WTF Fun Fact 12739 – The Dreams of Men

Multiple studies have shown tend to have more male characters in their dreams.

We have very little control over what we dream about, even though many of us try to direct our dreams. (I know I do – if I could spend all night dreaming about being a wealthy villa owner on an abandoned tropical coast instead of reliving a made-up scenario about missing a vital exam and never graduating high school, I would!)

Studying dreams

Anyway, there are hundreds of studies on dreams. Most of them involve having people use dream journals where they write down the contents of their dreams any time they awaken. The journals are then processed by a researchers who looks for certain characteristics without knowing anything about the person the journals belong to (that’s why they’re called a “blind judge” in many research papers).

Researchers usually start with common themes and types of characters and count mentions of them. And a lot of the research has backed up the data we’ve collected over time. (However, there are some differences between cultures as to what we dream about.)

Demhoff’s dream research

For example, G. William Domhoff wrote one of the most widely-cited papers on the genders we dream about (nearly two decades ago, before talking about more than two genders was a cultural priority). It’s called “The Dreams of Men and Women: Patterns of Gender Similarity and Difference,” and it was published in 2005.

In the paper, Domhoff is very clear that “The study of gender similarities and differences in dream content has proven to be a dangerous mine field for dream researchers.” That’s because this kind of information has the “potential to stir up all the tensions that inevitably accompany any discussion of gender in a world where gender discrimination–and conflicts between men and women on many personal issues–are pervasive.”

Limited interpretations

In other words, it’s likely that a large number of people will dislike this “fun fact” because they somehow feel judged by it or don’t like whatever they think it implies (which is largely nothing).

Demhoff was also careful to not that variations across cultures and across genders make generalizations difficult. He’s just reporting on one characteristic that he found to be statistically significant – the gender of the characters in people’s dreams.

Demhoff concentrated on American subjects since he was most familiar with the cultural characteristics of Americans. But other researchers have studied other cultures and found some key differences.

To make sure everyone is categorizing things in a roughly similar way, Demhoff used a coding system developed in 1966 called the Hall/Van de Castle system, where most things fall into pretty simple categories like: men/women; indoor setting/outdoor setting, etc. But that system was created based on the dream journals of white, middle-class college students at Case Western in the 1950s and 60s. In general, other studies have found these categories useful too.

So, on to the results (because results don’t mean much without some context first!).

What men dream of

Demhoff asked what percentage of dreams had a negative element “such as aggressions, misfortunes, failures, and negative emotions (anger, apprehension, confusion, and sadness)…” And the results were that “men and women are similar in that 80% of men’s dreams and 77% of women’s have at least one of these negative elements.”

When it comes to positive aspects, “such as friendly interactions, good fortune, success, and happiness, 53% of dreams for both men and women have at least one of those elements. Men and women also have an equal number of dreams in which food or eating is mentioned–about 17%.”

In addition, “Both men and women are more often victims than aggressors in the aggressive interactions in their dreams, and they face the same attackers, namely, men who are not known to them (“male strangers”) and animals. On a more positive note, both men and women are equally likely to befriend another character in their dreams.”

But we started with the most reported-on finding, which is that “men dream twice as often about other men as they do about women (67% vs. 33%), and women dream equally about both sexes (48% men, 52% women).”

What’s implied by the dreams of men? Not much

And here’s where people get offended. No one is implying that men fantasize about other men. They can be someone you fight on the street, your 5th grade math teacher, your dad…whatever.

Women may also have more of a character gender balance because their dreams tend to have more characters overall. This may be a result of women’s dreams being longer overall than men’s.

But Demhoff points out that this in not universal. Even among Black Americans, men and women tended to have an equal gender breakdown in dreams. Studies of Mexican and Peruvian teens as well as German college students also showed more of a gender balance. However, in each case there were slightly more men than women in everyone’s dreams.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Dreams of Men and Women: Patterns of Gender Similarity and Difference” — G. William Domhoff

WTF Fun Fact 12734 – Man Wins Horse Race

For only the third time since 1980, a human has won the annual Man vs. Horse race. Ricky Lightfoot beat 50 horses (and 1000 other human runners) finishing the 22.5-mile course in 2 hours, 22 minutes, and 23 seconds. He won about $4200 for his efforts – as well as bragging rights amongst friends and foals alike.

