories may be rooted in deeper psychological processes and motivations.

According to psychological research, conspiracy theorists tend to score higher on measures of paranoia, distrust, and cynicism. They are more likely to have a suspicious and skeptical view of the world. This can make them more likely to see hidden motives and conspiracies in events and the actions of others.

Additionally, research has shown that conspiracy theorists tend to have a unique information-processing style, characterized by a tendency to selectively attend to and remember information that supports their beliefs, and to ignore or discount information that contradicts their beliefs. This can lead to a reinforcement of conspiracy beliefs and a resistance to accepting evidence-based explanations.

The cultural context for conspiracy theories

In a research article from Frontiers in Psychology (cited below) was conducted in three countries. Researchers assessed participants based on their levels of paranoia, conspiracy mentality, and mistrust of different institutions (e.g. government, media, science).

The results revealed that different forms of mistrust are associated with paranoid beliefs and conspiracy mentality. Paranoid beliefs associate more strongly with mistrust of government and interpersonal relationships, while conspiracy mentality associates more strongly with mistrust of media and science.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Paranoid beliefs and conspiracy mentality are associated with different forms of mistrust: A three-nation study” — Frontiers in Psychology

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WTF Fun Fact 13231 – The Downsides of ChatGPT

ChatGPT may seem like the answer students, coders, and writers have been looking for, but it’s far from perfect. In fact, the generative AI can be riddled with misinformation that’s likely to get you caught. And the downsides of ChatGPT are easy to discern since you can just ask the chatbot itself.

What is ChatGPT?

Chat GPT is a chatbot built by Open AI. Just go to chat.openai.com and see for yourself. You can ask it anything.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll get the right answer. Sure, it may be the answer you want to hear. It may be grammatically correct. It may even seem elegantly stated. But look a little closer, and you’ll find it’s relatively simplistic and repetitive. And it can be downright incorrect and misleading.

What are the downsides of ChatGPT?

We went right to the source to find out how the AI might come up short. According to ChatGPT itself (when asked “what is one of the major drawbacks of chatgpt?”):

“One of the major drawbacks of ChatGPT is its lack of context awareness and the possibility of generating biased or incorrect responses.

Since ChatGPT is trained on a large corpus of text data from the internet, it may sometimes generate responses that reflect the biases and inaccuracies present in that data. This can lead to the generation of incorrect information or responses that perpetuate harmful stereotypes or beliefs.

Additionally, ChatGPT operates on a token-by-token basis, meaning that it doesn’t have an overall understanding of the context of a conversation. This can lead to responses that are not fully relevant or coherent, especially when the input is complex or requires a deep understanding of a particular subject.

To mitigate these issues, it is important to carefully evaluate and curate the training data used to train language models like ChatGPT, and to use appropriate post-processing techniques to ensure the quality and accuracy of the generated responses.”

We’re impressed the AI went the extra mile and suggested some more shortcomings!

The future of ChatGPT

Yes, the chatbot is a viral sensation. And it absolutely has the ability to do some good and save some time. But it also has the ability to be used to fill the Internet (and your homework assignments) will all sorts of confident-sounding information that’s factually incorrect. And the kicker is that it may someday be trained on the same incorrect websites it helped create.

Of course, there are some pretty ominous things ChatGPT can be used for. And to be fair, Open AI has been…well, open about the downsides of ChatGPT. According to Bleeping Computer (cited below), “OpenAI has been upfront about the AI’s shortcomings including its ability to ‘produce harmful instructions or biased content and continues to fine-tune ChatGPT.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “OpenAI’s new ChatGPT bot: 10 dangerous things it’s capable of” — Bleeping Computer

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WTF Fun Fact 13230 – NYPL Gave Away Books

The New York Public Library gave away books in the summer of 2022 – half a million books, to be exact.

The New York Public Library gave away half a million books

According to the NYPL website (cited below), branches in the Bronx, Manhattan, or Staten Island gave away books starting June 9, 2022. The goal was to give away 500,000 diverse books for kids and teens (from birth through 18)!

Certain locations even offered large print books as well as books in Spanish and Chinese.

As they note: “A lifelong love of reading—and your own home library—begin with choosing your first book.”

Personal libraries

Building a personal book collection can provide people with many benefits – so it’s good to start young.

