WTF Fun Fact 13271 – A Day with No News

On Good Friday in 1930, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) made an unusual announcement during their regular news broadcast. After the news anchor said, “Good evening, listeners. Today is Good Friday. There is no news,” the program went silent for several seconds before a pianist named Victor Hely-Hutchinson began playing light classical music.

On Good Friday in 1930, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) made an unusual announcement during their regular news broadcast. The anchor said, “Good evening, listeners. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” Then, the program went silent for several seconds before playing 15 minutes of classical piano music.

A Good Friday with no news

This peculiar event, which has since become known as the “BBC piano interlude,” was a reflection of the slow news day that Good Friday typically is. In the UK, Good Friday is a public holiday, and many people take the day off work. As a result, there is often little happening in the news. In the absence of any news to report, the BBC turned to music to fill the airwaves.

For three hours, the soothing sounds of classical piano music filled homes and radios across the country. Despite the initial confusion and disappointment from some listeners, the BBC piano interlude became a beloved tradition in the UK.

In fact, it became so popular that it continued every year until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, which brought a halt to the broadcasts. Today, the BBC piano interlude is remembered as a charming and quirky moment in broadcasting history. It is a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of early radio broadcasters, who were able to turn a potentially boring day into something memorable and enjoyable for their listeners.

A waste of time?

The stunt was not well-received by some listeners, who criticized the BBC for wasting airtime and failing to take their obligation to inform the public seriously. In a time before television and the internet, radio was a major source of information and entertainment. Listeners may have been expecting to hear the latest news and updates on Good Friday, only to be surprised by the lack of news and the soothing piano music instead.

However, many appreciated the gesture and praised the BBC for its sense of humor.

Despite the mixed reactions, the BBC continued to play music on public holidays. They even began broadcasting an entire program of light classical music on Sundays. This became known as their “Sunday Concerts.” This tradition lasted for several decades.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “‘There is no news’: What a change from 1930 to today” — BBC

WTF Fun Fact 13270 – Maggot Therapy

Maggot therapy involves using disinfected fly larvae (maggots) to help remove damaged tissue from wounds. And while it may sound gross, it’s making a comeback in mainstream medicine.

What is maggot therapy?

Maggot therapy, also known as maggot debridement therapy (MDT), is a medical treatment that uses live maggots to clean and heal wounds in humans. Granted, it sounds like an unpleasant approach to wound care. But it actually has a long and fascinating history dating back centuries. For example, maggots were used by the Mayans and other Native Americans.

In the early 19th century, a French surgeon named Jules-Francois Germain found that maggots could clean wounds more effectively than traditional methods like cauterization. Their use could also help avoid amputation.

In and out of style

Throughout the 19th century, doctors and surgeons used the technique to treat a variety of conditions like ulcers, abscesses, and gangrene. But despite its effectiveness, maggot therapy fell out of favor in the mid-20th century. This is partly due to the development of antibiotics. Those are far easier to convince someone to take!

However, in the 1980s, antibiotic resistance became a huge problem thanks to the overuse of antibiotics. This helped revive the interest in using maggots in medicine. Scientists even developed new techniques for sterilizing and breeding maggots so they would pose less risk. This also helps patients see them as lab-created entities rather than something you’d find in a dumpster.

Today, maggot therapy is recognized as a safe and effective treatment for a variety of wounds. It’s used for treating diabetic foot ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, and pressure ulcers.

Maggots today

While still relatively rare, doctors do use maggots in hospitals today. They’re carefully applied to wounds in a special dressing so they can feed on the dead tissue and secrete enzymes to kill bacteria and promote healing. When the maggots are removed after several days, a wound is cleaned and dressed and ready to let the body take over the healing.

Maggots might sound gross, but they’re a cost-effective treatment option. They are also particularly helpful for patients who have not responded well to other forms of wound care. As a result, this therapy is gaining increasing recognition as a valuable tool in the treatment of chronic wounds.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Entomological Medicine: How One Scientist is Working to Bring Maggot Therapy Into Wider Use” — Entomology Today

WTF Fun Fact 13263 – March’s Festival of Mars

Ancient Romans celebrated the Festival of Mars, also known as the Feriae Marti or Martius, in March. The ancient Roman celebration was held in honor of Mars, the god of war and agriculture. The Romans held this Festival annually, and it was one of the oldest and most important festivals in the Roman calendar.

What did Romans celebrate during the Festival of Mars?

The Festival of Mars typically lasted a few days. Romans marked it by feasting, music, and games, including chariot races, foot races, and gladiator fights. The Festival also included a procession in which men carried a statue of Mars through the streets of Rome, followed by priests and members of the military.

