WTF Fun Fact 13678 – Hippos Make Their Own Sunscreen

Hippos make their own sunscreen. And it’s all natural!

Sunny Hippos

Hippos spend a significant amount of time submerged in water to keep cool under the hot African sun. However, they can’t stay underwater forever. When they emerge, they’re exposed to the same UV radiation that has us humans slathering on sunscreen. But nature has equipped hippos with a remarkable solution.

Hippos secrete a reddish fluid from their skin, often referred to as “blood sweat.” But don’t be alarmed; it’s neither blood nor sweat. This secretion is unique to hippos and serves multiple purposes, including acting as a potent sunscreen. This natural sunscreen is crucial for their survival, protecting their sensitive skin from sunburn and possibly even skin infections.

The Science of “Blood Sweat”

What makes this “blood sweat” so special? It’s a combination of two distinct pigments: one red (hipposudoric acid) and one orange (norhipposudoric acid). These pigments absorb ultraviolet light, preventing damaging rays from penetrating the hippo’s skin. Moreover, this secretion is both antibacterial and antifungal, providing an all-around protective barrier for the hippo’s skin.

Researchers have studied these pigments, hoping to unlock their secrets for potential applications in human sunscreens. The idea of a sunscreen that not only protects from UV radiation but also offers antibacterial and antifungal benefits is certainly appealing.

How Hippos Make their Own Sunscreen

The hippo’s “blood sweat” isn’t just about sun protection. This secretion also helps to regulate their body temperature. As the liquid evaporates, it cools the skin, much like sweating does for humans. This is vital for an animal that spends time in both the scorching heat and the water.

This multifaceted secretion underscores the complexity of nature’s adaptations. Hippos, with their massive size and seemingly leisurely lifestyle, might not strike us as the pinnacle of evolutionary innovation. Yet, they carry within them a biochemical marvel that scientists are only beginning to understand fully.

In wrapping up this exploration into the hippo’s sunscreen, it’s clear that nature often holds the most sophisticated solutions to life’s challenges. The hippo’s ability to produce its sunscreen is a testament to the ingenuity of evolutionary adaptations, providing protection against the sun, bacterial and fungal infections, and helping regulate body temperature.

This unique adaptation not only highlights the importance of sun protection across the animal kingdom but also opens doors for scientific research. The potential applications of mimicking or harnessing the properties of the hippo’s “blood sweat” could revolutionize how we approach sunscreen and skin protection in the future.

In essence, the hippopotamus, with its hefty frame and aquatic lifestyle, is a walking, basking example of nature’s ability to find creative solutions for survival. So, the next time you reach for your bottle of sunscreen, spare a thought for the hippos, who have been basking under the African sun with their own built-in UV protection for millennia.

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Source: “How Do Some Animals Make Their Own Sunscreen?” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 13677 – A Day on Venus

A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus. Yes, you read that right. But before your brain does a somersault trying to wrap itself around this fact, let’s break it down into bite-sized chunks.

A Long Day on Venus

First off, let’s talk about planetary rotation. A rotation is how long it takes for a planet to spin once around its axis. For Earth, that’s what gives us a 24-hour day. Venus, on the other hand, takes its sweet time. It rotates once every 243 Earth days.

That’s right. If you were standing on Venus (ignoring the fact that you’d be crushed, suffocated, and cooked), you’d experience sunlight for about 116.75 Earth days before switching to an equal length of pitch-black night. That’s one slow spin, making its day extraordinarily long.

Orbiting on the Fast Track: Venus’s Year

Now, flip the script and consider how long it takes Venus to orbit the Sun, which is what we call a year. Venus zips around the Sun in just about 225 Earth days. This is where things get really interesting. Venus’s year (its orbit around the Sun) is shorter than its day (one complete rotation on its axis).

Imagine celebrating your birthday and then waiting just a bit longer to witness a single sunrise and sunset.

The Why Behind the Sky: Understanding the Peculiar Pace

So, why does Venus have such an unusual relationship with time? It all comes down to its rotation direction and speed. It’s is a bit of a rebel in our solar system; it rotates clockwise, while most planets, including Earth, rotate counterclockwise. This is known as retrograde rotation.

Scientists have a few theories about why Venus rotates so slowly and in the opposite direction. One popular theory is that a massive collision early in the planet’s history could have flipped its rotation or altered it significantly. Another theory suggests gravitational interactions with the Sun and other planets over billions of years have gradually changed its rotation speed and direction.

Regardless of the cause, Venus’s leisurely pace and quirky orbit give it the unique distinction of having days longer than its years. This fact not only makes Venus an interesting topic of study for astronomers but also serves as a fascinating reminder of the diversity and complexity of planetary systems.

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Source: “Interesting facts about Venus” — Royal Museums Greenwich

WTF Fun Fact 13676 – We Can’t Burp in Space

People can’t burp in space.

Now, you might wonder, why on Earth (or rather, off Earth) can’t astronauts do something as simple as burping? It boils down to gravity, or the lack thereof.

Why We Can’t Burp in Space

Here on Earth, gravity does a lot of work for us without us even noticing. When you eat or drink, gravity helps separate the liquid and gas in your stomach. The solids and liquids stay at the bottom, while the gas, being lighter, floats to the top. When there’s enough gas, your body naturally expels it as a burp. Simple, right?

But, take gravity out of the equation, and things get a bit more complicated. In space, there’s no up or down like here on Earth. This means that in an astronaut’s stomach, gas doesn’t rise above the liquid and solid. Instead, everything floats around in a mixed-up blob.

If an astronaut tries to burp, they’re not just going to expel the gas. No, they might bring up some of the liquid and solid matter too. Not exactly pleasant, and definitely something you’d want to avoid.

