WTF Fun Fact 13486 – Mamihlapinatapai, the Most Succinct Word

Certain words defy easy translation since they embody ideas or emotions so complex – one such word is “mamihlapinatapai.”

This word hails from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago split between Chile and Argentina. The term was recognized in the 1994 Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most “succinct word.” (Unfortunately, today, their tribe has dwindled to fewer than 2,000 members, with most speaking Spanish instead of their native tongue.)

Mamihlapinatapai, the Untranslatable Emotion

Mamihlapinatapai is defined as “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin.”

The word’s complexity and its lack of a direct translation into English or other major languages have earned it a spot among the world’s favorite “untranslatables.”

It wasn’t until the late 2000s that the term mamihlapinatapai started appearing all over the internet. People were fascinated. Artists found inspiration in the term, incorporating it into their songs, exhibitions, and books.

More Than Just Romance

Of course, just as internet fame changes a person, it can change a word. While mamihlapinatapai often evokes romantic notions, its application now extends to other areas. For example, in gaming theory, it refers to the volunteer’s dilemma, where an individual player might have to make a sacrifice for the collective benefit.

Despite the global recognition of mamihlapinatapai, the Yaghan language is teetering on the brink of extinction. It has no linguistic relatives. The last guardian of this language is Cristina Calderon, the only fluent living speaker of Yaghan!

Despite the impending threat to the Yaghan language, there’s hope. Calderon has been teaching her granddaughter some Yaghan, and they have published books to preserve Yaghan culture and history. This effort to pass on the language and culture to the next generation is a critical step in preserving this endangered language.

Internet Fame: A Blessing or a Curse?

While the global recognition of mamihlapinatapai has introduced the world to the Yaghan language and culture, it has also brought unwanted media attention to the Yaghan community. The fame of a single word, however, does not ensure the survival of the language.

The story of mamihlapinatapai is a testament to language’s ability to capture the subtleties of human experience. It serves as a stark reminder of the loss we face as languages dwindle and disappear, taking with them unique cultural perspectives and understanding.

The tale of this word reminds us that each language offers its unique prism through which we can view and understand the world.

Wondering how to pronounce this complex word? Check out this video (but you’ll probably need to listen a few times to catch it):

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Source: “How the Internet Changed the Meaning of ‘Mamihlapinatapai’” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13485 – People Who Read Live Longer

In 2016, Yale researcher first published a study that found a connection between longevity and reading – in other words, people who read live longer. It’s a correlation, but there’s no clear causation (that is, there’s no proof that reading is precisely what adds years to your life). Still, it felt validating for those of us who love the written word. And even better, it’s a free activity (if you have access to a library) that’s available to lots of people!

So, Do People Who Read Live Longer?

In an increasingly digitized world, it might be easy to dismiss reading as a leisurely pastime of bygone eras. Yet, plenty of people still do it. So, researchers from Yale University’s School of Public Health decided to expore the benefits of reading to try and understand whether engaging in this mental exercise could have real, tangible effects on longevity.

The study analyzed data from 3,635 individuals aged 50 and above. It divided them into three groups.
1) those who didn’t read books
2) those who read for up to three and a half hours a week,
3) and those who read more than that.

The results? Book readers, regardless of gender, wealth, education, or health, had a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over a 12-year period compared to non-book readers!

Even reading less than 3.5 hours per week benefitted. Reading came with a significant survival advantage over those who didn’t read at all.

Why Does Reading Enhance Longevity?

The exact mechanisms that would explain why people who read live longer are still being explored. But the hypothesis is as fascinating as the result itself.

Reading books, particularly those with complex narratives, demands cognitive engagement and promotes empathetic understanding and emotional intelligence. This intellectual stimulation boosts brain power, much like how physical exercise strengthens the body.

Reading can also provide a healthy form of escapism, reducing stress, and promoting better mental health. This “workout” for the mind might increase resilience against age-related cognitive decline and diseases, leading to an overall longer lifespan.

Not All Reading Is Equal

While all reading is beneficial, the study found that reading books, as opposed to magazines or newspapers, provided a larger survival advantage. This could be because books involve more immersive and cognitive processes, like the use of imagination and critical thinking. They also encourage the reader to make connections between different plot elements spread out over hundreds of pages, creating a greater neural stimulus.

We know what you’re wondering. We’re wondering about it too. What about reading online or on an e-reader? And researchers aren’t sure. But older research found that people who read physical books were more engaged and remembered more plot points. However, we need more research – and those results wouldn’t apply to everyone anyway.