The Festival was seen as a time of renewal and rebirth, as well as a celebration of the coming spring and the beginning of the growing season. It was also seen as an opportunity to honor Mars and seek his protection and blessings for the coming year.

Romans also honored the god Quirinus (who was associated with Mars) during the Festival. The Romans believed he was an early king of Rome. He became a deified ancestor they worshiped as a god of war and agriculture, much like Mars.

During the Festival, the Roman people would offer sacrifices and perform rituals in honor of Mars and Quirinus. They were seen as twin gods who presided over the renewal of life and the coming of spring. The Festival was also an important time for the Roman army, which would perform military drills and honor their patron god Mars.

How did the celebration evolve?

The Roman calendar originally began in March, which used to be the first month of the year. This was based on the cycle of agricultural seasons.

March marked the beginning of the spring planting season. Over time however, the Romans adjusted their calendar to align with astronomical events, such as the winter solstice. Eventually, they established January as the first month of the year. The Festival of Mars evolved and incorporated elements from other festivals. This included the Roman New Year celebrations and the Hilaria festival, held in honor of the goddess Cybele.

Some scholars posit that the shift from the March Mars festival to a New Year celebration was due to the influence of other cultures. For example, the Etruscans celebrated the New Year in March. The Etruscans were a pre-Roman civilization that inhabited central Italy and whose customs are believed to have influenced Roman culture in many ways.

However, despite these changes, the Festival remained an essential part of Roman culture.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Feriae Marti” — Roman Republic

WTF Fun Fact 13256 – Sallie Ann Jarrett

A Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Sallie Ann Jarrett was one of the most famous American Civil War mascots. She belonged to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army.

After the war, a statue was erected in her honor at the Gettysburg Battlefield.

What’s the story of Sallie Ann Jarrett?

During the American Civil War, animals played an important role in military life. They provided companionship, and morale-boosting in addition to serving as mascots.

Sallie belonged to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army. She was adopted by the soldiers as a puppy and became a beloved member of the regiment. Sallie was known for her fierce loyalty to her human companions and her bravery in battle.

Sallie accompanied the regiment on many of its campaigns and was present at some of the most significant battles of the war. This included the Battle of Gettysburg.

At Gettysburg, soldiers reported seeing Sallie standing guard over the bodies of the fallen, refusing to leave their side. Sallie got a leg wound in the battle, but she survived. Afterwards, Sallie continued to serve as their mascot until the end of the war.

Honoring a mascot’s legacy

After the war, the 11th Pennsylvania erected a monument in honor of Sallie at Gettysburg. It’s now a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the role that animals played in the Civil War.

In addition to the statue, there are many stories and legends about Sallie’s exploits during the war. One story claims that she was present at the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse. Storytellers claimed that she barked so loudly that Lee himself heard her. Another story claims that she once saved a Union soldier from drowning by jumping into a river and pulling him to safety.

While some of these stories may be exaggerated or apocryphal, they are a testament to the enduring popularity of Sallie.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Statue of Sallie Ann Jarrett” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13255 – The Unicorn Throne

In the mid-16th century, a German merchant sold what he claimed was a unicorn horn to King Frederick II of Denmark for a large sum of money. The “unicorn horn” was later found to be a narwhal tusk. At the time, the tusk was even used to create a “unicorn throne.” That throne is still on display at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark today.

What’s the story behind the horn?

The story of the Unicorn Throne begins in the mid-16th century when a German merchant sold what he claimed was a unicorn horn to King Frederick II of Denmark. At the time, many people believed that unicorns were real animals and that their horns had magical healing powers.

King Frederick II was so impressed with the “unicorn horn” that he had it mounted in a gold and silver frame and displayed in his cabinet of curiosities. The cabinet was known as the “Kunstkammer,” and it contained a wide variety of objects, including natural specimens, scientific instruments, works of art, and oddities from around the world.

How did the narwhal horn become part of the “unicorn throne”?

Over a century later, King Frederick III commissioned a new throne for the coronation of his son, Christian V. A master craftsman named Bendix Grodtschilling was tasked with creating it. He spent several years working on the throne, which would eventually become known as the “Unicorn Throne.”

The throne is made from 250 kilos of silver and is covered in intricate carvings and symbols. The most striking feature of the throne is the backrest. This is decorated with three life-size silver lions and is topped by a large silver crown. The armrests are adorned with carved figures of the virtues and vices, while the seat is covered in red velvet.

But the most important feature of the Unicorn Throne is the narwhal tusk that runs down the center of the backrest. This tusk is over 2 meters long. It is believed to be the same one that was sold to King Frederick II as a “unicorn horn” over a century earlier. The narwhal tusk is surrounded by silver branches and leaves, with a silver unicorn perched on top of it.

