WTF Fun Fact 13287 – The First Spacewalk

On March 18th, 1965, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made history by becoming the first person to walk in space. Leonov left his spacecraft, the Voskhod 2, and floated in space for 12 minutes and 9 seconds. The first spacewalk paved the way for future space exploration and opened up new possibilities for scientific research in space.

The Soviets made the first spacewalk

The spacewalk was a remarkable achievement for the Soviet space program, which was in competition with the United States at the time to achieve milestones in space exploration. The mission was not without its challenges, however. Leonov’s space suit had inflated in the vacuum of space, making it difficult for him to move and causing him to experience overheating.

Despite these challenges, Leonov successfully completed his spacewalk and returned to the spacecraft, where he faced another problem. The spacecraft’s automatic landing system had failed, and Leonov and his crewmate had to manually steer the spacecraft to a safe landing.

Subsequent spacewalks

Since Leonov’s historic feat, many other astronauts and cosmonauts have followed in his footsteps (or rather, lack of footsteps). Here are some quirky facts about spacewalking:

  • The longest spacewalk in history was conducted by Russian cosmonauts in 2013. They spent 8 hours and 7 minutes outside the International Space Station.
  • Spacewalks are often referred to as “EVA,” which stands for “extravehicular activity.”
  • Spacewalkers wear special suits called Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs). These are designed to protect them from the extreme conditions of space.
  • During a spacewalk, astronauts and cosmonauts tether themselves to the spacecraft to prevent them from floating away into space.
  • The first American to conduct a spacewalk was Ed White in 1965, just a few months after Leonov’s historic walk.
  • In 1984, American astronaut Bruce McCandless made history. He became the first person to fly freely in space without being tethered to a spacecraft.
  • The first all-female spacewalk took place in 2019. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conducted a 7-hour walk to replace a failed power controller.

As space exploration continues to advance, it’s likely that we’ll see even more remarkable achievements in spacewalking. But Alexei Leonov’s historic spacewalk on March 18th, 1965 opened up a new world of possibilities for space exploration.

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Source: “The First Spacewalk” — New Scientist

WTF Fun Fact 13286 – U.S. St. Patrick’s Day Spending

The National Retail Federation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day survey (cited below) found that 148 million Americans plan to celebrate the holiday this year, up from 139 million in 2022. This increase in celebrants is likely due to the continued rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the easing of pandemic-related restrictions on gatherings and events.

St. Patrick’s Day spending hits an all-time high

Consumers plan to spend a total of $6.9 billion, or an average of $43.84 per person. That’s over $1 billion more than last year.

The NRF’s survey also found that the largest portion of St. Patrick’s Day spending will go towards food and beverages, with the average person planning to spend $35.37 on items like green beer, Irish whiskey, and traditional Irish foods like corned beef and cabbage.

Americans are getting their Irish on via clothing and decorations too. 23% of survey respondents planned to buy green-themed clothing and accessories like hats, t-shirts, and socks. 14% planned to purchase home decorations like shamrock-themed tablecloths, napkins, and placemats.

The NRF notes this record-breaking St. Patrick’s Day spending is good news for retailers and businesses. Many of these have struggled over the past two years due to the pandemic.

With the holiday falling on a Friday in 2023, many Americans will continue to celebrate throughout the weekend. This will provide even more opportunities for spending on food, drinks, and festivities.

The NRF also notes that this is an all-ages affair.

“Although younger consumers are still more likely to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than any other age group, celebration plans among those 35 and up are on the rise. As consumers start aging out of the 18- to 34-year-old category, they’re bringing their enthusiasm for St. Patrick’s Day with them to the next stage in their lives. Maybe their favorite color is green, maybe they really like corned beef hash, but whatever it is, they keep coming back for more St. Patrick’s Day.”

Of course, the pandemic is not over yet, and St. Paddy’s celebrations may still be impacted by COVID-19. But with vaccines becoming more widely available, celebrations will probably be more robust this year.

