WTF Fun Fact 13620 – The Mars Effect

The Mars Effect, a term entrenched in both astrological and scientific discussions, emerged from the work of French psychologist and statistician Michel Gauquelin. Known for his interest in astrology, Gauquelin devoted significant research to scrutinize its claims scientifically. His journey into this controversial subject led to a startling discovery that blurred the lines between astronomy and astrology.

Gauquelin’s Methodical Approach

Gauquelin’s approach to studying astrology was unique. He conducted experiments with rigor, often collaborating with his wife Francoise. One notable experiment involved astrologers who tried to differentiate birth charts of criminals from responsible citizens, resulting in outcomes aligned with mere chance. Another intriguing experiment involved presenting the horoscope of a notorious criminal as Gauquelin’s own, revealing the generic nature of astrological readings.

However, Gauquelin’s most significant and controversial work was his study on the birthdates of over 2,000 notable French professionals. This study birthed the concept of the Mars Effect.

Unveiling the Mars Effect

The Mars Effect posited an unusual correlation: certain planets, particularly Mars, prominently featured in the birth charts of individuals excelling in specific professions. Notably, Mars was frequently observed in the charts of eminent athletes. This finding deviated sharply from Gauquelin’s other research, which generally debunked astrological claims.

Gauquelin’s findings sparked a wave of intrigue and skepticism. His work underwent multiple re-evaluations and replications by both advocates and critics, yet the results remained inconclusive. This ambiguity left the scientific community divided. While some viewed the Mars Effect as a statistical anomaly or a fluke, others saw it as potential evidence of an astrological influence on human destinies.

The Mars Effect haunted Gauquelin throughout his life. Despite his initial stance against astrology’s scientific validity, this particular finding seemed to contradict his general skepticism. This paradoxical situation led Gauquelin to a state of personal and professional turmoil. Tragically, it culminated in his suicide in 1991 after he ordered all his research files to be destroyed.

Legacy of the Mars Effect

Today, the Mars Effect remains a subject of curiosity and debate. It stands at a unique crossroads where astrology meets empirical investigation. Gauquelin’s work, despite its controversial nature, contributed significantly to the discourse on astrology’s place in scientific study.

This represents more than a mere astrological anomaly; it symbolizes the complex relationship between belief and evidence-based science. It challenges the boundaries of what we understand about the influence of celestial bodies on human life. While the scientific community continues to debate its validity, it serves as a reminder of the enigmatic and often unexplained phenomena that persist in our universe.

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Source: “The Mars Effect” – The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13618 – Hong Kong’s Snake Pizza

Pizza Hut, the iconic American pizza chain, has taken a bold leap into the world of fusion cuisine in Hong Kong by introducing a pizza that’s causing quite a stir. This isn’t just any pizza; it’s topped with snake meat. Collaborating with Ser Wong Fun, a renowned local restaurant with over a century of history, Pizza Hut is reinventing traditional flavors and bringing a slice of local heritage to the pizza scene.

Pizza Hut Serving Snake Pizza

The snake pizza is a blend of traditional snake stew elements like shredded snake meat, black mushrooms, and Chinese dried ham. This blend rests atop the familiar pizza base, marrying the East with the West in an unexpected way. The pizza also swaps out the classic tomato sauce for abalone sauce, adding to the luxurious twist of flavors.

Snake stew has been a delicacy in Hong Kong, particularly enjoyed as the weather turns colder. Many locals believe in its warming and medicinal benefits. Pizza Hut’s new creation banks on this traditional belief, promising a nourishing experience that challenges the conventional palate. It’s a modern take on a dish deeply rooted in the region’s culinary culture.

Reactions to Pizza Hut’s snake pizza are as varied as the ingredients on the pizza itself. Some diners find the concept intriguing, drawn to the idea of snake meat’s rich texture and high-protein content. Others, particularly those not accustomed to the idea of snakes as food, express apprehension at the thought of trying this unconventional topping.

Expertise in Every Slice

To ensure authenticity, Pizza Hut has drawn on the expertise of Ser Wong Fun, which specializes in preparing snake meat delicately. The snake breeds used in the recipe, including Chinese rat snakes and banded kraits, are carefully selected to provide a balance of flavors that are both tantalizing and savory, suitable for the season.