Further research is needed to solidify the connection and understand the exact mechanisms behind why people who read live longer. For instance, how different genres might impact longevity is still an open question. Does a suspense thriller provide the same benefit as a heartfelt romance?

And, of course, as digital reading becomes more popular, future research will need to explore whether reading eBooks – or even listening to audiobooks – provides the same benefits as “traditional reading.”

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Source: “People who read live longer than those who don’t, Yale researchers say” — Big Think

WTF Fun Fact 13479 – Taylor Swift Makes Seattle Rumble

During two Taylor Swift performances in Seattle on July 22 and 23, 2023, an unexpected phenomenon occurred. Swift’s fans, through their sheer enthusiasm and collective dance movements, generated seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake.

The discovery, made by seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, brings new meaning to the power of music and fan engagement.

Taylor Swift vs the “Beast Quake”

The local seismometer detected the activity produced by Swift’s fans, comparing it to the famous 2011 “Beast Quake.” The Beast Quake refers to the seismic activity triggered by ecstatic Seattle Seahawks fans. This occurred after Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown in an NFC wild-card game against the New Orleans Saints.

Swift’s performances didn’t just shake the ground – they also broke records. Swift sold out both nights in Seattle. 72,171 fans attended the Saturday show, surpassing the previous venue record of 70,000 set by U2 in 2011.

Although this incident is extraordinary, it’s not unprecedented. Concerts have sporadically registered seismic activity. Notable instances include a 2011 Foo Fighters concert in New Zealand and a 2022 Garth Brooks concert at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. However, seismic magnitudes from these concerts weren’t reported at the time.

The Power of Music

Caplan-Auerbach, a geology professor at Western Washington University, was first alerted to the Swift comparison through a Pacific north-west earthquake group she moderates. Upon scrutinizing seismic data from both concerts and the 2011 NFL event, she noticed striking similarities. “I grabbed the data from both nights of the concert and quickly noticed they were clearly the same pattern of signals,” she told CNN.

Despite the minor difference between the NFL event and the Swifties dancing, Swift’s fans still managed to outdo the Beast Quake. The seismic activity caused by their continuous cheering and dancing was twice as strong as that of the Beast Quake. Caplan-Auerbach shared that the shaking “absolutely doubled” that of the Beast Quake.

While the ground-shaking cheer after the Seahawks touchdown lasted for just a moment, the energy driven into the ground by the dancing and cheering Swift fans (in addition to the music) generated seismic activity for a more extended period.

Swift’s Seattle concerts exemplify how her fans’ passion and engagement can literally shake the ground. As Swift’s Eras Tour continues, who knows what other records – or seismic readings – her dedicated fanbase will break.

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Source: “Quake it off: Taylor Swift fans generate seismic activity during Seattle shows” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13473 – The Greyhound Saint of Lyon

Have you heard of Guinefort, the greyhound saint of Lyon, France?

The Legend of Guinefort, the Greyhound Saint

Guinefort’s story begins in the 13th century, nestled in the noble family of a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon. The knight had a faithful greyhound named Guinefort, who was entrusted with the protection of the knight’s infant son.

As the story goes, one day, the knight returned to his castle to find his baby’s cradle overturned, with Guinefort standing nearby, blood smeared on his muzzle. Assuming the worst, the knight believed Guinefort had harmed his child. In a fit of rage and grief, he slew the greyhound before discovering his infant son alive beneath the cradle, next to the lifeless body of a viper.

Guinefort, it turned out, had defended the child, killing the snake and saving the baby’s life.

The knight was filled with remorse and buried Guinefort in a well, planting trees around it as a memorial.

An Unconventional Saint

The story of Guinefort’s bravery and loyalty spread among the local people. They began to view the dog as a protector of infants, venerating him as a saint despite his canine status. A cult formed around Guinefort, with rituals involving mothers bringing their infants to his grave to seek his protection.

In the centuries that followed, Guinefort’s reputation as a protector of children persisted. Mothers continued to visit the grave, offering prayers and leaving tokens in the hope of invoking his protection.

The Church’s Stand on the Greyhound Saint

However, the veneration of a dog as a saint did not sit well with the Church. In the 13th century, Inquisitor Stephen of Bourbon discovered the cult and was horrified. He ordered the destruction of Guinefort’s shrine and condemned the practice, declaring it as heresy.

Despite these attempts, the cult of Saint Guinefort survived quietly among the local populace, passed down through generations. Even today, tales of the greyhound saint are still told in the region, keeping the legend alive.

