WTF Fun Fact 13746 – More Parking Lots Than Housing

Oddly enough, some cities have gone to such great lengths to accommodate cars that they now have more parking lots than housing!

The city landscape across America reveals a startling fact: in many places, there’s more room for cars than for people. From Seattle to Des Moines, the concrete sprawl of these lots often surpasses the space set aside for housing. This phenomenon isn’t just an urban planner’s nightmare; it’s a real puzzle for anyone trying to find a vibrant city life amidst the vast concrete expanses.

A Concrete Jungle Where There’s More Parking Than Housing

Imagine a city where cars have more room to rest than people do to live. This isn’t a futuristic dystopia; it’s the reality in several U.S. cities where parking lots devour city centers. It turns out we have not only sacrificed urban vitality at the altar of convenience but also transformed downtowns into mere waypoints rather than destinations.

In cities like Seattle, the ratio of parking spaces to housing units is staggering. Seattle boasts about 30 spaces for every acre, overwhelming the number of residential units five to one. Down in Des Moines, the scenario gets more dire with a parking-to-housing ratio of 20 to 1 per acre. These cities, famed for their ever-rising skyscrapers, surprisingly cater more to vehicles than to residents.

The Parking Lot Takeover

The sprawl gets absurd when you head to places like Arlington, Texas, or Detroit, Michigan—cities where the car is king and the pedestrian is a pauper. Arlington’s city center dedicates a whopping 39% of its land to parking. Detroit, the famed Motor City, isn’t far behind, dedicating about a third of its downtown to car spaces. These areas have become so optimized for cars that finding anything else to do can feel like a scavenger hunt.

What’s the big deal, you might ask? Beyond the obvious urban blight, this sea of parking has profound implications. City centers that prioritize parking over accessibility tend to lack the density that makes urban areas vibrant and walkable. The result? Cities that are easy to drive to but not worth staying in. Moreover, this excess of concrete slabs drives up real estate prices, making urban housing scarcer and more expensive.

A Shift Toward More Livable Cities

Despite these challenges, not all cities have succumbed to the parking plague. Washington, D.C., and San Francisco are leading by example, with only 4% and 3% of their downtown areas devoted to public parking, respectively. New York City tops the list with a mere 0.4% of midtown Manhattan given over to parking spaces.

This trend hints at a future where cities reclaim space from cars for people. As more Americans opt out of driving—thanks to the rise of ride-sharing, public transit improvements, and perhaps soon, autonomous vehicles—the demand for vast parking lots is set to decrease. This shift presents a golden opportunity for cities to transform car lots into parks, housing, and vibrant public spaces that foster community rather than car storage.

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Source: “These U.S. Cities Have More Parking Lots Than Housing” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13745 – Can Music Make Food Taste Better?

Can music make your food taste better?

Imagine savoring a plate of spaghetti while Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” plays softly in the background. Now, could Vivaldi be doing more than just setting the mood? Could it actually make your spaghetti taste better?

Research and some intriguing culinary experiments suggest music might just be the unexpected seasoning we’ve overlooked.

Sonic Seasoning

It’s no secret that a good playlist can enhance a party or a workout, but recent studies show that what you listen to while eating can influence how you perceive flavors. This concept, known as “sonic seasoning,” explores how different sounds can complement or enhance the taste of food. For instance, high pitches might make desserts taste sweeter, while deeper tones could make your steak seem richer.

Back in 2010, a groundbreaking study at Oxford University mapped tastes to musical elements. Researchers found that sweet and sour tastes were often associated with higher pitches, while umami and bitter tastes matched lower ones. Not only that, but certain instruments seemed to evoke specific flavors—brass instruments brought out bitterness, whereas pianos highlighted sweetness.

Culinary Scores to Make Food Taste Better

The idea of combining music with eating isn’t new. Medieval banquets sometimes featured live music alongside feasts, enhancing the sensory experience of dining. Fast forward to the 20th century, the Italian Futurists infused their meals with both music and bizarre theatrics, like their “polyrhythmic salad,” which was eaten while music played from a box turned by a crank.

Even the zany minds behind The Muppet Christmas Carol joked about the notion of “singing food,” a nod to dishes that literally perform as you eat them. And while it sounds like a punchline from a Muppet, the concept has its roots in real historical dining practices where food and entertainment were often intertwined.

Do Beats Bring Out the Flavors?

To see if there’s truth to the science, some food companies are already experimenting with sonic pairings. Barilla, for instance, teamed up with composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer to create the “Al Bronzo Soundtrack Experience.” This is aimed at enhancing the dining experience of specific pasta dishes through tailored musical tracks.

