WTF Fun Fact 13479 – Taylor Swift Makes Seattle Rumble

During two Taylor Swift performances in Seattle on July 22 and 23, 2023, an unexpected phenomenon occurred. Swift’s fans, through their sheer enthusiasm and collective dance movements, generated seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake.

The discovery, made by seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, brings new meaning to the power of music and fan engagement.

Taylor Swift vs the “Beast Quake”

The local seismometer detected the activity produced by Swift’s fans, comparing it to the famous 2011 “Beast Quake.” The Beast Quake refers to the seismic activity triggered by ecstatic Seattle Seahawks fans. This occurred after Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown in an NFC wild-card game against the New Orleans Saints.

Swift’s performances didn’t just shake the ground – they also broke records. Swift sold out both nights in Seattle. 72,171 fans attended the Saturday show, surpassing the previous venue record of 70,000 set by U2 in 2011.

Although this incident is extraordinary, it’s not unprecedented. Concerts have sporadically registered seismic activity. Notable instances include a 2011 Foo Fighters concert in New Zealand and a 2022 Garth Brooks concert at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. However, seismic magnitudes from these concerts weren’t reported at the time.

The Power of Music

Caplan-Auerbach, a geology professor at Western Washington University, was first alerted to the Swift comparison through a Pacific north-west earthquake group she moderates. Upon scrutinizing seismic data from both concerts and the 2011 NFL event, she noticed striking similarities. “I grabbed the data from both nights of the concert and quickly noticed they were clearly the same pattern of signals,” she told CNN.

Despite the minor difference between the NFL event and the Swifties dancing, Swift’s fans still managed to outdo the Beast Quake. The seismic activity caused by their continuous cheering and dancing was twice as strong as that of the Beast Quake. Caplan-Auerbach shared that the shaking “absolutely doubled” that of the Beast Quake.

While the ground-shaking cheer after the Seahawks touchdown lasted for just a moment, the energy driven into the ground by the dancing and cheering Swift fans (in addition to the music) generated seismic activity for a more extended period.

Swift’s Seattle concerts exemplify how her fans’ passion and engagement can literally shake the ground. As Swift’s Eras Tour continues, who knows what other records – or seismic readings – her dedicated fanbase will break.

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Source: “Quake it off: Taylor Swift fans generate seismic activity during Seattle shows” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13477 – The Sonoran Desert Toad

When it comes to the world of psychedelic fauna, few species are as intriguing as the Sonoran Desert toad. It’s technically known as Incilius alvarius. But licking the toad won’t get you high – instead, it might kill you.

Don’t Lick The Toads

Last fall, a plea from the U.S. National Park Service urged visitors to abstain from licking this particular species. The reason? A potent psychedelic compound excreted through its skin has led to increasing instances of poaching, over-harvesting, and illegal trafficking.

Despite the warnings, the toad’s secretions don’t typically induce psychedelic experiences when ingested directly. In fact, they’re toxic when ingested and could lead to cardiac arrest.

When the secretions are collected, dried, and smoked, however, they may elicit auditory and visual hallucinations. Or they may do nothing except get you in a lot of trouble.

The Sonoran Toad and the “God molecule”

The compound responsible for these effects is called 5-MeO-DMT. It’s also in plants as well as the Colorado River toad. And it’s so potent some people have dubbed it the “God molecule.”

The growing demand for powerful hallucinogenic substances now poses a risk to toad populations. These toads often die when humans relocate them outside of their home territory, and it’s common for diseases to spread when smuggler store them together.

All toads secrete toxins, which originally evolved to keep their bodies moist and later evolved as a method of self-defense. What sets the Sonoran Desert toad apart is its unique ability to convert bufotenine, a compound produced by many toads, into 5-MeO-DMT. When threatened, the toad excretes its potent mixture from glands behind each eye and on its legs as a defense mechanism.

The Sonoran Toad’s Toxic Friends

The Sonoran Desert toad isn’t the only species with psychedelic potential. The giant monkey frog from the Amazon Basin produces a toxic secretion called kambô. Its use as a psychedelic is debated. But some users report spiritual experiences similar to those induced by classic hallucinogens, Nevertheless, kambô does not activate the 5-HT2A receptor, a characteristic of traditional psychedelics. Indigenous populations have used kambô for centuries in shamanistic rituals to boost stamina.

Humans have a long history of seeking altered states of consciousness, often guided by the natural world. But our pursuit of these experiences should never come at the expense of the very creatures that offer us these extraordinary glimpses into other realms.

It’s important to balance our curiosity and respect for the natural world with conservation efforts to protect these species and their habitats from exploitation.

If you want to see and hear the toad in question, we found a reliable YouTube video. When it comes to this species, we urge you only to get information from reliable sources!