IFL Science humorously recounted the beginning of the Man vs. Horse race:

“The idea for the race came, as you might expect, from a drunken argument in a pub. Landlord of the Neuadd Arms in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, overheard two customers arguing (as you do) over the benefits of people vs the benefits of horses. 

After a few more pints, as was inevitable, one of the men proclaimed that over a long distance people could equal the performance of any horse. Not satisfied with mere speculation, the landlord – Gordon Green – decided that there should be a public competition where this slurred theory could be tested. Every year since then – bar a few years where the event was canceled due to the pandemic – people have raced against horses in a constant battle for supremacy.”

Even more striking is the BBC report that “The winner of the grueling Man v Horse race has revealed he had been awake for 29 hours before the event after flying from Tenerife to claim victory…Landing at 04:00 he travelled to Wales, arriving at Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, at 09:00 for the race start at 11:00. Crossing the line, the 6ft 4in athlete had no idea whether he had won as the people and animals take slightly different routes.”

The 37-year-old firefighter and father of 2 beat the first horse by over 2 minutes. So much for horsepower.

Apparently, Lightfoot’s family couldn’t believe he managed to win the race.

“I called my partner and said: ‘I beat the horse’. And she said: ‘You’re joking?’.
“And I said: ‘No, I did.’ She was like, ‘oh my God!'” he told BBC News.

Prior to the race, Lightfoot said he didn’t have much experience around horses.

“I’ve never rode a horse in my life. I once rode a donkey at Blackpool Pleasure Beach though,” he told the BBC.

After winning, Lightfoot headed right back home to Cumbria to report to work at 7:30 am the next day. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Man v horse: Powys race won by runner Ricky Lightfoot” — BBC News

WTF Fun Fact 12733 – The PAWSCARS

Each year, American Humane puts on its own award show to celebrate the “furry, winged, and scaled” members of television and film casts. It’s called the PAWSCARS™, and it celebrates animal actors past and present.

American Humane has long played a role in ensuring the health and safety of animals on entertainment sets. According to their website:

“Since 1877, American Humane has been at the forefront of every major advance in protecting animals from abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding human-animal interaction and its role in society. American Humane advocates for the American values of caring, compassion and hope. Our programs enrich our communities, prevent abuse of animals, and embrace the power of the human-animal bond. American Humane works in association with the American film and TV industry to help ensure the well-being of animal actors and promote the human-animal bond. They are on the set to protect animal actors. American Humane also celebrates the achievements of extraordinary dogs across the country with its annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards™. In addition, the organization enlists and works with many celebrities who speak on behalf of the voiceless that American Humane aims to protect.”

Their Hollywood initiative also includes the annual award show, which we really think should be televised since we would totally watch that (and we’re sure other animal lovers would too!).

Interestingly, the ASPCA also has Pawscers Awards, but these go to adoptable animals throughout the country, not to animal actors.

American Humane’s PAWSCER awards got the most press in 2016, when fans voted on their all-time favorite animal movies. The winners included

Favorite Animal Buddy Movie of All Time: “Turner and Hooch”

Favorite Animal Drama of All Time: “Seabiscuit”

Favorite Animal Family Movie of All Time: “Old Yeller”

Frankly, we want to know what people were thinking when they chose Old Yeller, which has a pretty devastating ending and scarred generations of children. But to each their own – the people have spoken.

American Humane’s explanation was that “Disney’s timeless classic from 1957 is credited as one of the first films to demonstrate the importance of the human-animal bond, the inextricable link between people, pets and the world we share.”

Overall, the PAWSCERS are designed to honor “some of America’s most treasured institutions.” And while we haven’t heard much about the awards in the last few years, we think it’s time to add more animal award shows to the television line up!

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Pawscers Awards” – The American Humane Society

WTF Fun Fact 12732 – Everyone Thinks Archimedes Created A Death Ray

There’s a great New York Times article from 2003 that begins with the line “For the last time: Archimedes did not invent a death ray.”

Of course, it disappointed a lot of people. The reason someone had to say it was that the obsession with this particular invention had to be debunked so many times that even President Obama got involved and called on Mythbusters (who debunked it a third and final time on their show alone). Alas, people still believe it existed (presumably just because they think it sounds really cool and don’t care much for evidence).

