WTF Fun Fact 13287 – The First Spacewalk

On March 18th, 1965, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made history by becoming the first person to walk in space. Leonov left his spacecraft, the Voskhod 2, and floated in space for 12 minutes and 9 seconds. The first spacewalk paved the way for future space exploration and opened up new possibilities for scientific research in space.

The Soviets made the first spacewalk

The spacewalk was a remarkable achievement for the Soviet space program, which was in competition with the United States at the time to achieve milestones in space exploration. The mission was not without its challenges, however. Leonov’s space suit had inflated in the vacuum of space, making it difficult for him to move and causing him to experience overheating.

Despite these challenges, Leonov successfully completed his spacewalk and returned to the spacecraft, where he faced another problem. The spacecraft’s automatic landing system had failed, and Leonov and his crewmate had to manually steer the spacecraft to a safe landing.

Subsequent spacewalks

Since Leonov’s historic feat, many other astronauts and cosmonauts have followed in his footsteps (or rather, lack of footsteps). Here are some quirky facts about spacewalking:

  • The longest spacewalk in history was conducted by Russian cosmonauts in 2013. They spent 8 hours and 7 minutes outside the International Space Station.
  • Spacewalks are often referred to as “EVA,” which stands for “extravehicular activity.”
  • Spacewalkers wear special suits called Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs). These are designed to protect them from the extreme conditions of space.
  • During a spacewalk, astronauts and cosmonauts tether themselves to the spacecraft to prevent them from floating away into space.
  • The first American to conduct a spacewalk was Ed White in 1965, just a few months after Leonov’s historic walk.
  • In 1984, American astronaut Bruce McCandless made history. He became the first person to fly freely in space without being tethered to a spacecraft.
  • The first all-female spacewalk took place in 2019. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conducted a 7-hour walk to replace a failed power controller.

As space exploration continues to advance, it’s likely that we’ll see even more remarkable achievements in spacewalking. But Alexei Leonov’s historic spacewalk on March 18th, 1965 opened up a new world of possibilities for space exploration.

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Source: “The First Spacewalk” — New Scientist


WTF Fun Fact 13257 – Snoring and Relationships

Snoring is bad for relationships. The damage is hard to quantify since there are many reasons for poor sleep, and a lack of sleep can lead to everything from health issues to resentment. But it seems clear that if one person snores and keeps the other awake, it frequently leads to trouble. Snoring and relationships are a terrible combination.

Why snoring is bad for relationships

There are many incorrect statistics out there (like snoring is the third leading cause of divorce – it’s not) due to people misreading scientific research. But plenty of work has been done on the damage one partner’s snoring can do to the other and the relationship overall.

For example, the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center conducted a study on couples in which the husband had sleep apnea that affected the wife’s ability to sleep due to snoring. They found cases in which the wife’s sleep efficiency scores decreased significantly because they were woken up by snoring up to 8 times per hour!

Rosalind Cartwright, Ph.D., founder of the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush, noted:

“Couples who struggle with sleep apnea have a high divorce rate. Our early results are showing that the wife’s sleep is indeed deprived due to the husband’s noisy nights. This is not a mild problem. The lack of sleep for both partners puts a strain on the marriage and creates a hostile and tense situation.”

The good news is that when the sleep apnea was treated, and the snoring ceased to disturb the wife’s sleep, her quality of life went up, her sleepiness went down, and the marital satisfaction score improved.

It’s important to note that while studies suggest a link between snoring and marital conflict, they do not necessarily imply causation. Snoring may be a symptom of an underlying health condition (such as sleep apnea). It’s possible that these factors, rather than the snoring itself, may be contributing to conflict. And, of course, studies may not apply to all couples.

More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between snoring and marital conflict.

The “sleep divorce”

A sleep divorce is a term that refers to the practice of couples sleeping separately to get a better night’s sleep. It can mean sleeping in different beds or different rooms.

