WTF Fun Fact 13392 – The Scott Kelly Gorilla Suit Prank

We know, we know. You’ve seen the viral posts about Mark Kelly smuggling a gorilla suit onto the International Space Station (ISS). But it turns out the hilarious moment is actually the Scott Kelly gorilla suit prank. Scott is Mark’s twin brother, and they are both astronauts.

Now, if you haven’t heard about this prank, you’re probably very confused right now.

The Scott Kelly gorilla suit prank

In 2016, former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly secretly brought a gorilla suit with him on the mission, keeping it hidden from his fellow crew members. It wasn’t until one day that he decided to surprise his unsuspecting colleague.

Scott Kelly, known for his adventurous spirit and sense of humor, had a playful idea in mind. He understood the importance of camaraderie and lighthearted moments to boost morale in the isolated and demanding environment of space.

After smuggling the gorilla suit onboard, Kelly patiently waited for the perfect moment to execute his prank. He knew that the confined quarters of the ISS would amplify the surprise and make the prank memorable.

Finally, the day arrived when Kelly decided to put his plan into action. He donned the gorilla suit and approached his unsuspecting crew member, who was engrossed in his tasks.

Gorillas in space

Kelly lunged towards his crewmate, letting out a playful roar. The crew member, startled by the sudden appearance of a gorilla in space, jumped in surprise, and his shock quickly turned into laughter.

The crew burst into laughter, with Kelly’s prank providing a much-needed moment of levity. The sight of an astronaut in a gorilla suit floating weightlessly through the spacecraft was undoubtedly unforgettable.

The story of Scott Kelly’s gorilla suit prank spread, capturing the amusement of people on Earth. It showcased the lighter side of life aboard the ISS and reminded us that even in the vastness of space, humor and human connections are vital for well-being.

Of course, the presence of the gorilla suit on the ISS was unauthorized. NASA does not allow astronauts to bring personal items on missions. However, in this case, the harmless nature of the prank and the positive impact it had on the crew’s morale overshadowed any reprimand that Kelly may have received.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Fact Check: Did an Astronaut Smuggle a Gorilla Suit Onto the International Space Station?” — Newsweek

WTF Fun Fact 13391 – Giant Penguin Hoax

In 1948, the quiet shores of Clearwater Beach, Florida, were the site of a giant penguin hoax that would continue for a decade and not be explained for another 40 years.

Florida’s giant penguin hoax

Mysterious tracks resembling giant three-toed footprints emerged from the sea, leaving people astounded and intrigued. These footprints, approximately 35 centimeters long and 28 centimeters wide, stretched along the beach for miles, suggesting the presence of a colossal creature.

Word of the strange tracks quickly spread, and eyewitness accounts of unusual creatures started to surface. For example, students at the Dunedin Flying School claimed to have spotted a creature resembling a furry log with a boar’s head swimming in the water. A couple walking along the beach recounted a sighting of a towering creature waddling near the water before vanishing into the sea. The news of these encounters only deepened the mystery.

Monster hunting

The local police were compelled to investigate the footprints. British biologist Ivan Terence Sanderson, known for his ventures into pseudoscience, also took an interest in the case. Sanderson conducted his own investigations. He meticulously studied the tracks that continued to appear over the next decade. Sanderson proposed that a massive, 15-foot-tall penguin might be responsible for the enigmatic footprints.

The case for a giant penguin

Sanderson noted that the tracks consistently followed gentle slopes, even if it meant meandering along the way. Moreover, they skillfully avoided any obstacles, no matter how small, such as bushes or debris. These traits, according to Sanderson, were characteristic of typical animal behavior. He found it implausible that the tracks could be the result of a hoax, given the level of detail and precision involved in their creation.

The idea of an undiscovered giant penguin roaming the beach without anyone noticing seemed more plausible to him.

Uncovering the truth

Fast forward to 1988. That’s when the truth behind the peculiar footprints was finally revealed. A local man named Tony Signorini stepped forward and confessed to the prank.

