WTF Fun Fact 13751 – Norwegians Read More

Norwegians love to read. A survey from 2010 highlighted this passion. Reading isn’t just a holiday activity; it’s a year-round habit. During Easter, many Norwegians dive into murder mysteries. They enjoy detective stories and what they call “påskekrim” or Easter crime. Easter in Norway means skiing, family cabins, lamb roasts, oranges, and crime novels. The newspaper Aftenposten reported this.

A study called Bokundersøkelsen 2010 showed impressive reading statistics. It was conducted by Norway’s publishers’ and book dealers’ associations. The study revealed that 90 percent of Norwegian men and 97 percent of Norwegian women read at least one book last year. Almost half of the women read more than ten books in a year. Norwegians don’t just read crime fiction. Literature, biographies, and political books also sell well. The local bookstores have a vast selection.

A Nation of Avid Readers

The survey described an “avid reader” as someone who reads more than 30 books a year. Ten percent of Norwegian men and 16 percent of Norwegian women fit this description. Books in Norway are not cheap. A new hard-bound book can cost over NOK 400, which is nearly USD 70. Despite the cost, Norwegians still buy and read many books.

Not only do Norwegians read a lot, but they also give books as gifts. When choosing a gift, they are most likely to pick a book. Nearly 80 percent of parents read aloud to their children at least three times a week. Books are the most common gift for children. Norwegians grow up with books. Randi Øgrey of the book dealers’ organization Bokhandlerforeningen told Aftenposten, “The most important thing is that we top the charts internationally with our reading.”

Norway has 640 bookstores. They have book clubs, and books are even sold in grocery stores. Øgrey noted that fewer people now think books are expensive. The rise of e-books and other media doesn’t worry her. She told Dagens Næringsliv (DN), “Our goal is to maintain this high level, no matter what the format.”

Reading: A Cultural Staple for Norwegians

The passion for reading in Norway isn’t a new trend. It’s deeply ingrained in their culture. The tradition of reading aloud to children fosters a lifelong love for books. This practice helps maintain high literacy rates and encourages reading as a leisure activity.

The survey also highlighted the diversity in reading preferences. While crime fiction remains popular, Norwegians also indulge in a wide range of genres. This includes contemporary literature, historical biographies, and political essays. Bookstores reflect this diversity with their vast and varied collections.

Norwegian readers also benefit from a strong network of libraries. These libraries provide access to books that might otherwise be too expensive for some. They play a crucial role in maintaining the nation’s high reading levels. The support for libraries underscores the value placed on reading and education in Norwegian society.

The Future of Reading in Norway

Looking ahead, the challenge for Norway is to maintain its high reading levels in the digital age. The rise of electronic books and the internet has changed how people consume content. However, Norway’s reading culture appears resilient. The commitment to reading is evident in the continued high sales of physical books and the popularity of bookstores.

Efforts to promote reading among the younger generation are crucial. Programs encouraging children to read from an early age will help sustain the reading culture. Schools and parents play a vital role in these efforts. By fostering a love for books early on, Norway can ensure that future generations continue to be avid readers.

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Source: “Norwegians tops in reading” — Norway News in English

WTF Fun Fact 13750 – Tollund Man

Have you heard of Tollund Man, the ancient man who caused a 1950s woman to call the police?

Imagine a family cutting peat in a Danish bog and stumbling upon what they believe is a recent murder victim. This isn’t the plot of a Scandinavian noir but a real event that unfolded in May 1950, when the Højgaard family made a chilling discovery that turned out to be a window into ancient rituals.

A Grisly Discovery in the Peat Bog

It all began on a typical day in the bog near the tiny community of Tollund, Denmark. While working, Grethe Højgaard suspected something unusual hidden in the peat. Ignoring the initial skepticism from her family, she dug through the mud until her fingers brushed against something unexpectedly human. It was the well-preserved remains of a man. This discovery prompted an immediate call to the police, under the grim assumption that they had unearthed a murder victim.

Upon their arrival, the police quickly surmised that this was no ordinary crime scene. The body was well-preserved, with facial features and stubble still visible, suggesting a historical rather than a contemporary origin. This ancient man would soon become “Tollund Man.” But this was not just another cold case. He was a peek into the Iron Age, dressed only in a cap and a belt. A leather noose still wrapped around his neck.

