WTF Fun Fact 12668 – The Gates of Hell

There are a couple of places on earth that are referred to as the Gates of Hell, or something similar. But we’d never heard of the one in Turkmenistan (then again, there’s not a lot of news coming out of Turkmenistan). Apparently, this particular version of the Gates of Hell really needs to be put out – if that’s even possible.

The fire put has been burning for over 50 years and no one is quite sure why. However, in January of 2022, the amazingly-named leader of Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, announced that he was asking officials to find a way to extinguish it. It’s not only using up natural resources (it’s burning gas deposits) but a giant burning greater isn’t great for air quality either.

According to an interview with Atlas Obscura, an explorer named George Kourounis has actually descended into the firery pit and gathered soil samples But he also found a big problem: “As I was digging into the ground [at the bottom of the crater] to gather these soil samples, fire would start coming out of the hole I just freshly dug because it was creating new paths for the gas to come out of the crater. So even if you were to extinguish the fire and cover it up, there’s a chance that the gas could still find its way out to the surface and all it would take is one spark to light it up again.”

Oh, and did we mention that the origins of the fire are unclear? Locals tell stories of a Soviet gas accident in 1971 and someone trying to light a collapsed rig on fire, but geologists have traced the crater back to the 1960s and the fire to the 1980s.

We may never know exactly what happens because of Turkmenistan’s isolation from the rest of the world. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “The Quest to Extinguish the Flames of Turkmenistan’s Terrifying ‘Gates of Hell’ Firepit” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12453 – Spontaneously Combusting Pistachios

Pistachios are delicious and nutritious but also a little bit dangerous at times.

Who knew?

So, first of all, pistachios are pretty hard to grow, which helps explain why they’re so expensive. The trees on which they grow are very temperamental, requiring long, hot, dry summers and no ground freezes. A pistachio tree also won’t produce the goods if it doesn’t have about 1000 total hours of dormancy at a temperature of about 45 degrees. Oh, and they hate humidity. So if you have a friend or officemate who can never get the temperature right, you kind of know what we mean here.

Pistachios were a Middle Eastern delicacy that once traveled along trade routes as Islam spread around Europe. (Fun fact: trade goods like spices and cloth weren’t the only things that traveled along trade routes – ideas and religion did too!)

After they made their way across the alps, they were known as the “Latin Penny Nut” and used for all sorts of Italian cooking. Then, after WWII, they became a snack food.

In the U.S., pistachios are domestically grown, and 99% come from California, representing a $1.6 billion boon to the economy. The rest are grown in Arizona and New Mexico.

Ok, but here’s the thing about pistachios – they need to be stored very carefully. Otherwise, they develop mold-related aflatoxins, which are toxic, carcinogenic, and deadly. And they can also explode.

You’re probably here to read about the exploding part, so let us set you at ease – this generally happens during shipping, so you don’t have to worry about losing an eye while having a healthy snack. You might have to worry, however, if you’re towing around a big heap of these things.

When pistachios are loaded up and transported, they need the right temperature and pressure at all times. Pistachios have a low water and high fat content. But when they’re kept in humid conditions, the water content can expand and can start a reaction in which fat-cleaving enzymes produce free fatty acids. You don’t need to understand the details of that, but what’s important is that those fatty acids get broken down when the nut takes in oxygen. The nut then spits out carbon dioxide, which creates heat. If you have a whole bunch of nuts stored, and they’re all giving out heat because it’s too humid, that heat will build up until…you guessed it – they all catch fire and explode.

So, yes, pistachios can spontaneously combust under the right circumstances. – WTF fun facts

Source: Do Pistachios Actually Combust? – Tasting Table

in 1567 the man with the worlds longest beard

In 1567

In 1567, the man with the world’s longest beard, Hans Steininger, died from tripping over it when running away from a fire.

Or did he die from tripping over his beard and breaking his neck?  Regardless, he dead.  Do not confuse Steininger with Hans Langseth, who also had a world record length beard. 

WTF fun fact