This isn’t Pizza Hut Hong Kong’s first foray into localized menus. In addition to the snake pizza, they’re also introducing a pizza featuring Chinese preserved sausages, a nod to another local favorite. This trend of customizing menus to reflect local tastes is not exclusive to Hong Kong. Pizza Hut Taiwan has experimented with toppings like durian and pig blood curds, while Pizza Hut Japan has offered Tonkotsu ramen pizza, each reflecting the culinary preferences of their respective regions.

The snake pizza is a limited-time offering, available until November 22. It’s a bold statement in the world of fast food, where innovation and tradition collide to create new experiences for adventurous foodies. Whether it becomes a beloved staple or a seasonal novelty, Pizza Hut’s snake pizza has certainly captured the attention of pizza enthusiasts and culinary explorers alike.

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WTF Fun Fact 13617 – The Stolen Gold Toilet

On a quiet morning in early 2019, Blenheim Palace became the scene of the theft of an 18-karat gold toilet. The piece, named “America,” was crafted by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. This functional piece of art was valued at a staggering $6 million. It was not only a statement on wealth but also open for palace visitors to use.

The Plot of the Gold Toilet Heist

Four men—James Sheen, Michael Jones, Fred Doe, and Bora Guccuk—executed the heist at the ancestral home of Winston Churchill. They snatched the golden toilet, leaving behind a trail of destruction and water damage. This act spurred a nationwide manhunt that resulted in their capture and subsequent charges ranging from burglary to conspiracy.

The aftermath of the theft left the palace with substantial flood damage. Of course, the audacity of the crime has both baffled and captivated the public. The men face a court date in late November. But the fate of the toilet remains shrouded in mystery. Authorities speculate that they may have melted down the golden throne, its form forever lost to greed.


The golden toilet, on display for visitors to use, questioned the art market’s extravagance. It stood as a challenge, blurring the lines between high art and everyday objects. The theft of the piece has stirred a debate about the value we place on art and the lengths some will go to own or destroy it.

“America” was more than a dazzling fixture; it was an interactive installation that invited contemplation on opulence and art’s accessibility. By making such a luxury available to all, the artwork broke down barriers. It allowed the public to partake in what is typically exclusive to the affluent. Cattelan’s work not only nods to the excesses of the art market but also poses questions about the value society places on material wealth.

The art community and the public alike await with bated breath for any news of the lost masterpiece. Will it resurface, or has it been irreversibly lost to the annals of infamous art heists?

This tale of ambition, art, and audacity continues to evolve. It reminds us of the potent allure that art holds and the powerful statements it can make—even when it comes in the form of a gold toilet.

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Sources: “Four Men Charged With 2019 Theft of $6 Million Gold Toilet” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13616 – Belly Flop Science

In a splash of scientific curiosity, researchers from Brown University have dived into the mechanics of the belly flop. They’ve emerged with insights that could ripple through the field of marine engineering. Their research didn’t just skim the surface. The air-to-water impact dynamics resonate beyond the poolside into naval design and safety.

The Sting of Impact: A Fluid Problem

Assistant Professor Daniel Harris explained the painful truth behind the belly flop’s notorious smack. The sudden halt of a body moving from air to still water creates a formidable reaction force. This results in the body’s shockingly painful reception. This resistance, familiar to any brave soul attempting a belly flop, also poses serious considerations for naval engineering, where structures frequently endure similar high-impact forces.

The research team conducted experiments that replicated the belly flop using a blunt cylinder that vibrated upon impact. Previous studies have often focused on rigid bodies hitting the water. But Harris’s team explored the effects when the object is flexible, allowing for shape change or deformation under force.

Springing into Safer Belly Flop Landings

The researchers attached a soft “nose” to their impactor, buffered by a system of springs designed to soften the blow. It works much like a car’s suspension system. The assumption was that a more flexible system would distribute the impact over a longer period. This would reduce the maximum force felt during the splashdown.

However, their findings defied expectations. Instead of consistently cushioning the blow, the flexible system sometimes intensified the impact force. The culprit? The springs themselves. If not perfectly tuned, the springs’ softness could lead to increased vibrations, adding to the slamming force rather than mitigating it.

The key to a less painful impact lies in the delicate balance of the springs’ stiffness and the height from which the object is dropped. The springs must be just soft enough to absorb the impact gently without causing additional rapid oscillations.

The experiments, while causing a few wet lab coats, have paved the way for innovative approaches to entering water smoothly. Taking cues from nature, the researchers are now exploring how diving birds maneuver to lessen the blow of water entry. Their aim is to design a robotic impactor that mimics these biological techniques for blunt objects.