Tollund Man: Sacrifice or Punishment?

Investigators and archaeologists took over, transporting Tollund Man’s body to Copenhagen’s National Museum for further examination. It became clear that someone (or a group) had hanged him. But not from a crime of passion or retribution, but likely as a ritualistic sacrifice. The careful placement of his body in the bog, curled up and seemingly at peace, supported the theory of a ceremonial offering rather than an execution.

Tollund Man was not the only enigmatic figure to emerge from these Danish bogs. Just 12 years earlier, another bog body, dubbed the Elling Woman, was discovered nearby, also hanged. Her elaborate braids and sheepskin cape hinted at similar ritualistic undertones. These findings, coupled with a third body found in close proximity, suggested a tradition of ritual sacrifice during the Iron Age in this region.

The Science Behind the Preservation of Tollund Man

What makes these bogs remarkable archaeological sites is their ability to preserve human remains for millennia. The acidic water, low oxygen levels, and cool temperatures slow decomposition dramatically, allowing us to see into the past with astonishing clarity. The sphagnum moss plays a crucial role, creating a natural mummification process that leaves skin leathered but intact, and facial expressions eerily preserved.

The Last Days of Tollund Man

Detailed examinations provided more clues about Tollund Man’s final hours. His last meal was simple yet revealing—a porridge of barley and flax, suggesting a humble existence. The absence of violence, apart from the hanging itself and the arranged posture in death, further emphasized the likelihood of a sacrificial ritual rather than a punitive act.

The Bog’s Role Through the Ages

The bog that cradled Tollund Man for over 2,400 years is more than just a grave; it’s a historical archive. These wetlands were likely considered sacred by the local people, used for rituals that appealed to the gods during harsh winters or as thanksgiving when spring arrived. Simultaneously, these bogs served practical purposes, providing peat for fuel—a practice that persisted into modern times, as evidenced by the Højgaard family’s peat cutting.

Today, visitors to the Silkeborg Museum can gaze upon a reconstruction of Tollund Man, his original head attached to a carefully crafted replica of his body. This display continues to captivate and educate, providing a tangible connection to Denmark’s distant past.

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Source: “There’s Something Strange Here” – Tollund Man, Grethe, and Death in a Danish Bog” — Psychopomp

WTF Fun Fact 13748 – The Klondike Big Inch Land Co.

Have you heard of the Klondike Big Inch Land Co.? It all goes back to oats and land deeds, naturally.

This story starts with a promotional stunt by Quaker Oats in the 1950s that turned into an unexpected collector’s item, worth more today than anyone could have guessed back when “Challenge of the Yukon” echoed in the living rooms across America.

Quaker Oats’ Land Rush Stunt

Back in 1954, in a promotional stunt tied to the radio show “Challenge of the Yukon,” Quaker Oats purchased 19.11 acres of land in the Yukon Territory, the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush region. They cleverly subdivided this acreage into 21 million tiny, one-square-inch plots. Each plot was represented by an official-looking deed. These were created by the Klondike Big Inch Land Co., a company Quaker Oats had established for this purpose.

These miniature deeds were placed inside boxes of Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice. The campaign was an instant hit. It captured the imaginations of Americans who were thrilled at the notion of owning a piece of the fabled Klondike. Some fans, myself included, collected hundreds of these deeds, aiming to amass a larger piece of the plot.

The Deeds of the Klondike Big Inch Land Co.

The deeds themselves were works of art: elegant green curlicues bordering cream-colored certificates. Each had a stamp with a unique certificate number and an official-looking red seal. An orange map detailed the location of each plot, adding a touch of authenticity and adventure. They promised ownership in a far-off land, albeit only a square inch.

However, the reality was less grand. Quaker Oats never intended these deeds to be legal titles to real estate. They didn’t include mineral rights, and the company didn’t register them. That would have been a logistical nightmare because of the number of deeds issued. Essentially, these deeds were novelties, albeit highly detailed ones.

