WTF Fun Fact 12992 – The Burj Khalifa Double Sunset

The Burj Khalifa is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It has a total height of 2,722 feet (or a little over a half mile), excluding the antenna/spire. It serves as the centerpiece of downtown Dubai and is named after the former president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. While it holds several world records, one of the coolest things about the building is the Burj Khalifa double sunset.

What is the Burj Khalifa Double Sunset?

According to Gizmodo (cited below), the building “is so large that you would be able to watch the sunset from the base of the building, take a lift right to the top and watch the sunset all over again. In fact, if you are a Muslim living on top of the Burj Khalifa, you will have to fast longer during Ramadan because of this time difference: about three minutes between the time of the sunset on the ground and the sunset on the top.”

Technically, you can experience this phenomenon from lots of very tall structures, but you need to be able to reach the top quickly enough to catch the second sunset.

“The taller the structure and the faster you can get to the top, the longer you will be able to enjoy the second sunset. This happens because the Earth is curved, and by sticking out perpendicular to its curvature, you’ll be able to see more of what lies behind the horizon.”

The Burj Khalifa is one of the best places to see a double sunset because it has two observation decks and an ultra-fast elevator designed to get you to the top (while peering out of the building) in order to get optimal viewing time.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Did You Know The Burj Khalifa Is So Tall You Can Watch Two Sunsets On the Same Day?” — Gizmodo

WTF Fun Fact 12991 – Squirrel Front Teeth Never Stop Growing

Squirrel front teeth never stop growing. Once their teeth grow in, the front four can grow up to five inches a year to keep up with all that gnawing they do on nuts and seeds.

The ever-growing teeth of squirrels

Rodents, including squirrels, have elodents – aka teeth that don’t develop roots and continue to grow long. These teeth can also appear dark yellow or orange because of the extremely thick enamel that covers them.

To be more precise, squirrel incisors have an enamel coating that starts below the gumline. This is what grows constantly up and over the teeth. This enables squirrels to wear down their incisors for their whole lives without losing their teeth.

Squirrels also have molars and premolars with roots, similar to human teeth.

If a squirrel does not have the right diet, it’s teeth will grow too large for its mouth and it can die from starvation. That’s why it’s never a good idea to feed squirrels other types of food.

The development of squirrel teeth

Baby squirrels are born without teeth, and their first teeth don’t erupt until they’re a few weeks old.

Adult squirrels develop 22 teeth (except the Eastern gray squirrel, which has 24) – 4 incisors, 4 premolars, and 12 molars.

The long incisors at the front of their mouths are used for gnawing at food, shredding material to make their nests, and for self-defense. While squirrels are not aggressive creatures, they can bite humans if they feel threatened (and they do carry disease).

In some unfortunate cases, baby squirrels may fall out of trees (this happens because their heads are quite large compared to their bodies). If they fall and break an incisor, it can grow back crooked. When this happens, the teeth rub up against each other and grow into one another. This can lead to life-threatening issues.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Teeth issues in squirrels” — Squirrel Refuge

WTF Fun Fact 12990 – The Lake Erie Mirage Effect

No one’s eyesight is good enough to be able to see Canada from Ohio. But some people looking across Lake Erie insist that they can. It’s called the Lake Erie Mirage Effect.

What’s the Lake Erie Mirage Effect?

In Northeastern Ohio, there are days when people look out across Lake Erie and see the Canadian shoreline. However, that shoreline is over 50 miles away. It’s rare to see it, but the strange phenomenon has an explanation.

The curvature of the Earth prevents us from seeing objects that far into the distance. However, under the right conditions, the Lake Erie Mirage appears.

This is due to temperature inversion and super-refraction. Temperature inversion is a phenomenon in which temperature increases with height (normally it’s the other way around). This causes density changes in the air that make sunlight bend downward (that’s the super-refraction). As a results, the naked eye can see things far beyond the horizon.

What conditions are necessary to see the mirage?

