WTF Fun Fact 13579 – The Amazing, Changing Octopus Brain

The octopus brain is unlike anything we know. Octopuses rank among Earth’s most intelligent creatures. They boast a neuron count similar to dogs. But, over half of these neurons reside in their eight arms, not in a central brain. This neural setup sets them apart.

Now, researchers have discovered something even more peculiar. Octopuses can rewrite their RNA in reaction to temperature shifts. This action is akin to humans adjusting outfits according to the weather.

By editing their RNA, octopuses change how their cells produce proteins. This flexibility may help them cope with seasonal temperature shifts. Joshua Rosenthal, a lead biologist, calls this ability “extraordinary.”

RNA Editing: A Temporary Genetic Makeover

Humans undergo RNA editing, but it’s limited. It affects protein production in fewer than 3% of our genes. In contrast, advanced cephalopods can adjust most neural proteins through RNA editing. Motivated by this disparity, scientists sought the driving forces behind cephalopod RNA editing. They prioritized temperature, given its frequent fluctuations.

They gathered California two-spot octopuses, familiarizing them with varying water temperatures. Weeks later, they probed 60,000 RNA editing sites in the octopus genomes. A third of these sites showed changes occurring astonishingly fast, from mere hours to a few days. Eli Eisenberg, another lead researcher, found the widespread changes unexpected.

Most of these changes manifested in cold conditions. They influenced proteins crucial for cell membrane health, neuron signal transmission, controlled cell death, and neuron calcium binding. Although these protein variants arise from RNA editing, Eisenberg admits that the complete adaptive benefits remain elusive.

Wild octopuses from both summer and winter displayed similar RNA changes. This solidified the belief in temperature as a major influencer in RNA editing for octopuses.

Protective RNA Editing for the Octopus Brain

Octopuses can’t control their body temperature like mammals can. Thus, scientists theorize that RNA editing acts as a protective mechanism against temperature shifts. Eisenberg elaborates that octopuses might opt for protein versions optimal for prevailing conditions. Such adaptive behavior is absent in mammals.

Heather Hundley, an external biologist, praised this groundbreaking study. She highlighted its potential in reshaping our understanding of RNA editing as a dynamic regulatory process in response to environmental changes.

The future beckons more investigations. The team plans to examine other potential RNA editing triggers in the octopus brain. Factors like pH, oxygen levels, or even social interactions might hold further insights. With each revelation, the octopus brain continues to astound the scientific community.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Octopuses Redesign Their Own Brain When They Get Chilly”‘ — Scientific American

WTF Fun Fact 13498 – Record High Temperature

Both Alaska and Hawaii share the same record high temperature of 100°F (37.8°C). It’s quite the surprise for many since Hawaii is a tropical paradise, while Alaska is often associated with icy landscapes and freezing temperatures. Let’s dive into this.

Setting the Stage for a Record-High Temperature

Alaska: Often termed “The Last Frontier,” Alaska is known for its vast wilderness, glacial landscapes, and cold climate. Its Arctic and subarctic climates lead to long, harsh winters and brief summers. However, Alaska isn’t just a frozen wasteland. It has a variety of microclimates, and during its short summer, some regions can get quite warm.

Hawaii: The Aloha State is synonymous with tropical paradise, boasting a warm climate year-round. Hawaii’s location in the central Pacific Ocean ensures it has a tropical climate moderated by oceanic influences. This results in balmy, warm temperatures throughout the year but rarely sees extremes.

The 100-Degree Record-Setting Days

For Alaska, the record was set on June 27, 1915, in Fort Yukon. This town lies just inside the Arctic Circle—a region more associated with sub-zero temperatures than scorching heat. A combination of clear skies, long daylight hours (thanks to its position close to the Arctic Circle), and specific atmospheric conditions allowed for this record-setting temperature.

Hawaii, on the other hand, saw its record 100°F on April 27, 1931, in Pahala, a small town on the Big Island. This record is especially remarkable considering Hawaii’s consistent climate. The island’s oceanic surroundings and regular trade winds generally keep extreme temperatures at bay.

Why Do Hawaii and Alaska Have the Same Record High Temperature?

The Extremes of Latitude: Alaska’s high temperature record may seem surprising, but it’s important to remember that during the summer months, areas close to the Arctic Circle experience almost continuous daylight. This phenomenon, known as the Midnight Sun, means that the ground and the air can continue warming throughout the day and night.

