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 13217 – The Origin of the Taco

The exact origin of the taco is unknown, but we do have a best guess. What might surprise you is that tacos are a relatively new creation.

The first recorded reference to the word ‘taco’ was in the early 19th century in Mexico. The word “taco” is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec) language, and has multiple meanings. It can be used to refer to a plug, a wedge, a tool, or to wrap something. The first taco was likely a soft corn tortilla filled with beans, chiles and tomatoes.

Studying the origin of the taco

Believe it or not, there is a taco expert. Granted, many of us consider ourselves expert taco eaters, but Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, has actually studied the origin of the taco for 20 years.

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below), “he has investigated the history, politics, and evolution of Mexican food, including how Mexican silver miners likely invented the taco, how Mexican Americans in the Southwest reinvented it, and how businessman Glen Bell mass-marketed it to Anglo palates via the crunchy Taco Bell shell.”

In case you didn’t catch that, Taco Bell is the creation of a guy named Glen Bell.

Pilcher is the author of an entire book on tacos called Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food (Oxford University Press). He also edited The Oxford Handbook of Food History and wrote The Sausage Rebellion: Public Health, Private Enterprise, and Meat in Mexico City, 1890-1917, and Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity.

How did today’s taco come to be?

The term taco made its way to the United States in the late 1800s, when the popularity of Mexican cuisine began to rise. At first, the term was used to refer to the food item itself – the taco – but, in the early 1900s, it began to also be used as a descriptor for other foods, such as burritos, enchiladas, and tostadas.

Taco quickly grew to become an integral part of American culture. Americans embraced the taco as their own, adding their own unique ingredients and flavors, such as beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.

Pilcher notes:

“The first mention that I have seen [in the U.S.] is in 1905, in a newspaper. That’s a time when Mexican migrants are starting to come—working the mines and railroads and other such jobs. In the United States, Mexican food was seen as street food, lower-class food. It was associated with a group of women called the Chili Queens and with tamale pushcarts in Los Angeles. The Chili Queens of San Antonio were street vendors who earned a little extra money by selling food during festivals. When tourists started arriving in the 1880s with the railroad, these occasional sales started to become a nightly event.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Where Did the Taco Come From?” — Smithsonian Magazine

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WTF Fun Fact 13216 – There’s Enough Iron in the Body to Make a Nail

The average human body contains enough iron to make a 3-inch nail. Well, a healthy body anyway. Some of us probably don’t get enough iron.

Is there really enough iron in the body to make a nail?

Humans require iron for many essential bodily functions. Iron is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body and is found in many foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, and beans. It is also found in food additives and dietary supplements, and is added to infant formula as well.

It’s important to note that iron deficiency is a common problem and can lead to anemia, fatigue, and impaired cognitive functioning. The World Health Organization recommends that people consume 10-20 milligrams of iron per day to maintain optimal health.

The average male body contains approximately 4.5 grams of iron, while the average female body contains approximately 3.5 grams. This means that the total amount of iron found in the human body is enough to make a 3-inch nail. Note: nails generally weigh between 2 to 3 grams.

Of course, no one is going to siphon the iron of your body and smelt it into a nail – hopefully.

What’s the significance of this concept?

Nails are often used as a metaphor for hard work. In that sense, it’s no surprise that the idea of making a 3-inch nail from the iron in the human body is a concept that fascinates people.

Iron can also be used to represent the ability to persevere and overcome difficult challenges. It conjures up images of fortitude and determination, courage, ad the will to succeed. Additionally, iron can also be used as a metaphor for protection. often a symbol of armor or a shield.

The metaphor of making a 3-inch nail from the iron stored in the body also speaks to our strength and resilience of the human body. It emphasizes the importance of how the iron in our bodies is used to help us do hard work.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “There Is Enough of This Metal in the Body To Make a Nail” — Soma Blog

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WTF Fun Fact 13215 – The First Smartwatch

Credit for the first smartwatch concept doesn’t go to Apple. Long before the Apple Watch, Microsoft and Fossil introduced the first standalone smartwatch.

If you want to get more technical, you could claim that the 1982 Seiko TV watch was more similar to the first smartwatch. But it needed an adapter and a large receiver box. And it only showed grainy greyscale TV images.

Another watch that paved the way for the Apple Watch and modern smartwatches was the 1998 Linux Wristwatch, created by Steve Mann and launched by IBM. According to the fact sheet, it was “Designed to communicate wirelessly with PCs, cell phones and other wireless-enabled devices, the ‘smart watch’ will have the ability to view condensed email messages and directly receive pager-like messages.”

What’s the story behind the first smartwatch?

In 2004, Microsoft released its “Smart Personal Object Technology” (SPOT). This allowed users to access services such as news, weather, and stock information from their wristwatches. It was more personalized and independent of other technology than previous “smart” watches.

