WTF Fun Fact 13684 – Mark Zuckerberg Tried to Sell Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, the brain behind Facebook, once tried to sell the platform. Yes, the social media giant that’s now a staple in over 2 billion people’s daily lives was almost handed over to another company before it could spread its wings. Let’s unpack this fascinating slice of history.

The Offer on the Table to Sell Facebook

Back in the early days of Facebook, or “TheFacebook” as it was originally called, Zuckerberg and his co-founders created a buzz on college campuses. It was this buzz that caught the attention of several investors and companies. Among them was Friendster, a once-popular social networking site, which actually made an offer to buy Facebook. The figure tossed around? A cool $10 million.

Reports from ZDNet reveal that in July 2004, Zuckerberg was indeed open to selling Facebook.

Zuckerberg’s Vision

What’s even more interesting is Zuckerberg’s decision to decline all offers. At the time, Facebook was just a fledgling site, far from the global platform it is today. Yet, Zuckerberg saw the potential for something much larger than a college network. He believed in the idea of connecting people in ways that hadn’t been done before.

Selling to Friendster, or any other suitor for that matter, didn’t align with his vision for what Facebook could become.

The Road Not Taken to Sell Facebook

Zuckerberg’s choice to keep Facebook independent was a pivotal moment in the company’s history. It set the stage for Facebook to grow, innovate, and eventually become the social media behemoth we know today. This decision wasn’t just about holding onto a company; it was about believing in the potential of an idea and the impact it could have on the world.

Looking back, it’s clear Zuckerberg’s gamble paid off. Facebook went on to redefine social interaction, media consumption, and digital marketing. It’s interesting to ponder what Facebook might have become had it merged with Friendster. Would it have faded into obscurity, or could it have still risen to the top under different stewardship?

Reflections on a Tech Titan’s Journey

Zuckerberg’s early move to keep Facebook sets a precedent in the tech world about the value of vision over immediate gain. It’s a reminder that in the fast-paced world of startups, sometimes the biggest risk is not taking one at all. Zuckerberg’s faith in his project’s potential is a testament to the power of innovation and persistence.

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Source: “Mark Zuckerberg was planning to sell Facebook in July 2004” — ZDNet

WTF Fun Fact 13682 – Lighters Were Invented Before Matches

Lighters were invented before matches. It sounds like a historical hiccup, doesn’t it? After all, you’d think the simpler technology would precede the more complex one.

Yet, the path of innovation and invention doesn’t always follow a straight line. So, let’s flick through the pages of history and see how this came to be.

The Early Flame: How Were Lighters Invented Before Matches?

The first version of a lighter, known as the “Döbereiner’s lamp,” made its debut in the early 19th century, around 1823. This gadget relied on a chemical reaction to produce a flame. It used hydrogen gas, which was produced on the spot by a reaction between zinc and sulfuric acid, to create a spark when it came into contact with a platinum catalyst. This contraption was both fascinating and slightly terrifying, considering the volatile substances involved. Despite its innovation, the Döbereiner’s lamp was far from the pocket lighters we’re familiar with today. It was bulky, somewhat dangerous, and definitely not something you’d want to carry around.

Striking Back: The Advent of Matches

Now, you might wonder, “If they had lighters, why invent matches?” The answer is convenience and safety, or at least an attempt at the latter. Matches made their first successful commercial appearance in 1826, thanks to John Walker, an English chemist. Walker’s friction matches, known as “Lucifers,” were a game-changer. They were portable, relatively easy to use, and didn’t require carrying around a mini chemical lab in your pocket. However, these early matches were far from perfect. They were notorious for their unpleasant odor and the potential to ignite unexpectedly, which posed quite the safety hazard.

Following Walker’s invention, matches underwent a series of transformations to become safer and more reliable. The “safety match” as we know it today was developed by the Swedish chemist Gustaf Erik Pasc. It was later improved by John Edvard Lundström. This invention in the mid-19th century utilized the red phosphorus that we now commonly find on the striking surfaces of matchboxes, significantly reducing the risk of accidental ignition and eliminating the noxious fumes produced by their predecessors.

Why Lighters Took the Back Seat to Matches

Given the initial complexity and danger of early lighters, it’s no wonder that matches caught on fire, metaphorically speaking. They were more accessible to the general public. In addition, they are easier to manufacture, and safer to use once the safety match was developed. Lighters required a level of mechanical and chemical know-how that wasn’t widely accessible until later technological advancements.

