WTF Fun Fact 13242 – An AI Discovery

An AI discovery stunned literature enthusiasts in early 2023. An artificial intelligence (AI) technology being used to transcribe anonymous historic works at Spain‘s National Library managed to identify a play that was actually written by Felix Lope de Vega, one of Spain’s great playwrights.

How did the AI discovery come about?

According to CNN: “The National Library said on Tuesday that experts later confirmed that the Baroque playwright — one of the most prominent names of the Spanish Golden Age — wrote “La francesa Laura” (The Frenchwoman Laura) a few years before his death in 1635.”

The manuscript in the library’s archives is a copy. However, no one knew there was an original. That may have been destroyed.

Researchers from universities in Vienna and Valladolid used AI to digitize 1,300 anonymous manuscripts and books at the library. This allowed a machine to scan the text and transcribe it without requiring years of human labor.

The algorithm was also designed to compare traits of the previously anonymous plays to known plays in order to find similarities. And that’s precisely how La francesca Laura was identified as one of Felix Lope de Vega’s plays.

The National Library said the words used in the text were “closely aligned with Lope’s, and not with those of the other 350 playwrights who were part of the experiment.”

According to CNN, “Experts then used traditional philological research resources to corroborate the findings.” In other words, they went through the known history of the author for hints that he wrote such a play.

A new classic

CNN summarized the play:

“The plot focuses around Laura, the daughter of the Duke of Brittany and wife to Count Arnaldo. The heir to the French throne is captivated by her, and although she rejects him, her jealous husband tries to poison her. Ultimately, Laura’s righteousness is proven and happiness is restored.”

The play will be published by Gredos publishing house later in 2023.  WTF fun facts

Source: “AI reveals unknown play by one of Spain’s greatest writers in library archive” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 13102 – The Spanish National Anthem

The Spanish national anthem is one of the few national anthems with no words. The lyric-less tune, “Marcha Real,” has led to some confusion in other nations while watching events like the Olympics and World Cup as TV watchers from the U.S. tweet out things like “I can’t believe the Spanish team refuses to sing their national anthem.” But it’s not for a lack of patriotism!

The national anthems with no words

The “Marcha Real” (or Royal March”) is one of only four national anthems with no words. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and San Marino’s anthems are also instrumentals.

So, it’s rare, but it’s there. And it does tend to lead to awkward moments in stadiums as well when other teams belt out the words to their nation’s anthem. Typically, the Spanish have craftily made do with humming along or “na na na’ing” along to the tune, but players normally stand in silence.

A brief tenure during which the Spanish anthem had lyrics

According to the music website Classic FM, The ‘Marcha Real’ was composed in 1761 by Manuel de Espinosa de los Monteros. It was designed as a military march for the Spanish Infantry. King Charles III declared it the official march of Span in the 1770s, and later it was named the nation’s anthem.

There have been attempts to give it words, but none have been accepted by the government.

Classic FM notes: “During the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, the following lyrics, written by fascist poet José María Pemán, were employed.”

And it went a little something like this:

Long live Spain! Raise your arms, sons
Of the Spanish People, which rebirths anew.
Glory to the Fatherland that knew how to follow,
Over the Ocean blue, the course of the setting sun.
Triumph, Spain! The yokes and the arrows
Sing to the rhythm of the anthem of faith.
Let’s stand and sing along with them
For the new and strong life of work and peace.
Long live Spain! Raise your arms, sons
Of the Spanish People, which rebirths anew.
Glory to the Fatherland that knew how to follow,
Over the Ocean blue, the course of the setting sun.

Spain became a democracy after Franco’s death, however, and the lyrics were left behind in the ash heaps of history.  WTF fun facts

Source: “What is the Spanish national anthem, and why does it have no words?” — Classic FM

WTF Fun Fact 12985 – World’s Oldest Siblings (Combined Age)

Twelve siblings in Spain’s Gran Canaria (in the Canary Islands) have been granted the new record for their combined age. The world’s oldest siblings (in terms of combined age) were 1,058 years and 249 days old as of the moment their record was confirmed.

That’s A LOT of family reunions.

Earning the record for oldest siblings

The family said in a statement that “It all started as a joke during a family reunion in June. Then, after seeing a newspaper article titled ’12 siblings count more than 1000 years,’ we started gathering information and reached out to Guinness World Records.”

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Hernández-Pérez family lives in the town of Moya, on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain. lives a very special family.

Their record is for the highest combined age of 12 living siblings, and they surpassed the previous group by a whopping 16 years!

The Hernández-Pérez siblings had been around for a total of 1,058 years 249 days as of September 28, 2022.

