WTF Fun Fact 13264 – Duck Have Waterproof Feathers

Did you know that ducks have highly waterproof feathers? It makes sense, right? After all, they’d probably freeze in cold weather if something wasn’t helping to insulate them.

How do waterproof feathers work?

A duck’s waterproof feathers are due to the special oil that they produce.

Ducks have a special oil gland called the preen gland (also known as the uropygial gland) that is located at the base of their tail. They spread the oil over their feathers as they preen themselves.

This oil also keeps the duck’s feathers dry and helps it to float in water. And to top it off, it even contains antimicrobial properties that help to keep the duck’s feathers clean and free from harmful bacteria.

Duck feathers also trap air and provide insulation to keep them warm in cold water. And they have a unique structure that helps to repel water.

The feather shaft is made up of a hard, central quill surrounded by a series of barbs and barbules that interlock to create a flat surface. These barbs and barbules are arranged in a particular way that allows them to lock together tightly. This creates a barrier that prevents water from penetrating through the feather to the bird’s skin.

This unique feather structure is what allows ducks to stay warm and dry in wet environments and helps them to regulate their body temperature.

The beauty of duck feathers

Duck feathers aren’t just practical. They’re also beautiful in ways that humans can’t even see. Their colors aren’t always visible to the human eye.

Many duck feathers contain iridescent structural colors that are created by the way that light reflects off of the feather’s surface. This can create a range of different colors and patterns, from bright greens and blues to deep purples and reds.

Male ducks often have brightly colored feathers that are used to attract mates during the breeding season. For example, male mallards have distinctive green heads and necks, while male wood ducks have a colorful pattern of red, green, and white feathers on their faces and bodies.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Waterfowl feathers” – Ducks Unlimited

WTF Fun Fact 13260 – Tornados Produce Infrasound

Tornados can produce a sound that most humans can’t hear but may still react to negatively. Known as “infrasound,” the low-frequency noise is below frequency range of human hearing, typically less than 20 hertz. (The typical range for human hearing runs from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz).) Tornadoes produce infrasound when strong winds vibrate the ground and nearby objects, such as buildings and trees.

Tornados and infrasound

While the sound itself is not audible to the human ear, it can still have an effect on the body. Some people report feeling a sense of unease or even fear when they are in the presence of a tornado, and researchers believe that the infrasound may be partially responsible for this phenomenon.

Interestingly, the infrasound produced by tornadoes is similar to the sound produced by some musical instruments, such as pipe organs and bass drums. In fact, some composers have used the infrasound produced by tornadoes and other natural phenomena in their musical compositions. While the sound of a tornado may be unsettling to some, it is a fascinating example of the power and complexity of nature.

Do other phenomena produce infrasound?

Exposure to infrasound has been reported to cause both physiological and psychological effects. People have reported nausea, dizziness, headaches, and anxiety after being exposed to infrasound. It has also been linked to a range of paranormal and supernatural experiences, such as ghost sightings and feelings of unease in haunted places even if people can’t actually hear the noise.

Infrasound is also produced by other natural and man-made sources. These include earthquakes, ocean waves, thunderstorms, large machinery, air conditioning units, and some types of music.

Many animals are known to use infrasound for communication and navigation. Infrasound is also being studied for its potential therapeutic applications, such as reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Infrasonic Detection of Tornadoes and Tornadic Storms” — NOAA

WTF Fun Fact 13258 – The Role of Gut Bacteria

We don’t yet know all the details of the role of gut bacteria in our minds and bodies. But research keeps suggesting that these bacteria are plentiful and influential on everything from our moods to our cravings.

What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome refers to the diverse community of microorganisms that live in the human digestive tract, particularly in the large intestine. It includes:

  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • fungi
  • other microbes.

These microorganisms play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the digestive system and the body as a whole.

The gut microbiota is estimated to contain over 100 trillion microorganisms. These microorganisms perform a range of important functions. Some break down complex carbohydrates and other nutrients, producing vitamins and other essential compounds. Others help regulate the immune system and protect against harmful pathogens. The composition of the gut microbiota can vary based on diet, age, medication use, and environmental exposures.

Research has linked imbalances in the gut microbiota to a range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and mental health issues.

The role of gut bacteria in eating?

There is growing evidence to suggest that gut microbiota may influence

  • our brain function and behavior
  • our mood
  • anxiety
  • cognition
  • appetite
  • food cravings and preferences

Gut bacteria are known to produce neurotransmitters and other signaling molecules that can affect appetite and food preferences. They can also influence the way that the body processes and stores nutrients.

Some types of gut bacteria have been shown to produce compounds that stimulate the release of hormones like leptin and ghrelin which control appetite. Other types of bacteria can regulate the release of appetite-regulating hormones and promote feelings of fullness and satiety.

Gut microbiota may also affect food preferences and taste perception. For example, people with a high ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes bacteria in their gut often prefer high-fat and high-sugar foods. These, in turn, contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms” — Bioassays (Academic Journal)

WTF Fun Fact 13257 – Snoring and Relationships

Snoring is bad for relationships. The damage is hard to quantify since there are many reasons for poor sleep, and a lack of sleep can lead to everything from health issues to resentment. But it seems clear that if one person snores and keeps the other awake, it frequently leads to trouble. Snoring and relationships are a terrible combination.