Implications Beyond the Belly Flop

This study, supported by the Office of Naval Research and Naval Undersea Warfare Center, has far-reaching implications. By understanding the vibrational interplay between structure flexibility and impact forces, engineers can develop safer, more resilient marine vessels and structures. They’ve effectively turned the dreaded belly flop into a lesson in sophisticated design and safety.

The research not only offers a recipe for less painful pool antics but equips marine engineers with the knowledge to better navigate air-to-water transitions.

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Source: “Want the secret to less painful belly flops? These researchers have the answer” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13614 – Chimp Warfare

University of Cambridge scientists have uncovered that chimpanzees, much like humans, use strategic high ground for reconnaissance on rival groups during “chimp warfare.” This discovery took place in the West African forests of Côte d’Ivoire. It showcases our closest evolutionary relatives employing a warfare tactic previously thought to be uniquely human.

Chimp Warfare from the Treetops

During a comprehensive three-year study, researchers monitored two neighboring groups of chimpanzees. Their movement patterns revealed a striking preference for elevated terrain when approaching the shared border zone where skirmishes could occur. Researchers noted that the chimpanzees were twice as likely to climb hills en route to this contested area compared to when they ventured within their territory. This suggests a calculated use of the landscape for strategic advantage.

At these vantage points, the primates demonstrated a notable change in behavior. Rather than engaging in their typical noisy foraging or eating, they opted for quiet rest. This behavior allowed them to listen for distant sounds of potential rivals. It also let them make informed decisions about advancing into enemy territory while minimizing the risk of direct conflict.

Strategic Warfare Among Non-Human Primates

The study’s lead author, Dr. Sylvain Lemoine, emphasized the significance of this behavior. “The strategic use of landscape for territorial control reflects a cognitive complexity in chimpanzees that mirrors human war-like strategies,” he explained. This finding suggests that such tactical behavior may have been a part of our evolutionary history. It’s traceable back to the proto-warfare of prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies.

Over the course of their research, the team amassed more than 21,000 hours of tracking data from 58 chimpanzees. The study’s significance lies in its contribution to understanding chimpanzee behavior and implications for evolutionary biology and anthropology.

The study conducted at the Taï Chimpanzee Project indicates that chimpanzees conduct ‘border patrols’ to establish and protect their territory. These patrols are carried out with precision and coordination, reminiscent of a silent hunt. Inselbergs, or isolated rocky outcrops, frequently served as the chosen points for these reconnaissance activities.

The researchers’ observations included instances where these patrols led to expansions of territory or, in rare cases, violent confrontations. Despite these risks, the primary use of hilltop reconnaissance appears to be the avoidance of direct conflict. Chimpanzees preferring to gather information from a distance and reduce the likelihood of violent encounters.

Insights Into Primate Behavior

The discovery that chimpanzees use tactical reconnaissance is a testament to their intelligence and adaptability. More territory means better access to food and higher chances of successful mating, which, as previous research by Lemoine suggests, leads to larger communities with higher birth rates and reduced rival pressure.

This study provides a fascinating glimpse into the complex social behaviors of chimpanzees, offering evidence that tactical thinking and strategic planning are not solely human traits.

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Source: “Chimpanzees use hilltops to conduct reconnaissance on rival groups, study finds” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13611 – Turning Data Into Music

Scientists are turning data into music to see if it can help us understand large and intricate datasets in new and interesting ways.

Tampere University and Eastern Washington University’s groundbreaking “data-to-music” algorithm research transforms intricate digital data into captivating sounds. And the researchers have presented a novel and potentially revolutionary approach to data comprehension.

Sonic Data Interpretation

At TAUCHI (Tampere Unit for Computer-Human Interaction) in Finland and Eastern Washington University in the USA, a dynamic research group dedicated half a decade to exploring the merits of data conversion into musical sounds. Funded by Business Finland, their groundbreaking findings have been encapsulated in a recent research paper.

Jonathan Middleton, DMA, the main contributor to the study, serves as a professor of music theory and composition at Eastern Washington University. Simultaneously, he is recognized as a visiting researcher at Tampere University. Under his guidance, the research pivoted on enhancing user engagement with intricate data variables using “data-to-music” algorithms. To exemplify their approach, the team utilized data extracted from Finnish meteorological records.

Middleton emphasizes the transformative potential of their findings. “In today’s digital era, as data collection and deciphering become intertwined with our routine, introducing fresh avenues for data interpretation becomes crucial.” So, he champions the concept of a ‘fourth’ dimension in data interpretation, emphasizing the potential of musical characteristics.

