WTF Fun Fact 13545 – Stanford Taylor Swift Course

A Stanford Taylor Swift Course is on the books at Stanford. The aim? To explore the storytelling prowess of Taylor Swift, an artist who has, over a decade, deftly blended musicality with intricate narratives.

A Literary Dive: The Stanford Taylor Swift Course

Every week, students in this course will deep dive into one of Swift’s 10 albums. They’ll not just listen but dissect, focusing keenly on lyricism, storytelling, and oblique literary references.

Ava Jeffs, a sophomore at Stanford, championed this course offering. Her vision? “Situate it in the English department,” she emphasized to SFGATE. Jeffs believes in drawing parallels between Swift’s lyrical content and classic literature. For her, this course is a journey, one that maps the intricate lanes of literature onto the vast avenues of Swift’s music.

Swift’s musical repertoire often nods to literary giants. A striking example is the track “Ivy,” which echoes a phrase from Miller Williams’ poem “Compassion.” Even the album title, “Evermore,” has fans drawing connections to an Emily Dickinson poem.

These literary tie-ins signify the depth and breadth of Swift’s artistic canvas, and this course intends to highlight and celebrate these connections.

The Making of the Course

This new course is part of Stanford’s Student-Initiated Courses, a unique initiative where students pitch activity courses on a credit/no credit basis. Every SIC requires the backing of a faculty member, and for Jeffs, that support comes from Mark McGurl.

While Swift released her debut album in 2006, Jeffs’ admiration for the singer spans almost her entire life, creating a personal resonance and passion for this academic endeavor.

While Stanford’s course might sound avant-garde, it isn’t the first academic foray into Swift’s art.

In 2022, both New York University and the University of Texas at Austin explored Swift’s artistry in their courses. Stanford, however, aims to go a step further. Jeffs sees her course as a challenge to higher education norms, urging institutions to place popular music on the same pedestal as classical literary works.

For Jeffs, Swift’s narrative style holds immense academic value. She believes that Swift’s focus on storytelling mirrors the intricacies found in classic literature.

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Source: “Stanford’s Taylor Swift course will explore the singer’s folklore” — SF Gate

WTF Fun Fact 13540 – Florida Man Tries Running to London

Reza Baluchi, a 44-year-old man from Florida, had a peculiar and ambitious dream: to “run to London” across the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

Unlike traditional marathoners who dash on the pavement, Reza’s strategy was different. He aspired to make this transatlantic journey inside a floating contraption that remarkably resembled a hamster wheel.

Not So Fast, Florida Man

On August 26, 2023, the US Coast Guard spotted Baluchi 70 miles off the coast of Tybee Island, Georgia. When asked for his vessel’s registration, Baluchi, slightly disoriented, claimed he had it on board but couldn’t locate it.

Coast Guard officials became concerned when they assessed the condition of his vessel. Comprising wires and buoys, they deemed his journey “manifestly unsafe.”

Their worries were justified; Baluchi’s unique vessel wasn’t the standard ship one would expect to see on a voyage across the ocean. They requested him to disembark, but the journeyman had other plans.

A Standoff at Sea: Florida Man vs. Coast Guard

Baluchi resisted the Coast Guard’s orders to leave his vessel. He remained defiant inside his floating wheel for three arduous days. Allegedly, he even threatened that he had an explosive device on board.

However, after a tense standoff, Baluchi finally exited his vessel, which led to his arrest. He now faces charges of obstructing a boarding procedure and violating port orders.

Past Endeavors on the Open Waters

Baluchi’s audacious attempt to run across the Atlantic was not an isolated incident. He has a history of embarking on such extraordinary adventures.

In 2014, he tried to make a trip to Bermuda. However, the voyage didn’t go as planned. He got lost and had to rely on fishermen for directions. Ignoring the Coast Guard’s warnings, he continued on his quest, only to activate his locator beacon 70 nautical miles off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida.

Yet, the spirit of the adventurer remained unbroken. In interviews, he emphasized, “I’ll never give up my dream.”

A Charitable Mission at Heart

Behind these perilous adventures lies a noble intent. Baluchi aims to raise funds for various causes. From supporting homeless individuals to raising awareness about the treatment of women in Iran, his objectives are altruistic.

