WTF Fun Fact 13493 – Pythagoras and Beans

The stories surrounding Pythagoras and beans are almost too silly to believe. But multiple sources seem to corroborate the mathematician-philosopher’s hatred of beans as well as his belief that the gas they gave people let part of their souls escape.

Pythagoras’ Aversion to Beans

Before we explore the bean mystery, it’s essential to understand the man himself. Pythagoras lived between 570-495 BCE and is best known for the Pythagorean theorem, which relates to the three sides of a right triangle. However, he also established a religious movement known as Pythagoreanism, which combined elements of mathematics, spirituality, and philosophy.

Pythagoras held influence that extended well beyond the realm of mathematics. One of the most peculiar aspects of Pythagorean doctrine was the prohibition against consuming beans. But why did the great mathematician and his followers abstain from beans?

Central to Pythagorean belief was the doctrine of transmigration or metempsychosis. This concept posits that souls are immortal and, upon death, move into another living being.

The nature of the next life, according to this doctrine, depended on one’s actions in the previous one. Leading a virtuous life could lead to reincarnation in a higher form, while an immoral life could result in a lower one.

Beans: The Window to the Soul?

Here’s where beans enter the narrative. Multiple theories aim to explain the Pythagorean aversion to beans, and they’re all intriguing.

  1. The Resemblance Theory: Some ancient sources suggest that beans were thought to resemble the human fetus, and therefore, consuming them was akin to eating human flesh. This act could disrupt the cycle of transmigration, trapping souls and preventing them from reaching their next destination.
  2. The Flatulence Theory: Another theory hinges on the idea that beans, known for causing flatulence, would allow souls to escape from the body prematurely. In essence, eating beans might inadvertently release a soul before its time.
  3. The Blood Connection: Some Pythagoreans believed that beans and human beings were formed from the same material. It was said that if one were to bury a bean, it would turn into a human-like embryo. Thus, consuming beans was seen as a form of cannibalism.
  4. Nutritional and Digestive Reasons: Beyond mystical reasons, it’s plausible that Pythagoreans avoided beans due to their dietary practices. Beans can be hard to digest for some, leading to discomfort and health issues.

The prohibition against beans wasn’t the only dietary restriction that Pythagoreans adhered to. They followed a predominantly vegetarian diet, believing that animals had souls and consuming them would harm the cycle of transmigration.

This holistic view of all life forms underscored the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. This is also a foundational tenet of Pythagorean philosophy.

Death by Bean Field?

The association between Pythagoras and beans took a dramatic twist with accounts of his death. Several ancient sources, including the biographer Diogenes Laertius, recount a tale where Pythagoras met his end in a bean field. Fleeing from his enemies, he supposedly came across a bean field and, due to his aversion to beans, refused to cross it. This hesitation allowed his pursuers to catch up with him, leading to his demise.

While this story seems allegorical and its authenticity is debated, it underscores the profound significance beans held in Pythagoras’s life and teachings.

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Source: “From Communing With Animals to Obsessive Bean Hatred, Pythagoras Was One Weird Dude” — The Daily Beast

WTF Fun Fact 12969 – Manatees Fart to Swim

Do you know a kid who loves to share fun facts about animals and just won’t stop telling you everything you never wanted to know about lizards or sharks or bugs? Well, it’s time to blow their minds with your superior animal knowledge and show them adults reign supreme in the world of truly fun facts. Manatees fart to swim.

Do manatees really fart to swim?

We’re totally serious. We even looked it up on Snopes because it seemed too good to be true.

While manatees are aquatic animals, they aren’t like fish, which can live underwater but also have something called a “swim bladder” to control their buoyancy. Instead, manatees need to float – and if you live in the water but need to stay atop it, you have three choices – be built to sit upon it (like a duck), tread water like your life depends on it (like a human), or have a mechanism that makes your body buoyant.

And since the animals we lovingly call “sea cows” eat about 100 pounds of vegetation a day, let’s just say staying perched upon a wave isn’t really an option for them. That’s why manatees developed a different mechanism to stay afloat. Farts.

Fart like your life depends on it

At Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal, Florida (whose website we’ve cited below), you’ll get a great explanation of how the fart propulsion actually works.

According to the experts who swim with the flatulent sea cows all day, all the vegetation they eat creates the same reaction in their bodies as it does in ours. Farts. Gas. Flatulence. Whatever you want to call it.

“For manatees, there is always enough gas in the body…The gas produced during digestion is stored in intestinal pouches ready for use in swimming,” note the experts.

And how does that lead to the ability to swim?

“The gas produced during digestion is lighter than water. So when the animals hold in a substantial amount of gas in intestinal pouches, they lower their overall density and float in water. On the contrary, releasing the gas from the body makes a manatee relatively denser than water and to be able to readily sink. That is why manatees fart to swim. For they have to continuously hold in enough gas in their bodies to be able to come to the surface to breathe. Then soon after, they have to fart in order to release some gas, become less buoyant, and sink underwater.”

Hold your breath

Manatees can actually hold their breath for up to 20 minutes (don’t try that one at home!). But rather than use the breath trick, they can use farts with a lot less effort.

So next time you’re in the pool, you can see how this works (without the farts – don’t use the farts). Take a big, deep breath, hold it, and then float on your back. Then release the air (from your nose or mouth, please) and notice that you sink a bit.

Then you can tell everyone around you to be grateful that you’re not a manatee. Otherwise, they would have seen a lot of bubbles from your backside.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Do manatees fart to swim?” — Swimming with the Manatees