WTF Fun Fact 13455 – Bird Nest Spikes

Bird nest spikes sound pretty uncomfortable. But the birds have defeated us since they’re now using anti-bird spikes designed to keep them away as materials to build their nests! Nature always finds a way.

How are birds defeating the spikes?

It’s magpies specifically that are making headlines. They’re the birds that have been found using the anti-bird spikes designed to deter them as construction material for their nests. This fascinating behavior underscores these birds’ remarkable intelligence and adaptability.

Anti-bird spikes are rows of pointed metal or plastic prongs designed to deter birds from perching on buildings, bridges, or statues. People use them when they don’t want birds building nests or leaving droppings in a specific area. And since birds can spread disease, some people see them as dirty.

However, far from being deterred, magpies have decided to turn the tables on humans by using these spikes to their advantage.

Bird nest spikes for a spiteful home

We kid. The birds aren’t spiteful. They’re just trying to survive.

Birdwatchers have observed magpies collecting these anti-bird spikes and weaving them among twigs and branches to create sturdy and secure homes. The supposed deterrents have become a beneficial resource for these intelligent creatures.

Scientists believe that these birds’ unexpected behavior is an example of neophilia, an attraction to new things. Unlike neophobia, a fear of new things common in many animals, neophilia is characteristic of certain bird species, particularly those known for their intelligence like magpies and crows. The anti-bird spikes are new elements in their environment, so the birds investigate them and then find a way to use them to their advantage.

Implications for bird deterrence

The use of anti-bird spikes by magpies challenges the effectiveness of this deterrence method. If the birds can repurpose these structures for their use, their presence may not achieve the intended effect of keeping the birds away. This revelation could prompt a re-evaluation of current bird deterrent strategies.

The behavior of these magpies and crows using anti-bird spikes underscores the impressive cognitive abilities of these birds. It’s yet another example of their capability to adapt to and exploit the human-altered environment, offering further proof that these birds possess a high level of intelligence and problem-solving skills.

The birds’ actions also serve as a reminder of the continuous interplay between wildlife and human spaces. As humans encroach more on natural habitats, animals must adjust and adapt to survive. These magpies and crows turning a human deterrent into a beneficial resource is a clear instance of this adaptive behavior.


In their creative use of anti-bird spikes, magpies and crows have provided a fascinating case study of avian ingenuity. They’ve turned a human-made deterrent into an advantageous resource, demonstrating their intelligence and adaptability. These observations could have significant implications for how we design bird deterrents in the future. It also invites us to appreciate and respect the remarkable cognitive capabilities of these feathered urban dwellers.

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Source: “Magpies Are Making Nests Out Of Humans’ “Anti-Bird” Spikes” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 13445 – The Shortlife Clock

Life is short – and the shortlife clock is here to remind you of that grim fact every morning. It was designed to make you question your perception of time and mortality – which is obviously the first thing you want to do when the alarm goes off. Right?

This fascinating gadget is the brainchild of artist Dries Depoorter. And it does add an extra layer of thought-provoking contemplation to the mundane act of timekeeping.

What exactly is the Shortlife Clock?

The Shortlife clock isn’t just your run-of-the-mill timekeeper. At first glance, it seems to be a standard digital clock. But wait, there’s a catch! This unique gadget counts down the estimated time left in your life, based on statistics from the World Health Organization. Talk about a reality check! The clock gives an entirely new perspective on the value of each second, minute, and hour.

How does it work? The clock requires the user to input their age and gender. Then, it uses this information, along with WHO data, to estimate the user’s life expectancy. The countdown starts ticking from that point forward, offering a thought-provoking and somewhat confronting reminder of our mortality.

With every tick, the Shortlife clock gently nudges you to seize the day. At the very least, you get a humbling reminder that time is a finite resource. So make the most of every moment!

A $180 reminder of your mortality

The clock isn’t just about morbid fascination. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. Think of it as a heartfelt call to action to appreciate the time you have.

Though the Shortlife clock might seem a bit macabre to some, its concept has fascinated many. And it’s sparked some meaningful conversations about life, death, and how we choose to spend our time.

More than just a quirky gadget, it’s a tool for introspection. It can help you to reflect on how you spend your days. Or it can be a (subtle?) reminder to get on with life and make the most of the time you have left.

To some, the Shortlife clock serves as an invitation to live more intentionally, to appreciate the fleeting beauty of existence. To others, it serves as a conversation starter, a unique piece of decor that sparks curiosity and in-depth discussions about life and time.

The Shortlife clock’s popularity is a testament to its thought-provoking nature. It seems that people are drawn to the idea of visualizing the impermanence of life. The Shortlife clock caters to this interest, allowing people to confront their mortality in a tangible way.

So, if you’re in the mood for a little existential contemplation, or if you’re looking for a conversation starter that goes beyond the usual small talk, the Shortlife clock might just be what you need. After all, it’s not every day you come across a gadget that makes you contemplate life’s biggest questions. It is, however, $180.

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Source: “Shortlife Click, V2” — Tindie

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.

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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.”

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

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.

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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).

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Source: “Olympics History” — Tug of War Association

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.

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

WTF Fun Fact 13300 – Swearing and Exercise

Exercise often needs to be hard to be productive. And that can be a frustrating experience. Maybe that’s why swearing and exercise go together to make you more productive. That’s right, recent research has suggested that swearing during exercise can help to alleviate pain, improve performance, and even reduce stress.

How swearing and exercise go together

According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, swearing during exercise can help to reduce the sensation of pain. For example, the study found that people who swore while squeezing a hand grip held on for longer and reported less pain than those who did not swear. That’s because swearing triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response. And this can help to increase pain tolerance and reduce the sensation of discomfort.

Swearing appears to be able to bring about improvements in physical performance that may not be solely dependent on a stress response arising out of the shock value of the swearing,” Richard Stephens, the study’s co-author, said.

In addition to reducing pain, swearing can also improve performance during exercise.

A study found that athletes who swore before completing a physical task were able to produce more power and strength than those who did not swear. Letting out some choice curse words can increase your adrenaline levels and provide you with a burst of energy. These same things can help athletes perform at their best.

Let it out

Finally, swearing can also help to reduce stress and anxiety during exercise. That’s because swearing can help to regulate emotions and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It provides a cathartic release, which can help to improve mental wellbeing.

While swearing during exercise may not be suitable for everyone, there appear to be a number of benefits to using profanity during physical activity.

So next time you hit the gym, don’t be afraid to let out a few choice words – it could be just what you need to improve your performance and reduce pain and stress.

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Source: “Cursing helps you crush your workout, experts say” — Global News

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.”

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