He even maintains a webpage for his efforts at

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Source: “Florida Man Arrested After Attempting To “Run To London” Across The Atlantic Ocean” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 13529 – Beer Powered Motorcycle

Would you drive a beer powered motorcycle?

When it comes to invention and innovation, few names light up the room like Ky Michaelson, a Minnesota legend better known by his nickname, “the Rocketman.” With a lifetime of exploits in speed and engineering, from partnering with deaf stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil to setting over 70 state, national, and international speed records, Michaelson is a man who seems to never run out of fuel—both literally and metaphorically.

However, his latest project, a motorcycle powered by beer, adds another layer of allure to his already fascinating life story.

From Speed Records to Stuntman Collaborations

To begin appreciating the significance of the beer-powered motorcycle, it’s essential to dive into Michaelson’s career first. His roots in speed started with his partnership with Kitty O’Neil during the 1970s. O’Neil set the land speed record for the fastest woman on four wheels in 1976, reaching an eye-watering speed of 512 miles per hour. Michaelson’s reputation gained more traction after his work with O’Neil caught the attention of Hollywood stuntman Dar Robinson. Together, they worked on projects for movies like Logan’s Run, Airplane, the Police Academy series, and Lethal Weapon until Robinson’s untimely death in 1986.

Return to Rocket Roots

After Robinson’s death, Michaelson returned to Minnesota and went back to his first love: rockets. This man is not just about speed; he’s also about the extraordinary means to achieve it. He’s built a rocket-powered toilet and set a Guinness record with a rocket-powered snowmobile. Even his kitchen gadgets are high-speed, like a high-speed margarita maker with a weed-eater motor. Michaelson’s imagination knows no bounds, as he continually seeks to innovate and defy the norm.

Beer-Powered Motorcycle Innovation

Perhaps his most extraordinary creation is the beer-powered motorcycle. Designed alongside his son, Buddy, this unique machine swaps out the conventional gas engine for a 14-gallon keg. Yes, you read that correctly.

The motorcycle is fueled by beer heated to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows it to generate enough steam power to propel the bike forward. Interestingly, Ky Michaelson is not a drinker, making the choice of beer as fuel even more fascinating.

His pragmatic viewpoint? “The price of gas is getting up there. I don’t drink, so I can’t think of anything better than to use it for fuel.”

The Science Behind the Suds

The beer in the 14-gallon keg is heated by a coil until it reaches a boiling point of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it hits this temperature, the steam is forced out through a nozzle at the back of the bike, providing the thrust necessary for propulsion.

According to Michaelson’s calculations, the bike should be able to reach a top speed of about 150 miles per hour, although this hasn’t been tested yet.

Future of the Beer Powered Motorcycle

While the bike has already been showcased at local events and won awards, Michaelson aims to test its full capabilities at a drag strip soon. What’s more, the beer-cycle may eventually find its way into his in-house museum, alongside other fascinating inventions.

Interestingly, it doesn’t have to be beer fuel. Buddy, Michaelson’s son, stated that virtually any beverage could power the bike, opening the doors to further innovation. Could we see a coffee-powered or even Red Bull-powered version of the bike soon? Only time will tell.

So, the next time you pour yourself a cold beer, take a moment to think of Ky Michaelson, a man who saw a tankard not as a vessel for a drink, but as a fuel tank for uncharted possibilities. Cheers to that.

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Source: “A Minnesota Man Invented a Motorcycle That Runs on Beer” — Food & Wine

WTF Fun Fact 13517 – Ina Garten’s White House Job

TV chef Ina Garten’s White House job came as a huge surprise to us. She was an engineer. A nuclear analyst, to be exact.

Garten’s Early Years

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Ina Garten did not initially tread a path leading to culinary mastery. After completing her MBA from George Washington University, she entered the corridors of power and policy, dedicating her analytical mind to deciphering the intricacies of nuclear policy under the tenures of Presidents Ford and Carter.

Nuclear policies, especially during the Cold War, were a tangled web of political posturing, strategic interests, and global safety concerns. Therefore, Ina Garten’s White House job was no small feat. It involved navigating through these delicate matrices and contributing to decisions of profound national importance.