Archimedes did invent a number of very wacky weapons though – we just have little to no evidence that most of them were ever used. Take the “claw of Archimedes,” for example. The ancient Greek inventor did come up with an idea to build a giant claw that would work like a crane to reach out into the sea and “grab” enemy ships to destroy them.

But while there are ancient accounts describing it (and even Wikipedia and some engineers and a handful of ancient historians might have you believe it was used), there isn’t so much as a single drawing or scrap of wood that would prove it was ever really built. There are, however, written accounts. It’s just that no one can be sure they aren’t recalling tall tales told during times of jubilant victory. But, hey, maybe underwater archaeologists will find one. It’s not entirely impossible.

So, about this death ray. The invention was basically a series of mirrors that would use the sun to point a ray of searing sunlight at enemy ships in order to incinerate and sink them as they launched an amphibious assault. It would work a bit like using a magnifying glass to burn an ant but on a very large level. We’ll admit, it does sound cool, but again, there would be a lot of evidence if someone had managed to construct something like that.

If you want to know why people remain obsessed with the “death ray” (which is not a name Archimedes used), blame some 12th-century historians and MIT students.

However, according to Sciencing: “Twelfth-century historians John Tzetzes and John Zonares credit Archimedes with using a system of mirrors to direct the heat of the sun at Roman ships, setting them ablaze. Zonares goes so far as to claim that Archimedes destroyed the Roman fleet this way. Many modern historians and scientists consider these claims dubious. However, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering students were successful in replicating the feat of setting a ship ablaze using only mirrors in a 2005 set test, lending plausibility to the legend that Archimedes invented a death ray using mirrors.”

Aspiring historian Spencer McDaniel has also convincingly debunked the myth using writing sources, noting that: “The Greek historian Polybios of Megalopolis (lived c. 200 – c. 118 BC), the Roman historian Titus Livius (lived 64 or 59 BC – AD 12 or 17), and the Greek biographer Ploutarchos of Chaironeia (lived c. 46 – c. 120 AD) all give detailed accounts of the Roman siege of Syracuse and not one of them ever mentions anything about Archimedes having built a death ray to defend the city.”

Only people writing 400 years after Archimedes’ death started writing about a “death ray.” Sorry. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Archimedes’s Death Ray” Debunked” — Tales of Times Forgotten

WTF Fun Fact 12731 – Cute Aggression

Have you ever seen a chubby baby face or a fluffy bunny and thought about snuggling it to pieces? It’s called “cute aggression,” and it isn’t typically as violent as it sounds.

According to Forbes, “cute aggression” was first described by Yale researchers in 2015. It’s “actually pretty common and can encompass behaviors such as wanting to bite, nibble, squeeze, or smoosh the face of something extremely adorable.” In addition, “studies have long shown that people who view photos of tiny, adorable things often react with extremely aggressive language.”

Don’t worry – no one gets hurt

The good news is that no matter how many times we say “I just want to smush her cheeks” or “I want to cuddle that kitten SO HARD,” those words don’t actually translate into action. For the most part, we lay off the smushing and potentially painful cuddles. (Of course, toddlers and cats may not agree – they always act like a snuggle is about to kill them.)

Research into “cute aggression” was done by Katherine Stavropoulos, an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside. She’s also a licensed clinical psychologist and neuroscientist. Stavropoulos looked at the brain’s electrical activity as subjects viewed images of really cute creatures. She published the findings in an article titled “‘It’s so Cute I Could Crush It!’: Understanding Neural Mechanisms of Cute Aggression,” in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Forbes states that “the new study backs up the hypothesis that these feelings may serve as a mechanism to prevent people from being overwhelmed (and thus incapacitated) by cute things. It’s basically what happens to your brain when you just can’t even.”

“Cute aggression” is all in your head

In other words, the electrical activity in our brains showed that we have a physiological reaction to cuteness. And it can be A LOT. In order to make sure we don’t actually smother baby animals (which were deemed to be the cutest things overall, producing the biggest neurological response), we use “violent” language to talk about snuggling things really hard.

That’s just how our brains respond to a cuteness overload.

Forbes also revealed that “Journalists have noted that this phenomenon is universal and that most languages have a word for this type of feeling – the Filipino language Tagalog, for example, has a word Gigil, which means gritting your teeth and trembling in an overwhelming situation.” In addition “Other studies have shown that cuteness aggression is felt far more acutely when people can’t physically touch the cute thing they’re seeing.”