The Greyhound Saint’s Cultural Impact

Guinefort’s story is not just a tale of a loyal dog. It has deeper cultural implications, reflecting the medieval society’s fears, beliefs, and social practices. The legend of Guinefort demonstrates the power of folklore and the human tendency to seek protectors and intercessors in a world filled with danger and uncertainty.

There are still references to Guinefort in literature, film, and even video games. His tale continues to captivate, providing a unique perspective on faith, folklore, and our relationship with animals.

While the original shrine no longer exists, one can still find traces of Guinefort’s veneration in Lyon’s folklore and oral traditions. Visitors curious about this peculiar piece of history can still explore the region, soaking up the rich history and cultural landscape that fostered the legend of a canine saint.

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Source: “The papacy, inquisition and Saint Guinefort the Holy Greyhound” — University of Reading

WTF Fun Fact 13468 – The Streisand Effect

The term “Streisand Effect” may sound like it’s tied to some groundbreaking scientific discovery, but it’s actually named after the famous American singer and actress, Barbra Streisand. The term was coined in 2005 and refers to an unexpected and counter-intuitive social phenomenon where efforts to suppress or censor information backfire, leading to the unintended consequence of the information being widely publicized and shared even more than before.

2. The Origin Story

The Streisand Effect was named after an incident involving Barbra Streisand in 2003. A photographer named Kenneth Adelman had taken aerial shots of the California coastline for the California Coastal Records Project. He intended to document coastal erosion. One of these photographs included Streisand’s Malibu home. Despite the image being among 12,000 others and not specifically identifying her home, Streisand sued Adelman and the associated website for $50 million. She asserted that the photo violated her privacy rights.

However, Streisand’s efforts to maintain her privacy unintentionally drew more attention to the photograph. Prior to the lawsuit, the picture had only been downloaded from Adelman’s website six times; two of those downloads were by Streisand’s lawyers. After the lawsuit became public, the photograph gained widespread attention, receiving over 420,000 views in the following month.

3. Examples of The Streisand Effect in Action

Since the original incident, the Streisand Effect has occurred multiple times, especially in the digital age where information spreads quickly.

In 2008, a blog post detailing weaknesses in the Church of Scientology’s operations resulted in a takedown notice from the Church. Instead of disappearing, the information proliferated across other sites, leading to more awareness and criticism of the Church.

In 2009, the UK law firm Carter-Ruck tried to suppress a report about its client Trafigura, a commodity trading company involved in a toxic waste scandal. A gag order initially prevented The Guardian from reporting on the issue. A judge lifted the order after intense public outcry and online sharing of the information.

The Power of the Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect highlights the immense power of the internet and social media in the spread of information. It also illustrates the backlash that can result from attempts to suppress it. The digital age has shifted control over information from those with traditional power (like celebrities, corporations, governments) to the broader public.

This phenomenon raises important considerations for public figures, companies, and institutions in how they handle potentially damaging information. Attempting to suppress such information can often make matters worse. It can even cause more harm to a reputation than ignoring it or addressed it openly.

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Source: “How Barbra Streisand Inspired the ‘Streisand Effect'” — Mental Floss

WTF Fun Fact 13467 – The Baghdad Battery

When we think about the birth of electricity, names like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla might come to mind. But if we venture even further back in time, we stumble upon a curious artifact known as the Baghdad Battery.

This ancient piece, found in the vicinity of modern-day Iraq and believed to date back to the Parthian or Sassanid era (between 225 BC and AD 650), challenges our understanding of technological development. It’s a story that connects the ancient world with our modern one in a fascinating tale of science and history.

Discovery of the Baghdad Battery

The story of the Baghdad Battery begins in 1936. German archaeologist Wilhelm König discovered a set of 12 peculiar artifacts in the basement of the National Museum of Iraq. The artifacts, assumed to be about 2,000 years old, consisted of terracotta pots with a copper cylinder and a single iron rod inside.

Each “battery” was about 14 cm high, with a one-inch-wide mouth. The copper cylinder, carefully soldered with a 60-40 lead-tin alloy, encapsulated the iron rod. Evidence of an acidic residue such as vinegar or wine in some of the pots led König to propose that these were ancient electric cells.

The theory suggests that when the jars were filled with an electrolytic solution (like vinegar or lemon juice), they produced a potential difference between the copper and the iron — about 1.1 volts. This setup is remarkably similar to a basic school experiment to create a simple voltaic cell.

The primary controversy lies in the purpose of these devices. Some researchers propose that these ancient cells powered electroplating objects with gold. Others suggest a more spiritual role, possibly linked to pain relief. The sensation of a mild electric shock could have been interpreted as a divine intervention or magical experience.