Becoming the Barefoot Contessa

In 1978, a modest ad in a newspaper altered the course of Ina’s life. A small specialty food store, named ‘”he Barefoot Contessa,” was up for sale in Westhampton Beach, New York. Despite having zero culinary training, Garten saw an opportunity. Or perhaps she saw an escape from the high-stakes world of nuclear policies.

Acquiring the store, she embarked on a gourmet adventure, slowly transforming it into a haven for food lovers.

Her undeniable passion and dedication turned The Barefoot Contessa into a roaring success. Capitalizing on this momentum, Ina Garten ventured into the realm of cookbooks. Her debut, in 1999, was a hit, acting as a launchpad for her widely-loved Food Network show in 2002. On screen, she brought warmth, authenticity, and a touch of classic European culinary techniques, quickly making her a household name.

A Sprawling Journey

The magnitude of Ina Garten’s career transition cannot be understated. One day, she was immersed in policy documents, analyzing global nuclear strategies. The next, she was selecting the finest ingredients, crafting exquisite dishes, and teaching millions to find joy in cooking.

While many know Ina Garten as the charismatic “Barefoot Contessa” who sprinkles culinary magic on television, her journey from deciphering nuclear policies in the White House to whisking eggs in a sunlit kitchen is quite an interesting and unexpected journey.

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Source: “Ina Garten, explained: How a nuclear budget analyst became the Barefoot Contessa” — VOX

WTF Fun Fact 13500 – The Career Change of Ruggero Freddi 

Ruggero Freddi started his career as an adult film actor, primarily under the pseudonym “Carlo Masi.” The Italian native became a prominent figure in the industry, amassing a significant following during his active years.

Ruggero Freddi Shifts to Mathematics

While many knew Freddi for his on-screen persona, few were aware of his underlying passion for mathematics. Before his adult film career, Freddi had graduated with a degree in Mathematics. The allure of the film industry might have taken him away temporarily, but his love for numbers and equations never truly faded.

As years passed, Freddi started feeling the pull of his academic roots. He decided to leave the adult entertainment industry and return to his original passion.

Freddi took up a position at Rome’s prestigious La Sapienza University, teaching advanced mathematics. He was excited about this new chapter, ready to contribute to the academic community with the same dedication he’d shown in his previous career. But when his past as a gay porn actor came to the forefront, it triggered a wave of controversy.

Termination and Lawsuit

Several parents of students at the university were not thrilled about Freddi’s past and questioned whether he should be allowed to teach. This culminated in the termination of his contract, an act that Freddi believed was solely due to his past in the adult film industry.

Freddi decided to take legal action. He sued the university for wrongful termination, citing discrimination based on his past career in the gay adult film industry. The lawsuit emphasized the importance of assessing an individual’s professional competencies rather than focusing on unrelated past endeavors.

The public reaction was mixed. While many rallied behind Freddi, recognizing his right to move on from past career choices. But others were more judgmental. This incident opened up broader discussions in Italy about stigmatization, privacy, and the rights of individuals to evolve beyond their past.

Freddi’s case highlighted the lingering biases and prejudices present in certain segments of society and underscored the need for greater acceptance and understanding.

While Freddi won his lawsuit, he got just a few thousand dollars in compensation, and his future in academia remains unclear.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “I Went From Being A Porn Star to University Lecturer” — VICE

WTF Fun Fact 13494 – John Wilkins’ 17th-Century Moon Mission

The first “moon mission” was dreamed up in the 17th century by a clergyman named John Wilkins.

Though the technologies of his time were rudimentary, Wilkins’ imagination and theories displayed a unique combination of audacity and scientific curiosity.

Early Life and Philosophical Leanings

John Wilkins was born in 1614. He was an Anglican clergyman and a founding member of the Royal Society, a body dedicated to the promotion of natural science. Wilkins was a polymath with interests ranging from theology to mathematics and cryptography. These varied interests equipped him with a unique perspective when it came to observing and understanding the cosmos.

John Wilkins’ Plurality of Worlds

Central to Wilkins’ astronomical ideas was the belief in a “plurality of worlds.” This concept was embraced by several thinkers of the era. It postulated that planets and celestial bodies, including the moon, were worlds much like Earth.

By this logic, the moon wasn’t just a shining orb in the sky. It was a place with landscapes, atmospheres, and perhaps even inhabitants. This revolutionary idea was radical and contrary to the predominant geocentric worldview upheld by many in the church.