Signorini and his friend, Al Williams, were inspired by a National Geographic photo of dinosaur footprints. Motivated by a mischievous spirit, they decided to embark on a decade-long hoax. They constructed enormous three-toed metal feet, which they attached to tennis shoes. Their plan involved taking a small rowboat out to sea, with one of them wearing the 14-kilogram (30-pound) shoes and walking up the beach. Later, they would rendezvous with the boat further along the coast.

To create the illusion of a large stride, Signorini would stand on one leg and swing the other, building momentum for a jump. The pair often had their friend report the footprints the following day to ensure their efforts wouldn’t go unnoticed. They meticulously orchestrated a prank that fooled the public and even experts for an astonishing four decades.

After Signorini’s passing in 2013, his family made sure that his obituary commemorated his role as “The Clearwater Monster.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Giant Penguin Hoax That Fooled Florida For 10 Whole Years” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 13380 – Extreme Ironing

We didn’t realize anyone enjoyed ironing enough to actually keep up with it much less make it a sport, but extreme ironing is a real thing.

What is extreme ironing?

Extreme ironing, also known as EI, is a unique and unconventional sport that combines the ordinary task of ironing clothes with the thrill of extreme activities. It involves individuals taking their ironing boards and irons to remote and unusual locations, adding an element of excitement to an otherwise mundane household chore.

The Extreme Ironing Bureau defines EI as “the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.”

The history of the “sport”

Originating in Leicester, England in 1997, extreme ironing was conceived by Phil Shaw, also known as “Steam,” as a way to infuse fun into his daily routine. The concept quickly gained popularity and evolved into a global phenomenon.

Participants, or “ironists,” perform this task in various settings, such as mountainsides, forests, canoes, while skiing or snowboarding, atop statues or buildings, underwater, and even in the midst of bustling streets. These performances can be done individually or in groups.

A spectator sport

While the sport may appear tongue-in-cheek to some, EI has gained attention from media outlets worldwide due to its intriguing combination of mundane and extreme elements. The sport challenges participants not only to showcase their ironing skills but also to possess the physical stamina and mental resilience necessary to navigate and conquer unexpected environments.

Safety is a crucial aspect of EI, as participants must take precautions while engaging in their ironing adventures. The sport requires careful navigation and coordination, especially in more hazardous locations. Ironists prioritize their safety while ensuring they can successfully complete the task in extreme conditions.

Ironing goes mainstream(ish)

The sport has gained significant attention through documentaries and media coverage. A documentary titled “Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Victory,” produced by Britain’s Channel 4, followed the British team’s journey and their participation in the first Extreme Ironing World Championships in Germany. This exposure propelled EI into the international spotlight, attracting more enthusiasts to join the sport.

Notable achievements in the sport include ironing the Union Jack flag just above Everest Base Camp, setting a world altitude record for the sport. Ironists have also ironed across gorges, participated in bungee ironing (combining bungee jumping with ironing), and even ironed underwater, breaking records for the number of people ironing simultaneously.

The influence of EI has extended beyond the sport itself, inspiring other unusual activities like extreme cello playing.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Extreme Ironing: History, Types, Objective, & Equipment” — Sportsmatik

WTF Fun Fact 13362 – Super Mario’s Original Name

Do you know Super Mario’s original name wasn’t Mario? We positively clutched our pearls when we found out. We can’t imagine the iconic video game character called anything else. But do you think Super Mario would be the legend he is today if his name had simply been “Jumpman”?

Mario’s original name: less than super

Super Mario, the iconic video game character loved by millions, has become synonymous with Nintendo and gaming itself. But let’s shed some light on the man behind the mustache and his journey to gaming stardom.

Super Mario was brought to life by renowned game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto’s vision for a new arcade game with a unique character led him to create what would become one of the most recognizable figures in gaming history.