Imagine this: you’re about to fork into some rigatoni. According to Barilla, if you’re listening to twinkling bells and vocal accents, it might just make the cherry tomatoes in your dish taste sweeter and the bacon smokier. It’s a bold claim but one that invites foodies and skeptics alike to put it to the test.

The link between sound and taste might also tie into synesthesia. This is where the stimulation of one sense leads to involuntary experiences in another. Some synesthetes report tasting flavors when they hear certain sounds—a phenomenon that could explain why sonic seasoning might work.

Could it be that we all have a touch of synesthesia that allows us to experience more flavorful meals through the right playlist?

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Source: “Can Music Make Your Food Taste Better?” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13744 – The Capture of Antioch

In the annals of ancient military campaigns, few are as audacious as Khosrow I’s capture of Antioch in 540 AD. Khosrow, the formidable ruler of the Sasanian Empire, didn’t just lead battles; he orchestrated them with the precision of a chess master.

His strategic acumen came to the forefront during the siege and subsequent capture of Antioch, one of the most significant cities of the Byzantine Empire at the time.

Setting the Stage for the Siege of Antioch

Antioch was not just any city. Located on the Orontes River, it was a jewel of the Byzantine Empire, a bustling metropolis known for its grandeur and as a hub of commerce and culture. The idea of capturing such a city was audacious, but Khosrow was not one to shy away from a challenge.

The Sasanian king kicked off his campaign with a well-planned series of maneuvers that caught the Byzantines off guard. His approach was not just about brute force; it was about making a statement. Khosrow wanted to showcase his empire’s might and his capability as a leader.

The Siege That Shook an Empire

When Khosrow’s troops laid siege to Antioch, it was more than just a military blockade. They encircled the city, cutting off all supply lines, and employed a variety of siege tactics that were advanced for the time. The Sasanians used siege towers and battering rams, but also psychological warfare, sowing fear among the city’s defenders.

Despite the city’s strong walls and determined defenders, the relentless siege tactics and the promise of no mercy should resistance continue led to a weakening of the city’s resolve. After a short, albeit intense siege, Antioch fell into Khosrow’s hands. It was a stunning victory that echoed across continents.

Antioch Aftermath

Khosrow’s capture of Antioch was not merely about expanding territory. After taking the city, Khosrow did something unusual: he relocated its population to a new city near his capital of Ctesiphon, which he named Weh Antiok Khosrow, meaning “Khasrow’s Better Antioch.”

This new settlement was a replica of Antioch, complete with similar architectural styles and city planning. This act was a clear message to both his allies and enemies about his power and capability to not just conquer but also to rebuild and repopulate.

Strategic Brilliance and Its Long-term Impact

The capture of Antioch had far-reaching effects. It significantly weakened Byzantine influence in the region and demonstrated the Sasanian capability to strike at the heart of a powerful empire.

The relocation of Antioch’s citizens was a masterstroke in cultural strategy, as it helped to assimilate different peoples into the Sasanian culture, fostering loyalty to Khosrow.

Moreover, this victory and the subsequent treatment of the captured city had long-lasting implications for Byzantine-Sasanian relations. It set the stage for further conflicts but also for periods of peace when mutual respect dictated diplomacy.

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Source: “Khosrow I” — Wikipedia

WTF Fun Fact 13742 – Humming While Holding Your Nose

Ever tried humming while holding your nose? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work, and here’s why.

The Mechanics of Humming While Holding Your Nose

Humming involves sound produced by vocal fold vibrations in your throat. Normally, when you hum, the sound exits through your nose. Yes, your nose is more than just a place to hang glasses or catch a cold; it’s a vital part of your vocal instrument.

When you hum, your mouth stays closed, so the only exit route for the air is through your nasal passages. This airflow through the nose helps to amplify and modify the sound, creating that familiar humming tone.

What Happens When Try Humming While Holding Your Nose

So, what goes down when you clamp shut your nostrils? Simply put, you block the only air escape route. When your nose is pinched shut, the air that vibrates in your vocal cords can’t escape your body easily. This disruption stops the sound from developing into a hum.

Trying to hum with your nose closed might make you feel a bit silly as you realize no sound comes out. Instead, you might just hear a muffled, nasal sound or nothing at all. It turns out that your body can’t outsmart the basics of sound physics, no matter how hard you try.

A Dive into the Science of Sound

Humming is a demonstration of sound waves being carried through air. When these waves have a clear path to travel, you hear the hum loud and clear. Block that path, and the sound waves get stifled. This is basic physics in action, showing how sound transmission needs a medium (like air) to travel effectively.