In 1640, Wilkins published “A Discourse Concerning a New World and Another Planet.” In it, he explored the feasibility of humans traveling to the moon and other planets. He argued that if the moon were a world similar to Earth, humans should be able to travel there. Given the technological constraints of the 17th century, this was a bold proposition. His methods, in hindsight, were understandably primitive.

John Wilkins and the Flying Chariot

Wilkins believed that a “flying chariot” could take humans to the moon. This vehicle would be propelled by wings attached to it, a bit like the way birds fly. He theorized that the chariot’s wings would require less flapping the further it got from Earth due to the thinning atmosphere.

Additionally, he speculated on the absence of gravity in space. He noted that as one ascended, the pull of Earth’s gravitational force would diminish, making it easier to move around. Though rudimentary, such thoughts were a precursor to our modern understanding of the vacuum of space and microgravity environments.

Of course, not everyone was taken in by Wilkins’ ideas. His contemporaries raised various objections. Some focused on the theological implications. If there were beings on other planets, how did they fit into the Biblical narrative? Others doubted the physical feasibility. How would one breathe? How could wings work in the vacuum of space?

Wilkins tackled these questions head-on. He hypothesized that space wasn’t entirely devoid of air. Instead, the atmosphere thinned out but never completely disappeared, providing just enough air for breathing.

Legacy and the Dawn of Space Exploration

Though Wilkins’ moon mission ideas were not actualized in his lifetime, his speculations played a pivotal role in sparking interest in interplanetary exploration. His works represented a significant shift from purely observational astronomy to a more practical, exploration-driven approach.

Space exploration took another three centuries to become a reality. However, the philosophical and theoretical foundation was set in Wilkins’ era.

His thoughts, radical as they were, underscore the human spirit’s relentless quest for knowledge and exploration.

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Source: “The 17​th​-Century Moon Mission That Never Got Off the Ground” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13492 – Information Seeking Behavior

Normally, when we think of smartphone addiction, we think of video games or social media, but information-seeking behavior, such as constantly scrolling through the news, can be hazardous to your health as well.

In our digital age, many people often hear notifications, see never-ending news feeds, and feel the pull to browse news apps daily. This behavior ties into our brain chemistry. Dopamine, a key neurotransmitter, drives our desire to seek information and rewards.

The Role of Dopamine in Information-Seeking Behavior

People often call dopamine the “feel-good” chemical. But it’s better to think of it as a messenger for reward-seeking, motivation, and pleasure. When we experience something pleasurable, our brain releases dopamine. This makes us want to repeat that action.

In the past, dopamine helped us survive. For instance, when our ancestors found food or water, a dopamine rush would push them to keep searching for these essentials.

Why We Seek Information

As societies evolved, so did our dopamine triggers. Now, our brain doesn’t only release dopamine for physical rewards but also for intangible ones like information. Discovering new information gives our brain a dopamine boost. Historically, this made sense. Early humans needed new knowledge for survival, like learning about potential dangers.

Today, each piece of news or an article can trigger dopamine, making us crave more. It’s like how we yearn for food or other activities that make us feel good.

Smartphones: Dopamine Machines

Smartphones and apps capitalize on our dopamine system. Every swipe or notification can be a dopamine rush. The element of surprise—whether the next swipe reveals a meme, a news update, or a message—boosts our dopamine even more.

This unpredictability mirrors slot machines. You never know when you’ll hit the jackpot, making you play more. Likewise, not knowing what the next notification holds keeps us glued to our screens.

However, too much dopamine has its downsides. Over time, frequent dopamine hits from constant scrolling can dull our response. Like how drug users need more drugs over time, we might need more screen time or new information for the same dopamine kick.

This never-ending search for information can overload us. We might struggle to understand or remember what we read. We can even feel mentally exhausted.

Balancing Out Information Seeking Behavior

Knowing dopamine’s role in our online habits can help us use tech wisely. Here’s how:

  • Set Limits: Designate times for browsing news or social media. This reduces the impulse to always check for news.
  • Take Digital Breaks: Stepping away from screens occasionally can help reset our brain’s dopamine response.
  • Choose Wisely: Don’t just scroll. Engage deeply with a few key topics.
  • Control Notifications: Fewer non-urgent notifications mean fewer urges to check your device.