First, the lake needs to be cooler than the air above it for the temperature inversion to occur. The cold lake makes the air right above it colder, but the farther you go up, the warmer the air is since it’s not being immediately cooled by the lake.

Warm air is less dense than cool air, so it creates a “cap” that flows over the cool air beneath it. When the sun comes out, the light rays bounce off that cap and bend down towards the surface.

This lets us see around the curvature of the Earth. But to get the Lake Erie Mirage Effect, you also need calm winds, so the mirage doesn’t get distorted.

It’s all pretty rare, but Canadians can see Clevelanders driving down the street when the conditions are right on their side too.  WTF fun facts

Source: “What weather conditions allow Northeast Ohioans to see the Canadian shoreline across Lake Erie?” — Cleveland.com

WTF Fun Fact 12983 – The History of Birthstones

You probably know your birthstone, but do you know why we have them? If your answer is “because someone wants to make us feel sentimental about something in an effort to sell us more stuff,” you’re pretty much right. But there’s also an interesting history of birthstones that helps tell the story of how they came to be part of our cultures.

Where does the history of birthstones begin?

Nowadays there are one to three gemstones for every month/zodiac sign. But a birthstone for each month is a later development. Originally, the idea of 12 gemstones goes back to the story of Aaron, the brother of Moses in the Old Testament.

In the Book of Exodus, Aaron wears a breastplate adorned with 12 stones. Each stone represents one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Aaron was the first high priest of the Israelites to wear it. All those who come after him wore it too since it is said to have special powers to reveal the fate of the tribes. (That’s the short story,

First-century translations of the Old Testament texts reveal that “the first row contained carnelian, chrysolite, and beryl. The second row contained jacinth, agate, and amethyst, and the third row contained topaz, onyx, and jasper.”

According to the International Gem Society (IGS) (cited below):

“The naming of minerals at the time were dependent on color rather than chemical composition, so it is difficult to determine which gems were actually used. For example, chrysolite was used to describe gems with flecks of gold, which could have included topaz or peridot.”

From sacred gemstones to birthstones

In the late 1st century AD, the historian Josephus mentions the breastplate in his 20-volume work on Jewish customs. He also calls attention to its connection to the 12 months of the year and the 12 zodiac signs. He was one of the few Jewish writers that early Christian authors referenced. So it’s no surprise that Josephus’ ideas were picked up by St. Jerome in the 5th century AD. Jerome encouraged the use of the stones to represent months

According to the IGS “This established a tradition that would last for centuries, in which people would collect all of the 12 stones to wear at one time in extravagant belts, bracelets, and other ornaments. By the 8th and 9th centuries, this trend evolved to where people would own a collection of all of the jewels but only wear a single stone during a given month, where it was believed to have heightened powers. This most likely came from eastern traditions believing that birthstones can provide the wearer with protection and powers, as trade between the east and west began to surge during this time period. The modern tradition of wearing one stone for their month of birth did not begin until the 16th century and originated in either Germany or Poland.  This was the start of the birthstone trend we are familiar with today.”

Other cultural influences

Eastern cultures also associated gemstones, though it’s more often 9 stones than 12. Still, the idea of associating stones with astrological signs would have resonated around the world early on.

That made it much easier for someone (the gemstone industry) to eventually capitalize on it further.

In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers decided to standardize the list of American birthstones and the months they represented. This allowed them to promote the purchase of specific stones in large quantities at different times of the year.

In 1952, the list was modified as stones were harder to come by and became too expensive.

Now, you’ll see up to three stones associated with any single month or zodiac sign. This has a lot to do with what sorts of stones the industry is capable of selling.  WTF fun facts

Source: “History of Birthstones” — International Gem Society

WTF Fun Fact 12982 – Death By Turnip

On December 19, 1881 a former British Conservative MP (Member of Parliament) named Sir William Payne Gallwey suffered death by turnip.

