WTF Fun Fact 13717 – Ties Between Norwegian and English

Norwegian and English share a deep historical connection, making them more alike than many realize. These similarities stem from their roots in the Germanic language family, leading to parallels in vocabulary, syntax, and even phonetics. For learners and linguists alike, these connections can simplify understanding and learning these languages.

Vocabulary Overlaps and Shared Roots

One of the most striking resemblances between Norwegian and English lies in their vocabularies. Centuries of trading and Viking invasions left a significant imprint on the English language, embedding Old Norse words into its lexicon. Words like “sky,” “window,” and “knife” have direct counterparts in Norwegian: “sky,” “vindu,” and “kniv.” Such similarities extend to hundreds of everyday terms, making initial learning stages notably easier for speakers of either language.

Syntax also shows remarkable similarities. Both languages generally adhere to a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) sentence structure. This foundational grammar rule simplifies the transition for English speakers learning Norwegian and vice versa. Questions in both languages often involve a simple inversion of the subject and the verb, another parallel that facilitates cross-linguistic comprehension.

Phonetic Parallels Between Norwegian and English

Pronunciation between the two languages also shares some common ground. While each language has its unique sounds, the basic phonetic systems are less divergent than those found in many other languages globally. Both English and Norwegian use a range of similar vowel and consonant sounds, which can ease the learning curve for pronunciation.

Moreover, Norwegian’s consistent pronunciation rules mean that once learners grasp the basics, they can read and pronounce words more predictably than in English. This consistency is a relief for English speakers accustomed to the often irregular spelling-to-sound correlations in their native language.

Mutual Benefits for Language Learners

The structural and phonetic similarities between Norwegian and English provide mutual benefits for learners. English speakers find Norwegian grammar straightforward and its pronunciation rules logical, reducing the time it takes to achieve proficiency. Conversely, Norwegians typically learn English at a young age, finding it relatively simple due to these linguistic similarities.

This linguistic kinship not only aids in language acquisition but also enhances cultural exchanges and understanding. As globalization connects communities, the ability to communicate across languages becomes increasingly valuable. The relationship between Norwegian and English serves as a bridge between speakers, fostering deeper connections and mutual appreciation.

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Source: “Linguist makes sensational claim: English is a Scandinavian language” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13579 – The Amazing, Changing Octopus Brain

The octopus brain is unlike anything we know. Octopuses rank among Earth’s most intelligent creatures. They boast a neuron count similar to dogs. But, over half of these neurons reside in their eight arms, not in a central brain. This neural setup sets them apart.

Now, researchers have discovered something even more peculiar. Octopuses can rewrite their RNA in reaction to temperature shifts. This action is akin to humans adjusting outfits according to the weather.

By editing their RNA, octopuses change how their cells produce proteins. This flexibility may help them cope with seasonal temperature shifts. Joshua Rosenthal, a lead biologist, calls this ability “extraordinary.”

RNA Editing: A Temporary Genetic Makeover

Humans undergo RNA editing, but it’s limited. It affects protein production in fewer than 3% of our genes. In contrast, advanced cephalopods can adjust most neural proteins through RNA editing. Motivated by this disparity, scientists sought the driving forces behind cephalopod RNA editing. They prioritized temperature, given its frequent fluctuations.

They gathered California two-spot octopuses, familiarizing them with varying water temperatures. Weeks later, they probed 60,000 RNA editing sites in the octopus genomes. A third of these sites showed changes occurring astonishingly fast, from mere hours to a few days. Eli Eisenberg, another lead researcher, found the widespread changes unexpected.

Most of these changes manifested in cold conditions. They influenced proteins crucial for cell membrane health, neuron signal transmission, controlled cell death, and neuron calcium binding. Although these protein variants arise from RNA editing, Eisenberg admits that the complete adaptive benefits remain elusive.

Wild octopuses from both summer and winter displayed similar RNA changes. This solidified the belief in temperature as a major influencer in RNA editing for octopuses.

Protective RNA Editing for the Octopus Brain

Octopuses can’t control their body temperature like mammals can. Thus, scientists theorize that RNA editing acts as a protective mechanism against temperature shifts. Eisenberg elaborates that octopuses might opt for protein versions optimal for prevailing conditions. Such adaptive behavior is absent in mammals.

