WTF Fun Fact 12672 – Beware the “Sharkcano”

Your mother probably warned you not to swim around acidic shark-infested volcanoes, but in case she didn’t, we’re telling you now not to try it!

Only once have scientists been able to explore the Kavachi volcano in the Solomon Islands. It’s a submarine (aka underwater) volcano and it actually erupts almost constantly. But in 2015, it took a break, giving researchers the chance to check it out.

And boy did they find some stuff! It’s no surprise that they found high levels of sulfur (because it is a volcano, after all), but they were surprised to see that despite extremely acidic conditions, some creatures have managed to thrive in the craters.

There are microbial species that are common in sulfuric environments. There are also “gelatinous animals and small fish.” Oh, and a whole bunch of angry sharks.

According to IFL Science, oceanographic researchers said this is “raising new questions about the ecology of active submarine volcanoes and the extreme environments in which large marine animals can exist.”

And while that’s really cool, we’re more interested in the phenomenon they dubbed “sharkcano.” The researchers wrote: “Two species of shark, the scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini and the silky shark Carcharhinus falciformis, approached the baited camera multiple times in an aggressive pattern; in some cases, sharks appeared to be swimming from greater depths inside the crater.”

Now, before you picture thousands of sharks spewing out from the depths of the ocean floor (which is the first thing we pictured), it’s definitely not going to be that wild if this volcano has a major eruption. It will, however, be a really bad time to go swimming in that area.

NASA images showed a plume developing in late May, so we may be in for a sharkcano eruption sometime soon and we’ll be able to see precisely what that entails. –  WTF fun fact

If you want to learn more:

Source: “NASA Warns Acidic “Sharkcano” Is Starting To Erupt” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 12665 – The Initials On the Moon

Eugene Cernan walked on the moon twice, during the Apollo 10 and Apollo 17 missions. The Apollo 17 mission, which took place from December 7–19, 1972 was NASA’s final Apollo mission and the last time a human was on the moon. Cernan boarded last, making him the last man to set foot on the moon’s surface.

During Apollo 17, Cernan and his fellow astronaut, Harrison Schmitt spent 22 hours and 6 minutes outside, and they still hold the record for the longest extravehicular activity on the moon.

Cernan then drove the lunar rover about a mile away from the takeoff site so it could photograph the ship’s take-off the following day. Before he walked back to the lunar lander, he wrote in his autobiography that he knelt by the rover and drew his daughter Tracy’s initials into the moon dust.

Cernan spoke these words as he climbed into the lunar lander and left the moon:

As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

The crew returned safely to Earth on Dec. 19, 1972. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Eugene Cernan: Last Man on the Moon” —

WTF Fun Fact 12664 – Mushrooms Talk To One Another

A study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal suggests that mushrooms are pretty chatty. In fact, the electrical signals fungi emit toward one another when they encounter food or danger bear a striking resemblance to human speech, at least in terms of the patterns they use.

Andrew Adamatzky of the Unconventional Computing Laboratory at the University of the West of England noticed that fungi electrical signals spiked in certain situations.

Now, you can’t hear mushrooms speak, of course. Many mushrooms grow as part of a network with tiny roots and filaments connecting them underground, called hyphae – and that’s where the signals are passed.

Adamatzky admits that his experiment is a far cry from finding a secret “mushroom language,” but making the comparison allows us to understand the possible purpose of these electrical signals. In the end, they may mean nothing, but the fact that we can distinguish patterns of electrical activity in certain situations would suggest something interesting is going on.

The article reminds us:

This is indeed quite a primitive classification akin to interpreting binary words only by sums of their bits and not exact configurations of 1s and 0s. That said, we should not expect quick results: we are yet to decipher language of cats and dogs despite living with them for centuries, and research into electrical communication of fungi is in its pure infant stage.” 

– WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Mushrooms communicate with each other using up to 50 ‘words’, scientist claims” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 12641 – A Great Ball of Fire

The world didn’t end on April 27, 2022, though we’re confident that a few people thought it might after seeing a giant fireball in the sky headed straight for earth at 8 am.

Around 60 people in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana saw what turned out to be a meteor, but hundreds of people heard the loud boom. That’s because it exploded 34 miles above a swampy area in Louisiana with the power of 3 tons of TNT. Frankly, we would have just gone back to bed after all that.

NASA confirmed the meteor and verified that pieces of it had been recovered on the ground in Mississippi. At first, they estimated its speed at 55,000mph but later amended it to a more modest 35,000mph.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said the event caused no physical injuries or property damage. However, we’re pretty sure there was at least a little bit of existential damage done to anyone who thought they were about to meet the same end as the dinosaurs.

Because the law states that meteorites belong to whoever owns the property they land on, NASA will not disclose the locations of any of the fragments. (We’re pretty sure someone on Facebook will take care of that.)

