WTF Fun Fact 13530 – Lost Nuclear Weapons

Would you believe 6 U.S. has lost nuclear weapons?

Nuclear weapons are often regarded as the pinnacle of military technology—devastatingly powerful and carefully guarded. Yet, even with stringent safety protocols, accidents and mistakes have happened.

The United States has lost control of six nuclear weapons, events referred to as “Broken Arrows.” These instances pose questions about the security and accountability measures governing the world’s most powerful arsenals.

The Incidents of Lost Nuclear Weapons

  1. 1950 – British Columbia: The first known loss occurred when a B-36 bomber experienced engine trouble. While en route from Alaska to Texas, the crew jettisoned the nuclear bomb over the Pacific Ocean before safely landing the plane. Despite search efforts, the bomb remains missing to this day.
  2. 1956 – Mediterranean Sea: Another instance occurred when a B-47 took off from Florida and disappeared without a trace over the Mediterranean Sea. The bomber was carrying two nuclear weapon cores. Neither the plane nor the weapons have been found.
  3. 1958 – Savannah, Georgia: A collision between a B-47 and an F-86 led to the bomber dropping a nuclear weapon into the waters near Tybee Island. The weapon, which was not armed with a fissile warhead, has yet to be recovered despite repeated search missions.
  4. 1961 – Goldsboro, North Carolina: In a near-catastrophic event, a B-52 carrying two nuclear bombs broke apart mid-air. One of the bombs deployed its parachute and was safely recovered, but the other fell into a muddy field and broke apart. The uranium core was never found.
  5. 1965 – Palomares, Spain: Another mid-air collision led to a B-52 dropping four hydrogen bombs near Palomares. Although the non-nuclear explosives in two bombs detonated upon impact, contaminating the area with plutonium, all four were eventually recovered.
  6. 1968 – Thule, Greenland: A B-52 crashed into sea ice near Thule Air Base, causing the onboard nuclear weapons to explode on impact sans nuclear detonation. The cleanup operation was only partially successful. It’s believed that one of the four nuclear weapons is still buried in the ice.

Implications

The loss of nuclear weapons has significant political, environmental, and security implications. Politically, these incidents have strained U.S. relations with other nations and led to debates on the control and management of nuclear arsenals. Environmentally, the incidents pose a risk of radioactive contamination, as seen in the Palomares incident. From a security standpoint, the loss of these weapons could pose a catastrophic risk if they were to fall into the wrong hands.

Accountability and Measures

The United States has invested significant resources into locating these missing nuclear weapons, often in collaboration with the countries where these incidents occurred. Advances in technology have aided in search efforts, but the success has been limited.

Stringent protocols have been put in place to prevent similar incidents. The military has also increased transparency with the public regarding these incidents. But much information remains classified for national security reasons.

The Uncomfortable Truth

The fact remains that six nuclear weapons are unaccounted for. While the chances of these weapons being operational are low. Bu their mere existence poses an existential threat that underscores the importance of stringent safety and security measures. As nuclear arsenals continue to evolve, the lessons learned from these “Broken Arrow” incidents remain a cautionary tale for all nations.

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Source: “Broken Arrows: Nuclear Weapons Accidents” — Atomic Archive

WTF Fun Fact 13529 – Beer Powered Motorcycle

Would you drive a beer powered motorcycle?

When it comes to invention and innovation, few names light up the room like Ky Michaelson, a Minnesota legend better known by his nickname, “the Rocketman.” With a lifetime of exploits in speed and engineering, from partnering with deaf stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil to setting over 70 state, national, and international speed records, Michaelson is a man who seems to never run out of fuel—both literally and metaphorically.

However, his latest project, a motorcycle powered by beer, adds another layer of allure to his already fascinating life story.

From Speed Records to Stuntman Collaborations

To begin appreciating the significance of the beer-powered motorcycle, it’s essential to dive into Michaelson’s career first. His roots in speed started with his partnership with Kitty O’Neil during the 1970s. O’Neil set the land speed record for the fastest woman on four wheels in 1976, reaching an eye-watering speed of 512 miles per hour. Michaelson’s reputation gained more traction after his work with O’Neil caught the attention of Hollywood stuntman Dar Robinson. Together, they worked on projects for movies like Logan’s Run, Airplane, the Police Academy series, and Lethal Weapon until Robinson’s untimely death in 1986.