Heather Hundley, an external biologist, praised this groundbreaking study. She highlighted its potential in reshaping our understanding of RNA editing as a dynamic regulatory process in response to environmental changes.

The future beckons more investigations. The team plans to examine other potential RNA editing triggers in the octopus brain. Factors like pH, oxygen levels, or even social interactions might hold further insights. With each revelation, the octopus brain continues to astound the scientific community.

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Source: “Octopuses Redesign Their Own Brain When They Get Chilly”‘ — Scientific American

WTF Fun Fact 13532 – Neanderthal Flower Burial Evidence

A possible explanation for a Neanderthal flower burial is intriguing scientists.

Since the 1950s, archaeologists have shown interest in the Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq. That’s because it holds the remains of nine Neanderthals and features a “flower burial” site.

The flower burial was due to a large amount of pollen around one of the skeletons. This led to speculations about whether the pollen was part of a human burial ritual. If so, this would indicate that Neanderthals were far more complex than we previously imagined.

But recent research has introduced a new player into this ancient whodunit: bees.

What is the Neanderthal Flower Burial?

The initial interpretation of the pollen suggested a ceremonial “flower burial,” positing that the Neanderthal in question was of considerable importance, perhaps a shaman.

If true, this finding would assign attributes like empathy and ritualistic behavior to Neanderthals, traits previously thought exclusive to Middle Palaeolithic Homo sapiens.

However, some people contest the theory, arguing that other animals could have deposited the pollen by dragging flowers to their burrows, or that the pollen presence could be a mere coincidence.

Studying Pollen for Answers

Palynology, the scientific study of pollen, spores, and microscopic plankton, has provided new insights. Researchers studying the evidence from Shanidar Cave noticed that the mix of pollen species was unlikely to be in bloom at the same time.

This casts doubt on the “flower burial” theory, implying that the pollen didn’t all deposit at once.

Moreover, the mixed nature of the pollen suggests a different deposit vector, rather than placement of whole flowers in the grave.

This led to a unique hypothesis: could bees be the agents of this intriguing pollen placement?

Were Bees Responsible for the So-Called Neanderthal Flower Burial?

The idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Bees, especially solitary bees, gather pollen from multiple flower species. They create burrows lined with a mix of pollen for their larvae to feed upon. We’ve discovered such burrows in Shanidar Cave. Interestingly, the ancient pollen around the grave appears corroded and flattened, indicating great age and coinciding with the Neanderthals’ era.

Researchers incline toward the belief that nesting bees deposited the pollen, given their capability to forage multiple flower species simultaneously. The presence of bee burrows in the less-trafficked areas of the cave near the rear wall supports this theory. Moreover, ancient silty clay-lined insect burrows excavated from the cave further corroborate the idea that bees were active in that region during the Neanderthals’ time.

Were Other Animals Involved?

Identified immature pollen grains could have come through a different mechanism—perhaps humans, other animals, or even the wind carried them in.

It’s interesting to note that researchers have observed giving “floral funerals” to bees. However, these acts likely store food or waste rather than serve as ceremonies. This recursive loop in nature, where animals engage in practices mirroring human cultural behaviors, adds another layer to the study.

The recent study’s authors conclude that nesting bees probably deposited the mixed pollen, making the “Flower Burial” hypothesis seem unlikely.

This new perspective redirects the debate to a broader and arguably more significant question. Namely, “What does this cluster say about their sense of space, place, and perhaps, community?”

The bee hypothesis may not completely settle the mystery surrounding the Neanderthal “flower burial.” But it does open up new avenues for understanding the behaviors and interrelationships among ancient species—both human and insect—that shared the environment thousands of years ago.

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Source: “Famous Neanderthal “Flower Burial” May Have Actually Been Made By… Bees” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 13507 – Fifth Wheel for Parallel Parking

Did you know cars almost had a fifth wheel for parallel parking? Why would something so useful fail to evolve into an everyday feature? Have you seen people parallel park?! They need all the help they can get.