Turning Data Into Music

Music is not just an art form; it captivates, entertains, and resonates with human emotions. It enhances the experience of films, video games, live performances, and more. Now, imagine the potential of harnessing music’s emotive power to make sense of complex data sets.

Picture a basic linear graph displaying heart rate data. Now, amplify that visualization with a three-dimensional representation enriched with numbers, hues, and patterns. But the true marvel unfolds when a fourth dimension is introduced, where one can audibly engage with this data. Middleton’s quest revolves around identifying which mode or dimension maximizes understanding and interpretation of the data.

For businesses and entities that anchor their strategies on data interpretation to tailor offerings, Middleton’s research presents profound implications. So he believes that their findings lay the groundwork for data analysts worldwide to tap into this fourth, audial dimension, enhancing understanding and decision-making.

A Symphony of Data Possibilities

As data continues to drive decision-making processes across industries, the quest for innovative interpretation techniques remains relentless. Tampere University and Eastern Washington University’s “data-to-music” research illuminates a path forward. With the potential to hear and emotionally connect with data, industries can achieve a deeper understanding, making data analysis not just a technical task but also an engaging sensory experience.

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Source: “Complex data becomes easier to interpret when transformed into music” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13610 – Creating Plant Biosensors

Scientists at the University of California – Riverside have engineered plant biosensors that change color in the presence of specific chemicals.

Someday, the greenery decorating our homes and gardens might soon be ornamental and an environmental watchdog. (Of course, plants are already good indicators of their surroundings since they tend to wilt or die when things get toxic.)

Innovative Plant Biosensors

It all started with a question: What if a simple house plant could alert you about contaminants in your water? Delving deep into this concept, the UC Riverside team made it a reality. In the presence of a banned, toxic pesticide known as azinphos-ethyl, the engineered plant astonishingly turns a shade of beet red. This development offers a visually compelling way to indicate the presence of harmful substances around us.

Ian Wheeldon, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at UCR, emphasized the groundbreaking nature of this achievement. “In our approach, we ensured the plant’s natural metabolism remains unaffected,” he explained. “Unlike earlier attempts where the biosensor component would hinder the plant’s growth or water absorption during stress, our method doesn’t disrupt these essential processes.”

The team’s findings, elaborated in a paper published in Nature Chemical Biology, unveiled the secret behind this transformative process. At the heart of the operation lies a protein known as abscisic acid (ABA). Under stressful conditions like droughts, plants produce ABA, signaling them to conserve water and prevent wilting. The research team unlocked the potential of ABA receptors, training them to latch onto other chemicals besides ABA. When these receptors bind to specific contaminants, the plant undergoes a color change.

From Plant to Yeast: Expanding the Biosensor Spectrum

The UC Riverside team didn’t just stop at plants. They expanded their research horizon to include yeast, turning this organism into a chemical sensor. Remarkably, yeast exhibited the capability to respond to two distinct chemicals simultaneously, a feat yet to be achieved in plants.

Sean Cutler, UCR professor of plant cell biology, highlighted the team’s vision. “Imagine a plant that can detect up to 100 banned pesticides,” he said. “The potential applications, especially in environmental health and defense, are immense. However, there’s a long way to go before we can unlock such extensive sensing capabilities.”

The Path Forward for Plant Biosensors

While the initial results are promising, commercial growth of these engineered plants isn’t on the immediate horizon. Stringent regulatory approvals, which could span years, are a significant hurdle. Moreover, as a nascent technology, there are numerous challenges to overcome before it finds a place in real-world applications, like farming.

Yet, the future looks bright. “The potential extends beyond just pesticides,” Cutler added. “We aim to detect any environmental chemical, including common drugs that sometimes seep into our water supplies. The technology to sense these contaminants is now within reach.”

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WTF Fun Fact 13604 – Reusable Bags

When you stroll through a supermarket aisle you might ask, “How often should I reuse my reusable bags to truly make an environmental difference?” To address this, recent studies have looked into the impact of various bag materials and their sustainability.

Understanding the Bag Life Cycle

Life cycle assessments, a cornerstone in evaluating the environmental footprint of a product, break down each stage: raw material acquisition, manufacturing, transportation, and disposal. Through this, one can gauge greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy consumption, waste disposal, and other environmental impacts.

Factors that further complexify the assessment include:

  • The bag’s material: Is it from virgin resin or recycled plastic?
  • Its origin: Where was it made, and how much transportation did it require?
  • Decorations on the bag, which can magnify its environmental cost.
  • The bag’s end-of-life: Is it recycled, reused, or simply discarded?

