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

WTF Fun Fact 12828 – Walking Sharks

You have to be of a certain age to remember Steve Martin’s LAND SHARK! But when we think of walking sharks, this is where our mind goes. Anything else is simply too terrifying.

Of course, you don’t have to worry about a shark walking down the street. They walk underwater. For now…

Are there really walking sharks?

So, yes, there is a shark that can “walk.” But it’s rare, it’s small, and it’s not out to get you. Sorry to ruin the surprise so early in the explanation.

You may have seen the shark on social media since some guy saw one on a trip somewhere in Indonesia, hadn’t watched enough Shark Week, and then posted a video insisting he discovered a new type of shark. Of course, once marine biologists saw the footage they all said “Yeah, duh, that’s so 2006.” They’ve known about these sharks for a while, discovering them in 2006 in the Bird’s Head Seascape of West Papua, Indonesia.

Conservation International’s Mark Erdmann and his team currently study the walking sharks and their evolutionary origin. (Remember, if humans originated in the wet slime and eventually learned to walk on land, seeing a shark evolve to do the same is extra interesting!). And it turns out there are about 9 species of little sharks that can use their fins to both walk and swim.

So, what’s the real deal with these walking sharks?

According to Conservation News (cited below), these bottom-dwelling sharks “walk” using pectoral and pelvic fins. This allows them to traipse around coral reefs and stick their heads under rocks to look for more food.

Another cool fact about the sharks is that shark geneticists (which is definitely not a job we ever heard about during Career Day) have used genetic samples from shark fins to look at the genomes of these sharks, comparing them to older species to see when each branched off into a new species. In case you didn’t know, sharks are actually older than dinosaurs by about 200 million years. But according to these genetic analyses, walking sharks are only about 9 million years old.

If you’re still more freaked out than fascinated, just not that all 9 species “are found exclusively in a ring around Northern Australia, New Guinea and the satellite islands of Raja Ampat, Aru, and Halmahera in Indonesia.”

If you want to see the walking shark in all its glory, check out the video below:

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Source: “Discovery afoot: New study cracks mystery of how ‘walking’ sharks split” —

WTF Fun Fact 12570 – The Telephone’s Real Inventor

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was one of a handful of men who were working on a machine that transmitted vocal communications telegrphically. But we only remember him because he got to the patent office first (and he was already a well-known inventor).

Historians and government officials have since reexamined the research and found that Bell wasn’t actually the first to create the world-changing technology. That honor goes to an Italian-American immigrant and mechanical genius from Florence, Antonio Meucci.

In fact, in 2002, U.S. Congress recognized an impoverished Florentine immigrant as the inventor of the telephone rather than Alexander Graham Bell. The Guardian reported, “Historians and Italian-Americans won their battle to persuade Washington to recognize a little-known mechanical genius, Antonio Meucci, as a father of modern communications, 113 years after his death.”

“It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged,” the resolution stated. (You can read the resolution (107th Congress, H Res 269) on

While you might think there was a mad dash to the patent office, it’s actually the case that 16 years went by between Meucci’s demonstration of his “teletrofono” in New York in 1860 and Graham’s 1876 patent.

However, it was Bell’s telephone design that ended up being used to create the first telephones, so he does deserve some pretty massive credit. It’s just that Meucci deserves some and well and never really gets it.

The title of the most annoyed competitor of Bell’s likely goes to Elisha Gray, a professor at Oberlin College. He actually sent his lawyer to the patent office on the same day. Bell’s lawyer got to the desk first on February 14, 1876. His filing was the fifth entry of the day, while Gray’s lawyer was 39th. The U.S. Patent Office awarded Bell with the first patent for a telephone (US Patent Number 174,465).

Some historians actually claim that Bell knew what was happening and may have bribed someone at the patent office to doctor documents showing his patent came in first, but we’ll probably never know. – WTF Fun Fact

Source: “Who is credited with inventing the telephone?” — Library of Congress

WTF Fun Fact – Games For Science

WTF Fun Fact - Gamers Solve Science Problem

After 13 years of trying to find the structure of a protein, scientists created an online competitive game called Foldit that asked gamers to try and solve it. The structure was then found in 3 weeks. WTF Fun Facts