The Story of the Fifth Wheel for Parallel Parking

Now, for anyone who’s ever lived in a bustling city or tried to find a parking spot along a crowded street, the challenges of parallel parking are all too familiar. The maneuver requires precise calculation, impeccable timing, and a well-practiced technique, especially when the available space is barely larger than the car itself.

In the early 20th century, as automobiles increasingly filled the streets, the need for an efficient parking solution became evident. The “fifth wheel” seemed poised to transform parallel parking forever.

Patented in the 1930s, the idea was surprisingly simple: it was a perpendicular wheel could be deployed from the rear of the car, lifting the back tires slightly off the ground.

This fifth wheel, positioned at a right angle to the car’s other wheels, would then allow the vehicle to move laterally, making the parallel parking process straightforward and stress-free. With this invention, drivers wouldn’t need to anxiously navigate their vehicle back and forth to fit into tight spaces; the fifth wheel would do the work for them.

So, Why Didn’t the Fifth Wheel Take Off?

With all these apparent advantages, it’s perplexing that the fifth wheel didn’t become a standard feature in automobiles. But there were several reasons that contributed to its decline (though none of them seem good enough).

  1. Integrating a fifth wheel system into vehicles would complicate the car’s design, leading to higher production costs. Consumers might have been hesitant to pay extra for this feature.
  2. An additional wheel means more parts that could malfunction or require upkeep, potentially deterring consumers and manufacturers alike.
  3. As cities grew, multi-story parking garages and lots started to become more commonplace, reducing the emphasis on street parking.
  4. Over the decades, other innovations like power steering, parking sensors, and rearview cameras emerged, making the parallel parking process more manageable.

A Symbol of Automotive Curiosity

The “fifth wheel” is a reminder that even the most creative solutions sometimes don’t find their place in the mainstream. Even when they might lead to less road rage.

Future self-parking cars and advancements in AI-driven vehicle technologies may make the challenges of parallel parking seem almost quaint. But that’s the future, and this is now. And we still see people struggling to parallel park and holding up traffic in the meantime! So maybe someone should see if that patent has expired and make another run at it!

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Source: “The ingenious “fifth wheel” parallel parking tool that never hit it big” — Hagerty Media

WTF Fun Fact 13506 – Human Hair Can Hold Two Elephants

When considered collectively (by the head), human hair can hold two elephants! That’s right, it can support the weight of two giant creatures.

Let’s explain.

The Anatomy of a Hair Strand

To truly grasp the astonishing strength of human hair, we must first delve into its structure. Each strand is composed of keratin, a type of protein. This protein is arranged in coiled coils, a configuration that provides both flexibility and strength to the hair.

The innermost layer, known as the medulla, is surrounded by the cortex, which in turn is encased by the outermost layer, the cuticle. Each of these layers contributes to the hair’s overall resilience.

One individual hair strand, despite its tensile strength, is unlikely to impress anyone with its ability to support weight. However, the collective strength of hair is where the true marvel lies.

The average human head has approximately 100,000 to 150,000 hair strands. When working in tandem, these hairs can exhibit strength that belies their delicate appearance.

Why Human Hair Can Hold Two Elephants

So, how do we arrive at the claim that human hair can hold two elephants? Let’s break it down:

  • An average strand of hair can support about 100 grams in weight. This might not seem like much, but when multiplied by the average number of hairs on a human head (let’s take the midpoint of 125,000 strands), we get a total weight of approximately 12.5 tons.
  • An average adult elephant weighs about 6 tons. So, theoretically, the combined strength of the hair on a human head could support two elephants, amounting to 12 tons!

The capacity of hair to support immense weight is just one facet of its remarkable nature. Hair can stretch up to 30% of its original length without breaking when wet. This elasticity is yet another testament to its durability.

But beyond its tensile strength and elasticity, hair also serves as an indicator of our health, reacts to emotional stimuli (like standing on end when we’re frightened), and plays a vital role in regulating body temperature.

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Source: “Secrets of human hair unlocked at Natural History Museum in London” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13470 – An Underwater Concert

Would you attend an underwater concert off the Florida coast? It certainly sounds unique.

The Florida Keys hosts an annual Underwater Music Festival. Hundreds of divers and snorkelers dive into the ocean to listen to an underwater concert advocating for coral reef protection.