Return to Rocket Roots

After Robinson’s death, Michaelson returned to Minnesota and went back to his first love: rockets. This man is not just about speed; he’s also about the extraordinary means to achieve it. He’s built a rocket-powered toilet and set a Guinness record with a rocket-powered snowmobile. Even his kitchen gadgets are high-speed, like a high-speed margarita maker with a weed-eater motor. Michaelson’s imagination knows no bounds, as he continually seeks to innovate and defy the norm.

Beer-Powered Motorcycle Innovation

Perhaps his most extraordinary creation is the beer-powered motorcycle. Designed alongside his son, Buddy, this unique machine swaps out the conventional gas engine for a 14-gallon keg. Yes, you read that correctly.

The motorcycle is fueled by beer heated to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows it to generate enough steam power to propel the bike forward. Interestingly, Ky Michaelson is not a drinker, making the choice of beer as fuel even more fascinating.

His pragmatic viewpoint? “The price of gas is getting up there. I don’t drink, so I can’t think of anything better than to use it for fuel.”

The Science Behind the Suds

The beer in the 14-gallon keg is heated by a coil until it reaches a boiling point of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it hits this temperature, the steam is forced out through a nozzle at the back of the bike, providing the thrust necessary for propulsion.

According to Michaelson’s calculations, the bike should be able to reach a top speed of about 150 miles per hour, although this hasn’t been tested yet.

Future of the Beer Powered Motorcycle

While the bike has already been showcased at local events and won awards, Michaelson aims to test its full capabilities at a drag strip soon. What’s more, the beer-cycle may eventually find its way into his in-house museum, alongside other fascinating inventions.

Interestingly, it doesn’t have to be beer fuel. Buddy, Michaelson’s son, stated that virtually any beverage could power the bike, opening the doors to further innovation. Could we see a coffee-powered or even Red Bull-powered version of the bike soon? Only time will tell.

So, the next time you pour yourself a cold beer, take a moment to think of Ky Michaelson, a man who saw a tankard not as a vessel for a drink, but as a fuel tank for uncharted possibilities. Cheers to that.

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Source: “A Minnesota Man Invented a Motorcycle That Runs on Beer” — Food & Wine

WTF Fun Fact 13528 – Crows and Owls

Nature offers many rivalries, but few are as captivating as the longstanding feud between crows and owls. These two avian species don’t see eye to eye, and their interactions are often intense.

Crows and Owls

Crows belong to the corvid family, known for intelligence and complex social structures. They live in groups called murders and often roam their territories searching for food. Crows are highly adaptable and can survive in various environments, from rural areas to cities.

Owls are the masters of silent hunting, capable of swooping down on prey without making a sound. They belong to different families, but most are solitary and nocturnal. Owls rely on their keen sense of hearing and exceptional night vision to locate and capture prey.

The Sources of the Dispute Between Crows and Owls

Both crows and owls are carnivorous and sometimes target the same food sources. Small mammals, insects, and even other birds fall into their menus. This dietary overlap fuels competition and neither species appreciates a rival infringing on its hunting ground.

These animals often stake out territories that overlap. Crows are territorial creatures and defend their space fiercely. Owls, though less social, are equally protective of their hunting grounds. When territories collide, so do the birds.

Crows are diurnal, active during the day, while most owls are nocturnal, active at night. You’d think this would minimize conflict, but it doesn’t. Crows often spot owls resting in trees during the day and raise an alarm. The noisy cawing alerts other crows, and soon a mob forms to drive the owl away.

Mobbing: A Crow’s Defense Mechanism

Crows engage in a behavior called “mobbing” when they encounter a predator like an owl. They swarm the predator, cawing loudly, diving at it, and even pecking it to drive it away. This tactic usually works, as the owl becomes overwhelmed and leaves the area.

Crows initiate these confrontations for a reason. Owls pose a threat to young crows and eggs, making them a natural enemy. By driving an owl away, crows protect their offspring from becoming a meal.

Owls are not the aggressors in these encounters, but they aren’t passive victims either. When cornered, owls will fight back. Their sharp talons and beaks are formidable weapons. However, they prefer to avoid such confrontations and will often vacate an area if mobbed regularly by crows.