During the early development stages, Miyamoto initially named the character “Jumpman.” While it’s pretty lame, the name Jumpman aptly described Mario’s ability to leap across obstacles and enemies. It’s just a little too on the nose.

Landlord, plumber, icon

However, it was during the game’s U.S. release that Jumpman’s name took a turn.

As the story goes, Nintendo of America’s landlord confronted the company about late rent payments while they were finishing the game. That landlord’s name was Mario Segale. Impressed by Segale’s assertiveness, Nintendo’s staff decided to honor him by renaming their beloved character. Thus, Jumpman officially became Mario, forever linking the iconic plumber to a chance encounter with a cranky landlord. (We assume they also eventually paid their rent.)

With his new name, Mario catapulted to fame. The character debuted in the arcade classic “Donkey Kong” before getting his own “Super Mario Bros.” on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Mario’s adventures are now a staple of the gaming industry and he’s demonstrated his enduring appeal and ability to captivate players across different genres and generations.

What’s in a name?

The character has made appearances in numerous spin-offs, cartoons, comics, and even a Hollywood film. His likeness and iconic catchphrases have become embedded in popular culture, making him an instantly recognizable and beloved figure around the globe.

Super Mario’s dominance shaped the future of video game design. But we’re not sure things would have been that way if Super Mario’s original name had stuck.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “‘Super Mario Bros.’ debuted 35 years ago — here’s how Mario accidentally became a gaming superstar” — CNBC

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).

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Olympics History” — Tug of War Association

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.

 WTF fun facts

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

WTF Fun Fact 13308 – Smart Slime

Have you ever heard of “smart slime”?

Physarum polycephalum is a type of slime mold. Fun, right? Well, it’s actually found in many natural areas around the world. If you run across it, throw it a puzzle!

This mold is capable of solving complex mazes and other spatial problems without a brain or nervous system. Ok, not a boxed puzzle.

Despite lacking a brain, this organism has navigated mazes and established efficient routes between food sources. Scientists still don’t know what to think.

How does “smart slime” work?

So how does Physarum polycephalum do it? According to some researchers, the key lies in the way that this slime mold processes and responds to information.

Humans and other animals rely on centralized nervous systems to process and interpret information from the environment. But slime molds are decentralized and they exhibit a more distributed form of intelligence.

One striking example of this distributed intelligence can be seen in the way that slime molds navigate mazes. When placed in a maze with multiple food sources, slime molds are able to explore and test different paths! They gradually identify the most efficient routes between the food sources. This ability has been attributed to the slime mold’s ability to sense and respond to different environmental cues. In other words, they can sense the presence of food, humidity, and light. But it’s a whole extra step to use that information to solve problems!

Some researchers have suggested that the slime mold’s ability to solve spatial problems may be related to its ability to process information in a way that is fundamentally different from known forms of intelligence. For example, one study found that Physarum polycephalum is capable of solving the “shortest path problem.” This involves finding the shortest route between two points in a network.

Humans typically solve this problem by analyzing and comparing different routes. But slime mold is able to accomplish the same task by physically growing and adapting to the network itself. Say what?!

Nature loves a puzzle

Despite its remarkable abilities, Physarum polycephalum is still a subject of ongoing research and debate among scientists. Some researchers believe that the slime mold’s distributed intelligence may hold the key to developing new forms of artificial intelligence. Other people are understandably freaked out by that.

Many scientists are focused on understanding the fundamental biological mechanisms underlying its behavior before they go trying to turn it into a monster.

One thing is clear: the slime mold’s abilities are truly remarkable. As we continue to study and learn from this fascinating organism, we may even discover new insights into the nature of intelligence, adaptation, and evolution itself.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “This Weirdly Smart, Creeping Slime Is Redefining How We Understand Intelligence” — ScienceAlert

WTF Fun Fact 13307 – Project Pigeon

During World War II, the United States government developed a program to train pigeons to guide missiles to their targets. This program was known as Project Pigeon or Project Orcon. It was developed by psychologist B.F. Skinner and was intended to provide an alternative to radio-controlled guidance systems, which were vulnerable to jamming and interference.