It’s even more strange since he was out on a shooting trip at his estate, Thirkleby Park. But a gun was not the cause of his death.

How does one die by turnip exactly?

The Northern Echo reported, that Gallwey “was out shooting in the parish of Bagby, and in crossing a turnip field fell with his body on to a turnip, sustaining severe internal injuries.”

He received medical aid after his fall. But already in poor health, he was unable to recover from his run-in with the turnip. He died a few days later.

Gallwey was 73, and he just retired from Parliament a year earlier.

According to Victorian Commons (cited below), “Gallwey is not the only MP whose death involved a turnip.”

A second death by turnip

In November 1833 Whig MP Lewis Fenton died after falling from a window at his home. He

“Press reports suggested that there was ‘considerable mystery’ surrounding the circumstances of his death, hinting at suicide, but the ensuing inquest returned a verdict of accidental death. As Fenton’s widow explained to the surgeon who tended him, Fenton had been in the habit of going into the attic to look at ‘a piece of ground where some turnips were growing, to see that none of his cows were trespassing in it’. He had apparently over-balanced while standing on a chair to look out of the window.”

Assuring people it was not a suicide, Victorian Commons notes that “Other evidence showed that Fenton had been in a cheerful mood the evening before his death, when he had drafted a speech for a forthcoming meeting regarding a testimonial to the anti-slave trade campaigner William Wilberforce.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Beware the turnip! Unusual causes of death among Victorian MPs” — Victorian Commons

WTF Fun Fact 12978 – How Does Temperature Affect the Color of Leaves?

Have you noticed that autumn looks a bit different every year? Sometimes the leaves fall early. Other times they’re on the trees much longer to give a full display of color. A lot of this has to do with the temperature outside. But how does temperature affect the color of leaves?

The temperature of fall and its effect on leaves

As the nights get cooler in the northern hemisphere in September and October, we begin to see the trees change. If you’re lucky enough to live around a mixture of trees, you’ll begin to see bright red, orange, and yellow leaves appear.

Without as much daily sunlight, trees don’t go through as much photosynthesis. This is aprocess that produces sugars, which trees use as energy to grow and flower.

A reduction in photosynthesis leads to a reduction in chlorophyll as well, which is the pigment that makes leaves green. As they lose chlorophyll, they lose their green color and prepare to shed for the winter so trees can conserve their energy inside the branches and bark.

How does temperature affect the color of leaves?

But that still doesn’t explain the role of temperature.

The weather leading up to shorter days is actually quite important when it comes to determining how fall plays out for leaves .

We know that a reduction in chlorophyll leads to leaves being less green, but what makes some seasons produce more vibrant red leaves than others? Why does a tree turn bright orange one year and only a dull copper the next year?

Well, it turns out that the pigments that begin to show up once chlorophyll is reduced are dependent on both temperature and moisture conditions right before days start getting shorter. For example, some weather conditions make a leaf turn red early. It also helps it stay on the tree longer, so it goes through its full range of colors before falling off.

The role of weather in fall leaf displays

According to scientists at Michigan State (cited below), lots of warm days and cool nights narrow the veins in leaves. This helps trap the sugars made during photosynthesis in those leaves. When this happens, the sugars produce more vivid pigments.

“The most brilliant leaf displays follow a period of warm days filled with sunshine and cool nights. During this weather cycle, leaves produce an abundance of sugars during the sunny days. The cooler nights and gradual narrowing of leaf veins in the fall, means that a majority of the sugars produced are trapped in the leaf. An abundance of sugar and light in the leaf lead to the production of vivid anthocyanin pigments, which produce red, purple and crimson colors. Yellow and gold leaf colors are produced by carotenoid pigments, which are ever-present in the leaves and are therefore less dependent on the aforementioned conditions.”

