WTF Fun Fact 13361 – Olympic Tug of War

Tug of War, a favorite childhood sport that pits two teams against each other in a test of strength and teamwork, had a brief but notable stint as an Olympic sport. Olympic Tug of War made its debut in the 1900 Paris Games. The inclusion of the sport was a reflection of the diverse range of events showcased in the early years of the modern Olympics. Organizers believed that Tug of War, with its raw physicality and team dynamics, would add excitement to the program. And we’re kind of sad it’s not there anymore!

Competitive Tug of War

Of course, Tug of War competitions at the Olympics followed a standardized set of rules. Each team consisted of eight athletes, and the objective was to pull the opposing team a certain distance across a line within a specified period of time.

If neither team achieved this, victory was awarded to the team that managed to pull their opponents the farthest.

Tug of War quickly gained popularity among spectators due to its gripping displays of strength. After all, it may not be figure skating, but it required determination, synchronization, and the ability to work together. The sport drew large crowds – and we imagine it still would today!

A playground sport goes global, then fades

Tug of War returned in the 1908 London Olympics. This time, the competition featured teams from more nations. But the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the United States were dominant.

So where did this popular sport go? Well, for all its popularity, the sport faced several challenges that ultimately led to its removal from the Olympic program. One factor was the lack of standardized weight categories, which disadvantaged lighter teams.

The removal of Tug of War from the Olympic program can also be attributed to shifting priorities. The Games evolved into a platform that emphasized individual athletic prowess, precision, and specific skill sets, rather than collective strength and team coordination.

The end of an era

Sweden holds the distinction of winning the most Olympic Tug of War medals, with five golds, one silver, and two bronzes. Sadly, the 1912 Stockholm Olympics was the last Games to feature Tug of War, marking the end of its Olympic journey.

Interestingly, the gold medals awarded to Tug of War champions were among the heaviest in Olympic history, weighing approximately 324 grams (11.4 ounces).

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Source: “Olympics History” — Tug of War Association

WTF Fun Fact 13351 – ChatGPT and Doctors

There are a few interesting relationships between ChatGPT and doctors. In fact, we know doctors are using the generative AI tool to help them diagnose patients. But perhaps more disturbingly, a recent study recently found that ChatGPT was judged as more empathetic than human doctors when responding to patients.

Empathy is an essential aspect of effective patient care, as it allows healthcare providers to connect with their patients on an emotional level and better understand their concerns. That makes it something we can’t simply farm out to machines.

The study of ChatGPT and doctors’ empathy

The study in question assessed the empathetic responses of ChatGPT in comparison to those of human doctors. Researchers used anonymized text-based conversations between patients and their healthcare providers, replacing the doctors’ responses with those generated by ChatGPT. Then, they asked participants to rate the empathy exhibited by each response.

Surprisingly, ChatGPT’s responses were rated as more empathetic than those of human doctors. This finding suggests that AI language models like ChatGPT might have the potential to enhance patient communication and care by providing more empathetic and compassionate responses. It may also suggest that doctors need some better training.

Improving patient communication

There are several reasons why AI might excel in providing empathetic communication in healthcare settings. For starters, AI systems can be programmed to prioritize empathetic language in their responses. This ensures that each patient receives a compassionate and understanding reply, regardless of their sitaution. In contrast, human doctors might sometimes struggle with maintaining empathy due to factors such as stress, time constraints, or even prejudice.

Additionally, AI systems can quickly process and analyze large amounts of data. This allows them to better tailor their responses to each patient’s unique needs and concerns. This personalized communication could help patients feel better understood and supported.

Since AI language models can be updated and improved continuously, they can incorporate the latest research on empathy and communication techniques. As a result, AI-driven communication tools have the potential to evolve and become increasingly empathetic over time.