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Source: “How consumers are celebrating a record-breaking St. Patrick’s Day” — National Retail Federation

WTF Fun Fact 13248 – The Wind Phone

Itaru Sasaki’s wind phone (“kaze no denwa” in Japanese) is a telephone booth located on a hill in Otsuchi, Japan. The booth is a way for people to connect with loved ones who passed away in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the area. The wind phone has become a symbol of hope, healing, and connection for people worldwide.

What’s the story behind the wind phone?

Sasaki was inspired to create the booth after he lost his cousin in a tsunami. He wanted to create a space where people could talk to their loved ones who had passed away. The goal was to help them feel a sense of connection and comfort. Sasaki constructed the phone booth on property which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and installed a disconnected rotary phone inside it.

The phone booth is designed to be a quiet, peaceful space where people can reflect and connect with their loved ones. It is open to the public. The booth has become a popular destination for people from around the world. They come to leave messages for their loved ones and to listen to the wind.

The wind phone has become a symbol of hope and healing for many people. The sound of the wind blowing through the phone is an important element. It creates a sense of connection with the natural world and the spirits of dead loved ones. People who have visited the phone have described feeling a sense of peace and comfort after leaving messages.

The legacy of the phone booth

The phone has also become a symbol of resilience for the people of Otsuchi. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami were among the worst natural disasters in Japan’s history. They caused widespread destruction and loss of life. The phone is a reminder of the power of human connection and the importance of finding ways to heal and move forward after tragedy.

The phone booth has inspired people worldwide to create their own versions of the phone booth. There are installations in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

The wind phone has also been the subject of a documentary titled “The Phone of the Wind: Whispers to Lost Families.” It explores the history and significance of the phone booth. The film includes interviews with Sasaki and people who have visited the phone and left messages for loved ones over the years.  WTF fun facts

Source: My Wind Phone

WTF Fun Fact 13241 – Peru’s Christmas Fighting Festival

The festival called Takanakuy is a Christmas tradition in the Peruvian Andes, specifically in the region of Cusco. The Christmas fighting festival takes place on December 25th and is known for its tradition of resolving conflicts through physical combat. The festival is a blend of both pre-Columbian and Spanish cultural influences.

What’s the story behind Peru’s Christmas fighting festival?

The festival known as Takanakuy is an indigenous custom of the Quechua people, and it has been practiced for centuries. In Quechua, Takanakuy means “to hit each other.” And that is precisely what happens during the festival.

However, the fighting is not violent or aggressive, and the purpose is not to harm or injure anyone. Instead, the fighting is more of a symbolic gesture that aims to release any tension or pent-up emotions that may have built up over the year.

Takanakuy is a way to start the new year with a clean slate, free of any grudges or resentments.

How does the Takanakuy festival work?

The festival starts with a parade, in which participants dress up in colorful costumes and march through the streets playing traditional music and dancing. The participants are divided into different groups, each representing a different neighborhood or community. The groups then make their way to a designated central location. This is where the fighting will take place.

Once they reach the central location, the participants form a circle. Then, one by one, they step forward to challenge someone from another group.

The challengers will then take turns exchanging blows until one of them falls to the ground. Once a person falls, the other person stops hitting them and helps them up. The fallen person then has the opportunity to challenge someone else.

The fighting is conducted in a controlled manner, and there are judges present to ensure that it remains a safe and fair fight.

While the fights are the main attraction of the Takanakuy festival, there are also other activities and rituals that take place. For example, before the fighting begins, the participants will often make offerings to Pachamama, the Inca goddess of the earth, to ask for her protection during the festival. Additionally, there are often dance performances, music concerts, and food stalls with traditional Andean cuisine.

What’s the point?

The festival is a way for the Quechua to honor their heritage and promote unity among different communities. During the festival, old rivalries and grudges are put aside for the sake of a peaceful future. (Maybe this is where the idea for Festivus’ Airing of Grievances came from!)

Of course, Takanakuy comes with some controversy. There are people who view the festival as violent and barbaric. There are also concerns about the safety of participants. However, supporters of the festival argue that it is a vital part of their cultural heritage and should be preserved.