Debates and Controversies

The theory of the Baghdad Battery as a tool for electroplating or electrotherapy is not without its critics. Skeptics argue that there’s no recorded evidence that ancient people had knowledge of electricity. Furthermore, there is no evidence of wires, conductors, or additional devices that could demonstrate a practical application for this alleged ancient technology.

Another point of contention lies in the design. If the intent was to generate an electric current, the iron rod would have quickly corroded due to the acidic solution. However, some of the recovered artifacts still have uncorroded iron rods, suggesting they might never have been used as proposed.

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Source: “Was the Baghdad Battery really a battery?” — BBC Science Focus

WTF Fun Fact 13466 – Cologne That Smells Like WD40

If you love the smell of a bustling workshop, you might appreciate a unique new cologne that smells like WD40 If so, this might be your dream come true. It’s called “Eau de Industrie.”

“Eau de Industrie” – The cologne that smells like WD40

The idea of a WD-40 scented cologne is nothing short of audacious, to say the least. However, it emerged from the creative minds at MSCHF, a company known for its innovative concepts. The team decided to push the envelope with a scent that recreates the distinct smell of this universal DIY staple.

As bizarre as it may sound, “Eau de Industrie” is a testament to the creativity of modern perfume makers. Creating a fragrance that successfully captures the essence of a substance known for its lubricating properties rather than its aromatic appeal is no small feat.

The creators of the cologne had to strike the perfect balance between replicating the recognizable scent of the spray and ensuring it was wearable. It’s a distinctively metallic, slightly smoky, and ultimately unmistakable aroma.

Would you wear it?

There’s a growing market for unconventional colognes and perfumes. Scent profiles now extend far beyond the traditional floral, musk, and citrus bases. Fragrances inspired by the smell of things like fresh rain, old books, or even a specific city are gaining popularity. WD-40 cologne is part of this wave, appealing to those with a penchant for the smell of a busy workshop.

Now, if you want to get your hands on “Eau de Industrie” you’re in for a challenge. The cologne immediately sold out on the company’s website. While it sold for $44, resellers have marked up the price significantly. Of course, you should never substitute the cologne with the real thing! Just keep your fingers crossed for a restock.

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Source: “MSCHF Releases “Smells Like WD-40″ Cologne” — Hypebeast

WTF Fun Fact 13465 – Hamburger University

It’s harder to get into McDonald’s Hamburger University than some Ivy League schools.

That’s right, McDonald’s is in the business of education. Hamburger University, or HU as it’s commonly referred to, was founded in 1961 by Fred Turner, McDonald’s former senior chairman and one of Ray Kroc’s earliest employees. He recognized that the success of the rapidly expanding McDonald’s franchise was dependent on consistent quality and service. So, Turner decided to open a training center. The goal? To educate franchisees on the methods of running a successful and efficient McDonald’s restaurant.

The first campus was situated in the basement of a McDonald’s restaurant in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. With only a handful of students, the inaugural class might have been small, but the idea was grand. Today, Hamburger University boasts seven campus locations worldwide, including Tokyo, London, and Shanghai.

What You Learn at Hamburger University

When it comes to the curriculum, HU is not, contrary to what you might think, a place to perfect the art of burger flipping. Instead, the University provides a comprehensive leadership development program. The classes taught at HU are rigorous and cover restaurant fundamentals, business growth strategies, leadership skills, and management systems.

Graduates receive a Bachelor of Hamburgerology degree, a whimsical yet fitting title that encapsulates the unique education provided at the university.

The Global Influence of Hamburger University

The global reach and impact of Hamburger University are noteworthy. In China, for example, getting into Hamburger University is a highly competitive feat, with an acceptance rate even lower than Harvard’s. The demand for HU in China reflects the country’s fast-growing fast-food market and the value placed on the managerial training provided by McDonald’s.

The influence of HU extends beyond McDonald’s restaurants. Many HU graduates have used their skills to start their businesses or move into senior roles in other industries.

Investing in People

The story of HU highlights McDonald’s understanding that its most significant investment is its people. The institution represents the company’s commitment to providing career advancement opportunities for its employees. It’s also dedicated to ensuring uniform standards of quality and service in McDonald’s outlets worldwide.

By investing in employee development, McDonald’s improves its operations and contributes to the broader community by providing valuable business skills.

So, whether you’re munching on a Quarter Pounder in the heart of New York or enjoying a Filet-O-Fish in a bustling Tokyo outlet, remember: the efficient service and consistent taste are likely to have been honed at McDonald’s very own higher education institution, the Hamburger University.

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Source: “Lessons from McDonald’s Hamburger University: Training For Retention” — LA Eats