Limitations of AI in healthcare

Despite the promising results of the study, there are several challenges and limitations to consider when implementing AI in healthcare communication. One major concern is the potential for AI systems to misunderstand or misinterpret patient concerns due to the nuances and complexities of human language. Inaccurate interpretations could lead to inappropriate or ineffective responses, which could negatively impact patient care.

And while AI can generate empathetic responses, it lacks the genuine emotional understanding and human connection that healthcare providers can offer. This limitation could ultimately undermine the therapeutic relationship.

Another challenge is ensuring patient privacy and data security. AI systems require access to sensitive patient information to provide personalized responses. Ensuring that these systems adhere to privacy regulations is crucial for protecting patient trust and confidentiality.

Yet, despite its limitations, it appears AI has the potential to play a valuable role in supporting human healthcare providers and enhancing patient communication. At the very least, AI systems could help manage routine administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments or answering frequently asked questions, freeing up more time for healthcare providers to focus on direct patient care.

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Source: “ChatGPT Appears More Empathetic Than Human Doctors When Responding To Patients” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 13349 – Rewatching Your Favorites

When you truly want to chill out, do you find the latest Netflix show or do you enjoy rewatching your favorites? If you said the latter, you might be interested in a study that says it might be good for you.

Rewatching favorite shows can improve mental health

Studies have shown (and there’s one cited at the bottom for proof) that rewatching your favorite TV shows could help improve your mental health. It turns out the warm feelings of nostalgia we experience from reruns can actually help reduce stress and anxiety. So maybe it’s time to turn on some Lassie, The Munsters, The Jetsons…you get the picture.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It can transport us back to the past. It also evokes fond memories of a time when things seemed simpler and more comfortable. This emotional response has been recognized as an effective coping mechanism against stress and anxiety.

If you’re struggling to deal with the pressures of everyday life, nostalgia can provide a reminder of the good times.

The comforting nostalgia of rewatching your favorites

One reason old reruns are so effective in reducing stress is the sense of familiarity they offer. When we watch a show we’ve seen before, we know what to expect and can anticipate the storyline. This predictability creates a safe and controlled environment that allows us to relax without any surprises or challenges.

One study even showed that when participants viewed familiar television programs, their levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) decreased significantly.

Our connection to familiar characters is also important to the soothing power of TV nostalgia. Over time, we form attachments to the people we see on screen. We may even feel as if we know them personally. These bonds can provide us with a sense of companionship, which is especially important when we’re feeling lonely or isolated.

When we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, it’s good to find healthy ways to manage the feelings. By providing a comforting escape from reality, old reruns can help us unwind and decompress.

It can even have a meditative effect. The familiarity of the show means we don’t have to pay as much attention. This can help clear our minds, allowing us to focus on the present moment and let go of the worries and concerns that have been troubling us.

So, next time you want to practice self-care without leaving the couch, turn on some reruns of your favorite old show.

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Source: “The Temporal and Focal Dynamics of Volitional Reconsumption: A Phenomenological Investigation of Repeated Hedonic Experiences” — Journal of Consumer Research

WTF Fun Fact 13345 – The Australian Emu War

You may have learned about quite a few deadly conflicts in school, but have you ever heard about the Australian Emu War? Also called the Great Emu War in Western Australia, it was exactly what it sounds like – a war against emus. As in the animals.

The origins of the Australian Emu War

The Great Emu War occurred in Western Australia in 1932. It was a conflict between Australian farmers and a large population of emus. Emus are flightless birds native to Australia, in case you didn’t know.

This war was no joke. An uncontrolled emu population began to encroach on farmlands, damaging crops, and creating economic problems for the farmers. In response, the farmers requested military assistance to deal with the emu infestation.

According to Atlas Obscura (cited below):

“Western Australian farmers had been facing hard times with their crops following the Great Depression, and their difficulties increased tenfold with the arrival of some 20,000 emus migrating inland during their breeding season. The birds had been protected as a native species until 1922, but now that they were classified as ‘vermin,’ all bets were off.”