Why snoring is bad for relationships

There are many incorrect statistics out there (like snoring is the third leading cause of divorce – it’s not) due to people misreading scientific research. But plenty of work has been done on the damage one partner’s snoring can do to the other and the relationship overall.

For example, the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center conducted a study on couples in which the husband had sleep apnea that affected the wife’s ability to sleep due to snoring. They found cases in which the wife’s sleep efficiency scores decreased significantly because they were woken up by snoring up to 8 times per hour!

Rosalind Cartwright, Ph.D., founder of the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush, noted:

“Couples who struggle with sleep apnea have a high divorce rate. Our early results are showing that the wife’s sleep is indeed deprived due to the husband’s noisy nights. This is not a mild problem. The lack of sleep for both partners puts a strain on the marriage and creates a hostile and tense situation.”

The good news is that when the sleep apnea was treated, and the snoring ceased to disturb the wife’s sleep, her quality of life went up, her sleepiness went down, and the marital satisfaction score improved.

It’s important to note that while studies suggest a link between snoring and marital conflict, they do not necessarily imply causation. Snoring may be a symptom of an underlying health condition (such as sleep apnea). It’s possible that these factors, rather than the snoring itself, may be contributing to conflict. And, of course, studies may not apply to all couples.

More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between snoring and marital conflict.

The “sleep divorce”

A sleep divorce is a term that refers to the practice of couples sleeping separately to get a better night’s sleep. It can mean sleeping in different beds or different rooms.

This practice is becoming increasingly popular among couples. Some find that snoring, tossing and turning, or different sleep schedules destroy a partner’s sleep. This can lead to a variety of health problems.

There are many reasons why couples may choose to sleep separately. Snoring is among the most common since it can happen frequently and lead to daytime fatigue and irritability.

While the idea of sleeping separately may seem unromantic to some, it can actually have several benefits. Sleeping separately can lead to better sleep quality, improving mood, productivity, and overall health. It can also reduce arguments and conflicts that may arise from sleep disturbances. This can improve the overall quality of the relationship.

Of course, for some, sharing a bed may be an important part of the intimacy and connection in their relationship. Additionally, it’s important for couples to communicate openly about their sleeping arrangements and work together to find a solution that works for both partners.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Can Snoring Ruin A Marriage?” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13250 – Posting Uninformed Comments

We all know that the comment section is a black hole that attracts uninformed comments. It’s the place where dignity and informed debate go to die. But a 2019 study by researchers at York College of Pennsylvania gives some insight into why these comments are so prevalent.

However, the authors distinguish between being uninformed (recognizing one’s own ignorance) and misinformed (confidently holding inaccurate beliefs). In this case, we’re talking mainly about misinformation. But not all researchers use these words in the same way.

Why are there so many uninformed comments and misinformed commenters?

In a nutshell, it’s because people just don’t read enough. If they do, they skim previews of most content. This is especially true when it’s about something that riles them up – like politics. They don’t take the time to really try and process what an article is about before they comment on it. In fact, skimming makes them highly confident that they do have something worthwhile to say. Never mind that this is correlated with having less reliable insight.

According to ScienceAlert’s coverage of the research (cited below):

“By glancing through article previews, instead of reading the full piece, many users overestimate their understanding of an issue, and this is especially true for those whose knowledge is guided by strong emotions – and, therefore, strong opinions.”

The research on uninformed comments comes from the academic article “A little bit of knowledge: Facebook’s News Feed and self-perceptions of knowledge” published in the journal Research & Politics.

There, the authors note:

“We argue that Facebook’s News Feed itself, with its short article previews, provides enough political information for learning to occur. However, this learning comes with an additional consequence: audiences who only read article previews think they know more than they actually do, especially individuals who are motivated to seek emotions.”

Emotions over data

You’ve probably noticed that people with strong opinions like to throw out information they seem confident about. But it’s worth considering how much it matches their desire to seem smart.

The researchers noted, “Those who are more driven by emotion allow the positive feelings associated with being right to override the need for actual accuracy, thus coming away from limited exposure to information falsely overconfident in their knowledge of the subject matter.”

Sound like anyone you know on social media?  WTF fun facts

Source: “Didn’t Read The Article Before Commenting? Science Says It Really Shows” — Science Alert

WTF Fun Fact 13247 – The Fish with a Unicorn Horn

Scientists in China have discovered a new species of fish with a unicorn horn. Named “Sinocyclocheilus longicornus,” the lives in pitch-black caves, has no scales, tiny eyes that are likely non-functional, and a unicorn-like horn sticking out of its head.

What’s the story behind the fish with the unicorn horn?

Scientists discovered the fish in a remote cave system in Guizhou Province in southwestern China. The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by Dr. Meng Wu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who specialize in studying subterranean life forms.