Having a personal library (however small) helps with knowledge, learning, and personal growth. It can also provide relaxation, stress relief, cultural enrichment, and a sense of accomplishment.

Collecting books can be a calming activity that helps reduce stress and promote mindfulness. It can even help you to regulate your emotions, especially if you collect books that address topics that you’re struggling with or that resonate with your experiences.

study conducted by researchers at King’s College London found that over 30 percent of adults participate in some form of collecting, including books. While psychologists can’t pinpoint exactly what makes book collecting worthwhile, many people take great pride in their book collections.

Studies do show that people who engage in hobbies are happier than those who do not. Book collecting can even be a social hobby if it involves getting out of the house and hunting for books in bookstores or attending book clubs.

Read books, live longer

A 2016 study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine actually found that reading books can reduce mortality by up to 20%. You’ll live longer if you read books.

The same was not true of reading other things – like the Internet, newspapers, or magazines!

The researchers noted that “any level of book reading gave a significantly stronger survival advantage.” This was particularly true for adults 65 and older who read books instead of watching TV.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Summer at the Library: Free Book Giveaway!” — NYPL

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WTF Fun Fact 13229 – Turkey’s Burj Al Babas

Turkey’s Burj Al Babas was supposed to be a luxury neighborhood. But today it’s a ghost town full of abandoned castle-like homes.

What’s the story behind Turkey’s Burj Al Babas?

Turkey’s Burj Al Babas is a luxury residential development located in Mudurnu (near Istanbul). It is full of fairy-tale-style castle-like villas – 732 of them, to be exact.

The Burj Al Babas was developed by the Turkish company Sarot International. Their goal was to provide a unique living experience for residents to wealthy Turkish nationals and foreigners alike. Sarot designed each villa in the style of a castle, complete with turrets, towers, and arched windows.

With a commitment to sustainability, the luxury neighborhood could have been an example of future living. Instead, it’s a ghost town. The villas are abandoned. Sarot declared bankruptcy and had to abandon the project before anyone moved in.

Despite Turkey’s Burj Al Babas being situated in a scenic location surrounded by lush green forests and replete with swimming pools, parks, and playgrounds, the peaceful setting is a bit too peaceful these days.

Why are the villas abandoned?

According to Architectural Digest (cited below):

“Construction started in 2014 and was expected to take four years, though, within that same time, the developers were forced to declare bankruptcy. As building the town got underway, locals became enraged with both the aesthetic of the homes and the business practices of the developers. According to the local news, many were frustrated that the castles didn’t resemble anything in the area, particularly the historical Ottoman-style mansions. A lawsuit against the developers also claimed the company destroyed trees and harmed the environment. Turkey’s economy then struggled in the years after the project started, and developers soon incurred a $27 million debt. A combination of bad choices and bad timing, construction was halted.”

While the Sarot Group was still hopeful about the completion of its project in 2019, they did not predict the pandemic. That further scuttled their plans.

In case you’re wondering if you can move in (the properties were set to be a steal at less than $500,000) the answer is no. Not a single dwelling is totally finished, and there are no utilities.

The site is now reminiscent of a postapocalyptic city. Construction materials lay strewn about. And yet the shells of the homes still look like neighborhoods of Disney castles missing their princes and princesses.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Tour Burj Al Babas, a Massive Abandoned Town of Disney-esque Castles” — Architectural Digest

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WTF Fun Fact 13228 – The Lupercalia

Each year the ancient Romans celebrated Lupercalia on February 15th. The Romans originally called the festival Februa, and it acted as a purification ritual for the city.

Why did Romans celebrate Lupercalia?

The Romans associated Lupercalia with fertility, renewal, and revelry. But they also conducted it under the eye of a group of priests called Luperci.

The origins of the Lupercalia festival aren’t entirely clear. But they may have something to do with the myth of the she-wolf that nursed the abandoned brothers Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome). The Romans also associated the festival with the god of fertility, Faunus.

In Rome, March was the start of the New Year

According to Encyclopedia Britannica (cited below):

“Each Lupercalia began with the sacrifice by the Luperci of goats and a dog, after which two of the Luperci were led to the altar, their foreheads were touched with a bloody knife, and the blood was wiped off with wool dipped in milk; the ritual required that the two young men laugh.