Our relationship with dopamine and information seeking shines a light on our tech habits. Technology offers us endless information, but understanding the dopamine effect helps us use it wisely. By realizing how our brains work in this digital era, we can enjoy tech without letting it control us.

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Source: “The Dopamine Seeking-Reward Loop” — Psychology Today

WTF Fun Fact 13488 – Police Training in Norway

Police training in Norway is notorious rigorous. Unlike many countries where law enforcement training involves a few months in a police academy, Norway makes a three-year commitment at the Police University College (Politihøgskolen) a must.

Norway’s Police University College

Yes, you read that right – a university college just for police training. The Police University College, situated in Oslo, Stavern, and Kongsvinger, is the heart of Norway’s police education system.

Aspiring officers embark on a three-year bachelor’s degree program where they learn far more than just the basics of policing. The curriculum is thorough and multi-faceted, including subjects like law, ethics, criminology, and even foreign languages.

The first and third years of the bachelor’s program mainly focus on theoretical studies. Cadets dig deep into the theory of police work, criminal law, ethics, and social sciences. They are taught to respect human rights, to understand different cultures, and to uphold justice without bias. This holistic approach ensures that the officers graduate with a comprehensive understanding of both the practical and societal aspects of their role.

Field Training for Norwegian Police

What good would theoretical knowledge be without some practical application? That’s why the second year is dedicated to field training. Cadets spend this year across various police districts, getting their boots dirty and experiencing the real-world scenarios they’ve learned about in class. This year is invaluable, bridging the gap between theory and practice and providing hands-on experience in the field.

Norwegian police officers aren’t just confined to their patrol cars. Some have prosecutorial powers, handling minor offenses in court. This unique responsibility requires additional qualifications – a law degree, to be precise. Hence, those who wish to take on this dual role undertake further education, adding an extra layer of legal expertise to their enforcement abilities.

The Ethical and Emotional Aspects of Police Training in Norway

Police work can be as mentally challenging as it is physically, if not more. Norway understands this and includes psychological training to build resilience and mental fortitude. Ethical training is another cornerstone, ensuring officers know how to react respectfully and responsibly in every situation.

It’s clear that the journey to becoming a police officer in Norway is a commitment to rigorous education, intense field training, and personal development. It’s about shaping individuals who are not just law enforcers, but educated, empathetic, and ethical members of the community they serve.

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Source: “Police in Norway: The Norwegian Policing System Explained” — Life in Norway

WTF Fun Fact 13487 – Happy Couples Post Less on Social Media

We’re all familiar with that couple who constantly posts pictures of their romantic getaways, perfect dinners, and seemingly idyllic moments – but a study showed that happy couples post less on social media.

It appears that couples who frequently share selfies and other relationship-related content on social media platforms aren’t living quite the life they claim to be. Go figure.

The Study and Its Findings

An online photography platform, Shotkit, conducted an intriguing study involving over 2,000 individuals aged between 18 to 50. The participants were asked to rate their relationship’s overall happiness, intimacy, communication, and trust. They were also asked about their frequency of sharing relationship-related content on social media.

The study revealed that couples who posted three or more selfies per week were, on average, 128% less happy compared to those who refrained from broadcasting their relationship on the internet. In fact, only 10% of frequent social media sharers categorized themselves as “very happy.”

In contrast, nearly half (46%) of those who don’t publicize their relationships online perceived themselves as happier. The unhappiest group was couples who posted more than three times a week, with merely 32% classifying their relationship as “happy” or “very happy.”

Reasons Happy Couples Post Less on Social Media

This study’s findings hint at potential underlying issues. One compelling inference is that trust issues could be prompting couples to post more frequently on social media. The main reason identified for couples sharing their relationship online was to signify that they or their partner were ‘taken.’

Interestingly, the top three reasons why couples refrained from sharing their relationships online were: “privacy,” “embarrassment,” and being “not regular social media users.”

Of course, not all social media sharing is detrimental but hinted at the danger of overdoing it.

The results suggest a potent social media paradox. In a world where social platforms allow us to share our lives with a broader audience, we might unknowingly be sacrificing the intimacy and privacy that nourish a truly fulfilling relationship.

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Source: “Happy Couples Post Their Partner Less on Social Media” — Relevant