This practice is becoming increasingly popular among couples. Some find that snoring, tossing and turning, or different sleep schedules destroy a partner’s sleep. This can lead to a variety of health problems.

There are many reasons why couples may choose to sleep separately. Snoring is among the most common since it can happen frequently and lead to daytime fatigue and irritability.

While the idea of sleeping separately may seem unromantic to some, it can actually have several benefits. Sleeping separately can lead to better sleep quality, improving mood, productivity, and overall health. It can also reduce arguments and conflicts that may arise from sleep disturbances. This can improve the overall quality of the relationship.

Of course, for some, sharing a bed may be an important part of the intimacy and connection in their relationship. Additionally, it’s important for couples to communicate openly about their sleeping arrangements and work together to find a solution that works for both partners.

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Source: “Can Snoring Ruin A Marriage?” — ScienceDaily


WTF Fun Fact 13256 – Sallie Ann Jarrett

A Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Sallie Ann Jarrett was one of the most famous American Civil War mascots. She belonged to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army.

After the war, a statue was erected in her honor at the Gettysburg Battlefield.

What’s the story of Sallie Ann Jarrett?

During the American Civil War, animals played an important role in military life. They provided companionship, and morale-boosting in addition to serving as mascots.

Sallie belonged to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army. She was adopted by the soldiers as a puppy and became a beloved member of the regiment. Sallie was known for her fierce loyalty to her human companions and her bravery in battle.

Sallie accompanied the regiment on many of its campaigns and was present at some of the most significant battles of the war. This included the Battle of Gettysburg.

At Gettysburg, soldiers reported seeing Sallie standing guard over the bodies of the fallen, refusing to leave their side. Sallie got a leg wound in the battle, but she survived. Afterwards, Sallie continued to serve as their mascot until the end of the war.

Honoring a mascot’s legacy

After the war, the 11th Pennsylvania erected a monument in honor of Sallie at Gettysburg. It’s now a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the role that animals played in the Civil War.

In addition to the statue, there are many stories and legends about Sallie’s exploits during the war. One story claims that she was present at the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse. Storytellers claimed that she barked so loudly that Lee himself heard her. Another story claims that she once saved a Union soldier from drowning by jumping into a river and pulling him to safety.

While some of these stories may be exaggerated or apocryphal, they are a testament to the enduring popularity of Sallie.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Statue of Sallie Ann Jarrett” — Atlas Obscura


WTF Fun Fact 13255 – The Unicorn Throne

In the mid-16th century, a German merchant sold what he claimed was a unicorn horn to King Frederick II of Denmark for a large sum of money. The “unicorn horn” was later found to be a narwhal tusk. At the time, the tusk was even used to create a “unicorn throne.” That throne is still on display at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark today.

What’s the story behind the horn?

The story of the Unicorn Throne begins in the mid-16th century when a German merchant sold what he claimed was a unicorn horn to King Frederick II of Denmark. At the time, many people believed that unicorns were real animals and that their horns had magical healing powers.

King Frederick II was so impressed with the “unicorn horn” that he had it mounted in a gold and silver frame and displayed in his cabinet of curiosities. The cabinet was known as the “Kunstkammer,” and it contained a wide variety of objects, including natural specimens, scientific instruments, works of art, and oddities from around the world.

How did the narwhal horn become part of the “unicorn throne”?

Over a century later, King Frederick III commissioned a new throne for the coronation of his son, Christian V. A master craftsman named Bendix Grodtschilling was tasked with creating it. He spent several years working on the throne, which would eventually become known as the “Unicorn Throne.”

The throne is made from 250 kilos of silver and is covered in intricate carvings and symbols. The most striking feature of the throne is the backrest. This is decorated with three life-size silver lions and is topped by a large silver crown. The armrests are adorned with carved figures of the virtues and vices, while the seat is covered in red velvet.