Despite their questionable legal value, these deeds have become valuable collectibles. Pristine deeds can fetch between $25 and $45 each. This makes the stash of 72 deeds found by a reader potentially worth over $1,800. They represent a unique piece of promotional history, tying back to a time when radio shows were king, and cereal boxes could contain treasures.

The promotion ended, and in 1965, Quaker Oats dissolved the Klondike Big Inch Land Co. The land reverted back to Canada. PepsiCo absorbed Quaker Oats itself in PepsiCo in 2001, but the legend of the Klondike Big Inch lives on among collectors and enthusiasts.

Lessons from a Klondike Big Inch

This episode serves as a fascinating case study in marketing, novelty, and the human penchant for collecting. It also serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of understanding what one truly owns. For those holding these deeds, they own a piece of history, if not a piece of the land.

As a footnote, if you find yourself in possession of such curiosities, consider their historical and collectible value before dismissing them as mere novelties.

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Source: “Taking Stock: Decades-old deed to one square inch of Canada’s Yukon Territory has some value” — The Oklahoman

WTF Fun Fact 13747 – Humans Warm up to Tweezer Hands

Apparently, tweezer hands can feel more like part of one’s body than an actual hand.

According to recent research, when it comes to bionic prosthetics, simpler might just be better. A study reveals that people can feel as connected to tweezer-like tools as they do to prosthetic hands that mimic human anatomy—and sometimes even more so.

Rethinking Prosthetics: Function Over Form

At Sapienza University of Rome, cognitive neuroscientist Ottavia Maddaluno and her team are using virtual reality to explore how humans relate to different kinds of prosthetic tools. Their findings may turn some heads—or at least twist some wrists.

The researchers equipped participants with two types of virtual appendages: a realistic human hand and a bionic tool resembling a large pair of tweezers. Through a series of virtual reality tests, they assessed how well subjects could adapt to using these tools in a simulated environment.

Pop Goes the Bubble: Testing Tweezer Hands

Participants engaged in a seemingly simple task: popping virtual bubbles of specific colors. It turned out that those using the tweezer hands completed the task faster and with greater accuracy than those using the virtual human hands. This initial test suggested that the tweezer hands were not only embraced by the participants’ brains but were potentially more effective for certain tasks.

To probe deeper into the subconscious acceptance of these tools, the team employed the cross-modal congruency task. This involved simultaneous tactile vibrations on participants’ fingertips and visual stimuli on the virtual reality screen. The goal was to see how distracted participants were by visual stimuli that did or did not align with the tactile input.

The results were enlightening. Participants generally performed better when the tactile and visual stimuli matched, indicating a strong sense of embodiment for both the tweezer and human hands. However, the tweezer hands showed a more pronounced difference between matched and mismatched trials, suggesting a potentially deeper sense of embodiment.

Simplicity Wins: Why Tweezer Hands Triumph

Maddaluno hypothesizes that the simplicity of the tweezer hands might make it easier for the brain to integrate as part of the body. Unlike the more complex human hand, the straightforward function and design of the tweezers could reduce cognitive load, allowing for quicker acceptance and utilization.

This theory ties into the uncanny valley hypothesis, where things that are eerily similar to human beings but not quite perfect can cause discomfort or unease. The too-real virtual hands might have fallen into this unsettling category, while the clearly non-human tweezers did not.

Practical Applications: The Future of Prosthetics

These insights are not just academic. They have practical implications for the design of prosthetics and robotic tools. If simpler, non-human-like tools can be more readily integrated into a person’s sense of self; they might offer a more effective and acceptable solution for those in need of prosthetic limbs.

Maddaluno’s team is now looking to apply these findings to real-world scenarios, particularly for individuals who have lost limbs. The ultimate goal is to develop prosthetic solutions that are not only functional but also seamlessly integrated into the user’s body image and sense of self.

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Source: “People feel more connected to ‘tweezer-like’ bionic tools that don’t resemble human hands” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13746 – More Parking Lots Than Housing

Oddly enough, some cities have gone to such great lengths to accommodate cars that they now have more parking lots than housing!

The city landscape across America reveals a startling fact: in many places, there’s more room for cars than for people. From Seattle to Des Moines, the concrete sprawl of these lots often surpasses the space set aside for housing. This phenomenon isn’t just an urban planner’s nightmare; it’s a real puzzle for anyone trying to find a vibrant city life amidst the vast concrete expanses.