That would help explain all the squealing when we see cute animal videos online. – WTF fun facts

Source: “The Science Behind Why You Want To Destroy Something Beautiful” — Forbes

WTF Fun Fact 12730 – Male Kangaroos Flex Their Biceps

Male kangaroos and male humans have something in common – they flex their biceps to impress females. Researchers showed that male western grey kangaroos use their biceps both for combat and to compete for the ladies.

The Conversation interviewed kangaroo expert Rod Wells, who said that bigger biceps might mean an “additional advantage from either females finding big forelimbs sexy or alternatively the males which win the right to access the females are then strong enough to overpower any unwilling female.”

We’re not impressed by that last part.

Kangaroos have long been a symbol of strength. According to Smithsonian Magazine: “The Royal Australian Air Force used a boxing kangaroo starting in 1891. For a while, kangaroos would fight men in boxing rings. And, in fact, a male kangaroo biceps are a lot more impressive than you might think.”

Fighting and flexing kangaroos are a new concept to some of us. For example, in 2017, an Australian snapped a photo of a particularly jacked kangaroo he came across while taking his dog for a walk. While its musculature is not super common, it brought attention to the fact that kangaroos can get ripped.

According to Men’s Health: “Jackson Vincent, a 27-year-old gardener in Australia, was walking his dog Dharma on his grandmother’s property near Boodjidup Creek when he spotted the massive ‘roo. He said he’s seen kangaroos on the land since he was a kid, but few that have been that large, according to the Sun. The ‘roo was standing in the creek nearly fully submerged, and as Vincent started to take photos, it started to come at him.”

While we’re smart enough not to approach a wild animal we don’t know much about, we plan to be extra careful with kangaroos from now on. If you’re not convinced, you may want to check out the video below and watch them kick each other’s butts – it’s quite a sight!

 WTF fun facts

Source: “It’s Not Just Men Who Flex Their Biceps at Women—Kangaroos Do, Too” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12728 – Frederic Tudor’s International Ice Shipment

Have you heard of Frederic “The Ice King” Tudor? He may sound like European royalty, but he was actually the American founder of international ice shipment (long before people could make their own).

Tudor figured out how to carve ice chunks out of bodies of water – particularly Wenham Lake in Massachusetts – and send it as far away as India and New Zealand by ship!

And did we mention that this was in the 1800s, before refrigeration?

Tudor was initially mocked for his attempts to ship it. Of course, his first attempts were the utter failures one might expect from someone trying to send ice cubes to the Caribbean. (He also spent time in debtor’s prison after being scammed by a business partner.)

Tudor was born in 1783, and by 1820, he had indeed figured out a way to put ice on a boat and send it pretty much anywhere in the world. Perhaps more impressive was his ability to send it to people who had never even seen or heard of ice before. He just convinced them they needed it! (In fact, he played a major role in New Zealand’s booming ice cream industry as a result.)

When the Harvard grad first began his business, he need to purchase his own ship since no ship owners would allow him to rent space on their vessels for a product guaranteed to melt all over the place. Luckily, buying his own ship meant he could control the conditions much more closely.

So, how did Tudor’s international ice shipment production get ice all the way to India and places in between? He insulated giant cubes by packing them in sawdust. Of course, this wasn’t always successful, and there was a tremendous among of ice lost in the process, but there was usually enough to sell by the time it reached its destination. (Even Queen Victoria got her ice from Massachusetts.)

By 1847, he was shipping over 22 tons of ice to foreign ports, three of which were in India. To give you an idea of the accomplishment, that’s a 14,000-mile journey that requires crossing the equator twice.

Of course, Tudor didn’t invent the idea of enjoying ice – the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Chinese all found ways to store ice during the winter to use during the warmer months. They just didn’t ship it as far as Tudor did.

Source: “Frederic Tudor | New England’s Ice King” — ThoughtCo

WTF Fun Fact 12727 – Steven Jay Russell Escaped Prison Multiple Times

Steven Jay Russell has had 14 aliases, but the conman will always be remembered by his real name because, despite all his cons, he has always been caught. Oh, and they made a movie about him!

Russell also has some nicknames, such as “King Con” or perhaps the more apt “Houdini,” since he seems to slip out of jail quite often. Four times to be exact (although, to be fair, once it was from a hospital while he was in police custody).