Crunching the Numbers: How Often to Use Reusable Bags?

Drawing from a 2018 Danish study, we get some startling numbers regarding the reuse of various bag materials compared to the standard plastic bag:

  • Polypropylene bags (the common green reusable ones): 37 times.
  • Paper bags: 43 times.
  • Cotton bags: A whopping 7,100 times.

Meanwhile, a UK study focusing strictly on climate change implications found:

  • Paper bags should be reused three times.
  • Low-density polyethylene bags: Four times.
  • Non-woven polypropylene bags: 11 times.
  • Cotton bags: 131 times.

It’s essential to note that reusing plastic bags, even as bin liners, amplifies the number of times an alternative bag needs reuse.

Debunking the Organic Myth of Reusable Bags

Interestingly, the same Danish study pointed out that organic cotton bags possess a more significant environmental footprint than their non-organic counterparts, largely because of increased production costs. Sometimes, our well-intentioned assumptions about sustainability might not align with reality.

A 2014 US study discovered that bags like LDPE and polypropylene did exhibit a lower environmental toll than regular plastic bags, but only with adequate reuse. The snag? Approximately 40% of consumers forget their reusable bags, resorting to plastic ones, thereby escalating the environmental load of their shopping.

Furthermore, the quantity of bags and their volume plays a role. The Danish study ensured an even playing field by standardizing bag volumes, sometimes requiring two bags for their evaluations.

Key Takeaways for Conscious Consumers

  1. Maximize Bag Usage: Regardless of the bag’s material, using it numerous times is key.
  2. Opt for Recyclable Materials: Prioritize bags made from materials that can be recycled.
  3. Simplicity is Sustainable: Bags adorned with prints or decorations can inadvertently increase their environmental cost.
  4. Prevent Litter: Always find ways to recycle, reuse, or repurpose your bags.

In our journey towards a more sustainable future, understanding the true impact of our daily choices, like which shopping bag to use, is crucial. With informed decisions, we can each contribute to a greener planet.

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Source: “Here’s how many times you actually need to reuse your shopping bags” — The Conversation

WTF Fun Fact 13601 – Runaway Tortoise Reunion

The tale of a runaway tortoise and his incredible journey back to its family after three and a half years of wandering in Putnam County, Florida, serves as a heartwarming reminder about never losing hope.

The Great Escape: Runaway Tortoise on the Move

Upon its discovery, the runaway tortoise was promptly brought to Florida’s Wildest Animal Rescue, where the team initiated a search on social media to locate the tortoise’s owners. “A truly unbelievable story, it just goes to show you to never give up hope,” remarked the shelter on their Facebook, delighted at the chance to play a role in such a heartwarming reunion.

When Gabby from Florida’s Wildest Animal Rescue spotted the tortoise’s photo shared by its owners in April 2020, she immediately recognized it. Distinctive features, like specific shell markings from an old dog bite, helped Gabby confirm it was the same tortoise. “As soon as I saw her photo I knew I had her tortoise,” Gabby recalled. Although the tortoise was found a mere five miles from where she made her grand escape, the journey wasn’t kind to the adventurous reptile.

Runaway Tortoise’s Health After Its Adventure

After spending years on the road, the tortoise returned in less than perfect shape. Gabby observed, “The condition of the tortoise isn’t great, she has a little shell rot on her shell, and a lot of the spurs on her legs are missing.” Despite these setbacks, the tortoise showed resilience and even ate under Gabby’s care. Yet, the importance of a vet visit was clear. A thorough check-up would be crucial to ensure the tortoise had no underlying infections or health concerns.

Sulcata Tortoises: Curious and Clever Creatures

Sulcata tortoises, widely known as African spurred tortoises, are among the world’s heftiest tortoises, sometimes tipping the scales at over 100 pounds. These curious creatures are a beloved pet choice in the United States. Yet, their sharp intelligence and innate curiosity often lead them into mischief. Gabby explains their reputation: “They burrow under fences, they’re also so strong they even have the potential to knock them down.” She aptly dubbed them “escape artists.”

However, not all runaway tales have jubilant conclusions. While this tortoise’s journey culminated in a heartening reunion, countless other stories remain unfinished. The ordeal underscores the importance of maintaining secure environments for these inquisitive creatures, ensuring they remain safe within their confines.

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Source: “Runaway Tortoise Found Five Miles From Home—Over Three Years Later” — Newsweek