Survival of the Smartest

The crow-owl rivalry isn’t just about survival but also intellectual engagement. Crows seem to understand that owls are predators, and their mobbing behavior suggests advanced problem-solving skills. Owls, for their part, know to evade areas frequented by aggressive crows.

The Role of Humans

Humans indirectly contribute to this rivalry by altering natural habitats. Urbanization pushes these birds closer together, making encounters more frequent. Ironically, human presence can also offer temporary truces; both species are known to raid human trash bins for easy meals, sometimes tolerating each other’s presence for the sake of food.

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Source: “Crows vs Owls: What is going on?” — Carleton College

WTF Fun Fact 13526 – Hercules Beetle

The Hercules beetle is a wonder in the world of insects, renowned for its colossal size and unique morphology. Originating from the rainforests of Central and South America, this beetle has a horn that can even surpass its own body length, making it a subject of intrigue for both scientists and insect enthusiasts.

Physical Characteristics of the Hercules Beetle

Notably, male Hercules beetles are the ones that sport elongated horns, which they primarily use for battling rivals when competing for mates. These horns boast a unique inner structure, built much like a honeycomb. This internal design enhances the horn’s durability while keeping it lightweight. The beetle’s strength-to-weight ratio is astounding; it has the capability to lift an astonishing 850 times its body weight. This herculean feat is what lends the beetle its mythological name, Hercules.

The life cycle of a Hercules beetle comprises four key stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Among these, the larval stage stretches the longest, often up to two years. During this period, the larvae sustain themselves on decaying wood, hidden away from predators.

Interestingly, the diet of the Hercules beetle is mostly plant-based. The larvae feed on rotting wood, aiding in forest decomposition. Adults prefer sugary foods like fruit, but also consume tree sap. This diet provides both nourishment and hydration, necessary for their survival in the wild.

The horn plays a pivotal role in the beetle’s mating rituals. Males engage in combative duels using their horns, tossing rivals off logs and branches to win the favor of a female. The horn, therefore, is not just for show but a tool for survival and propagation.

Human Engagement

Due to their unique appearance and relatively low maintenance, Hercules beetles have become popular pets. Beyond this, the scientific community is profoundly interested in these beetles. Studies often focus on the properties of the beetle’s exoskeleton, which could inspire advances in materials science.

Currently, it is not categorized as an endangered species. However, looming threats like habitat loss due to rampant deforestation put their population at risk. Environmental agencies emphasize the need for conservation efforts to protect this fascinating species.

Cultural Relevance

The Hercules beetle has permeated cultural consciousness in several ways. In Japan, children engage in beetle sumo wrestling as a form of entertainment. Additionally, the Hercules beetle appears in folklore and art, where it symbolizes traits like strength and bravery, much like its namesake.

The Hercules beetle captivates our imagination with its sheer size, unparalleled strength, and unique anatomical features. It serves as a vital subject in both scientific research and cultural narratives. Although it might not possess the divine attributes of its namesake, the Greek demigod Hercules, this remarkable beetle holds its own as a force in the natural world.

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Source: “Hercules Beetle” — AZ Animals

WTF Fun Fact 13525 – Elephant Dung Coffee

Who’s in the mood for some elephant dung coffee?

When you think about coffee, elephants probably don’t come to mind. But in the case of Black Ivory Coffee, these gentle giants play a crucial role. Produced mainly in Thailand, this luxurious brew costs a fortune but offers a unique taste experience that leaves a lasting impression.

Elephant Dung Coffee Really Exists

Farmers feed carefully selected Arabica coffee cherries to elephants. The animals savor the cherries, and their digestive systems get to work. As the cherries pass through, a natural fermentation occurs. Later, farmers collect the beans from the elephants’ waste.

Why involve elephants? The answer lies in chemistry. The digestive enzymes of the elephant break down coffee’s bitter proteins. The process also adds new flavors to the beans, resulting in a complex profile with floral notes and less bitterness.

Cleanup and Roasting

After collection, workers thoroughly clean the beans. They then proceed to dry and roast them. The roasting heightens the unique flavors imparted during the elephant’s digestive process. After roasting, the beans are ready for brewing, and coffee connoisseurs can finally taste this exotic brew.