As technology progressed, so did the design and safety of lighters. The development of ferrocerium (“flint”) by Carl Auer von Welsbach in the early 20th century. Used in many modern lighters for the spark mechanism, it made lighters more reliable and easier to use. The invention of the butane lighter, with its refillable and controllable flame, eventually brought lighters back into the limelight, offering convenience that matches couldn’t match.

Reflecting on the Flames of Innovation

The tale of lighters and matches is a fascinating narrative about human ingenuity, the evolution of technology, and the nonlinear path of invention. It’s a reminder that sometimes, necessity drives us to develop complex solutions before we find the simpler ones. Or perhaps, it speaks to the nature of innovation itself, where convenience and safety are constantly being reevaluated and redesigned to better serve our needs.

In the end, whether you’re striking a match or flicking a lighter, the ability to control fire remains one of humanity’s defining achievements. The story of how we got here, with lighters appearing on the scene before matches, is just one of many examples of how invention and innovation can take unexpected turns, illuminating the paths of progress in surprising ways.

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Source: “The match and lighter war” — The Matches Museum

WTF Fun Fact 13669 – Iceland’s Comedian Mayor

Have you ever heard of Iceland’s comedian mayor, Jón Gnarr? He had an unexpected and captivating rise to political power when he became the Mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland.

From Laughter to Leader

Jon Gnarr wasn’t your typical mayoral candidate. Before venturing into the volatile waves of politics, Gnarr was best known for his work as a comedian and actor. His satirical radio shows and television sketches were beloved in Iceland, making him a household name. But it was in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that Gnarr found a new stage for his talents.

Iceland was hit hard by the financial meltdown, leading to widespread public distrust in the political establishment. Sensing the public’s yearning for change and perhaps a bit of levity during tough times, Gnarr founded the Best Party in 2009.

It was a satirical political party that started almost as a joke but quickly gained serious momentum.

Gnarr’s campaign was anything but ordinary. Promising a polar bear for the Reykjavik Zoo, free towels at public swimming pools, and a drug-free Parliament by 2020, his platform was a mix of the absurd and the appealing.

The Best Party’s campaign video, set to Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best,” became a viral sensation, showcasing the party’s unique blend of humor and honesty.

What set Gnarr apart was not just his comedic background but his transparency and refusal to play by the unwritten rules of political campaigning. He openly admitted that some of his promises were not realistic. This honesty, oddly enough, resonated with a populace tired of the same old political rhetoric.

Becoming Iceland’s Comedian Mayor

To the shock of many, Jón Gnarr won the mayoral election in 2010. His victory was seen as a direct response to the public’s frustration with the traditional political class. But the big question loomed: Could a comedian effectively lead a city?

Gnarr’s tenure as mayor was as unconventional as his campaign. He often appeared at official events dressed in drag or as a Star Wars character, yet behind the humor was a serious commitment to change. He prioritized human rights, welfare, and culture, and while not all his policies were successful, he brought a fresh, more human face to Icelandic politics.

Challenges and Controversies

Leading a city was not all laughs for Gnarr. He faced criticism for his lack of political experience and some of his more unconventional approaches. Moreover, governing in coalition with the traditionally serious Independence Party posed its own set of challenges and compromises.

Yet, throughout his term, Gnarr maintained his unique style and approach, arguing that humor could be a powerful tool to address serious issues.

Jón Gnarr chose not to seek re-election after his term ended in 2014.

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Source: “The joker: Jón Gnarr, the comedian who became mayor” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13665 – US Time Zones

In the early days of American history, the concept of time was not as unified as it is today. With over a hundred separate time zones, the United States’ approach to timekeeping was a complex and often confusing system. This fascinating period in the nation’s history reveals much about the evolution of time standardization and its impact on society and commerce.

The Era of Numerous Time Zones

Before the adoption of standardized time zones, the United States operated on a surprisingly intricate system of over 144 separate time zones. Each city or town was free to determine its own local time, usually based on the position of the sun. This meant that when it was noon in one town, it could be 12:15 in a neighboring city just a few miles away.

This system was manageable when communities were isolated, but as the country expanded and the railway system connected distant cities, the multitude of local times became problematic. Train schedules were particularly affected, as rail companies struggled to create timetables that made sense across various local times.