The Australian government actually deployed soldiers armed with machine guns to combat the emus. , They saw the animals as a threat to agriculture. However, emus are also fast and agile. That makes them difficult to eradicate with weapons.

A war of futility

One might think the mismatch was the result of humans having the advantage of deadly weapons. But it was really the emus who had the upper hand.

To top it off, emus don’t want to fight. So when they hear gunfire, they run. That makes them much harder to target. It also had the effect of separating the battalions into smaller and smaller groups to go after the scattering emus. That’s just bad military planning.

In the end, the army realized that using precision weapons was ineffective and called off the operation. The emus won.

The Emu War has become symbolic of human struggles against the forces of nature and the limitations of technology in dealing with wildlife. It was no doubt a humbling experience for the military.

Eventually, the government turned to other – less violent – measures. They erected fences to protect farmlands from emu intrusion.

So, it turns out violence wasn’t the answer.

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Source: “In 1932, Australia Started an ‘Emu War’—And Lost” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13342 – Lithium in 7-Up

Few people remember the debut of 7-Up in 1929, so it’s no surprise that you might not know its original name. But Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda was quite a product! And if you read that closely, you might be wondering if they really put lithium in 7-Up. And the answer is yes.

Why was there lithium in 7-Up soda?

As you likely know, lithium is a compound that is used to help people with mental health issues like bipolar disorder and specific kinds of depression. It’s a mood stabilizer.

The soda really did contain the ingredient lithium citrate. And maybe that’s not such a big surprise since there were plenty of medicinal “tonics” on the market in those days that claimed to miraculously cure all kinds of ailments. (Of course, it’s not the only soda with an eye-popping history of ingredients – we’re looking at you, Coca-Cola!)

Interestingly, when 7-Up hit the shelves (right before the great stock market crash), it was competing with HUNDREDS of other lemon-lime sodas. It sold well – and perhaps it’s because people liked more than just the taste! But that may also be because its creator, Charles Leiper Grigg, marketed it as both a healthy and slenderizing tonic.

What’s in a name?

People were attracted to lithiated soda at the time because lithium had a reputation for being healing and restorative. There are naturally lithiated bodies of water that people still visit in order to absorb trace amounts of the compound. Just take a trip to Lithia Springs, Georgia!

Any lithium you’d absorb in water or in the original 7-Uo would be minuscule compared to what psychiatrists prescribe today. It would not have been enough to alter the mind in any significant way. But it could have been enough so that regular drinkers found some benefits in choosing it over other lemon-lime sodas.

In any case, the government saw fit to ban the use of lithium citrate in soft drinks in 1948. Eventually, it just became 7-Up.

Heads up, 7-UP

The big mystery about 7-Up is where the 7 came from – and that we really don’t know. According to a blog by Ada Mcvean from McGill University back in 2017:

“The soda went through a name change to 7 Up Lithiated Lemon Soda, before finally settling on just 7 Up, and a formula with no added lithium. The 7 in the name has no confirmed source, but several theories about its origin. Some soda fans claim that it is derived from the 7 ingredients used in the original recipe, others from the soda having a pH of 7 (which is not true), and others think that the 7 originates from the lithium in the original formula, as this element has an atomic mass of ~7.”

Maybe a historian will dig up Charles Leiper Grigg’s notes someday. But until then, the name will remain a mystery since he took that information to his grave.

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Source: “7-Up used to contain lithium” — Gizmodo

WTF Fun Fact 13340 – T30 Building

In 2011, a Chinese construction company built a 30-story hotel in just 15 days. The T30 was constructed by Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) in the city of Hunan. BSB’s speedy construction methods may sound like a bad thing, but the T30 boasts impressive features that make it safer and more sustainable than many other buildings.

Building the T30

The T30 was constructed using prefabricated modules, which are far quicker to use than traditional construction methods.

These modules are quite energy-efficient, with features like double-glazed windows and insulation to help reduce the building’s energy consumption.