The unusual production method raises questions. Is it ethical to use elephants in this way? Producers argue that they treat the elephants with care and respect, ensuring a humane process. Some even allocate a portion of their earnings to elephant conservation efforts. Still, the debate continues.

Because an elephant processes a limited number of cherries and many beans get lost or damaged during digestion, the output remains low. This scarcity, coupled with labor-intensive collection and cleaning, explains the high cost, which often exceeds $500 per pound.

The Niche Market

Given its steep price, Black Ivory Coffee targets a specific audience. Luxury hotels and high-end restaurants primarily serve this unique beverage. These establishments cater to clientele who seek a rare and exclusive coffee experience.

For those who can afford it, brewing methods matter. Most prefer using a French press to fully capture the complexity of flavors. The result? A cup of coffee that not only delights the taste buds but also tells a story from bean to brew.

Conservation Questions about Elephant Dung Coffee

Some Black Ivory Coffee producers claim that their business aids elephant conservation. However, the extent to which these efforts actually benefit conservation initiatives remains unclear.

Black Ivory Coffee defies conventional coffee production and offers a taste experience that’s in a league of its own. Though it courts controversy and caters to a niche market, it also challenges our perceptions of what coffee can be.

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Source: “No. 1 Most Expensive Coffee Comes From Elephant’s No. 2” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 13524 – Lobsters Don’t Age

Lobsters don’t age.

This sea-dwelling crustacean defies the conventional understanding of aging by not showing signs of age-related decline. Here’s why lobsters have intrigued scientists and could potentially reshape our understanding of aging.

Biochemical Wizardry and Lobster Age

The secret behind a lobster’s seemingly eternal youthfulness lies in its biochemistry. Lobsters produce a substance called telomerase. This enzyme plays a role in maintaining the length of telomeres, which are protective caps at the ends of DNA strands.

In most organisms, including humans, telomeres shorten as they age, leading to cellular degeneration and eventually death. Lobsters, however, keep pumping out telomerase throughout their lives, maintaining their telomere length and, consequently, their cellular integrity.

Lobsters Don’t Age – Or Become Less Fertile

Another fascinating feature is that lobsters don’t experience a decline in fertility with age. In many species, reproductive capabilities wane over time. Not so for the lobster. Older females produce even more eggs than their younger counterparts. This aspect has led some researchers to speculate that lobsters may follow a different, if not unique, aging trajectory compared to other animals.

Lobsters continue to grow throughout their lives by molting. This involves shedding their exoskeleton and growing a new one. You might think that this process would become less efficient as the lobster ages, but that’s not the case. Each molt can result in a 14% increase in body size, irrespective of the lobster’s age.

The Age-Energy Paradox

You would assume that continuously growing and molting would require a tremendous amount of energy, and that this might become a constraint as lobsters age. Interestingly, lobsters do not face such limitations. They maintain robust metabolic rates and energy reserves, challenging the notion that energy capacity diminishes with age.

Another marvel lies in the lobster’s immune system. It doesn’t show signs of weakening with age, unlike in humans and other animals. Their robust immune systems add another layer of mystery to their already intriguing biology.

While lobsters don’t weaken with age, they aren’t immortal. Their demise usually comes from external factors like predation or disease. In their natural habitats, they have plenty of predators, including larger lobsters, fish, and even humans. As they grow bigger and older, they also become more susceptible to capture because they make for a more enticing meal.

Lobsters Don’t Age But They Don’t Live Forever

Though their bodies may not betray them, environmental conditions can still impact a lobster’s lifespan. Changes in water temperature, increased pollution, and loss of habitat can affect their longevity. Still, these factors do not trigger the internal mechanisms of decline that aging does in most other organisms.

The study of lobsters has far-reaching implications for understanding aging in other organisms, including humans. Researchers are keen on exploring whether the principles of the lobster’s longevity and resistance to aging can somehow be applied to human medicine. There’s ongoing research into telomerase, and it’s considered a hot topic in anti-aging studies.