One big, happy family

Parents Modesto Hernández and Martina Pérez raised their family in Moya, and all 12 children have spent their entire lives there. Their seven sons and five daughters range in age from 76 and 98 years old.

The siblings are spaced pretty evenly apart:

Jose (b. 1924)
Alejandro (b. 1926)
Carmen (b. 1928)
Juan (b. 1929)
Rosario (b. 1930)
Amanda (b. 1932)
Modesto (b. 1934)
Angela (b. 1936)
Francisco (b. 1938)
Gloria (b. 1941)
Miguel (b. 1943) 
Luis (b. 1946)

The siblings’ ages have been confirmed and notarized by a local official.

Family pride

According to the Guinness Book of World Records (cited below): “The family is always talking about the record in their group chat, or sharing anecdotes on the record. The accolade had a positive impact on their lives, and further cemented their bond.

They believe their city is better for having so many large and long-lived family units.

“…other than the great pride and joy that the family found in breaking a world record, they also hope that it will be ‘a recognition and homage for all those families in our city (and, more in general, in the island) that counted 8 or more siblings. Those families fought and sacrificed a lot to improve our present society and life,’ they said.”

Their memories obviously go back to many decades, and life has changed dramatically over their livetimes:

“Among the difficulties of the 30s, 40s and 50s, there was no technology, no public transport and very few doctors,” the siblings recalled. “We had to walk several miles for food and school, and always by foot.”

The siblings recalled working in the fields, helping out in the neighborhood, the home births of their siblings, and plenty of parties during which each child played an instrument for entertainment.

The D’Cruz family of Pakistan previously held the record for combined sibling age. WTF fun facts

Source: “12 siblings break record with a combined age of 1,058 years” — Guinness Book of World Records

WTF Fun Fact 12829 – Orca Attacks

We’ve all seen orcas (aka Orcinus orca and “killer whales”) in photos, theme parks, or films (Free Willy, for example). They’re big, they’re black and white, and they are generally represented as friendly to humans (despite their name). And, to be fair, despite recent orca attacks, the vast majority of orcas have long been friendly – or at least tolerant – towards humans.

What’s up with the orca attacks?

Two summers ago, in 2020, a group of orcas off the coast of Portugal got agitated and started attacking boats. We don’t know why; we just know that it scared a lot of people to have a humungous animal try to nip at the bottom of their boats to the point of nearly sinking them.

Unfortunately, we can’t get the whales’ side of the story.

But we do know that behavior continued and that boaters of the coasts of both Spain and Portugal have continued to have their boats attacked from below by groups of orcas. And it’s gotten so common and so dangerous that some leisure boaters (the tourists, for the most part) are being asked not to go out into the waters for their own good.

The warnings are generally directed at nighttime boaters, who might sorely want to see the beautiful lights of Porto from the sea on a whimsical sailboat, but who would be putting themselves and rescuers in danger if they needed to be saved from capsizing when it’s dark.

Ok, but they are called “killer whales,” right?

Of course, there’s lots of speculation about why the whales are behaving this way, but most of it is just guessing, which isn’t very helpful (because most of it is uninformed and comes from people who don’t know much about the creatures’ behavior).

Some want to blame humans’ disrespect for the sea. And while you might want to make that case and even have some cold-hard facts to back it up, the whales aren’t down there reading our climate and pollution reports (thankfully). And they have no opinion on yachts or rich people who can afford to go to Portugal and rent a sailboat.

And despite the name “killer whales,” they have no real history of hurting humans (in other words, they don’t eat us). The nickname comes from sailors long ago who saw them preying on other whales and even sharks. After all, they’re pretty enormous (weighing in sometimes at 6 tons – or over 12,000 pounds), and they need big meals.

So-called “killer whales” are apex predators. In other words, nothing preys on them – they’re at the top (or apex) of the food chain. They do kill, they just aren’t known for killing humans.

So, what’s the deal?

In one case, investigators found that two of the orca attacks were “perpetrated” by whales that were injured. Whether or not they were injured by boats and seeking to defend themselves is unclear. It could be the case that they were looking to eradicate what they thought was the source of their pain.

But it doesn’t seem like every orca that has attacked a boat is injured.

In some cases, the whales are also young. So it may be that they have a different and more destructive notion of “play time.”

Whatever the issue is, marine biologists agree that there’s nothing premeditated about the attacks. But they are happening and whatever is going on out there (which is under investigation by professionals), it’s much wiser to cancel the pleasure cruises for now and give them a chance to calm down.

Taking preventative measures is a lot smarter than risking getting rammed by a whale (of any kind).  WTF fun facts

Source: “Orcas Attack So Many Boats Sailors Are Being Told To Stay in Port at Night” — Newsweek