Oceanic Moderation in Hawaii: The vast Pacific Ocean surrounding the Hawaiian Islands plays a crucial role in keeping the state’s temperatures relatively consistent. Water has a high heat capacity, meaning it can absorb and release heat slowly. As a result, areas close to large bodies of water—like Hawaii—tend to have milder, more stable temperatures. While Hawaii does experience warmth, it’s the consistency rather than the extremes that characterizes its climate.

Microclimates and Atmospheric Anomalies: Both states have diverse topographies and climates within their borders. In Alaska, interior regions, shielded from the marine influences, can see more significant temperature fluctuations. Hawaii has elevation changes, leading to cooler areas atop Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa compared to coastal regions. Specific atmospheric conditions, such as high-pressure systems, can lead to unusually high temperatures, even in areas where they might seem out of place.

The Bigger Picture

While this shared record is an interesting climatic quirk, it also underscores the complexity of our planet’s weather and climate systems. Two states, with seemingly opposite general climates, can have moments of convergence due to a multitude of factors.

Moreover, such records emphasize the importance of understanding local weather patterns and anomalies when considering broader climate trends. Just as one cold day doesn’t negate global warming, a single hot day in Alaska doesn’t define its typical climate. It’s the broader patterns and consistent data over time that give us insight into our changing world.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Hottest Temperatures Recorded In All 50 States” — Weather Underground

WTF Fun Fact 13387 – Earth’s Core May Be Hotter Than The Sun

Scientists believe that the Earth’s core, consisting primarily of iron and nickel, may be hotter than the surface of the sun, with temperatures reaching up to 5,500 degrees Celsius (9,932 degrees Fahrenheit).

Why do scientists think the Earth’s core is hotter than the sun’s surface?

The Earth’s core, located approximately 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) beneath the Earth’s surface, remains an elusive and challenging realm for direct exploration. Despite the inability to physically access the core, scientists have employed a combination of sophisticated techniques, including theoretical modeling and seismic studies, to gain insights into its temperature.

Scientists use the analysis of seismic waves generated by earthquakes to study the temperature of the planet’s core. By studying the behavior of these waves as they travel through different layers of the Earth, scientists can infer valuable information about the planet’s internal structure and temperature distribution.

Through seismic studies, scientists have determined that the core’s temperature increases significantly as one ventures deeper into the Earth. The most scorching temperatures are found at the boundary between the outer and inner core, approximately 3,200 miles beneath the Earth’s surface. Here, researchers estimate that the temperature reaches nearly 6,000 degrees Celsius (10,800 degrees Fahrenheit). So, if that’s the case, then the earth’s core is hotter than the sun.

Where’d that heat come from?

Interestingly, the heat in the Earth’s core does not come from the sun. The core’s exceptional temperatures are sustained by two primary heat sources. The first source of heat originates from the residual energy trapped within the Earth since its formation around 4.5 billion years ago. During the Earth’s early stages, countless collisions and mergers between rock fragments produced an immense amount of heat, some of which remains within the core to this day.

The second source of heat within the core arises from the radioactive decay of isotopes present throughout the Earth. Radioactive elements such as potassium-40, thorium-232, uranium-235, and uranium-238 release energy as they undergo decay, contributing to the overall heat budget of the core.

While the core’s temperatures may exceed those of the sun’s surface, it is important to note that the conditions in the core are drastically different. The core’s high pressures prevent its iron-nickel composition from vaporizing into gas despite the extreme temperatures.

This unique combination of heat and pressure creates an environment that sustains the core in a liquid or solid state.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “How has Earth’s core stayed as hot as the sun’s surface for billions of years?” — Space.com

WTF Fun Fact 12978 – How Does Temperature Affect the Color of Leaves?

Have you noticed that autumn looks a bit different every year? Sometimes the leaves fall early. Other times they’re on the trees much longer to give a full display of color. A lot of this has to do with the temperature outside. But how does temperature affect the color of leaves?

The temperature of fall and its effect on leaves

As the nights get cooler in the northern hemisphere in September and October, we begin to see the trees change. If you’re lucky enough to live around a mixture of trees, you’ll begin to see bright red, orange, and yellow leaves appear.