A Concrete Jungle Where There’s More Parking Than Housing

Imagine a city where cars have more room to rest than people do to live. This isn’t a futuristic dystopia; it’s the reality in several U.S. cities where parking lots devour city centers. It turns out we have not only sacrificed urban vitality at the altar of convenience but also transformed downtowns into mere waypoints rather than destinations.

In cities like Seattle, the ratio of parking spaces to housing units is staggering. Seattle boasts about 30 spaces for every acre, overwhelming the number of residential units five to one. Down in Des Moines, the scenario gets more dire with a parking-to-housing ratio of 20 to 1 per acre. These cities, famed for their ever-rising skyscrapers, surprisingly cater more to vehicles than to residents.

The Parking Lot Takeover

The sprawl gets absurd when you head to places like Arlington, Texas, or Detroit, Michigan—cities where the car is king and the pedestrian is a pauper. Arlington’s city center dedicates a whopping 39% of its land to parking. Detroit, the famed Motor City, isn’t far behind, dedicating about a third of its downtown to car spaces. These areas have become so optimized for cars that finding anything else to do can feel like a scavenger hunt.

What’s the big deal, you might ask? Beyond the obvious urban blight, this sea of parking has profound implications. City centers that prioritize parking over accessibility tend to lack the density that makes urban areas vibrant and walkable. The result? Cities that are easy to drive to but not worth staying in. Moreover, this excess of concrete slabs drives up real estate prices, making urban housing scarcer and more expensive.

A Shift Toward More Livable Cities

Despite these challenges, not all cities have succumbed to the parking plague. Washington, D.C., and San Francisco are leading by example, with only 4% and 3% of their downtown areas devoted to public parking, respectively. New York City tops the list with a mere 0.4% of midtown Manhattan given over to parking spaces.

This trend hints at a future where cities reclaim space from cars for people. As more Americans opt out of driving—thanks to the rise of ride-sharing, public transit improvements, and perhaps soon, autonomous vehicles—the demand for vast parking lots is set to decrease. This shift presents a golden opportunity for cities to transform car lots into parks, housing, and vibrant public spaces that foster community rather than car storage.

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Source: “These U.S. Cities Have More Parking Lots Than Housing” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13745 – Can Music Make Food Taste Better?

Can music make your food taste better?

Imagine savoring a plate of spaghetti while Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” plays softly in the background. Now, could Vivaldi be doing more than just setting the mood? Could it actually make your spaghetti taste better?

Research and some intriguing culinary experiments suggest music might just be the unexpected seasoning we’ve overlooked.

Sonic Seasoning

It’s no secret that a good playlist can enhance a party or a workout, but recent studies show that what you listen to while eating can influence how you perceive flavors. This concept, known as “sonic seasoning,” explores how different sounds can complement or enhance the taste of food. For instance, high pitches might make desserts taste sweeter, while deeper tones could make your steak seem richer.

Back in 2010, a groundbreaking study at Oxford University mapped tastes to musical elements. Researchers found that sweet and sour tastes were often associated with higher pitches, while umami and bitter tastes matched lower ones. Not only that, but certain instruments seemed to evoke specific flavors—brass instruments brought out bitterness, whereas pianos highlighted sweetness.

Culinary Scores to Make Food Taste Better

The idea of combining music with eating isn’t new. Medieval banquets sometimes featured live music alongside feasts, enhancing the sensory experience of dining. Fast forward to the 20th century, the Italian Futurists infused their meals with both music and bizarre theatrics, like their “polyrhythmic salad,” which was eaten while music played from a box turned by a crank.

Even the zany minds behind The Muppet Christmas Carol joked about the notion of “singing food,” a nod to dishes that literally perform as you eat them. And while it sounds like a punchline from a Muppet, the concept has its roots in real historical dining practices where food and entertainment were often intertwined.

Do Beats Bring Out the Flavors?

To see if there’s truth to the science, some food companies are already experimenting with sonic pairings. Barilla, for instance, teamed up with composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer to create the “Al Bronzo Soundtrack Experience.” This is aimed at enhancing the dining experience of specific pasta dishes through tailored musical tracks.