But the most important feature of the Unicorn Throne is the narwhal tusk that runs down the center of the backrest. This tusk is over 2 meters long. It is believed to be the same one that was sold to King Frederick II as a “unicorn horn” over a century earlier. The narwhal tusk is surrounded by silver branches and leaves, with a silver unicorn perched on top of it.

The Unicorn Throne was used for the coronation of King Christian V in 1671. It was last used for a coronation in 1840, during the coronation of King Christian VIII of Denmark.

The Unicorn Throne has also become an important symbol of Danish royal power and prestige. And today, it’s recognized as one of the most impressive pieces of furniture in Europe.

The Unicorn Throne is on display at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Source: “Meet the Narwhal, the Long-Toothed Whale that Inspired a Magical Medieval Legend” — The Met Museum


WTF Fun Fact 13254 – Eating Herring on Ash Wednesday

Did you know this random historical fact about Mardi Gras week? One of its many traditions is eating herring on Ash Wednesday!

Why do people eat herring on Ash Wednesday?

In some countries, it is traditional to eat herring or other salty fish on Ash Wednesday. Some believe the salt helps absorb the alcohol consumed on Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday.

The tradition is particularly popular in Germany and other European countries. There, they believe that eating herring can help to prevent a hangover.

However, there is little scientific evidence to support this claim. It remains unclear how effective eating herring actually is in preventing a hangover. Nonetheless, the tradition persists as a quirky and amusing part of Ash Wednesday in some parts of the world.

Other random traditions

In addition to the tradition of eating herring or other salty fish on Ash Wednesday, there are other quirky traditions from around the world.

In some parts of England, it is traditional to eat pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday. It’s actually known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. Historians believe this tradition originated as a way to use up rich ingredients like eggs, butter, and sugar before the fasting period of Lent began.

In Germany, it is traditional to burn old branches or tree trunks on Ash Wednesday. Germans call this custom “Strohfeuer,” which translates to “straw fire.” Burning old branches is meant to symbolize the burning away of sins and a new, fresh start.

In some parts of the Philippines, it is traditional to attend a “Pabasa.” This is a 24-hour recitation of the passion of Christ. The Pabasa is often held in a private home or chapel and is accompanied by singing and other forms of devotion.

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day. It marks the start of the season of Lent, which culminates in the celebration of Easter. It falls on the first day of Lent, which is always a Wednesday, and is observed by many Christian denominations, including Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists.

The name “Ash Wednesday” comes from the practice of marking the foreheads of worshipers with ashes. People make the ashes by burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. They are a symbolic reminder of the mortality of human beings and the need for repentance and forgiveness.

Ash Wednesday and Carnival traditions that culminate in Mardi Gras have always been linked. These mark the end of the revelry and the beginning of the penitential season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday and the traditions of Carnival and Lent evolved together over time. The earliest references to the observance of Ash Wednesday date back to the 8th century. In fact, we can trace the roots of Carnival back to ancient Roman festivals celebrating the coming of spring. Over time, these two traditions became intertwined and evolved into the celebrations we know today.  WTF fun facts

Source: “‘Haringhappen’: the Dutch tradition of eating raw herring” — Aronson Delftware


WTF Fun Fact 13253 – What Do They Throw at Mardi Gras?

Nowadays, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parade is known for throwing beads into the crowd. But that wasn’t always the case. How’s this for a weird historical fact: In the late 1800s, people found some less appealing things to throw at Mardi Gras – like dirt and flour.

What’s the history of throwing things at Mardi Gras?

According to The Historic New Orleans Collection (cited below): “The first reports of items being thrown as part of the official parades we know today came in the early 1870s with the second procession of the Twelfth Night Revelers, according to Carnival historian Errol Laborde. Following their ‘Mother Goose’s Tea Party’–themed parade, a costumed Santa distributed gifts from his bag.”

Throwing things into crowds actually dates back to at least the ancient Romans and the fertility festival called Lupercalia.