The Push for Standardization of Time Zones

The turning point came with the advent of the railroad industry. The need for standardized time became evident as train travel made the flaws of multiple local times apparent. Railroads operated on their own time systems, creating a confusing and sometimes dangerous situation for travelers and operators alike.

The solution emerged in the form of four main time zones proposed by the railroad companies. On November 18, 1883, known as “The Day of Two Noons,” railroads across the country synchronized their clocks to these new standard time zones. This was not an official law but rather a practice adopted by the railroads and the communities they served.

Government Intervention and the Standard Time Act

It wasn’t until March 19, 1918, that the United States government officially adopted the standard time zone system with the Standard Time Act. This act also established daylight saving time, a contentious and ongoing debate to this day. The act was a response to the confusion and inefficiency of having multiple time standards and was also influenced by the needs of World War I.

The transition was not immediate or smooth. People were accustomed to their local times and resisted change. However, over time, the benefits of a standardized system became clear, especially for scheduling trains, conducting business, and broadcasting.

The Impact of Standardization

The move to a standardized time system revolutionized many aspects of American life. It facilitated better communication and coordination across the country, essential for a growing nation. Economic activities, especially those related to transportation and communication, became more efficient and reliable.

Moreover, the concept of time zones influenced the world. Today, time zones are an integral part of global coordination, affecting everything from international flights to the stock market.

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Source: “Snoozers Are, In Fact, Losers” — The New Yorker

WTF Fun Fact 13657 – Humanity’s Last Day Together

October 31, 2000, was humanity’s last day all humans were together on Earth.

Since that day, there has always been at least one person in space, marking a continuous human presence off our planet.

The International Space Station: A New Era

The event that initiated this ongoing human presence in space was the launch of Expedition 1 to the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS has since been home to astronauts from around the world. It serves as a research laboratory where scientific studies are conducted in microgravity.

Expedition 1 crew members, William Shepherd (USA), Yuri Gidzenko (Russia), and Sergei Krikalev (Russia), were the pioneers of this new era. They launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket and began what has become over two decades of continuous human occupation of the ISS.

The Significance of October 31, 2000: Humanity’s Last Day

This date is more than just a historical milestone. It signifies humanity’s leap into a future where living and working in space is a reality.

The ISS has been instrumental in advancing our understanding of space and science. Research conducted there has led to breakthroughs in medicine, environmental science, and materials engineering. The microgravity environment provides unique conditions for experiments impossible to replicate on Earth.

Future Missions

Living aboard the ISS has provided vital information about the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. This knowledge is crucial for planning future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Understanding how to maintain physical and mental health in space is key to the success of these ambitious projects.

As we look to the future, the legacy of October 31, 2000, continues to influence space policy and aspirations.

With plans for lunar bases and Mars expeditions, the horizon of human space habitation is expanding. The ISS has laid the groundwork for these future endeavors, proving that humans can live and thrive in the harsh environment of space.

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Source: “Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the First International Space Station Module” — ISS National Laboratory

WTF Fun Fact 13655 – Ice Age Fire Art

Surviving the Ice Age required more than just hunting and gathering – there was fire art. OK, hear us out.

As they gathered around fires for warmth and safety, something more than just physical comfort emerged. This was a time for them to indulge in an artistic pursuit that continues to fascinate us today.

The Paleolithic Animator and Ice Age Fire Art

In recent research published in PLOS ONE, a team led by archaeologist Andy Needham proposed an intriguing idea. They suggested that Ice Age artists used the flickering light of fire to bring their stone carvings to life.

These 15,000-year-old limestone plaquettes, adorned with animal figures, were not just static art. Instead, under the dynamic light of a fire, they appeared to move, animating the etched creatures. Fire art!

Needham’s team studied various limestone plaquettes found at the Montastruc rock shelter in southern France. These carvings, attributed to the Magdalenian culture, showcased a range of animals like horses, ibex, and reindeer.

Interestingly, these plaquettes showed signs of thermal damage, suggesting exposure to fire. But was this intentional?

Experimental Archaeology Sheds Light

To answer this, the researchers turned to experimental archaeology. They created replica plaquettes and subjected them to different fire scenarios. These experiments aimed to replicate the pinkish discoloration seen on the originals. The results? The patterns suggested that the artworks were deliberately placed near the hearth, likely as part of the creative process.

Further exploring this idea, the team used virtual reality to simulate firelight’s effect on the plaquettes. The results were fascinating. The irregular lighting from the fire brought an illusion of movement, making the animals seem like they were alive and moving across the stone surface.