Microsoft’s Smartwatch quickly became a hit among tech enthusiasts and professionals alike. The device was packed with advanced features, allowing users to stay connected while on the go. It had a wide array of sensors, allowing it to monitor heart rate, steps taken, and other important health metrics.

Furthermore, it was one of the first smartwatches to feature a touchscreen display, making it easier to interact with apps.

Microsoft and Fossil actually collaborated on the first smartwatch. The Microsoft SPOT Watch had a monochrome 90×126 pixel screen and was accessible through a yearly subscription that cost from $39 to $59. The watches featured customizable watch face displays and were built on a new technology platform designed to improve the functionality and usefulness of everyday objects.

Not long after, watchmakers Citizen, Fossil, and Suunto all joined the project to create the first smartwatches.

What happened to Microsoft’s smart watch?

The device was well-received by users, who praised its versatile design and advanced features. It was also praised for its long battery life, which allowed users to stay connected for extended periods of time.

The Microsoft smartwatch was also quite easy to use thanks to an intuitive interface that made it simple to navigate.

Despite its success, the device was not a commercial success and was eventually discontinued in 2010. This was primarily due to the fact that it was too expensive for the average consumer and was unable to compete with the lower-priced rivals that had entered the market.

However, the device paved the way for the smartwatches that we have today.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Smartwatch timeline: The devices that paved the way for the Apple Watch” — Wearable

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WTF Fun Fact 13214 – Understanding the Birthday Paradox

Sometimes, an event is more likely to occur than we think. For example, if you survey a random group of 23 people, you have a 50–50 chance of finding someone with the same birthday as you. Understanding the Birthday Paradox is all about mathematical probability.

What’s the key to understanding the Birthday Paradox?

Understanding the Birthday Paradox is important to understanding the limits of our intuition.

The Birthday Paradox is a statistical phenomenon that states that in a group of just 23 people, there’s a 50-50 chance that two of them will have the same birthday. This likely seems counterintuitive. The probability of any two people having the same birthday seems much lower, right?

But as the number of people in a group increases, the probability of two people having the same birthday also increases. (That part makes sense.)

To understand the Birthday Paradox, we have to consider the probability of two people not having the same birthday.

If the first person in a group has a birthday on any day of the year, the probability that the second person does not have the same birthday is 364/365, or 0.9973. The probability that the third person does not have the same birthday as the first two people is 363/365, and so on.

As the number of people in the group increases, the probability of any two people not having the same birthday decreases.

How does the math work on this?

Ok, let’s say we have a group of 23 people. The probability that any two people do not have the same birthday is (364/365)^(23*22/2) = 0.4927. That means that there is a 50.73% chance that two people in the group will have the same birthday.

In a group of 30 people, the probability increases to 0.7037. In that case, there is a 29.63% chance that two people will have the same birthday.

A simpler way to think about the Birthday Paradox is to think about it as a game of matching pairs. If you have a deck of cards with 365 cards and you randomly draw 23 cards, the probability of matching pairs is 50.73%. The more cards you draw, the higher the chance of matching pairs.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Probability and the Birthday Paradox” — Scientific American

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WTF Fun Fact 13213 – The First Video Game

The first video game ever created was called Tennis for Two. The game was played on an oscilloscope. It was created by physicist William Higinbotham in 1958.

Is Tennis for Two the first video game ever?

“Tennis for Two” is considered to be the first video game ever created, even though we’d hardly recognize it as a video game today.

Developed by physicist William Higinbotham in 1958, the game was played on an oscilloscope and was a simple simulation of a game of tennis (kind of like Pong).

An oscilloscope is an electronic instrument that allows people to visualize electrical signals. In the case of Tennis for Two, the oscilloscope was used to display the game on its screen.

The game consisted of two dots, representing the ball and the paddles, which could be moved up and down by players using knobs. Players would try to hit the dot back and forth across the screen. The game ended when one player failed to hit the dot (or ball) ball back to the other side.

Despite being pretty basic, Tennis for Two laid the foundation for the modern video game industry.

Who played Tennis for Two?

The first video game was created as a demonstration for visitors at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where its creator worked.

“Tennis for Two” was an instant hit with visitors to the laboratory. In fact, the game was played by thousands of people over the course of the next few years and featured in newspapers and magazines, sparking public interest.

Tennis for Two was the first game that allowed players to compete against each other in a virtual environment, and it provided a new way for people to interact with technology. Of course, very few people had the tools to play it.

A forgotten history

Despite its success at the time, Tennis for Two was not developed further. It was eventually forgotten as the video game industry continued to evolve. But it paved the way for the creation of more advanced and sophisticated games.