HNOC notes, “These annual rites of purification and fertility were associated with the vernal equinox that marked the return of the sun. In medieval France, the fête de la quémande saw groups of peasants emerging from the dark winter, donning miters and pointed hats to mock the wealthy classes, and begging and dancing for items to eat. That tradition continues today with the Cajun courir de Mardi Gras.”

In early New Orleans, ladies threw sweets and bonbons, But their kids had something else in mind.

“Bands of youths would throw flour (and, later, nastier substances, such as rotten fruit, plaster pellets, urine, and caustic lime) at revelers on Fat Tuesday. One newspaper in the 1840s reported on Ash Wednesday that the streets looked as if snow had fallen.”

Eventually, all that flour went towards sweeter things.

The rise of “King Cakes”

According to legend, a New Orleans baker named Roulhac Toledano made the first King Cake in the 1870s.

He was inspired by a French treat made of puff pastry filled with an almond paste called the galette des rois, traditionally eaten on Epiphany. But Toledano’s King Cake was sweeter and it wasn’t flaky but doughy. And it was decorated with sugar dyed the traditional Mardi Gras colors purple, green, and gold.

The tradition of hiding a small “baby” inside the King Cake wasn’t part of the deal until decades later. The baby in the King Cake tradition started in the 1930s.

Whoever finds the baby in their slice of King Cake will have good luck. But they also have to bring a King Cake to the next Mardi Gras party.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Throw me somethin’ mister! The history behind New Orleans Mardi Gras throws” — The Historic New Orleans Collection


WTF Fun Fact 13252 – The “Paul is Dead” Conspiracy

In 1979, a rumor spread that The Beatles’ Paul McCartney had died and been replaced by a look-alike. The “Paul is dead” rumor claimed that the real Paul had died in a car accident in 1966. It also implied that the other Beatles covered up his death by hiring a look-alike to take his place. The rumor gained widespread attention and even resulted in a number of clues being attributed to the supposed cover-up in Beatles songs and album art.

The rumor was eventually debunked as a hoax, but people still believe in the conspiracy. McCartney has often joked about the rumor, including titling his 1993 live album “Paul Is Live.”

The Paul is dead conspiracy

The “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory was one of the most popular and enduring urban legends of the 1960s and 1970s. The theory originated in 1969, when a man in Michigan called a local radio station. He claimed that he had discovered a series of clues in Beatles songs and album covers that suggested McCartney had been replaced by a look-alike.

The clues cited by Zarski and other proponents of the theory were numerous but obscure. For example, some fans claimed that the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover was a symbolic funeral procession. John Lennon represented a preacher, Ringo Starr a mourner, and George Harrison a gravedigger. Paul being barefoot and out of step with the others was supposedly a sign that he was dead.

Other clues cited by fans included backward messages in Beatles songs. These allegedly revealed the truth about Paul’s death. Various subtle references to death and mortality in Beatles lyrics were also cited as “proof.”

Despite the lack of evidence to support the theory, it gained widespread attention and became a global phenomenon. The rumor was also fueled by the increasing complexity and experimentation of the Beatles’ music, the band’s decision to stop touring and focus on studio recordings, and Paul McCartney’s own decision to grow a mustache.

Conspiracy theories are alive and well

The rumor about McCartney being replaced by a look-alike is somewhat similar to modern-day conspiracy theories about clones and look-alikes of politicians.

Like modern-day conspiracy theories, the rumor about McCartney’s supposed death and replacement was fueled by wild speculation. In these kinds of cases, there is little or no evidence to support the claims being made. Yet they continue to persist, despite being debunked by experts and researchers.

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Source: “‘Paul Is Dead’: The Bizarre Story of Music’s Most Notorious Conspiracy Theory” — Rolling Stone


WTF Fun Fact 13251 – Playing Possum

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “playing possum,” and perhaps you even know that opossums “play dead” when faced with a dangerous situation. But here’s an interesting animal fact: Did you know that, when threatened, opossums actually go into a comatose state that can last for several hours?