He’s currently serving his 144-year jail sentence for a litany of non-violent charges, including felony escape and embezzlement.

His life of crime began in 1992 when he was being held at Harris County Jail in Houston for making a false insurance claim that said he injured his back. Disguising himself as a repairman, he got access to a walkie-talkie, which he used to simply waltz right out the front door, despite it being guarded.

When he was caught, he was sent to a Texas prison where he met his long-time love, Phillip Morris. When the pair was released (Russell was released on parole), Russell wanted to give his partner a lavish lifestyle. That’s when he managed to get himself a job as the chief financial officer at a medical insurance company.

Over the next five months, he managed to embezzle them out of $800,000, which he spent on cars, Rolexes, and even some cosmetic surgery. Then he was caught.

This time, Russell escaped from police custody instead of jail (so, technically, he has 5 escapes under his belt). He impersonated a judge over the phone, asking that his bail be reduced from $900k to just $45k. It worked – and Russell paid the less bail with a check. Of course, the check bounced. He was caught when trying to get back in touch with Morris.

The Guardian explained his third escape after interviewing him:

“Three years later, he stockpiled green felt-tip pens from prison art classes, squeezing the ink from the cartridges into a sink of water and dying his overalls the colour of surgical gowns. ‘You have to be very careful because if you wring them out, you get streaks in the material,’ he says matter-of-factly. Underneath the makeshift medical clothes, Russell taped several plastic bags tightly to his body so that police dogs would not be able to follow his scent once he was on the run. He picked a moment when the woman manning the front desk was on the telephone and then, unquestioned by prison staff, simply walked out ‘dressed like Dr Kildare.'”

The fourth escape occurred on March 20, 1998 (a Friday the 13th – in fact, all of Russell’s escapes took place on Friday the 13th!). Russell posed as a millionaire from Virginia to get a $75,000 loan from Dallas’ NationsBank. But bank officials were on to him and alerted the police.

When the police apprehended him, Russell faked a heart attack. In the hospital, he managed to impersonate an FBI agent on the phone to tell the hospital to release him.

Each time, he and Morris were tracked down. Ninety-nine years of his 144-year sentence is for the escapes.

Today, Steven Jay Russell is currently serving his sentence in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day (to give you some perspective on that, the United Nations has deemed it torture to hold people in solitary for more than 15 days without meaningful human contact).

With a release date of 2140, many people have called his sentence excessive and have asked Texas to release him (he became eligible for parole in 2020, but that doesn’t mean you automatically get granted a hearing). People who support his release (or a shorter sentence or release from solitary point out that there are cold-blooded murderers who received much shorter sentences. None of Russell’s crimes or escapes involved the use of violence or force of any kind.

There’s a 2009 film about his life called I Love You Phillip Morris, starring Jim Carrey as Steven Jay Russell. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “I love you Phillip Morris: a conman’s story” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 12726 – New Zealanders Eat The Most Ice Cream

If you thought Americans were the biggest ice cream eaters in the world (or maybe Italians with their gelato), think again. New Zealanders come in first, consuming an average of 7.5 gallons of ice cream per year. Americans eat about 4.4 gallons, so while they come in second, they’re pretty far behind.

New Zealand is known for its epic dairy products, and they have a highly competitive ice cream industry.

The two main ingredients, milk and sugar became readily available in New Zealand in the 1800s. Sugar was readily imported from Australia, and Durham dairy cows were introduced in 1814, followed by Jerseys, Friesians, and Ayrshires in the 1860s and 70s, once people realized the grazing land was ideal.

But what about the ice? That’s also integral in making ice cream.

Interestingly, New Zealand’s ice originally came from the US Great Lakes area. International ice sale was big business in the 1940s, and Great Lakes ice was shipped around the world on large ships. Giant cubes were stacked together and insulated by wood shavings. Melting did occur, but the giant cubes managed to make it to New Zealand!

Upon arrival, the ice was stored in insulated ice houses.

However, it was ice from Massachusetts’ Wenham Lake that went into making New Zealand’s first ice cream. It was harvested by the Wenham Lake Ice Company, founded by “Ice King” Frederic Tudor, and the “Wenham Ice” is mentioned in New Zealand’s earliest ice cream ads. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “The New Zealand Ice Cream Industry” — New Zealand Ice Cream Manufacturers Association