Sinocyclocheilus longicornus is a type of cave fish, which means it has adapted to living in a dark, aquatic environment without any access to sunlight. Like other cave fish, Sinocyclocheilus longicornus has evolved certain physical traits to help it survive in this challenging habitat. For example, it lacks developed eyes and pigmentation, since these features are not necessary in a pitch-black cave.

However, it’s the “unicorn horn” made of bony tissue that’s stirring up curiosity. Scientists believe the fish use the horn for fighting or as a way to sense their environment.

Why is this discovery important?

The discovery of Sinocyclocheilus longicornus is just one example of the ongoing research into subterranean life forms and the unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in the dark, hidden corners of the world. As scientists continue to study these organisms, we may gain new insights into the evolution of life on Earth and the incredible resilience of living things in the face of extreme environmental conditions.

Furthermore, the discovery of a new species of cave fish is particularly exciting for scientists. It highlights how much we still have to discover about life on Earth. Despite centuries of exploration and research, there are still many corners of the planet that remain largely unexplored. This is particularly true of the deep, dark recesses of the world’s caves and other subterranean environments.

Finally, the discovery of Sinocyclocheilus longicornus serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting these unique and fragile ecosystems. Caves and other subterranean environments are home to a wealth of unique species that are found nowhere else on Earth. Mining, tourism, and other human activities can disrupt the delicate balance of these ecosystems. The result is irreparable harm to the species that live there.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Unicorn-like blind fish discovered in dark waters deep in Chinese cave” — Live Science

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

WTF Fun Fact 13239 – Indoor Air is More Polluted

More and more people are worried about air quality. But hiding indoors doesn’t appear to be an option for some people if their indoor air is more polluted. And that appears to be the case for a lot of people.

How can you know if your indoor air is more polluted than outdoors?

You can typically get readings for outdoor air quality with the weather report these days. Air pollution can come from natural sources like pollen or unnatural sources like factories, cars, and other machinery.

Testing your indoor air is another matter. But there are a few ways to get a clue about your indoor air quality. For example, if you experience frequent allergies or asthma indoors, you may have compromised air quality. If you can see or smell mold, mildew, or chemicals from cleaning supplies, your air is compromised.

If you walk into your home and experience irritation of the nose, eyes, or throat, experience skin rashes even when staying home for extended periods, or tend to experience dry skin, unexplained coughing, fatigue, dizziness, or headaches, it may be time to check your indoor air quality. (Of course, these can be symptoms of other issues as well.)

Sources of “bad air”

Indoor air pollution can come from some unlikely places. Obviously, bad air can seep into your home from outside or be tracked in on your clothing, hands, or shoes.

Other sources of indoor air pollution are:

  • Consumer products (like TVs, furniture, or things made of plastic) that tend to emit the chemicals Polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) or Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).
  • Wood cleaners or sealants and mattresses that contain polyurethane.
  • Carpeting, plywood, and upholstery that can emit formaldehyde.
  • Cigarette smoke.
  • Mold and mildew growing in damp areas of your home.
  • Scent diffusers and candles.
  • Pesticide residue or pollen from your shoes.
  • Dust mites and roach droppings.
  • Fireplaces that emit combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide.
  • Pets (And there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic, dander-free pet!)

The list goes on, but these are major sources that can sometimes be remediated with air purifiers. If your house has poor ventilation, you may feel the effects of indoor air pollutants more acutely.

Getting rid of your floors and furniture certainly isn’t an option for most people. However, you can prohibit smoking indoors and cut down on your use of chemical cleaners. This is especially important if someone in your home has asthma or allergies.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Indoor Air Quality” — Environmental Protection Agency

WTF Fun Fact 13236 – Health Benefits of Holding Hands

Studies have shown the health benefits of holding hands with someone you love. This can reduce stress and anxiety. That’s because the physical act of holding hands releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love, trust, and comfort.

The other health benefits of holding hands

In addition, holding hands with someone you love can also lower blood pressure and reduce physical pain, making it an effective way to promote overall well-being and improve mental and physical health.

Holding hands can also boost self-esteem and confidence, making it a helpful tool for managing feelings of insecurity or low self-worth. It can even encourage communication, which helps to facilitate deeper connections and understanding between individuals.

Studies have also shown that holding hands can help to improve memory recall and enhance cognitive function.

Oxytocin: The “love drug”

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” for its positive effects on physical and mental health. For example, studies have shown that the release of oxytocin can help to lower blood pressure. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

It can also have pain-relieving effects that can help treat a variety of painful conditions like migraines, menstrual cramps, and arthritis.

The “love hormone” is also a mood booster. Oxytocin can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in some people.

Finally, doing things that release oxytocin can help you strengthen your relationships. It helps promote feelings of love, trust, and comfort. This helps you form both personal and social bonds with those around you.

Reach out and touch…

There are many studies that demonstrate the cognitive benefits of touch. Yet it’s a sense that we don’t fully appreciate. Nevertheless, it helps us form both bonds and memories.

So, next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try reaching for your loved one’s hand.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Holding Hands May Reduce Stress” — WebMD