The Unicorn Throne was used for the coronation of King Christian V in 1671. It was last used for a coronation in 1840, during the coronation of King Christian VIII of Denmark.

The Unicorn Throne has also become an important symbol of Danish royal power and prestige. And today, it’s recognized as one of the most impressive pieces of furniture in Europe.

The Unicorn Throne is on display at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Meet the Narwhal, the Long-Toothed Whale that Inspired a Magical Medieval Legend” — The Met Museum

WTF Fun Fact 13254 – Eating Herring on Ash Wednesday

Did you know this random historical fact about Mardi Gras week? One of its many traditions is eating herring on Ash Wednesday!

Why do people eat herring on Ash Wednesday?

In some countries, it is traditional to eat herring or other salty fish on Ash Wednesday. Some believe the salt helps absorb the alcohol consumed on Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday.

The tradition is particularly popular in Germany and other European countries. There, they believe that eating herring can help to prevent a hangover.

However, there is little scientific evidence to support this claim. It remains unclear how effective eating herring actually is in preventing a hangover. Nonetheless, the tradition persists as a quirky and amusing part of Ash Wednesday in some parts of the world.

Other random traditions

In addition to the tradition of eating herring or other salty fish on Ash Wednesday, there are other quirky traditions from around the world.

In some parts of England, it is traditional to eat pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday. It’s actually known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. Historians believe this tradition originated as a way to use up rich ingredients like eggs, butter, and sugar before the fasting period of Lent began.

In Germany, it is traditional to burn old branches or tree trunks on Ash Wednesday. Germans call this custom “Strohfeuer,” which translates to “straw fire.” Burning old branches is meant to symbolize the burning away of sins and a new, fresh start.

In some parts of the Philippines, it is traditional to attend a “Pabasa.” This is a 24-hour recitation of the passion of Christ. The Pabasa is often held in a private home or chapel and is accompanied by singing and other forms of devotion.

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day. It marks the start of the season of Lent, which culminates in the celebration of Easter. It falls on the first day of Lent, which is always a Wednesday, and is observed by many Christian denominations, including Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists.

The name “Ash Wednesday” comes from the practice of marking the foreheads of worshipers with ashes. People make the ashes by burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. They are a symbolic reminder of the mortality of human beings and the need for repentance and forgiveness.

Ash Wednesday and Carnival traditions that culminate in Mardi Gras have always been linked. These mark the end of the revelry and the beginning of the penitential season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday and the traditions of Carnival and Lent evolved together over time. The earliest references to the observance of Ash Wednesday date back to the 8th century. In fact, we can trace the roots of Carnival back to ancient Roman festivals celebrating the coming of spring. Over time, these two traditions became intertwined and evolved into the celebrations we know today.  WTF fun facts

Source: “‘Haringhappen’: the Dutch tradition of eating raw herring” — Aronson Delftware

WTF Fun Fact 13253 – What Do They Throw at Mardi Gras?

Nowadays, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parade is known for throwing beads into the crowd. But that wasn’t always the case. How’s this for a weird historical fact: In the late 1800s, people found some less appealing things to throw at Mardi Gras – like dirt and flour.

What’s the history of throwing things at Mardi Gras?

According to The Historic New Orleans Collection (cited below): “The first reports of items being thrown as part of the official parades we know today came in the early 1870s with the second procession of the Twelfth Night Revelers, according to Carnival historian Errol Laborde. Following their ‘Mother Goose’s Tea Party’–themed parade, a costumed Santa distributed gifts from his bag.”

Throwing things into crowds actually dates back to at least the ancient Romans and the fertility festival called Lupercalia.

HNOC notes, “These annual rites of purification and fertility were associated with the vernal equinox that marked the return of the sun. In medieval France, the fête de la quémande saw groups of peasants emerging from the dark winter, donning miters and pointed hats to mock the wealthy classes, and begging and dancing for items to eat. That tradition continues today with the Cajun courir de Mardi Gras.”

In early New Orleans, ladies threw sweets and bonbons, But their kids had something else in mind.

“Bands of youths would throw flour (and, later, nastier substances, such as rotten fruit, plaster pellets, urine, and caustic lime) at revelers on Fat Tuesday. One newspaper in the 1840s reported on Ash Wednesday that the streets looked as if snow had fallen.”

Eventually, all that flour went towards sweeter things.

The rise of “King Cakes”

According to legend, a New Orleans baker named Roulhac Toledano made the first King Cake in the 1870s.

He was inspired by a French treat made of puff pastry filled with an almond paste called the galette des rois, traditionally eaten on Epiphany. But Toledano’s King Cake was sweeter and it wasn’t flaky but doughy. And it was decorated with sugar dyed the traditional Mardi Gras colors purple, green, and gold.