By the time Pong was created (the game considered to be the first arcade video game), most people didn’t know about its predecessor.

Pong was created in 1972 by Atari, and it could be played on arcade machines or home consoles.

While Tennis for Two is a two-player game, Pong could be a one or two-player game. And while Tennis for Two had no scoring system (the game simply ended when one player failed to hit the dot), Pong kept score. Each time a player fails to hit the ball back, the opponent scores a point. The game ends when one player reaches a certain number of points.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Complete History of Tennis for Two” — History Computer

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WTF Fun Fact 13212 – The Cat Righting Reflex

Have you ever wondered why cats always land on their feet? It’s because of something called the cat righting reflex.

What’s the cat righting reflex?

Normally, if you see a cat fall, you’re probably panicking and not trying to pay attention to the physics of the whole situation mid-air. But if you slow down footage of a cat falling (which we hope you don’t set them up for at home!), you’ll see that cats have the ability to reorient themselves in midair to ensure they land feet first.

The cat righting reflex is that innate ability, and it’s made possible by a specialized collar bone (or clavicle) This clavicle is highly flexible, allowing a cat to rotate its body 180 degrees while in the air.

So, when a cat falls, it first extends its legs. Then it rotates its head to face the ground. As it falls, it will then begin to rotate its spine, using its flexible collarbone to control the rotation.

Finally, as a cat reaches the ground, its hind legs will extend to absorb the impact.

And if you’ve seen a cat take a fall, you know its front legs are ready to push off and run away pretty much immediately.

Do cats *always* land on their feet?

While cats can survive falls from great heights, nothing works 100% of the time.

Not all cats can use their righting reflex with the same success. Some may not have the same flexibility or strength as others, especially if they are old or injured. And sometimes the cat righting reflex is not always “right.” They do get hurt…or worse.

Overall, the righting reflex has been an important survival mechanism for cats. It allows them to escape predators and avoid injuries when falling from things they’ve climbed.

Cats are also able to use their righting reflex to perform acrobatic feats, such as jumping through hoops, or climbing up and down vertical surfaces. That’s because their reflexes are typically really fast and precise, allowing them to make rapid adjustments to their body position.

Are cats the only animals with a righting reflex?

The righting reflex is not unique to cats. Other animals, such as squirrels and certain species of primates, also have this ability.

But cats are particularly known for this reflex because they have a very low center of gravity and a flexible spine. This allows them to maintain control of their bodies better than most creatures.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Why Do Cats Land on Their Feet?” — Live Science

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WTF Fun Fact 13211 – Grey Cat Genes

Grey cat genes are an interesting thing. For example, did you know that most grey cats get their coloring from a “diluted” form of the black fur gene?

It’s kind of like the difference between a tortoiseshell cat and a “dilute tortie.”

Fascinating facts about grey cat genes

The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene is responsible for black fur in cats. This gene controls the production of eumelanin in the hair shafts. In cats, there are two versions of this gene. So, an “active” version produces black or brown fur. A “diluted” version results in a grey or “blue” coat color.

The “diluted” version of the MC1R gene is caused by a specific genetic mutation. This mutation turns off the production of eumelanin in the hair shafts.

Grey cats can also have other colors in their fur, such as white, orange, or other shades of grey, and this depends on the specific genetic variations that are present. As you might have guessed, the color of a cat’s coat is determined by the interaction of multiple genes and environmental factors. The genetics of coat color can get pretty complex.

Cat fur color doesn’t tell us a lot

Grey cat fur can come in different shades and patterns. Some grey cats may have a light, silver-gray coat, while others may have a darker, charcoal-gray coat. Some grey cats may have a solid-colored coat, while others may have tabby markings or other patterns.

If you have a grey cat, you can’t necessarily tell what breed they are just by their fur color. But you can likely narrow it down if the cat is entirely grey.

The color and pattern of a cat’s coat can also be influenced by other genetic factors, such as the presence of white spotting or the agouti gene.

Grey domestic cats could be a mix of different breeds, which leads to variations in size, shape, and overall appearance. So, while grey cats share the common characteristic of having a grey coat due to the diluted form of the MC1R gene, each one still has other characteristics to be considered.

Feline parentage

Did you know a female cat is known as a molly (unless she is a purebred, then she is called a Dam). Female cats are called queens when they are pregnant or still feeding babies. Males are called “toms” or “tomcats” (and purebred fathers are Sires).

According to The Cat Fancier’s Association (cited below), there are some general rules about cat genetics.

For example, male kittens always obtain both color genes from their mothers. “The male offspring in a litter will always be either the color of the dam (or one of the colors in the case of parti-colors) or the dilute form of the dam’s color.”