Without as much daily sunlight, trees don’t go through as much photosynthesis. This is aprocess that produces sugars, which trees use as energy to grow and flower.

A reduction in photosynthesis leads to a reduction in chlorophyll as well, which is the pigment that makes leaves green. As they lose chlorophyll, they lose their green color and prepare to shed for the winter so trees can conserve their energy inside the branches and bark.

How does temperature affect the color of leaves?

But that still doesn’t explain the role of temperature.

The weather leading up to shorter days is actually quite important when it comes to determining how fall plays out for leaves .

We know that a reduction in chlorophyll leads to leaves being less green, but what makes some seasons produce more vibrant red leaves than others? Why does a tree turn bright orange one year and only a dull copper the next year?

Well, it turns out that the pigments that begin to show up once chlorophyll is reduced are dependent on both temperature and moisture conditions right before days start getting shorter. For example, some weather conditions make a leaf turn red early. It also helps it stay on the tree longer, so it goes through its full range of colors before falling off.

The role of weather in fall leaf displays

According to scientists at Michigan State (cited below), lots of warm days and cool nights narrow the veins in leaves. This helps trap the sugars made during photosynthesis in those leaves. When this happens, the sugars produce more vivid pigments.

“The most brilliant leaf displays follow a period of warm days filled with sunshine and cool nights. During this weather cycle, leaves produce an abundance of sugars during the sunny days. The cooler nights and gradual narrowing of leaf veins in the fall, means that a majority of the sugars produced are trapped in the leaf. An abundance of sugar and light in the leaf lead to the production of vivid anthocyanin pigments, which produce red, purple and crimson colors. Yellow and gold leaf colors are produced by carotenoid pigments, which are ever-present in the leaves and are therefore less dependent on the aforementioned conditions.”

Other factors in fall leaves

“Soil moisture also plays a role in the timing and brilliance of leaf color. The best displays are produced when the soil has been adequately moist throughout the year coupled with the aforementioned late summer weather. A late spring, or severe summer drought can delay the onset of color. A warm period during the fall can also decrease the intensity of fall colors by triggering early leaf drop before the colors have had a chance to develop.”

Finally, MSU explains that other factors can play a role in individual trees:

“Trees on the edge of low-lying areas, where cooler air collects at night, often display colors sooner than trees in an upland forested setting. Trees that are diseased or in decline may also display fall colors earlier than their healthy neighbors.

And that’s why no two autumns will ever look the same.  WTF fun facts

Source: “How weather affects fall colors” — Michigan State University Extension

WTF Fun Fact 12718 – Crickets Can Tell You The Temperature

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front. While we call the method of measuring temperature using cricket chirps “Dolbear’s law,” the idea was first laid out in 1881 by Margarette W. Brooks. Her report “Influence of temperature on the chirp of the cricket” was published in Popular Science Monthly, it just wasn’t noticed until after Amos Dolbear published an 1897 article called “The Cricket as a Thermometer” 16 years later.

Regardless, it’s known as Dolber’s law, and it states that there is a connection between the air temperature and the rate at which crickets chirp. And it’s accurate for the field cricket within about 1 degree Fahrenheit.

It’s kind of like counting the seconds between lightning strikes and thunder, except way more inconvenient.

However, it is true that crickets chirp more speedily as the weather warms up. Dolbear realized this because crickets chirp consistently – that makes it possible to use the numbers in an equation.

In the original paper, Dolbear said you can get the approximate temperature in degrees Fahrenheit based on the times a cricket chirps in 1 minute – but you have to do some more math.

T_{F}=50+\left({\frac  {N_{{60}}-40}{4}}\right).
In other words, T = 50+[(N-40)/4]
T = temperature
N = number of chirps per minute

If you want a shortcut for Celcius, you can use the number of chirps in 8 seconds and add 5.

Of course, there are many types of crickets, and Dolbear realized they each had a different rate of chirping. So he created new equations for other species. The problem for us is that we have to know which type of cricket we’re dealing with.

In fact, the common field cricket really isn’t the best cricket to use since its age, and whether it’s mating season can also affect the speed at which they chirp (so they’re not entirely consistent). But they’re probably good enough for a quick experiment. –WTF fun facts

Source: “How to Use Crickets to Calculate Temperature” — Thought Co.