During this time, they appear to be dead, lying motionless with their eyes closed and tongues hanging out of their mouth. They also emit a foul-smelling fluid from their anus, which can deter some predators.

They aren’t just playing around!

(Oh, and Americans often use possum and opossum interchangeably even though “possums” are the Australian version of the marsupial.)

What’s the point of possums playing dead?

One theory is that playing dead (or playing possum) is an instinctual defense mechanism. This may have evolved to protect the tiny creatures from their larger predators who don’t really want a dead meal. Not many animals (that aren’t sick) want to eat dead creatures since decomposition can be hazardous to health.

In this case, the opossum’s best chance of survival would be to make themselves unpalatable to their attacker by appearing dead. The opossums that learned to play dead survived to reproduce and teach their young the trick, while those who tried to run had less chance of survival and reproduction.

Playing dead may also allow opossums to avoid confrontation (don’t try this at home). It may be the case that by lying motionless, they convince their potential attacker they’re not a threat worth pursuing.

Death is not a choice

It’s important to note that the possums that play dead do not actively choose to do so. This is an instinctual behavior that can automatically happen when they’re overwhelmed. In these situations, the opossum’s natural response is to go into a state of shock and “play dead” as a last resort to survive.

During this state, the opossum’s heart rate and breathing slow down, and it becomes unresponsive to external stimuli. The body also produces a foul-smelling liquid that makes it unappetizing to predators. The opossum may also release a small amount of fecal matter, adding to the illusion that it is dead.

The biological advantage

There are also biological advantages to looking dead. When a possum plays dead for any significant length of time, it’s conserving energy in addition to avoiding injury. By going into a comatose state, they may be able to reduce their metabolic rate and lower their body temperature, which can help them conserve energy.

This may be particularly important for opossums that live in harsh environments where resources are limited or predators are abundant. You need every ounce of energy you can get just to stay alive.

Do all possums engage in this behavior?

Interestingly, no. Not all opossums play dead.

While it is a common defense mechanism among opossums, some individuals retain the ability to flee or fight back when threatened.

The decision of which response to use is not a conscious one but is determined by a complex set of factors, such as the type of threat, the possum’s physical condition, and the environmental conditions.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Why Do Opossums Play Dead?” — North American Nature


WTF Fun Fact 13248 – The Wind Phone

Itaru Sasaki’s wind phone (“kaze no denwa” in Japanese) is a telephone booth located on a hill in Otsuchi, Japan. The booth is a way for people to connect with loved ones who passed away in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the area. The wind phone has become a symbol of hope, healing, and connection for people worldwide.

What’s the story behind the wind phone?

Sasaki was inspired to create the booth after he lost his cousin in a tsunami. He wanted to create a space where people could talk to their loved ones who had passed away. The goal was to help them feel a sense of connection and comfort. Sasaki constructed the phone booth on property which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and installed a disconnected rotary phone inside it.

The phone booth is designed to be a quiet, peaceful space where people can reflect and connect with their loved ones. It is open to the public. The booth has become a popular destination for people from around the world. They come to leave messages for their loved ones and to listen to the wind.

The wind phone has become a symbol of hope and healing for many people. The sound of the wind blowing through the phone is an important element. It creates a sense of connection with the natural world and the spirits of dead loved ones. People who have visited the phone have described feeling a sense of peace and comfort after leaving messages.

The legacy of the phone booth

The phone has also become a symbol of resilience for the people of Otsuchi. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami were among the worst natural disasters in Japan’s history. They caused widespread destruction and loss of life. The phone is a reminder of the power of human connection and the importance of finding ways to heal and move forward after tragedy.

The phone booth has inspired people worldwide to create their own versions of the phone booth. There are installations in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

The wind phone has also been the subject of a documentary titled “The Phone of the Wind: Whispers to Lost Families.” It explores the history and significance of the phone booth. The film includes interviews with Sasaki and people who have visited the phone and left messages for loved ones over the years.  WTF fun facts

Source: My Wind Phone