The tradition of hiding a small “baby” inside the King Cake wasn’t part of the deal until decades later. The baby in the King Cake tradition started in the 1930s.

Whoever finds the baby in their slice of King Cake will have good luck. But they also have to bring a King Cake to the next Mardi Gras party.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Throw me somethin’ mister! The history behind New Orleans Mardi Gras throws” — The Historic New Orleans Collection

WTF Fun Fact 13252 – The “Paul is Dead” Conspiracy

In 1979, a rumor spread that The Beatles’ Paul McCartney had died and been replaced by a look-alike. The “Paul is dead” rumor claimed that the real Paul had died in a car accident in 1966. It also implied that the other Beatles covered up his death by hiring a look-alike to take his place. The rumor gained widespread attention and even resulted in a number of clues being attributed to the supposed cover-up in Beatles songs and album art.

The rumor was eventually debunked as a hoax, but people still believe in the conspiracy. McCartney has often joked about the rumor, including titling his 1993 live album “Paul Is Live.”

The Paul is dead conspiracy

The “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory was one of the most popular and enduring urban legends of the 1960s and 1970s. The theory originated in 1969, when a man in Michigan called a local radio station. He claimed that he had discovered a series of clues in Beatles songs and album covers that suggested McCartney had been replaced by a look-alike.

The clues cited by Zarski and other proponents of the theory were numerous but obscure. For example, some fans claimed that the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover was a symbolic funeral procession. John Lennon represented a preacher, Ringo Starr a mourner, and George Harrison a gravedigger. Paul being barefoot and out of step with the others was supposedly a sign that he was dead.

Other clues cited by fans included backward messages in Beatles songs. These allegedly revealed the truth about Paul’s death. Various subtle references to death and mortality in Beatles lyrics were also cited as “proof.”

Despite the lack of evidence to support the theory, it gained widespread attention and became a global phenomenon. The rumor was also fueled by the increasing complexity and experimentation of the Beatles’ music, the band’s decision to stop touring and focus on studio recordings, and Paul McCartney’s own decision to grow a mustache.

Conspiracy theories are alive and well

The rumor about McCartney being replaced by a look-alike is somewhat similar to modern-day conspiracy theories about clones and look-alikes of politicians.

Like modern-day conspiracy theories, the rumor about McCartney’s supposed death and replacement was fueled by wild speculation. In these kinds of cases, there is little or no evidence to support the claims being made. Yet they continue to persist, despite being debunked by experts and researchers.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “‘Paul Is Dead’: The Bizarre Story of Music’s Most Notorious Conspiracy Theory” — Rolling Stone

WTF Fun Fact 13246 – The Mathematical Roots of the Jungle Gym

A Princeton University mathematician named Sebastian Hinton invented the jungle gym (and monkey bars). He patented them as the “jungle gym” in 1920. Hinton designed the apparatus as a way to help children develop physical coordination and endurance – and to understand theoretical geometry.

What’s the history behind the jungle gym?

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below): Hinton “built a cubic bamboo grid in the family’s backyard to teach [his children] to visualize space in three dimensions as they moved through the structure. But the kids were more drawn to climbing and swinging on the bars.”

Cimbing is a near-universal juvenile activity in humans and other primates. However, the safety of jungle gyms and monkey bars has come into question. Still, child psychologists insist that “risky play” is essential on some level for healthy development.

Hinton’s patent document describes a “climbing structure.” It consists of a series of metal bars arranged in a vertical or diagonal configuration supported by a frame. The bars are spaced apart at a distance requiring the user to stretch and grasp the next bar to continue.

The document includes detailed illustrations and specifications for the construction and installation of the climbing structure.

Playground mathematics

Hinton’s math background played a complex role in the creation of the equipment.

Living in Japan at the time, Hinton built the bamboo framework in his backyard for his children. One of his goals was to get kids moving in three-dimensional space. Without this experience, he didn’t think humans could properly grasp the mathematical concept of a fourth dimension. The fourth dimension can be used to help explain the geometry and topology of three-dimensional objects.

For example, a jungle gym can be thought of as a set of interconnected vertices, edges, and faces that define its shape and structure. This idea is related to the concept of a “graph” in mathematics, which is a set of vertices that are connected by edges.

In some cases, the topology of a three-dimensional object can also be related to a four-dimensional object. For example, a hypercube or tesseract is an extension of the three-dimensional cube into a fourth dimension.

While this is a highly abstract concept, Hinton designed the jungle gym/monkey bars with this in mind.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Surprisingly Scientific Roots of Monkey Bars” — Smithsonian Magazine