When you hold your nose and attempt to hum, you’re essentially trapping the sound waves in your head. Since they can’t escape or be properly projected, the humming just doesn’t happen.

Fun Experiments and Party Tricks

Next time you’re at a party and run out of small talk, why not pull out the “try to hum with your nose pinched” challenge? It’s a fun, quirky trick that can break the ice and spark a conversation about the weird and wonderful ways our bodies work.

Humming with your nose pinched is one of those things that sounds like it might be possible until you actually try it. It’s a neat demonstration of how interconnected our bodily functions are—even something as simple as humming involves multiple parts of our respiratory and vocal systems.

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WTF Fun Fact 13741 – It’s Official: Tacos are Sandwiches

An Indiana judge has recently decreed that tacos are sandwiches. And so are burritos. Well, at least they’re “Mexican-style sandwiches.”

This quirky ruling has effectively seasoned the path for a new culinary venture in Fort Wayne, Indiana, sparking both chuckles and relief in the local food scene.

The Case That Stirred the Pot

The story begins with Martin Quintana, a 53-year-old restaurateur eager to open his second location of The Famous Taco. Positioned about 120 miles northeast of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne seemed ripe for a new eatery. However, Quintana’s journey took a detour into the legal world due to a rather specific zoning issue.

His property, slated for development, was restricted by a prior agreement to house only a “sandwich bar-style restaurant” specializing in “made-to-order” or “subway-style” sandwiches. When Quintana proposed his taco and burrito-focused menu, the nearby Covington Creek Association raised eyebrows, suggesting the concept didn’t sandwich into the existing terms.

A Tasty Verdict that Tacos are Sandwiches

Undeterred, Quintana took his case to the Fort Wayne Plan Commission in December 2022, seeking an amendment to explicitly include his Mexican-style offerings under the umbrella of permissible business models. The Plan Commission declined, pushing Quintana to challenge the decision in court.

Enter Judge Craig Bobay of Allen Superior Court, who faced the task of untangling this culinary conundrum. In a decision that might make legal and gastronomic history, Judge Bobay ruled that the Plan Commission was correct in denying the amendment—not because Quintana’s proposal was out of line, but because it was unnecessary. The judge found that tacos and burritos, in their essence, could be considered sandwiches. This interpretation opened the door (or perhaps the serving window) for The Famous Taco to proceed under the original agreement.

A Ruling with Relish

This verdict brings more than just another dining option to Fort Wayne; it highlights the often humorous intersection of law and everyday life. Judge Bobay’s ruling cuts through formalities to embrace a broader, more inclusive definition of what we can serve under a “sandwich bar-style” label.

The decision has been a win not just for Quintana, who can now expand his taco empire, but also for lovers of Mexican cuisine who might appreciate the judicial nod to the versatility of their favorite dishes. It seems that in Indiana, at least, the spirit of the law can accommodate a generous helping of culinary creativity.

What’s Next Now that Tacos are Sandwiches?

With legal hurdles cleared, Quintana is set to spice up Fort Wayne’s food scene. The new location of The Famous Taco promises a menu that blends traditional Mexican flavors with the convenience of a sandwich bar setup. Residents and visitors can look forward to crafting their Mexican-style “sandwiches” with a variety of fresh, made-to-order ingredients.

This case may also set a precedent for how we categorize food businesses, not just in Indiana but potentially elsewhere. It serves as a reminder that sometimes, innovation in business can come down to how broadly one interprets a term—or in this case, a menu item.

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Source: “Indiana judge opens door for new eatery, finding `tacos and burritos are Mexican-style sandwiches’” — AP News

WTF Fun Fact 13739 – Course des Cafés

In March 2024, over 200 waiters and waitresses took part in the “Course des Cafés,” a peculiar race that tests the speed and poise of Paris’s finest servers. This event, a revival of a century-old tradition, unfolded over a 1.2-mile loop around City Hall.

They were clad in crisp white shirts, black trousers, and neatly tied aprons. The participants balanced a croissant, a full water glass, and an empty coffee cup on their trays. Their challenge? They had to speed-walk to the finish without running, spilling anything, or using both hands on the tray.

Balance, Speed, and the Course des Cafés

The objective of the race was clear: cross the finish line as quickly as possible while keeping the tray’s contents intact. Judges were strict, docking points for any spillage or mishandling of the tray. Despite the constraints, most competitors completed the course in under 20 minutes. The fastest times recorded were just over 13 minutes.