The Role of Pareidolia in Ice Age Fire Art

This phenomenon can be partly explained by pareidolia, where the human brain perceives familiar patterns in random objects. In the flickering firelight, viewers would see incomplete forms on the plaquettes. Their brains would fill in the gaps, creating a dynamic viewing experience.

The Ice Age artists might have used this to their advantage. They could start with natural rock features to shape their animals, allowing the firelight to complete the picture. This interaction between the art, the rock’s natural form, and the dynamic firelight created a captivating experience, unique to the Paleolithic era.

Beyond survival, these artistic endeavors provided a social outlet. After a day of survival tasks, our ancestors likely gathered around the fire, not just for warmth but for a communal experience. Here, they could indulge in storytelling, companionship, and artistic expression.

The act of creating art by firelight was perhaps as important as the art itself. It wasn’t just about the final product but about the process of creation, the gathering of minds, and the sharing of ideas. This communal aspect of Ice Age art adds a deeply human dimension to our understanding of these ancient peoples.

Art as a Cultural Practice

Ice Age art wasn’t merely aesthetic; it was a cultural practice imbued with meaning. The process of drawing, the summoning of spirits, and even acts of destruction (like deliberate breakage or fire damage) could have had significant roles in their society.

These artistic sessions by the firelight might have served multiple purposes – from summoning spirits to strengthening community bonds. The plaquettes, once used, could have been discarded or intentionally destroyed, suggesting a transient nature to this art form.

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Source: “Ice Age Artists May Have Used Firelight to Animate Carvings” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13653 – Vomitoriums

The ancient vomitoriums apparently had nothing to do with vomiting at all!

The “vomitorium” has long been associated with images of ancient Romans indulging in excessive feasting only to purge themselves to eat more. However, this widespread belief is a historical misconception. The real meaning of vomitorium in Roman culture was quite different and far less grotesque.

Vomitorium are Exits

In reality, a vomitorium was an architectural feature in ancient Roman amphitheaters and stadiums. The word, derived from the Latin vomitus, which means to spew forth, referred to the large passageways that allowed crowds to exit rapidly into the streets.

These passageways were efficient in dispersing large groups of people from the venues, similar to how food is expelled from the stomach.

The false notion of the vomitorium as a place for purging after excessive eating likely stemmed from a misunderstanding of the Latin language.

It was an easy jump from “vomitorium,” a term describing the spewing of crowds, to a place for vomiting. The misinterpretation was possibly fueled by modern literature and an already existing stereotype of ancient Romans as excessively indulgent.

Literary Exaggerations

Classical texts that described Roman feasts and excesses played a role in cementing this myth. Works like Seneca’s Letters and the satirical ‘Satyricon’ by Petronius depicted scenes of lavish Roman feasts and debauchery. These descriptions, often satirical and exaggerated, influenced modern interpretations and led to the vomitorium myth.

Roman feasts, especially among the upper class, were indeed grand. They involved elaborate dishes and communal eating. Entertainment was common, with dancers and musicians adding to the festivities. Women and men dined together, which was a departure from the Greek tradition.

The feasts could include extravagant presentations, but there is no historical evidence to suggest that these gatherings included rooms specifically designated for purging.

Contrary to the image of constant overindulgence, the diets of both wealthy and poorer Romans were predominantly grain-based. The wealthy had more access to wheat and meats, while the poorer sections of society consumed more millet.

This dietary pattern indicates that while the rich could afford more lavish meals, their eating habits were not as extreme as the myth of the vomitorium would suggest.

Debunking the Myth of Vomitoriums

The vomitorium is a great example of how misconceptions can arise from misinterpretations and satirical representations. It wasn’t a space for bingeing and purging but rather an architectural innovation for crowd management.

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Source: “Purging the Myth of the Vomitorium” — Scientific American

WTF Fun Fact 13550 – The Cincinnati Redlegs

In the early 1950s, the Cincinnati Reds became the Cincinnati Redlegs after the team found their name entangled in the political tensions of the era.

As America’s fear of communism grew, particularly during the Korean War, the Reds decided to change their name to the Cincinnati Redlegs between 1953 and 1959. This decision wasn’t about sports; it was a move to distance the team from any communist associations, a concern amplified by the rise of McCarthyism.

Historical Roots and Political Pressures

The original name, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, dates back to 1869, becoming the Reds in 1881. However, the post-World War II era marked a period of heightened suspicion towards communism, often referred to as “The Red Scare.”