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Source: “Are lobsters immortal?” — Natural History Museum

WTF Fun Fact 13523 – Narwhal Tusks

The narwhal is often referred to as the “unicorn of the sea.” The creature has long fascinated scientists and the public alike with its iconic spiraling tusk. However, recent research reveals that these tusks are not just ornamental; they serve as invaluable biological records.

Just like tree rings can tell us about environmental conditions, the growth rings in a narwhal’s tusk can shed light on the animal’s diet and the changes in its environment.

Studying Narwhal Tusks

An international team of scientists conducted a study by examining ten narwhal tusks obtained from Inuit hunters in northwest Greenland. The tusks, which are actually elongated canine teeth found only in males, were cut in half lengthwise to reveal their growth rings. Each ring represented one year in the life of the narwhal. By analyzing these rings, scientists could gain a unique window into the life history of these Arctic mammals.

Scientists discovered that narwhals’ diets have changed in response to the environmental changes in the Arctic. This change is partly due to the shrinking of sea ice.

They measured levels of mercury, as well as stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen within each ring. Doing so helped them decipher the types of prey the narwhals had consumed in different years. These markers provided a snapshot of the narwhals’ diets and indicated how high their prey sat on the food chain.

The Narwhal Diet

The researchers found that until the 1990s, when the ice cover in the Arctic was still “extensive but varying,” narwhals primarily fed on sea-ice-adjacent prey like halibut and Arctic cod. However, as the ice cover started to decline between 1990 and 2000, narwhals began to consume more open ocean species. These included such species as capelin and polar cod.

These open ocean species sit lower on the food chain. This was reflected in lower mercury levels in the tusk layers for those particular years.

What’s concerning is that even though narwhals’ diets remained relatively consistent after the year 2000, mercury levels in their tusks started to rise significantly. This increase is thought to be linked to increased coal combustion emissions from southeast Asia. This revelation raises concerns about how pollutants from human activities are affecting even the most remote ecosystems on Earth.

Prof. Rune Dietz of Denmark’s Aarhus University pointed out that tusks in museums around the world represent an untapped data bank. An analysis of these could provide critical insights into how narwhals have adapted to changes over different periods and in different regions. This could lay the foundation for assessing how they are likely to cope with ongoing environmental shifts.

What We Can Learn

This study underscores the importance of understanding how climate change and human activities are affecting marine ecosystems. It shows how even seemingly unrelated things—like coal combustion in one part of the world—can have a ripple effect that impacts the diet and health of animals living in a completely different region.

Narwhal tusks serve as natural archives. They can reveal the complex interplay between marine biology, environmental change, and even global industrial activities. And they’re helping researchers stitch together a more complete understanding of the Arctic ecosystem.

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Source: “Narwhal tusk rings reveal valuable environmental data” — New Atlas

WTF Fun Fact 13522 – The Tin Man’s Tears

In “The Wizard of Oz,” the Tin Man’s tears were supposed to be oil. But instead, they were chocolate syrup.

This delightful twist adds another layer of charm to a movie already rich in story and character.

Filming The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz, released in 1939, was a groundbreaking film for its time. The movie brought L. Frank Baum’s classic American fairy tale to life with its innovative use of Technicolor, detailed sets, and charming performances. However, the filmmakers faced a plethora of challenges in making the cinematic magic happen. One of those issues was how to depict various special effects realistically.

The Tin Man’s Tears

A significant concern was how to make the Tin Man’s oil look authentic on camera. Black-and-white films often used chocolate syrup as a stand-in for blood. That’s because its consistency and color look more convincing in grayscale.

Since the first part of “The Wizard of Oz” was in sepia tone, which is quite similar to black and white, the crew decided to use the same tried-and-true method for the Tin Man’s “oil.”

Jack Haley, the actor who portrayed the Tin Man, is another essential part of this quirky tale. Imagine being in a bulky, uncomfortable costume for hours and then having chocolate syrup poured on you! Yet, Haley pulled off a performance that made the Tin Man one of the most endearing figures in cinema history.

Hidden Advantages

While using chocolate syrup might sound like a humorous and arbitrary choice, it actually offers several benefits. Its thick, viscous consistency made it ideal for slow, dramatic drips that could be captured on camera. Furthermore, the syrup’s opacity made it visible against the Tin Man’s metallic costume, enhancing its photogenic qualities.