The winners were Samy Lamrous and Pauline Van Wymeersch. They claimed medals, a night in a luxury hotel, and tickets to the upcoming Olympic opening ceremony. Van Wymeersch, with 18 years in the service industry, expressed her deep connection to the profession despite the sacrifices it entails.

A Tribute to Parisian Café Culture

The “Course des Cafés” isn’t just about the spectacle. It’s a celebration of the deep-rooted café culture in Paris, where the modern restaurant concept originated. According to Maryann Tebben, a French food culture expert, this race underscores the pride that French servers take in their craft. Many spend decades perfecting their skills at the same establishments, embodying a tradition of excellence in service.

The café waiter has been a fixture in Paris since the 17th century. This race highlights their enduring role in the city’s vibrant social scene. The original race dates back to 1914. It was similarly celebrated, with participants showcasing their agility and finesse to the cheers of onlookers.

Revival of a Tradition in a Modern Metropolis

This year’s race comes at a pivotal time, as Paris prepares to host the “greenest” Olympic Games in history. The return of the “Course des Cafés” aligns with broader environmental goals, including initiatives to reduce plastic waste in the city. Eau de Paris, the event’s sponsor, has invested in sustainable practices, providing all race materials and promoting the use of tap water over single-use plastic bottles.

The race’s revival, after a 13-year hiatus due to budget constraints, is more than just a nod to the past. It’s a strategic move to rejuvenate Paris’s café spirit and showcase French innovation and hospitality ahead of the global spotlight the Olympics will bring.

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WTF Fun Fact 13738 – McCartney & Lennon’s “Primrose Hill”

Last week, a new song titled “Primrose Hill” hit the music scene, causing quite a stir. It wasn’t just any release; this song came from James McCartney and Sean Ono Lennon. That’s right, the sons of the legendary Lennon-McCartney duo from The Beatles have teamed up to create music.

James McCartney, the son of Paul McCartney, and Sean Ono Lennon, the son of John Lennon, have certainly inherited some formidable musical genes. The collaboration draws inevitable attention due to their famous last names. “Primrose Hill” delivers a dose of nostalgia, wrapped in a modern melody, that pays homage to their fathers’ iconic sound.

Like Father, Like Son?

James and Sean bear more than a passing resemblance to their fathers, which only adds to the allure. Sean, born in 1975, embarked on his musical journey in the 1990s. His career has been eclectic, collaborating with his mother, Yoko Ono, and various artists like Cibo Matto. His recent work, as per Rolling Stone, offers a “genreless wash of instrumental music.”

Two years younger, James McCartney began by contributing to his parents’ music projects in the late 1990s. However, his solo career didn’t start until the following decade. On Instagram, he revealed that “Primrose Hill” was inspired by a vivid childhood memory in Scotland. He describes the song as a journey to finding a significant other, wrapped in the warmth of a summer’s day.

Critical Reception and Family Support

Paul McCartney, proud of his son’s work, promoted “Primrose Hill” on his Facebook page, sending his best to Sean Ono Lennon. Despite the heavyweight last names, the song’s performance on Spotify was modest, with less than 40,000 listens in its first five days.

While it’s easy to be skeptical about children of celebrities leveraging their lineage, this collaboration feels different. “Primrose Hill” isn’t trying to shake the world; it’s more about connection and continuity. It stands as a tribute to a storied family history in music, reflecting the gentle spirit of James’s father, Paul.

Echoes of the Past on Primrose Hill

The collaboration between James McCartney and Sean Ono Lennon is not just a musical novelty. It is a continuation of a legacy. While they navigate the giant shadows cast by their fathers, they also carve out their own niches in the music industry.

Their work begs the question: What does it mean to follow in such famous footsteps? For James and Sean, it seems to be about respect for the past but also making their own artistic statements. “Primrose Hill” serves as a bridge between generations, inviting listeners to appreciate the roots of its creation while enjoying the fresh fruits it bears.

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Source: “A new Lennon-McCartney collab has dropped — but this time, it’s by the Beatles’ sons” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 13737 – Putting Animals on Trial

In medieval Europe, people put animals on trial, especially pigs. Yes, you read that right. The judicial system once believed animals could commit crimes. This bizarre practice may sound absurd today, but it was serious business back then.

Animals, like pigs, often roamed freely in villages. When one caused harm, people sought justice through the courts. Imagine a pig munching on someone’s crops or even injuring a child. The villagers would apprehend the offending animal and initiate legal proceedings. They treated these trials like any other criminal case. There were prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges. The accused animal even had the right to a fair trial.