Other factors in fall leaves

“Soil moisture also plays a role in the timing and brilliance of leaf color. The best displays are produced when the soil has been adequately moist throughout the year coupled with the aforementioned late summer weather. A late spring, or severe summer drought can delay the onset of color. A warm period during the fall can also decrease the intensity of fall colors by triggering early leaf drop before the colors have had a chance to develop.”

Finally, MSU explains that other factors can play a role in individual trees:

“Trees on the edge of low-lying areas, where cooler air collects at night, often display colors sooner than trees in an upland forested setting. Trees that are diseased or in decline may also display fall colors earlier than their healthy neighbors.

And that’s why no two autumns will ever look the same.  WTF fun facts

Source: “How weather affects fall colors” — Michigan State University Extension

WTF Fun Fact 12976 – Rubber Bands Last Longer When Refrigerated

Rubber bands aren’t expensive, but they can be important to have around. And making sure you don’t use them recklessly could help keep rubber out of landfills. But did you know that there’s an easy way to prolong the life of your rubber bands? Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.

Why do rubber bands last longer when refrigerated?

The rubber used to make rubber bands is unlike most other materials. In many cases, materials do better in warmer or room temperature environments places that don’t stress the bonds hold them together. But that’s not the case for rubber bands.

Cold temperatures make the polymers in the rubber more relaxed. This prevents them from degrading or forming the dry rot that causes them to break just when you need them most.

According to JFlex (cited below): “When a rubber band is stretched it causes its polymer chains to become very ordered and it expels thermal energy (heat), thus shortening its life. This is increased further when placed in higher temperature environments which increases the oxidisation rate. Also, the natural rubber that is used to make rubber bands crystallises over time, giving us what is commonly called ‘dry-rot’ – which is where the bands get dry, crumble and no longer have any elasticity.”

Be careful when removing rubber bands from the fridge

Now, if you do decide to refrigerate your rubber bands, make sure not to stretch them right away.

“When a rubber band is in its relaxed state it is very unordered, and will cool when going from a structured state to a relaxed state. So when a rubber band is put in the refrigerator it makes the polymers even more relaxed due to the way they behave in the cold.

Something to be careful of is immediately stretching the rubber band after being in the fridge, as this will cause it to weaken significantly because of the rapid change of temperature state.”

Who knew?  WTF fun facts

Source: “Why do rubber bands last longer when refrigerated?” — JFlex

WTF Fun Fact 12971 – Tsundoku

Do you love books? Do you buy them to display in your home? Plenty of us do! But do you actually read them all? Probably not. In this case, you may be interested to know there’s a word for that – at least a Japanese one. Tsundoku is a person who engages in collecting a lot of unread books.

But it’s not an insult. Book lovers just really like to be around books!

Does this sound like you?

The BBC (cited below) interviewed Prof Andrew Gerstle from the University of London about the phenomenon and the roots of the word in 2018.

“He explained to the BBC the term might be older than you think – it can be found in print as early as 1879, meaning it was likely in use before that. The word ‘doku’ can be used as a verb to mean ‘reading.; According to Prof Gerstle, the ‘tsun’ in ‘tsundoku’ originates in ‘tsumu’ – a word meaning ‘to pile up.'” (Like a tsunami of books?!)

The literal meaning of “tsundoku” is buying reading material and piling it up.

The first use of the phrase has been traced to a piece of satirical writing by writer Mori Senzo from 1870, who described a teacher who had lots of books he didn’t read.

“Curing” Tsundoku

Just because there’s a word for it doesn’t mean it’s problematic behavior. Books can be great conversation starters even when they’re sitting on shelves. They even serve as great decor.

Of course, spending money on something that goes unused can spell trouble for some people.

If you’re interested in “curing” yourself of this habit, you can always limit yourself to books that you’re immediately interested in reading, limit the amount of time a book sits in a pile before you read it or give it away, or give yourself a specific number of books you’re allowed to buy in a given period of time. And if you simply don’t have the space, you can always donate your books to someone else with tsundoku.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Tsundoku: The art of buying books and never reading them” — BBC

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