Senator Joseph McCarthy’s public witch hunts for communist sympathizers cast a shadow of fear across America. The term “Reds” became uncomfortably close to “Reds,” a common term for communists.

To avoid unwanted connections, the team opted for “Redlegs,” a nod to its historical roots and a safe distance from political controversy.

The Cincinnati Redlegs and Uniform Changes

During this period, some of the team’s most celebrated players, including Frank Robinson and Joe Nuxhall, played under the Redlegs banner. Despite the official name change, the team’s jerseys still sported the word “Reds,” and fans and media often continued to refer to them by their original name.

In 1956, an attempt to further avoid the “Reds” association led to jersey modifications, including a season featuring a Mr. Redlegs logo. However, these changes were short-lived.

Senator McCarthy’s influence dwindled following his senate censure in 1954 and his subsequent death in 1957. With the decline of McCarthyism, the climate of fear surrounding communism receded. By 1959, the team reclaimed its original name, the Cincinnati Reds.

The word “Reds” reappeared on their uniforms in 1961, a year marking their return to the postseason as National League pennant winners. Interestingly, the team experienced limited success as the Redlegs, with only two winning seasons during this period.

Reflections on the Reds’ Name Change

The story of the Reds becoming the Redlegs is a fascinating example of how sports can intersect with politics. It reflects a time when fear and suspicion influenced various aspects of American life, including the world of baseball. The Reds’ decision to change their name was a response to the prevailing political climate, a move to safeguard the team’s image amid national paranoia.

While the Redlegs name was relatively short-lived, it remains an interesting chapter in the team’s history. It signifies how external factors can impact sports teams and their identities. The era also reminds us of the power of names and symbols in representing and reflecting societal values and concerns.

Today, the Cincinnati Reds are firmly established with their original name, with the “Redlegs” period serving as a historical footnote. The team continues to build upon its rich history, contributing to the dynamic world of baseball while staying clear of political controversies that once led to a significant, if temporary, identity change.

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Source: “How the Reds became the Redlegs” — MLB.com

WTF Fun Fact 13649 – God Bless America

Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” is a continuous benefactor to youth in New York City. Written in 1940, this iconic song’s royalties were dedicated by Berlin to a special fund.

Named the “God Bless America Fund,” its sole purpose was to support America’s youth, with a particular focus on the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of New York City. Over the years, this fund has channeled over $10 million into local scouting groups, significantly impacting young lives.

God Bless America Supporting the Scouts

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, led to a renewed popularity of “God Bless America.” As the song echoed across the nation, royalties surged, directly benefiting scouting organizations in NYC. Victoria G. Traube, a trustee of the fund, noted that annual royalties, typically exceeding $200,000, were expected to triple that year. This increase meant more resources for scouting programs, especially in the poorest neighborhoods of New York.

Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of New York City have been beneficiaries of this fund. They’ve historically used these funds to expand programs into underserved communities and offer opportunities to disabled and troubled children. Activities like nature hikes, cookouts, and educational field trips are just some examples of how these funds have been utilized.

A notable aspect of this support is the commitment to inclusivity. Over a year ago, the “God Bless America” fund trustees requested both scouting groups to confirm their non-discriminatory policies, including attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. Both groups affirmed their commitment to inclusivity, with the Boy Scouts of New York actively working to reverse national policies against gay scout leaders.

Berlin’s Enduring Impact

Irving Berlin’s decision to donate his song’s royalties was more than a financial gesture; it was a commitment to American youth’s future. Linda Emmet, Berlin’s daughter, reflected that her father viewed children as the country’s future and believed in supporting them.

Berlin’s involvement with scouting wasn’t just financial; he was actively engaged on the boards of both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, highlighting his dedication to these organizations.

As “God Bless America” continues to resonate across the nation, its impact on New York’s scouting programs grows. Plans are underway to use these funds to help children, including scouts, cope with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. With at least nine troop leaders lost in the tragedy, the need for support and healing is evident.

Berlin’s vision extended beyond a single song or moment in time. His commitment to America’s youth, especially in fostering outdoor education and life skills through scouting, has left an indelible mark on generations. As “God Bless America” plays on, its royalties will continue to fund adventures, learning, and growth for countless children in New York City, ensuring that Berlin’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of America’s youth.

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Source: “Irving Berlin Gave the Scouts A Gift of Song” — NYT