The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the sacrificial animals and ran in two bands around the Palatine hill, striking with the thongs at any woman who came near them. A blow from the thong was supposed to render a woman fertile.”

The Romans performed the sacrifice at the cave where the she-wolf supposedly suckled the founders Romulus and Remus.

The end of the festival

In 494 CE, Pope Gelasius I banned the Lupercalia because it was a pagan festival.

Some believe he tried to replace it with the Church’s Feast of the Purification (Candlemas), on February 2nd. But that holiday was likely established earlier.

Many people try to make the connection between Lupercalia and St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th. And while the holiday may have picked up some minor influences from the Lupercalia, the creation of that holiday came much later.

Regardless, Romans likely celebrated the Lupercalia for close to 1200 years. (However, academic Agnes Kirsopp Michaels has made the case that the festival only goes back to the 5th century B.C.)  WTF fun facts

Source: “Lupercalia” — Encyclopedia Britannica

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WTF Fun Fact 13227 – The First Insurance Company

The first insurance company was established in the city of Genoa, Italy in the late 14th century. It provided coverage for ship captains and merchants in case their cargo was lost at sea.

Technically, it was the first modern insurance company, since insurance goes back to roughly 2000 BC.

What do we know about the first insurance company?

The city of Genoa, Italy was a center of commerce and trade in the 15th century. That’s partly because it was a natural stop for merchants and ship captains traveling across the Mediterranean to trade goods.

With so much trade and commerce taking place, loss was inevitable – especially at sea. it was only natural that a system of risk management would develop to protect merchants and ship captains from financial loss. In fact, these types of contracts had existed for over 1000 years, but had previously been tied to loans.

While we don’t know much about the group that constituted the first insurance company Genoa in the late 14th century, it appears to have been created as a mutual aid society. In other words, members paid premiums and shared the cost of losses in case their cargo was lost at sea.

By the mid-15th century, insurance was a well-established industry in Genoa, and the city became known as a hub of insurance and risk management.

However, the insurance industry did face challenges at the start. For example, the city and its docks were at constant risk from attacks by pirates and other thieves. As a result, insurance companies had to find ways to provide coverage in the midst of many unpredictable dangers.

Of course, the insurance industry became incredibly lucrative. So much so that the government subjected it to hefty taxes.

Much of what we know about the details of Genoa’s early insurance days comes from two contracts. They were signed by seafarers in 1343 and 1347. These were the first insurance contracts not to be tied to marine loans. This made them unique by tying them to a company that solely dealt in risk management. In other words, the first insurance company.

The first insurance contracts

But insurance itself doesn’t begin in Genoa.

Insurance contracts have a long history, dating back to ancient civilizations. Over 2000 years ago, people would pool their resources to protect against financial loss. The loss could have been caused by unforeseen events such as fire, theft, or death. While it’s unlike the modern contracts offered by insurance companies today, this concept of mutual protection and risk sharing is considered to be the earliest form of insurance.

We know this took place in ancient Babylon because we still have fragments of the stones the contracts were chiseled into. They indicate that merchants would pool resources to protect against losses from shipping and trade. If a merchant’s goods were lost or damaged during transit, the other members of the pool would share the cost of the loss.

Merchants in the Roman Empire also used mutual aid insurance to protect against the loss of cargo and ships during sea voyages. Merchants would form associations to share the risk of loss.

While this may seem benevolent in terms of modern life, a person who engaged in mutual aid could rest easier knowing that it was unlikely that one event would cost them everything.

These early forms of insurance were informal. Many times, there were no formal contracts or regulations, and the terms and conditions of the insurance arrangements were often defined by custom and tradition.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Earliest Insurance Contract. A New Discovery” — The Journal of Risk and Insurance

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WTF Fun Fact 13226 – The Amazon Two Pizza Rule

One of the secrets of Jeff Bezos’ success may just be the Amazon Two Pizza rule.

What is the Amazon Two Pizza rule?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos apparently requires his senior executives to abide by a Two Pizza rule. Any team that can’t be fed with two pizzas is too big and should be broken into smaller teams. The rule ensures that teams include only essential members and that everyone stays focused on their specific area of expertise.

This rule encourages efficient and effective teamwork and ensures that communication remains open and clear.