The Courtroom Drama: Animals in the Dock

During these trials, the courtroom was a spectacle. The animal stood in the dock, just like a human defendant. Lawyers would argue the case, presenting evidence and witnesses. They took their roles seriously, and the trial could draw a crowd of curious onlookers. People saw these trials as a way to maintain order and justice in their communities.

The charges against animals were surprisingly varied. Pigs often faced trial for damaging property or injuring people. But other animals, like cows, goats, and even insects, could also end up in court. Each case followed a similar process, with meticulous attention to legal procedures.

The outcome of these trials could be severe. If found guilty, the animal might face execution or some form of punishment. The authorities believed this would serve as a deterrent, maintaining order and preventing future incidents. It sounds harsh, but people genuinely believed in the efficacy of these measures.

The Peculiar Logic Behind Putting Animals on Trial

So, why did people put animals on trial? The logic was twofold: religious and legal. On the religious side, people believed animals, like humans, could sin. The church taught that animals, if possessed by evil spirits, could act against humans. Hence, trials served as a means to address this spiritual imbalance.

Legally, animals had a form of personhood. Medieval law extended some human rights to animals, holding them accountable for their actions. This perspective was strange but consistent with the period’s worldview. The legal system aimed to uphold societal norms and ensure justice, even if it meant trying a pig.

Interestingly, these trials also provided a form of catharsis for the community. By holding a public trial, people could vent their frustrations and seek closure. It was a way to address grievances and restore peace in the village.

Modern Reflections on Medieval Animal Trials

Today, the idea of putting animals on trial seems absurd and unjust. Our legal system recognizes animals as non-human entities, not capable of intent or guilt. We understand that animals act on instinct, not malice. This shift in perspective reflects broader changes in our understanding of justice and animal behavior.

So, the next time you see a pig, remember its ancestors might have faced a judge and jury. And be glad we’ve moved on from such peculiar practices. Justice today looks a lot different, and for good reason. We’ve learned that blaming animals for their actions doesn’t quite hold up in court.

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Source: “When Societies Put Animals on Trial” — JSTOR Daily

WTF Fun Fact 13736 – We Turn Down the Music to Find Things

Ever noticed how you instinctively turn down the music in your car when searching for an address or navigating a tricky intersection? This common behavior might seem odd at first glance, but it actually makes a lot of sense. The act of lowering the volume to focus on a visual task taps into some fundamental aspects of how our brains process information.

Humans rely on their cognitive resources to manage and interpret sensory input. When driving, we constantly process visual, auditory, and sometimes tactile information. Turning down the music helps free up cognitive resources, allowing us to focus more effectively on the visual task at hand.

The Science Behind Turning Down the Music

Our brains have a limited capacity for processing information. Known as cognitive load, this concept refers to the amount of mental effort being used in the working memory. High cognitive load can impair our ability to process new information or perform complex tasks.

When the music is blaring, it adds to the cognitive load by demanding attention.

This auditory input competes with visual and spatial processing, making it harder to concentrate on tasks like reading street signs or spotting a turn. Lowering the volume reduces the cognitive load, allowing the brain to allocate more resources to visual processing.

Studies have shown that multitasking, especially with tasks that require different types of sensory input, can significantly reduce performance. For example, trying to listen to a conversation while reading a map can overwhelm the brain’s processing capabilities. Turning down the music minimizes this interference, making it easier to focus on the visual task.

Sensory Overload and Attention

Sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experience over-stimulation from the environment. This can happen when there are too many sounds, sights, or other sensory inputs at once. In a car, loud music can contribute to sensory overload, making it difficult to focus on navigating or searching for an address.

Attention, a crucial component of cognitive function, can be divided into different types. Selective attention involves focusing on a particular object or task while ignoring irrelevant information. When we turn down the music, we enhance our selective attention toward the visual task, filtering out unnecessary auditory distractions.

Moreover, the brain’s executive functions, which include planning, decision-making, and problem-solving, play a significant role in driving and navigating. These functions are more effective when not competing with high levels of background noise. Lowering the music volume helps these executive functions operate more efficiently.

Practical Implications

Understanding why we turn down the music when looking for something can have practical applications beyond driving. This behavior highlights the importance of managing cognitive load and sensory input in various settings. For instance, in workplaces or study environments, minimizing background noise can enhance concentration and productivity.

In educational settings, reducing auditory distractions can help students focus better on visual learning materials. Similarly, in open-plan offices, creating quiet zones or using noise-canceling tools can improve employee focus and performance. These strategies are grounded in the same principles that lead us to lower the car’s music volume when searching for an address.

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Source: “Why Do We Turn Down the Radio When We’re Lost?” — How Stuff Works