In recent years, Takanakuy has gained international recognition after being featured on numerous travel sites. As a result, it has become a popular tourist attraction.

While tourism brings economic benefits to the region, it also raises concerns about the commercialization of the festival and the potential for its cultural appropriation. And don’t the rest of us already experience enough fighting around Christmas?  WTF fun facts

Source: “Peru’s Christmas fighting festival” — BBC

Photo via Mídia NINJA

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

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.

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.

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

WTF Fun Fact 13221 – Yung Gravy Donates Bras

“Yung Gravy donates bras” is probably not a sentence that makes much sense to most of us. But it’s actually a good deed done by a 26-year-old Minneapolis rapper.

Yung Gravy donates bras to a good cause

Women apparently throw A LOT of bras at rapper Yung Gravy during his concerts. In fact, he ended up with quite the collection.

The rapper, whose real name is Matthew Hauri, told his 7+ million TikTok fans recently that he had over 1,900 bras. He also planned to donate them all to women’s shelters.

And to top it off, he promised to match the value of the bras and donate the money to a breast cancer foundation. Of course, he needed to ask his fans how much a decent bra goes for these days. (He had to be pretty startled when he found the cost of 1,900 “decent bras.”)

Word gets around

When you have over 7 million social media followers, words of your good deeds get around.

According to Rare (cited below), “The rapper’s video posted on November 28 had the simple caption ‘save the nip’ below it. Footage of Yung Gravy getting practically smothered in fan bras accompanied a vow to donate the bras. He also promised to match the final value of the bras to a breast cancer foundation…In less than a month, his video has received over 16 million views and nearly 3 million likes.”

Eventually, the I Support the Girls Foundation (ISTG) heard that Yung Gravy donates bras and reached out. “ISTG’s mission is to work with a wide network of affiliates to collect and distribute essential feminine items, including bras and hygiene products, to impoverished women in need of them,” according to Rare.

Yung Gravy donated the bras to ISTG and helped sort through them. Some of them still had tags on them, meaning that they were purchased just to throw at the rapper!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Rapper Yung Gravy Donated 1,900 Bras Fans Threw at Him on Stage” — Rare

WTF Fun Fact 13220 – Chat Checkouts

Have you ever been in line at the store and rolled your eyes at the person chatting away with the clerk instead of getting their things together and leaving in a timely manner? That’s most of us. But for some people, that trip to the store may be one of the primary sources of socialization. That’s why the Dutch have invented “chat checkouts” (or Kletskassas). They’re primarily geared towards elderly people who want to take their time and chat people up at the store.

What are chat checkouts?

Chat checkouts are a type of Kletskassa, or social gathering, for older people. Community centers, cafes, or other public spaces often play host to these events. They provide seniors with an opportunity to socialize, make new friends, and engage in various activities such as playing games, singing, and chatting.

The goal of Kletskassa is to help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation among older people and provide them with a supportive community. So it makes sense to open up this opportunity in a place where everyone needs to go – the grocery store.

Jumbo’s nod to elderly shoppers

Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo announced the program in 2021. It said it plans to introduce 200 “chat registers” in its stores. These are for customers who aren’t in a hurry and want to have a chat during checkout, according to VICE (cited below).

“The initiative, announced by the popular supermarket chain Jumbo on Monday, is meant to combat loneliness—especially in the country’s elderly population. According to Statistics Netherlands, a government organization, 26 percent of Dutch people older than 15 feel at least moderately lonely. That proportion rises to 33 percent among those over 75.”

Customers were delighted by a pilot program Jumbo did of the chat checkout in 2019. The Dutch government will help sponsor it as part of their “One Against Loneliness” program.

“The Kletskassa is a checkout especially for people who are not in a hurry and feel like having a chat,” a Jumbo representative wrote in an email to Motherboard. “Many people, especially the elderly, sometimes feel lonely. It’s a small gesture, but a very valuable one, especially in a world that is digitizing and getting faster and faster.”   WTF fun facts

Source: “Grocery Store Opens ‘Chat Registers’ for Lonely Customers” — VICE