NASA also reminded people: “We are not meteorite people, as our main focus is protecting spacecraft and astronauts from meteoroids.” So they won’t be identifying or authenticating any other rocks people claim are meteorites. They also confirmed that Mississippi is particularly meteorite-prone, with incidents occurring in 1854, 1910, 1922, and 2012. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Pieces of ‘fireball’ that exploded while zooming over 3 Southern states are being found on ground, NASA says” — CBS News

WTF Fun Fact 12639 – Prosecuting Space Crime

Pretty soon, it may be illegal for Canadian astronauts to go on crime sprees in space.

Now, we’re pretty sure that’s not why Canadians become astronauts in the first place, but apparently, you can never be too careful.

So, what’s this all about? Well, Canada just proposed an amendment to the country’s Criminal Code in their no-doubt riveting 443-page Budget Implementation Act in the House of Commons. It basically states that any crime committed in space by Canadians will be considered to have been committed on Canadian territory and punished accordingly. In other words, if you commit moon murder as a Canadian, you better not come back.

Interestingly, Canada has been preparing for space crime for a while now. Their Criminal Code already lays out prohibitions on crimes Canadian astronauts may commit during space flight to the International Space Station. accounts for astronauts who may commit crimes during space flights to the International Space Station.

Canada is part of the Lunar Gateway Project, a NASA-backed orbiting space platform. Part of that plan includes a trip to the moon, and apparently, the government wants to make sure Canadians maintain their reputation for being polite even among extraterrestrials.

The proposed code change reads:

“A Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offense is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada.”

There are two interesting questions at play here – 1) who controls space justice, and 2) what gives a country the right to say space in their territory for prosecutorial purposes?

If you think space crime is absurd, there have already been accusations that have raised questions (however, no crime actually occurred). In 2019, astronaut Anne McClain was accused by her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, of improperly accessing bank records from the International Space Station. But McClain was later cleared after her spouse admitted to lying.

Still, it made people wonder how we might prosecute crimes in space, where no one technically owns territory (yet) and no one has jurisdiction.

Now, we already have some guidelines for international space law, believe it or not. According to CBC News:

“‘There are five international treaties governing activities in space but the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, ratified by Canada and more than 100 other countries, is the most relevant when it comes to dealing with alleged crimes in space, wrote Danielle Ireland-Piper, an associate professor of constitutional and international law at Australia’s Bond University. ‘As for the question of who prosecutes space crimes, the short answer is that a spacefaring criminal would generally be subject to the law of the country of which they are a citizen, or the country aboard whose registered spacecraft the crime was committed.'”

But things might be different if the astronaut-on-astronaut crime occurs between two different nations. In that case, there might be some disagreement about which country is able to prosecute the space offender. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Crimes on the moon could soon be added to Canada’s Criminal Code” — CBC News

WTF Fun Facts12637 – Cow Burps Seen From Space

While it may be kind of funny, it’s really not a good thing that the methane emissions from cow burps can be viewed from space. That methane actually gets trapped in the earth’s atmosphere and contributes to climate change.

These emissions were detected by an environmental data company called GHGSat. Their high-resolution satellites saw the emissions in February, but it took until April to confirm their suspicions.

The burping cattle reside on a feedlot in California’s Joaquin Valley. According to CNN: “If these emissions were sustained for just one year, enough gas would be released ‘to power 15,402 homes,’ the company said.”

Farm cattle contribute to 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity around the world. In California alone, there are 650,000 beef cows.

This marks the first time that scientists have been able to use satellite imagery to pinpoint methane emissions from cattle farming.

CNN explained the process:

“The company has three high-resolution satellites in orbit, which it has previously used to measure emissions from open-pit coal mines. Each satellite is just the size of a microwave oven, says GHGSat. “This is really pushing the envelope of our capabilities,” said Wight. “What’s unique about us is we can really kind of get to the source” of emissions, focusing in on specific feedlots. Each satellite flies over a designated location for just about 20 seconds, taking a quick “snapshot” of emissions, Wight said. Over time, regular monitoring with these satellites could create a “temporal picture” showing the change in emissions over time, allowing farmers to, for instance, test out the impact of different diets on cows’ methane emissions.” – WTF fun facts

Source: “Planet-warming emissions from cow burps have been seen from space” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 12636 – A Medical Device That’ll Make You Squirm

Sure, it sounds gross. It is gross. But so is a lot of the creative stuff doctors do to keep us alive.

As it turns out, the resurgence of therapies that use maggots and leeches has saved thousands of lives. Doctors can use them because they are FDA-approved as medical devices, despite being living creatures.

Now, no one heads to the local community garden or dumpster to get medicinal leeches and maggots. They are created in labs within very specific parameters.

So, let’s start with maggots. How can they possibly be medicinal?