On the other hand, “Female kittens take one color gene from each parent. The color of the female kittens in a litter will always be either a combination of the sire’s and dam’s colors, or the dilute form of those colors.”

We also didn’t realize that “Only the immediate parents determine the color/pattern of a kitten” or that “A kitten’s pattern can be inherited from either parent.”

There’s always something interesting to know about cats, even if it’s technical!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Basic Feline Genetics” — Cat Fancier’s Association

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WTF Fun Fact 13210 – “Fight For Your Right to Party” Was Satire

The Beastie Boys’ hit “Fight For Your Right to Party” was actually a parody of frat culture. In fact, the group hated that the song became an anthem for the kind of partiers they were trying to mock.

The controversial history of Fight for Your Right to Party

The Beastie Boys released “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” as a single in 1987. The song is on Licensed to Ill, their debut album.

The group wrote the tune as a satire of party culture and the excesses of youth. Their whole point was to mock the very idea of “fighting for your right to party,” not celebrate it. But with lyrics full of irony and sarcasm, many listeners took the song at face value, and it became an anthem for partying and rebellion.

Of course, Fight for Your Right… was a commercial success. It reached number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 2 on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart.

There was always a hint

Watching the video should have given most people a clue about the song’s real goal. In fact, if you go back and look at it, you’ll see the video contained many comedic and absurdist elements. It features the band members playing themselves as irresponsible party animals

MTV put the video for Fight For Your Right… on its list of the 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made.

The Boys said it themselves

According to Far Out Magazine (cited below), Mike D himself revealed the song was a big joke:

“It was summer 1986. We wrote it in about five minutes,” Mike D recalled in 1987. “We were in the Palladium with Rick Rubin, drinking vodka and grapefruit juice, and ‘Fight for Your Right’ was written in the Michael Todd Room on napkins on top of those shitty lacy tables...

Although, Mike D has fond memories of creating the track — how people interpreted the song was an entirely different story, “The only thing that upsets me is that we might have reinforced certain values of some people in our audience when our own values were actually totally different,” he lamented. “There were tons of guys singing along to [Fight for Your Right] who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them. Irony is often missed.”

Frankly, we’re having a hard time wrapping our heads around the fact that we’ve been partying to an anti-partying anthem our whole lives. But people who didn’t get the joke are the ones who ensured it made millions.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The reason why The Beastie Boys hated one of their biggest tracks” — Far Out Magazine

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WTF Fun Fact 13209 – The Origin of the Word Nerd

The word “nerd” was first coined by Dr. Seuss in his book “If I Ran the Zoo.”

What’s the origin of the word Nerd?

The first use of the word nerd appeared in Dr. Seuss’s 1950 If I Ran the Zoo.

And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-troo
And bring back an It-kutch, a Preep and a Proo,
A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!

According to Merriam-Webster (cited below):

“In October of the following year, Newsweek carried an article about the latest slang that includes the word nerd. ‘In Detroit,’ it notes, ‘someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd, or in less severe cases, a scurve.’
It’s not until the 1960s, however, that nerd (as well as its alternate spelling nurd) takes off and starts appearing more frequently in running text (as opposed to lists of slang). Over the decade and into the ’70s, print usage of nerd became truly abundant. It could be said, then, that nerd established colloquial usage around that time.”

What makes someone nerdy?

Traditionally, a nerd is a person who is highly intellectual and knowledgeable in a particular field. But it’s typically coupled with being socially awkward. Nerds are often seen as being overly absorbed in their interests. They’re and are often associated with being passionate about a certain subject, such as science, technology, mathematics, or fantasy fiction.

More recently, the term “nerd” has been reclaimed by many people and has taken on a more positive connotation. People are now proud to call themselves “nerds.” They believe it makes them seem proud of their superior knowledge on a topic.

If the modern word “nerd” truly came from Dr. Suess, it was likely interpreted as a pejorative term because of the appearance of the character sharing a page with the passage. However, that character appeared to be more grouchy than traditionally nerdy.

Merriam-Webster suggests other possible origins for the word nerd as it related to being deeply passionate yet uncool.

“Another character whose name has been mentioned as a possible source of the word is Mortimer Snerd, a ventriloquist’s dummy created by Edgar Bergen. Modeled on a country bumpkin, Snerd perhaps reminded listeners of a “drip” (someone who is looked on as tiresomely or annoyingly dull), and, therefore—according to Newsweek in 1951—a nerd. Snerd’s drippy qualities were magnified by his sophisticated foil, the dummy Charlie McCarthy. Bergen’s radio show was popular from the late 1930s through the 1950s, and it’s possible that Seuss had Snerd in mind when he wrote the rhyme—but the claim is unverifiable.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Many Origin Stories of ‘Nerd'” — Merriam-Webster