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Source: “The Sonoran Desert toad can alter your mind — it’s not the only animal” — ScienceNews

WTF Fun Fact 13476 – Houska Castle and the “Gateway to Hell”

The medieval Houska Castle sits in isolation near the German border of the Czech Republic. With no nearby town, trade route, or water source, the castle’s purpose seems obscure. The rumor is that it was not built to guard from external threats but to enclose an internal one. It’s purported to be the entrance to hell.

Houska Castle’s Supernatural Connection

At the beginning of the 13th century, the woods surrounding Houska became the stage for eerie local folklore. Rumors circulated among villagers about a seemingly endless chasm that was purportedly the birthplace of demonic, winged creatures. In response to the escalating fear and uncertainty, the local duke sought to dispel these myths. He conceived a plan to have a young prisoner lowered into the intimidating hole.

This experiment only intensified the villagers’ fears. The convict returned from the ominous pit in a drastically altered state – his youthful countenance had given way to the wrinkles and gray hair of an old man. His mental stability had taken a severe blow, as he seemed to have lost all touch with reality, presumably due to the horrors he had seen in the depths. This chilling transformation stoked the villagers’ belief that they were indeed living atop an entrance to hell.

To counter this growing menace, the duke decided to erect a fortress. The construction of Houska Castle, right over the supposed hellish gateway, was his strategic response. The intention was not merely to build a military stronghold or an imposing mansion, but to seal off the mysterious abyss, curbing the alleged emergence of infernal creatures, and thereby restoring some semblance of normalcy to the terrified community.

The Houska Castle Holy Barrier

The duke erected a chapel dedicated to Archangel Michael, known for leading God’s army against Lucifer’s fallen angels, over the fabled pit. The chapel stands out due to its unusual iconography, including left-handed figures often associated with the devil in that era, implying a connection to the supernatural.

In the 17th century, the castle is rumored to have housed Oronto, a Swedish occult practitioner. Locals feared him so much that two hunters infiltrated the castle to assassinate him. During World War II, the Nazis exhibited a deep fascination for Houska Castle. Reports of mysterious lights emanating from the castle triggered speculations of covert operations.

Supernatural Claims and Modern Times

Houska Castle continues to incite speculation. Visitors recount experiences such as a chorus of screams from the pit beneath the chapel and the sounds of scratching claws. Despite its ominous reputation, Houska Castle continues to draw tourists who are interested in its history and links to the supernatural.

Today, the castle is owned by the family of Josef Šimonek, the former president of carmaker Škoda. It is open to the public, though its remote location makes it a challenge to reach.

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Source: “The Real Truth Behind Houska Castle” — Discovery UK

WTF Fun Fact 13475 – The Harper Lee Christmas Gift Story

We’re lucky enough to have the book To Kill a Mockingbird in part because of a Harper Lee Christmas gift. Lee had left law school early and was struggling to finish her book in NYC. That is, until a couple gave her the gift of time.

The Working Woman

In 1949, Lee worked as an airline reservation agent in New York City for Eastern Air Lines and British Overseas Airways. But the Alabama native had her sights set on a writing career. The problem was that the demands of her job left little room for her to dive into her passion. Writing a book takes stretches of uninterrupted time. That’s not easy for a working person (no matter what those online courses tell you about writing a book in 60 days!).

Lee managed to start on a manuscript that turned into a short story. But she struggled to find the uninterrupted hours needed to shape and refine her work into a novel. She needed a break, a window of opportunity that could help her fulfill her literary dreams. That break arrived on a memorable Christmas Day in 1956.

An Iconic Christmas Gift

Now, they say you can’t give the gift of time – but technically, you can. Apparently, you just need to have the right friends.

That year, Lee’s friends, Broadway composer Michael Brown and his wife, Joy, gave her an extraordinary present. Instead of something tangible or ornamental, they offered Lee the gift of free time. They handed her a year’s wages, accompanying this gift with a single mandate: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

I know what I’m adding to my holiday list this year!!

Emboldened by her friends’ generosity, Lee quit her job and devoted herself to her craft. The manuscript gradually transformed over that year, morphing into the remarkable novel we now recognize.To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960. It soon captured the hearts of critics and readers alike, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961.

The Legacy of the Harper Lee Christmas Gift

Today, To Kill a Mockingbird graces the shelves of readers around the world and continues to be a critical part of educational curriculums. Translated into over 40 languages, the novel’s tale of racial injustice and lost innocence in a small Southern town resonates with millions.

The Christmas gift that ignited the creation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ represents more than financial aid. It embodies the impact of unwavering faith in a friend’s talent and potential. This story serves as a reminder of the transformative power that can stem from supporting someone’s dreams.

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Source: “How a thoughtful Christmas present helped Harper Lee write ‘To Kill a Mockingbird'” — Business Insider