Imagine this: you’re about to fork into some rigatoni. According to Barilla, if you’re listening to twinkling bells and vocal accents, it might just make the cherry tomatoes in your dish taste sweeter and the bacon smokier. It’s a bold claim but one that invites foodies and skeptics alike to put it to the test.

The link between sound and taste might also tie into synesthesia. This is where the stimulation of one sense leads to involuntary experiences in another. Some synesthetes report tasting flavors when they hear certain sounds—a phenomenon that could explain why sonic seasoning might work.

Could it be that we all have a touch of synesthesia that allows us to experience more flavorful meals through the right playlist?

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Source: “Can Music Make Your Food Taste Better?” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13744 – The Capture of Antioch

In the annals of ancient military campaigns, few are as audacious as Khosrow I’s capture of Antioch in 540 AD. Khosrow, the formidable ruler of the Sasanian Empire, didn’t just lead battles; he orchestrated them with the precision of a chess master.

His strategic acumen came to the forefront during the siege and subsequent capture of Antioch, one of the most significant cities of the Byzantine Empire at the time.

Setting the Stage for the Siege of Antioch

Antioch was not just any city. Located on the Orontes River, it was a jewel of the Byzantine Empire, a bustling metropolis known for its grandeur and as a hub of commerce and culture. The idea of capturing such a city was audacious, but Khosrow was not one to shy away from a challenge.

The Sasanian king kicked off his campaign with a well-planned series of maneuvers that caught the Byzantines off guard. His approach was not just about brute force; it was about making a statement. Khosrow wanted to showcase his empire’s might and his capability as a leader.

The Siege That Shook an Empire

When Khosrow’s troops laid siege to Antioch, it was more than just a military blockade. They encircled the city, cutting off all supply lines, and employed a variety of siege tactics that were advanced for the time. The Sasanians used siege towers and battering rams, but also psychological warfare, sowing fear among the city’s defenders.

Despite the city’s strong walls and determined defenders, the relentless siege tactics and the promise of no mercy should resistance continue led to a weakening of the city’s resolve. After a short, albeit intense siege, Antioch fell into Khosrow’s hands. It was a stunning victory that echoed across continents.

Antioch Aftermath

Khosrow’s capture of Antioch was not merely about expanding territory. After taking the city, Khosrow did something unusual: he relocated its population to a new city near his capital of Ctesiphon, which he named Weh Antiok Khosrow, meaning “Khasrow’s Better Antioch.”

This new settlement was a replica of Antioch, complete with similar architectural styles and city planning. This act was a clear message to both his allies and enemies about his power and capability to not just conquer but also to rebuild and repopulate.

Strategic Brilliance and Its Long-term Impact

The capture of Antioch had far-reaching effects. It significantly weakened Byzantine influence in the region and demonstrated the Sasanian capability to strike at the heart of a powerful empire.

The relocation of Antioch’s citizens was a masterstroke in cultural strategy, as it helped to assimilate different peoples into the Sasanian culture, fostering loyalty to Khosrow.

Moreover, this victory and the subsequent treatment of the captured city had long-lasting implications for Byzantine-Sasanian relations. It set the stage for further conflicts but also for periods of peace when mutual respect dictated diplomacy.

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Source: “Khosrow I” — Wikipedia

WTF Fun Fact 13743 – Parachuting Beavers

Nope – it’s not a juvenile joke – there really is a story about parachuting beavers. 76 of them, to be exact.

More than seven decades ago, Idaho found itself with a peculiar problem involving beavers too accustomed to urban life. These beavers, having become a nuisance in the growing residential areas, needed new homes. The solution? Parachute them into the wilderness. Yes, you read that correctly: parachuting beavers.

Elmo Heter: The Man with the Plan

Elmo Heter, an officer with Idaho Fish and Game, faced the challenge of relocating beavers from populated areas like McCall, near Payette Lake, to the remote Chamberlain Basin. His ingenious plan involved some old parachutes left over from World War II and a healthy dose of innovation.

Heter knew that transporting beavers by land was fraught with challenges. Horses and mules tended to get spooked by the critters, and driving them through rugged terrain was costly and complex. So, he looked to the skies for an answer.