This behind-the-scenes tidbit about chocolate syrup has become part of the Wizard of Oz’s larger lore. Fans and film historians alike relish such quirky details. They are the tidbits that make classics come alive in new ways, offering fresh layers of understanding.

Reaction from Audiences

While the audiences at the time had no idea they were witnessing chocolate syrup instead of oil, this revelation has added to the movie’s enduring appeal. It becomes a fun anecdote to share, a slice of cinematic history that surprises and delights fans when they first hear of it.

The use of chocolate syrup as a stand-in for oil is also a lesson in resourcefulness and ingenuity. Filmmakers often have to think on their feet and adapt, finding unconventional solutions to unexpected problems. In this case, the solution was not only effective but also added an unexpected layer of sweetness, quite literally, to the tale of the Tin Man.

The Tin Man’s Tears Live On

Today, this story of how a common kitchen item was used to solve a cinematic challenge is part of the enduring lore surrounding one of the most beloved films in American history. It illustrates the lengths artists will go to bring their visions to life. It’s something that makes us appreciate these iconic scenes all the more.

So the next time you watch “The Wizard of Oz” and reach the moment when the Tin Man is joyously “oiled” back to life, remember—sometimes, magic is made from the most unexpected ingredients. In this case, it’s not just movie magic, but also a bit of chocolatey sweetness that adds to the Tin Man’s heartwarming tale.

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Source: “This Wizard of Oz character had delicious tears, and here’s why” — The Digital Fix

WTF Fun Fact 13521 – Reagan’s Joke About Russia

It was August 11, 1984, when U.S. President Ronald Reagan delivered a joke that would reverberate far beyond the recording studio – in fact, Reagan’s joke about Russia had global consequences.

He was at a soundcheck for his weekly Saturday radio address. While testing the microphone, he said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Those in the room chuckled. But the situation quickly escalated when the comment, meant to be off-the-record, was leaked to the public.

Global Consequences

The joke quickly made headlines and caused alarm both domestically and internationally. The comment coincided with heightened Cold War tensions, and people across the world anxiously speculated about the possibility of a nuclear standoff.

The Soviet Union, Reagan’s joking target, was not amused. Soviet troops reportedly went on high alert, and some media outlets said that Soviet ships temporarily moved out of their usual positions, causing the joke to momentarily shift into a potential global crisis.

When the joke leaked, media outlets had a field day. The incident sparked debates on the ethics of publishing off-the-record comments, the responsibilities of a world leader, and the heightened stakes of political rhetoric during a volatile time.

The media also questioned the humor behind the joke, leading to discussions about the appropriate boundaries for political satire.

Public Reaction to Reagan’s Joke about Russia

Public opinion was divided. While some dismissed the joke as a harmless, albeit tasteless, gaffe, others felt it was reckless. Protests broke out in multiple cities, and the incident stoked fears among a public already anxious about the Cold War.

Many felt that a world leader, especially the President of the United States, should exercise more caution with their words, given their broad implications.

Though the Soviet Union officially downplayed the incident, it did add another layer of frost to the already icy relationship between the two superpowers.

Diplomatic talks took a hit, and the event proved to be a setback in Reagan’s later attempts to engage the Soviet Union in disarmament negotiations. It served as a harsh reminder that words from global leaders, even in jest, can have significant diplomatic consequences.

Lessons Learned

In the years that followed, Reagan and other subsequent leaders seemed to have taken the lesson to heart.

The incident served as a case study of the importance of measured speech for politicians. Government officials underwent additional training and briefings on media interaction, emphasizing the risks of off-the-record comments leaking to the public.

Reagan faced significant criticism in the immediate aftermath, including from members of his own party.

While the incident did not directly contribute to a loss in the presidential election later that year, it did cast a long shadow over his foreign policy credentials.

Many historians argue that the incident was a turning point that led to increased scrutiny of Reagan’s diplomatic initiatives and strategies.

Enduring Legacy of Reagan’s Joke about Russia

Today, the incident is often cited in courses on political science, media ethics, and international relations. Instructors use it as an example of how easily words can escalate into global concerns. It’s a cautionary tale that has stood the test of time. Now, it’s a reminder to future generations of leaders to weigh their words carefully. Even when they think the microphones are off.

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