The maggots used in medicine are the larvae of bottle-green blowflies. Because maggots only eat dead skin and not living skin, they’re actually perfect for cleaning infected wounds. Instead of having some first-year resident scrubbing out your open wound, maggots are even more gentle by comparison. In fact, since they’re eating dead tissue that’s already numb, you don’t feel the chomping at all. And they do a darn thorough job!

Leeches, on the other hand, are known as blood drinkers. Both of these creatures have been used in medicine for thousands of years, but are just making a comeback. However, leeches weren’t always applied in helpful ways in the past. Now, they’re used to clean up pooled blood in the body.

According to Discover Magazine: “When blood starts pooling instead of circulating, the area swells, and the lack of fresh, oxygenated blood causes skin tissues to die. Leeches can prevent that from happening.”

In the 1980s, as more wounds became resistant to antibiotics, a few doctors wanted to try maggots again and got some men at the VA hospital to agree. After the trials worked, the doctor in charge realized that in order to share the maggots with colleagues, he had to file paperwork with the FDA, and they turned out to be hard to regulate. But it was possible and in 2003, the FDA approved maggots as a medical device. Six months later, leeches were approved as well.

Obviously, not all hospitals are keen to use them (and patients aren’t generally big fans of the idea either). – WTF fun facts

Source: “Leeches and Maggots Are FDA-Approved and Still Used in Modern Medicine” — Discover Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12629 – Pickled Roads

Well, to be fair, we’ve driven on salted roads and sometimes the best we ever got was the need for a car wash afterward. So we believed it when we heard cities use other methods. We just wouldn’t have immediately come up with pickle or beet juice as the alternative.

As it turns out, pickle brine, the wastewater from beet processing, and even beer wastewater are all effective in combating icy roads.

And that’s a good thing because we do know that too much salt is problematic in lots of ways, to us and to the surrounding land. In 2014, a U.S. Geological Survey found that 84% of U.S. streams in the northern part of the country had toxic levels of chloride. And road salt is sodium chloride. These levels peaked during the months when road salt is used. A lot of this salt also ends up in our lakes as it leeches through the land. These are big consequences that we’ll have to deal with soon, somehow. Just think about how well water is going to be affected.

According to Big Think, here’s how road salt works:

1. Salt attracts ice and snow molecules.
2. The salt break the bonds that hold together the ice and snow molecules.

3. This melts the snow, creating a brine consisting of salt and water.
4. The brine spreads, repeating the process as it moves over the road.

Beet wastewater can have the same effect. It contains sugar to lower the temperature of ice. However, the communities that have used it tend to dislike the smell – something it smells like soy sauce or stale coffee. Now, if it smelled like FRESH coffee, we’d be in business!

Pickle juice has some similar smell issues, but all of these alternatives (cheese brine is another) are less corrosive to cars as well.

Want to read more about the alternatives? Check out the source below – it’s pretty interesting to see how we may all use something different based on what’s available to us in our region.  – WTF fun facts

Source: “Why Pickle Brine On Icy Roads Could Be Smarter Than Salt” — Big Think

WTF Fun Fact 12622 – Air Conditioning Trees

There’s no arguing with the fact that trees keep the planet alive. And we all know they help keep the Earth cool, though we may not know the exact mechanism by which they do it.

But the amount of influence trees can have over the climates in their immediate areas is still pretty stunning.

Even when trees grow in cities (relatively far apart and under conditions that are probably less ideal than, say, a forest), they can have a large cooling impact.

According to the EPA, cities sometimes create “heat islands”:

“An urban heat island (UHI) is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. The temperature difference is usually larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak.”

Tl; dr – Cities are hotter because of all the stuff we do there.

But what’s cool about trees (see what we did there?) is that they can lower both surface and air temperatures. We all know it’s cooler in the shade (sometimes by as much as 20-45 degrees F!), so that’s part of it. But there’s also something called evapotranspiration that plays a role. That’s the method by which water moves from the earth’s surface (the soil) up into the atmosphere. So, later, when we get precipitation, it can cool off our buildings and sidewalks.

Evapotranspiration (along with shading, in most cases) can reduce peak temperatures on a summer day by 2-9 degrees F.

And chances are that if you have a thoughtful city planning department, the trees planted around your nearest city are planted in very strategic locations to take advantage of this process. (For example, you may find more trees planted to the west of buildings to take advantage of maximum shade.)

There’s a very long list of the benefits of trees, but we’ll add a few that are less obvious about city trees:

  • They reduce energy usage by lowering the demand for air conditioning
  • They help with stormwater management after big storms by absorbing and filtering rainwater
  • They can reduce the need for constant pavement maintenance by keeping sidewalks, roads, and parking lots cool
  • They improve our quality of life, in part, by reducing noise pollution in cities.

Sometimes trees get in the way, but it’s critical to have them around (or replant them when we need to remove them). – WTF fun facts

Source: “Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands” — US EPA