T30 operates as a hotel – and one that people seek out for its excellent air quality. The hotel’s state-of-the-art air purification system reportedly delivers air that is 20 times cleaner than the air outside. This makes it attractive for travelers with respiratory issues (and those who simply understand the role of clean air on human health!).

In addition to its energy efficiency and air purification system, the T30 was designed to be earthquake-resistant. The building can reportedly withstand earthquakes up to a magnitude of 9.

A guest from the TreeHugger website (cited below) stayed at the hotel and reported:

“Compared to normally built hotel, the T30 is using a fifth of the energy, a quarter of the water, with air that is 20 times as clean as outdoor air. You can feel it; I have been in so-called green hotels in New York with noisy through-wall heat pumps that are inefficient and loud and ruin the whole experience. This is different. The square plan of the T30 may be efficient to build, but it generally feels just a bit too tight. But again, it doesn’t feel like a place that was built in 14 days, it is solid, it is quiet, and it works.
Broad Chairman Zhang Yue’s preoccupations do not include architectural design; they are all about energy efficiency, standardization, mass production, air quality, health.”

BSB’s other construction

The T30 is one of the many impressive buildings constructed by BSB. The company also built Mini Sky City in Changsha in just 19 days. It is currently the tallest prefabricated building in the world. The Mini Sky City is 57 stories high and 204 meters tall.

BSB has also developed modular kitchens and modular bathrooms designed to be energy-efficient.

BSB’s commitment to sustainable and innovative construction has earned them awards like the Energy Globe Award. And they’ve been recognized by the United Nations for their contributions to sustainable development.

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Source: “A Closer Look at Broad’s Hotels That Were Built in Days, Not Months” — TreeHugger

WTF Fun Fact 13338 – Monkey in the Mirror

It’s not until we’re around 2 years old that we figure out what the mirror is showing us. And not all animals can recognize their own reflections. But if you train a rhesus monkey in the mirror, it will the first thing it’ll do is check out its genitals.

The monkey in the mirror

A 2015 study found that rhesus monkeys are capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors and engaging in self-exploration behaviors, but only after some training. The research helps shed light on the cognitive abilities of non-human primates and their level of self-awareness.

The researchers trained a group of rhesus monkeys to touch a red dot on their faces after seeing it in a mirror. This task is commonly used to test an animal’s ability to recognize itself in a mirror and is considered a measure of self-awareness. It’s called the “standard mark test.”

It took several weeks of training for rhesus monkeys to pass the standard mark test. But, eventually, they were able to recognize themselves in the mirror and understand that the reflection was a representation of their own bodies.

The first thing the monkeys did after that? Umm. Let’s just say they engaged in a range of self-exploration behaviors.” And they started with their own genitals.

Monkey see

The rhesus monkeys didn’t spend all their time “down there” though. They eventually moved on to the nose and mouth, behavior similar to what has been observed in chimpanzees and orangutans.

The act of inspecting their own genitals may seem amusing, but it actually provides insight into the cognitive abilities of non-human primates. The ability to recognize oneself in a mirror is considered a measure of self-awareness. And that’s a crucial component of consciousness.

Self-awareness allows animals to engage in complex social behaviors, such as empathy, cooperation, and deception.

Rhesus monkeys’ ability to recognize themselves in mirrors and engage in self-exploration is significant because it suggests that they have a level of self-awareness that we previously thought unique to humans.

The study also has implications for our understanding of animal welfare. Animals that are self-aware are more likely to experience emotions, including pain, fear, and stress. This means that they may be more susceptible to negative welfare impacts, such as confinement and isolation.

If we understand the cognitive abilities of non-human primates, we can work towards improving their welfare.

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Source: “Monkeys Learn to Recognize Themselves in a Mirror – And Promptly Check Out Their Butts” — Discover Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13331 – The Midlife Slump

Some people tend to feel a sense of existential dread, sadness, or disappointment in life in their 40s or 50s. But this “midlife slump” is perfectly normal. Just don’t confuse it with the caricature of the midlife crisis where everyone runs out and buys red sports cars or has affairs.