An Underwater Concert for Conservation

The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival, primarily focuses on promoting eco-conscious diving. It takes place at Looe Key Reef, a region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This is situated around 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Big Pine Key. The sanctuary, established in 1990, spans a whopping 3,800 square miles (9,800 square kilometers). As a result, it protects the expansive barrier reef running parallel to the 125-mile-long (201-kilometer-long) island chain.

Participants of this unique festival are treated to a breathtaking view of Looe Key’s vibrant marine life and coral formations. They swim amongst the oceanic beauty, all while listening to an aquatic-themed playlist broadcasted under the sea. A local radio station pipes the music underwater through waterproof speakers suspended beneath boats stationed above the reef.

Playlist of the Deep

The festival’s curated playlist is a collection of carefully selected water-themed songs. During the concert, classics such as the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” Jimmy Buffett’s “Fins,” and the theme from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” echo through the water. These tunes punctuate the silence of the sea, interspersed with informative diver awareness messages. The goal is to provide a fun and engaging way to educate attendees on the steps they can take to minimize environmental impacts on the world’s coral reefs.

The ocean becomes a stage where costumed “mermaids” and other characters add visual flair to the concert. The resulting spectacle combines education with entertainment, set against the unique backdrop of the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef.

Local radio station 104.1 FM and the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce organize the four-hour musical extravaganza. So, it’s clear their commitment to conservation and creativity is the driving force behind this immersive, educational, and eco-friendly event.

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Source: “Underwater music show in the Florida Keys promotes awareness of coral reef protection” — Associated Press

WTF Fun Fact 13461 – CPR Playlist

Hopefully you’ll never have to access the CPR playlist on Spotify, but it’s handy to know it’s there when you need it!

The life-saving rhythm of music

Picture this: you’re in an emergency where someone’s life hangs in the balance. The heart has stopped. The breathing’s ceased. Panic sets in. What do you do? For some, the answer may just lie in the beat of their favorite song.

In an innovative move, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has turned to music as an unexpected life-saving tool. They’ve curated a Spotify playlist with songs that have the perfect tempo for CPR compressions. The goal? To empower everyone, not just medical professionals, to perform effective CPR.

If you’ve taken a CPR course, you know that timing is everything. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a rate of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute during CPR. Keeping this rhythm, though, can be challenging in the heat of the moment. Enter the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s “Songs to do CPR to” playlist on Spotify.

A playlist with a purpose

This playlist isn’t about entertainment. It’s a practical, life-saving tool. It features 47 popular songs, each one maintaining a tempo of 100 to 120 beats per minute (BPM). This rhythm perfectly mirrors the ideal rate of chest compressions during CPR.

The list brings together classics like “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and modern hits such as “Sorry” by Justin Bieber. The idea? By associating the rhythm of these familiar tunes with the pace of chest compressions, anyone can deliver effective CPR.

Hands-only CPR is simple. It involves hard and fast chest compressions in the center of the patient’s chest. This helps maintain blood flow, providing much-needed oxygen to the brain and other organs during cardiac arrest. Matching these compressions to the beat of a familiar song can help maintain the rhythm. But remember, always dial 911 first!

Changing the game with a CPR playlist

The NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s playlist isn’t just a clever idea. It’s a life-saver, literally. By combining music with medical knowledge, they’ve given us a unique and memorable tool to use during cardiac emergencies. The best part? It’s not just for the trained professionals. Anyone can use this playlist to guide their CPR compressions, potentially saving a life in the process.

The use of a Spotify playlist for CPR training is a game-changer. By making CPR more accessible and memorable, it shows us how innovation can transform the way we learn life-saving skills. And who knows? The next time a favorite tune plays, you might be tapping your feet to the beat of a life-saving rhythm.

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Source: “‘Songs to do CPR to’ playlist could be a lifesaving soundtrack” — Washington Post

WTF Fun Fact 13453 – Shark GPS Tracker Draws Shark

A great white shark with a GPS tracker drew a shark in the waters off the eastern coast of North America. Was he “punking” researchers? Telling us he knows what we’re up to? Do sharks mysteriously swim in shark-shaped patterns? Or are we just seeing what we want to see?

Don’t answer that – it’s not as funny if you do.