Using animals in technology

The idea behind Project Pigeon was simple: Skinner would train pigeons to peck at a target on a screen, and their pecking guided a missile to its target. To prove this, Skinner trained the pigeons to associate the target with food and were able to peck accurately and consistently, even under stressful conditions.

The military ultimately discontinued the program in favor of other guidance systems. But the concept of using animals to guide technology has continued to be a topic of interest and research in modern times. Today, researchers are exploring the use of trained animals such as dogs, rats, and even bees to detect and respond to various stimuli, including explosives, drugs, and diseases.

What was Project Pigeon?

During World War II, the United States government needed to develop an effective guidance system for missiles and other weapons. Radio-controlled systems had proved vulnerable to jamming and interference, and researchers were eager to explore alternative approaches.

Psychologist BF Skinner believed that he could train animals to guide missiles to their targets. His idea was based on the principle of operant conditioning, which he had developed through his work with laboratory animals.

The basic idea behind Skinner’s approach was to train pigeons to associate a target on a screen with the release of food. He then placed the pigeons in the nose of a missile, where they would peck at the target on the screen. This would send signals to the missile’s guidance system and steer it toward its target.

Skinner’s idea eventually received support from the military. The military developed it into a program known as Project Pigeon or Project Orcon. They trained of hundreds of pigeons, housing them in special compartments in the nose of the missile.

While the program never saw actual use in combat, it did succeed in demonstrating the potential of animal-guided technology.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “B.F. Skinner’s Pigeon-Guided Rocket” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13296 – Keanu Reeves’ Chemical Compound

Keanu Reeves is such as lethal presence on the silver screen that scientists have named a fungus-killing bacteria after him. That’s right, Reeves is now getting recognition in an unexpected field – mycology. The name isn’t inspired by his reputation for “down-to-earth” kindness and generosity though. It’s inspired by his efforts as a stealth killing machine in the film series John Wick.

The Keanu Reeves compound

The compound, called “Aptostichus keanu,” was discovered by researchers at the University of California, Riverside. It belongs to a class of compounds called cytochalasins, which have been shown to have antifungal and anticancer properties. Aptostichus keanu is particularly effective against fungi that cause diseases in crops, making it a potentially valuable tool in agriculture.

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below), scientist Sebastian Götze the Washington Post’s Kyle Melnick:

“We were just basically blown away by the high activity. That’s why we basically said, ‘Yeah, it’s like an assassin, a hit man or something, killing a couple of different fungi very effectively.’”

The keanumycin compound bleeds the fungal pathogens to death by creating holes in the surface of fungal pathogens. Kinda like stabbing.

Keanu saves the crops

Even better is the fact that Reeves’ namesake compound might be a natural, effective fungicide that helps save crops.

“In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, lead author Götze and his colleagues describe keanumycins’ strength against a common plant pest that causes a gray mold rot. Called Botrytis cinerea, it affects more than 200 types of fruits and vegetables, including strawberries and grapes, per the statement. The researchers used keanumycins to significantly clear this blight from hydrangea leaves,” reports Smithsonian.

This isn’t the first time a celebrity has had a scientific discovery named after them. In recent years, new species of animals and plants have been named after David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and Barack Obama, among others. These names are often chosen as a way to honor the person’s contributions to society or their cultural significance.

While Aptostichus keanu may not have the same level of cultural impact as Keanu Reeves’ films, it’s still an exciting discovery with potential applications in agriculture and medicine.

As for Reeves’ response to the whole this: it was priceless. During a Reddit question-and-answer session he answered a question about his namesake:

“They should’ve called it John Wick. But that’s pretty cool … and surreal for me. But thanks, scientist people! Good luck, and thank you for helping us.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Scientists Name New Fungus-Killing Compounds After Keanu Reeves” — Smithsonian Magazine