Studying the midlife slump

According to research, people in “middle age” often experience a dip in happiness and life satisfaction between the ages of 40 and 50. One study even pinpointed the most miserable age – 47.2. Of course, that’s just an average, so don’t plan for it. The good news is this dip is usually temporary. In fact, after the slump is over, people tend to become happier as they age.

The midlife dip in happiness is caused by a combination of factors. The reality of an aging body, financial pressure, having to take care of both children and elders and the plain old realization that your life is half over (if you’re lucky). It seems to be all downhill from there.

Bouncing back

However, studies also find that people tend to rebound from the midlife slump with gusto. And they become happier as they age. In fact, one study found that people tend to be happiest in their 70s and 80s! Apparently, a sore body is no match for the satisfaction brought by wisdom. With age comes greater contentment and well-being!

So if you’re feeling a bit blue about hitting the big 4-0 or 5-0, take heart in the fact that the midlife slump is a normal part of the aging process. You can even make it a time for self-reflection and growth rather than drowning in your own misery. Some people use this time to make positive changes in their lives. You might start a new career, pursue a lifelong dream, take stock of your priorities, and begin to surround yourself with the people who matter.

Is a midlife crisis different?

The term “midlife crisis” was first coined in 1965 by psychologist Elliot Jaques. He used it to describe a period of self-doubt and reflection. But it only applied to his male patients. It wasn’t until many decades later that people realized women at this age were also struggling – they just deal with it differently and were more likely to seek help.

The classic “midlife crisis” isn’t a given. But it can be triggered by major life events that typically happen in one’s 40s or 50s. This can include the death of loved ones, divorces, job losses, and a general sense of unfulfillment. People find themselves asking “Is this it”? It’s a bit different from the midlife slump, which is a measure of happiness. And happiness is something internal.

Whatever kind of midlife rut you might find yourself in, take heart in the fact that it may be an opportunity for positive change.

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Source: “Your happiness is more likely to hit rock bottom at age 47.2—but there’s an upside, says new research” — CNBC

WTF Fun Fact 13318 – The Science of Spring Flower Growth

Many people eagerly await the first signs of spring. One major clue is the emergence of new plants, including a few colorful flowers. Of course, many plants wait until the ground thaws and the temperature warms up before starting to grow. But the science of spring flower growth is complex. And some flowers have a unique adaptation that allows them to bloom even in the coldest of conditions.

Two flowers you may have seen early in the year are crocuses and snowdrops. These actually have the ability to push through frozen soil and snow to bloom in early spring! It’s all made possible by a special adaptation in their cells that allows them to expand and contract with changes in temperature.

The science of spring flower growth

This adaptation in a few flowers is due to a process called thermoperiodism. This requires a cycle of low and high temperatures in order to help trigger growth.

Here’s how it works: The cells in these flowers contract when the temperatures drop. This causes a vacuum that draws water and nutrients from the soil into the plant. The cells begin to re-expand as the temperatures climb. This expansion and contraction push the flowers through the frozen ground. Pretty cool, right?

Now, these early-blooming flowers depend on this ability to survive. By blooming early, they are able to take advantage of the increased sunlight. They also get early pollinators (like bees and butterflies) that are essential for their reproduction. And they don’t have to compete for these resources.

Crocuses and snowdrops are also popular flowers for their beauty and variety. Crocuses come in a wide range of colors, including purple, white, yellow, and pink. They can be found in both single and multiple petals. Snowdrops, on the other hand, are known for their unique bell-shaped flowers – typically white or pale green.

While crocuses and snowdrops are among the most well-known flowers that can push through frozen soil and snow, they are not the only ones. Other early-blooming flowers include winter aconite, Siberian squill, and hellebore.

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Source: Burn through snow – What flowers can do that we wish we could do too!” — The Art of Ecology