The unconventional artist

Art and creativity are typically deemed human endeavors. But perhaps they also belong to the great white shark who unwittingly sketched a self-portrait, using tracking data as its brush.

Our artist is a mature male great white shark, named Breton by the OCEARCH team. He’s a frequent wanderer off the Atlantic Ocean coast of Long Island, New York. As part of the shark tracking initiative, he carries a tracker affixed to his dorsal fin. This tracker collects and relays data whenever the shark surfaces, providing an almost real-time map of the shark’s movement.

Did the shark GPS tracker draw a shark?

A May 2022 observation of Breton’s tracking data offered an unexpected delight to the researchers. It seemed as though Breton had swum in a pattern that mirrored the outline of a great white shark when seen from above.

OCEARCH shared the data on its social media, and the internet quickly took notice.

The tracking path captured not only the body’s curve but also the classic angular shape of the tail and the pectoral fins. It sure looks like a shark!

Coincidence or Design?

As fascinating as Breton’s journey may seem, it is essential to underline that the ‘self-portrait’ was purely coincidental. Sharks navigate based on instincts and sensory information, not a predetermined design. Sorry if you needed to be told that – but people have been studying sharks for a long time. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the coincidence!

While the artistic byproduct is captivating, the primary purpose of tracking sharks like Breton is conservation. By learning about migration patterns, feeding areas, and breeding grounds, scientists can devise effective strategies to safeguard these creatures. The knowledge gained from such tracking can inform the establishment of marine protected areas and fishing regulations.

The good news is that Breton’s self-portrait can serve as a symbol for raising awareness about the threats facing great white sharks.

Issues like overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change pose significant threats to these magnificent creatures. Breton’s story is an opportunity to engage the public and rally support for shark conservation.

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Source: “Great White Shark Accidentally Draws Self-Portrait With Tracking Path” — The Inertia

WTF Fun Fact 13427 – Museum’s Real Replica Sword

Chicago’s Field Museum’s real replica sword made quite a splash earlier this year.

In January, the museum revealed that a seemingly ordinary artifact was far more significant than initially believed.

A museum discovers their replica sword is real

The sword, previously considered a modern replica, was revealed as an authentic weapon dating back to the Bronze Age by Dr. James Phillips, an archaeologist at the museum. He first identified the potential misclassification.

As a sword enthusiast, Phillips found himself intrigued by the detailed craftsmanship and specific features of the piece, which hinted at its potential authenticity.

The sword’s journey began with an acquisition by an art dealer in Iran. It eventually found its way into the hands of Mr. William Nelson Pelouze. His wife subsequently donated the sword to the Field Museum in 1947. For years, the museum had labeled the sword (and treated it) as a replica. It’s true historical value remained unknown to its keepers and the numerous visitors that came to see it.

A treasure in plain sight

This situation changed when Neal Spencer, from the British Museum, conducted a comprehensive X-ray fluorescence test. This test, which accurately dates and analyzes the composition of artifacts, determined that the sword was crafted between 1200 and 800 BC. That places it squarely in the Late Bronze Age.

The sword’s construction also offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. The way the blade and hilt are held together by rivets reflects ancient weapon-making techniques, providing an invaluable insight into the skills and methods employed by the metallurgists of that era. This expertise adds another layer of intrigue and importance to the artifact.

Now acknowledged as a true historical artifact, the sword fills a gap in the Field Museum’s extensive Luristan Bronze collection, which comprises a wide range of Bronze Age relics, including weapons, horse fittings, and jewelry, typically unearthed in western Iran.

A replica turned real reveals new insights

This discovery serves as a testament to the continuous evolution and revelation in historical study and museum practices. It underscores the necessity for constant re-evaluation of museum collections, breathing fresh life into the ever-evolving narrative of human history.

Moreover, it brings attention to the importance of museums as keepers of knowledge, mystery, and discovery. They are institutions that connect the present with the past, creating an ongoing dialogue between the then and now. The tale of the Bronze Age sword at the Field Museum is just one of many, reminding us that there is always more to learn, discover, and explore.

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Source: “Authentic 3,000-Year-Old Bronze Age sword put on display at Field Museum” — Chicago Field Museum