Dropping Beavers by Plane

Heter devised a method using surplus military parachutes to air-drop beavers into their new wilderness homes. The first task was creating a safe container for the beavers. Initial attempts with woven willow boxes were scrapped when it became apparent that the beavers might chew their way out mid-flight or cause havoc on the plane.

Thus, Heter designed a wooden box that would open upon impact with the ground. To test this innovative container, he chose a plucky male beaver named Geronimo as his first test pilot. Geronimo endured multiple drops to ensure the safety and efficacy of this method.

The Pioneer Parachuting Beaver

Heter dropped Geronimo repeatedly to test the resilience of the box and the beaver’s tolerance. Remarkably, Geronimo adapted well to his role. After numerous trials, he seemed almost eager to get back into his box for another drop. Heter’s plan was proving viable, and soon, it was time to scale up.

Geronimo’s final test flight included a one-way ticket to the Chamberlain Basin, where he joined three female beavers, establishing a new colony in what would become a thriving ecosystem. This land is now part of the protected Frank Church Wilderness.

The Legacy of the Parachuting Beavers

In total, 76 beavers were air-dropped into the wilderness. All but one survived the journey, and they quickly set about doing what beavers do best: building dams and creating habitats that benefit the entire ecosystem. This area is now part of the largest protected roadless forest in the lower 48 states.

The operation, initially seen as a quirky solution, turned out to be a remarkable success, showing that sometimes unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. The savings in manpower and reduction in beaver mortality proved that sometimes, the sky really is the limit.

Why You Won’t See Parachuting Beavers Today

Despite its success, the days of parachuting beavers have passed. Nowadays, the approach to problematic beavers is more about coexistence and less about relocation. The pioneering days of the 1940s, when men like Elmo Heter looked to parachutes to solve ecological challenges, are long gone. Yet, the descendants of those aerial adventurers likely still live on in the Frank Church Wilderness, a testament to one of the most unusual wildlife management efforts ever undertaken.

So, next time you spot a beaver in Idaho, remember that it might just be the descendant of a brave pioneer who once took an unexpected flight into history.

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Source: “Parachuting beavers into Idaho’s wilderness? Yes, it really happened” — Boise State Public Radio

WTF Fun Fact 13742 – Humming While Holding Your Nose

Ever tried humming while holding your nose? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work, and here’s why.

The Mechanics of Humming While Holding Your Nose

Humming involves sound produced by vocal fold vibrations in your throat. Normally, when you hum, the sound exits through your nose. Yes, your nose is more than just a place to hang glasses or catch a cold; it’s a vital part of your vocal instrument.

When you hum, your mouth stays closed, so the only exit route for the air is through your nasal passages. This airflow through the nose helps to amplify and modify the sound, creating that familiar humming tone.

What Happens When Try Humming While Holding Your Nose

So, what goes down when you clamp shut your nostrils? Simply put, you block the only air escape route. When your nose is pinched shut, the air that vibrates in your vocal cords can’t escape your body easily. This disruption stops the sound from developing into a hum.

Trying to hum with your nose closed might make you feel a bit silly as you realize no sound comes out. Instead, you might just hear a muffled, nasal sound or nothing at all. It turns out that your body can’t outsmart the basics of sound physics, no matter how hard you try.

A Dive into the Science of Sound

Humming is a demonstration of sound waves being carried through air. When these waves have a clear path to travel, you hear the hum loud and clear. Block that path, and the sound waves get stifled. This is basic physics in action, showing how sound transmission needs a medium (like air) to travel effectively.

When you hold your nose and attempt to hum, you’re essentially trapping the sound waves in your head. Since they can’t escape or be properly projected, the humming just doesn’t happen.

Fun Experiments and Party Tricks

Next time you’re at a party and run out of small talk, why not pull out the “try to hum with your nose pinched” challenge? It’s a fun, quirky trick that can break the ice and spark a conversation about the weird and wonderful ways our bodies work.

Humming with your nose pinched is one of those things that sounds like it might be possible until you actually try it. It’s a neat demonstration of how interconnected our bodily functions are—even something as simple as humming involves multiple parts of our respiratory and vocal systems.

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