Bezos believes in the importance of keeping teams small and nimble. He believes that small teams can move more quickly and make more efficient decisions. He also believes smaller teams are better equipped to communicate effectively. When a team is too big, communication breakdown can lead to delays and inefficiencies.

Bezos believes smaller teams are more focused. As a result, teams are more likely to work on the most important tasks and make the best use of their time. In the end, it’s all about preventing teams from becoming bogged down in tasks that are not relevant to their goals and allowing them to focus on delivering value to customers.

Small teams and success

Business leaders believe the Amazon Two-Pizza Rule helps foster innovation. Small teams ensure members are more likely to feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things.

In addition, by keeping teams small, managers and leaders get to know their team members. This helps them understand their strengths and weaknesses. This helps managers develop their skills in areas such as coaching and mentoring.

The purpose of pizzas

Amazon applies the Two Pizza rule in various forms, with teams ranging from two to a dozen people. It has been widely adopted by other companies.

By keeping teams small and focused, companies can ensure that they are able to work together effectively, deliver results quickly and foster innovation and creativity.  WTF fun facts

Source: “How Jeff Bezos Used the 2-Pizza Rule to Put an End to Useless Meetings at Amazon” — Inc.

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WTF Fun Fact 13225 – Emotions and the Stock Market

There is a connection between emotions and the stock market. In fact, the stock market can move dramatically even when the underlying fundamentals suggest it should move in the opposite direction.

What’s the connection between emotions and the stock market?

The stock market is driven by a variety of factors, including economic indicators, company performance, and investor sentiment. However, research has shown that emotions play a significant role in stock market behavior, and can often drive prices higher or lower regardless of the underlying fundamentals.

For example, studies have shown that stocks tend to perform better on sunny days, when investors are in a positive mood, and worse on cloudy days, when investors are in a negative mood. Similarly, stocks tend to perform better on days when there are more positive news articles, and worse on days when there are more negative news articles.

How does human behavior affect stock prices?

The stock market is often thought of as a rational, data-driven market, but emotions can have a major impact on prices and investment decisions. Investor sentiment can be just as important as financial data in determining stock prices.

When investors are feeling confident and optimistic, they tend to be more willing to take risks and invest. This, in turn, drives prices higher. When investors are feeling uncertain or fearful, they tend to pull back from the market, thereby causing prices to fall.

This emotional component of the stock market is particularly evident during times of economic uncertainty, such as recessions or market crashes, when investor sentiment can change rapidly and drive large swings in stock prices. In these situations, emotions like fear, panic, and greed can drive investor behavior and create market volatility.

While emotions can have a significant impact on the stock market, economic indicators, company performance, and macroeconomic factors such as interest rates, inflation, and political events play an integral role in determining stock prices.

Still, the emotional component of the stock market is a key factor to consider for investors. They need to be aware of how their own emotions and those of the market can impact their investment decisions.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “How emotions affect the stock market” — OUP Blog

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WTF Fun Fact 13224 – Full Moons in February

It’s possible to have no full moons in February. It doesn’t happen often, but February goes by without a full moon roughly every 19 years.

How can there be no full moons in February?

The lunar cycle starts with a new moon and ends with the next new moon.

The length of a lunar cycle is roughly 29.5 days. In a normal year, February has 28 days. This makes it shorter than the average length of a lunar cycle.

February does not have a full moon in a year when there are two full moons in January and none in March. This occurs approximately once every 19 years, as part of the Metonic cycle, which is a pattern of full and new moons repeating approximately every 19 years.

Recent years in which February did not have a full moon include 2018, 1999, 1980, 1961, and 1942.

What’s the significance of a full moon?

The gravitational pull of the moon and the sun causes the tides to rise and fall. The full moon has the strongest tidal effect because it is in direct line with the earth and the sun.

The full moon also provides brighter light at night. This can impact the behavior of nocturnal animals, such as owls and bats. It can also affect the migratory patterns of some species.

A full moon has the strongest effect on tides, and it is responsible for producing spring tides, which are the highest tides of the lunar cycle.

In some cultures, the full moon is used as a reference point for planting, harvesting, and other agricultural activities. And for many cultures and religions, the full moon has spiritual significance and is associated with rituals, ceremonies, and festivals.

In the future, February is expected not to have a full moon in 2037, 2056, 2075, and 2094.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Why no full moon in February 2018?” — EarthSky