NASA Burp Training

NASA, being aware of this, actually trains astronauts on how to eat and drink in a way that minimizes the chances of needing to burp. They choose foods that are less likely to produce gas. Also, space food is designed to reduce crumbs and loose particles, which can be a nuisance in microgravity. Even with these precautions, though, the human body can still produce gas, thanks to the digestion process.

So, what happens to all that gas if it can’t come out as a burp? Well, it has to go somewhere. The body adapts in interesting ways. The gas might get absorbed into the bloodstream and expelled through the lungs. Or it might travel through the digestive tract and leave the body as flatulence. Yes, astronauts can still fart in space, which, without gravity to direct the flow, might be a bit more… interesting.

This isn’t just a quirky fact about space travel; it has real implications for astronaut health and comfort. Gas build-up can cause discomfort, bloating, and even pain. In the confined, zero-gravity environment of a spacecraft, managing these bodily functions becomes crucial for maintaining the well-being and harmony of the crew.

Bodies in Space

It’s funny to think about, but this no-burp scenario highlights a broader point about space travel. Living in space requires us to relearn and adapt basic bodily functions. Everything from sleeping to eating to going to the bathroom is different up there. Astronauts undergo extensive training to prepare for these challenges, learning how to live in a world without gravity’s guiding hand.

In the grand scheme of things, the inability to burp is just one small part of the vast array of adjustments humans must make to thrive in space. It serves as a reminder of how finely tuned our bodies are to life on Earth, and how much we take for granted the invisible forces that shape our everyday experiences.

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Source: “Ask an Explainer” — Smithsonian Institution

WTF Fun Fact 13669 – Iceland’s Comedian Mayor

Have you ever heard of Iceland’s comedian mayor, Jón Gnarr? He had an unexpected and captivating rise to political power when he became the Mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland.

From Laughter to Leader

Jon Gnarr wasn’t your typical mayoral candidate. Before venturing into the volatile waves of politics, Gnarr was best known for his work as a comedian and actor. His satirical radio shows and television sketches were beloved in Iceland, making him a household name. But it was in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that Gnarr found a new stage for his talents.

Iceland was hit hard by the financial meltdown, leading to widespread public distrust in the political establishment. Sensing the public’s yearning for change and perhaps a bit of levity during tough times, Gnarr founded the Best Party in 2009.

It was a satirical political party that started almost as a joke but quickly gained serious momentum.

Gnarr’s campaign was anything but ordinary. Promising a polar bear for the Reykjavik Zoo, free towels at public swimming pools, and a drug-free Parliament by 2020, his platform was a mix of the absurd and the appealing.

The Best Party’s campaign video, set to Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best,” became a viral sensation, showcasing the party’s unique blend of humor and honesty.

What set Gnarr apart was not just his comedic background but his transparency and refusal to play by the unwritten rules of political campaigning. He openly admitted that some of his promises were not realistic. This honesty, oddly enough, resonated with a populace tired of the same old political rhetoric.

Becoming Iceland’s Comedian Mayor

To the shock of many, Jón Gnarr won the mayoral election in 2010. His victory was seen as a direct response to the public’s frustration with the traditional political class. But the big question loomed: Could a comedian effectively lead a city?

Gnarr’s tenure as mayor was as unconventional as his campaign. He often appeared at official events dressed in drag or as a Star Wars character, yet behind the humor was a serious commitment to change. He prioritized human rights, welfare, and culture, and while not all his policies were successful, he brought a fresh, more human face to Icelandic politics.

Challenges and Controversies

Leading a city was not all laughs for Gnarr. He faced criticism for his lack of political experience and some of his more unconventional approaches. Moreover, governing in coalition with the traditionally serious Independence Party posed its own set of challenges and compromises.

Yet, throughout his term, Gnarr maintained his unique style and approach, arguing that humor could be a powerful tool to address serious issues.

Jón Gnarr chose not to seek re-election after his term ended in 2014.

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Source: “The joker: Jón Gnarr, the comedian who became mayor” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13667 – AI Predicts Life Events

Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to push the boundaries of what we believe is possible – in fact, now AI predicts human life events.

A groundbreaking study recently revealed the potential of AI to forecast significant life occurrences with notable precision.

AI Predicts Life’s Complex Patterns

At the heart of this innovative research is a model known as “ife2vec.” This transformative AI tool was trained using vast amounts of data about people’s lives. This includes their residence, education, income, health, and work conditions. By employing ‘transformer models’ akin to the renowned ChatGPT, life2vec systematically organized this data to predict future events. This includes their time of death.

The researchers’ approach was to treat human life as a sequence of events, much like words in a sentence. This method allowed the AI to identify patterns and make predictions about future occurrences. Surprisingly, life2vec demonstrated a superior ability to predict outcomes such as personality traits and time of death compared to other advanced neural networks.

The Ethical Implications of Predictive AI

The promise of predictive AI in enhancing our understanding of life patterns is undeniable. But it also raises significant ethical questions. Issues around data protection, privacy, and potential biases inherent in the data are crucial considerations. Before such models can be applied in practical settings, like assessing individual disease risks or other significant life events, these ethical challenges must be thoroughly understood and addressed.

Looking ahead, the research team envisions incorporating various data forms into their model, such as text, images, or information about social connections. This expansion could revolutionize the interaction between social and health sciences, offering a more holistic view of human life and its potential trajectories.

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Source: “Artificial intelligence can predict events in people’s lives” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13662 – What Shapes Our Worldview

Conventional wisdom often suggests that what shapes our worldview is significantly impacted by our background. Specifically, it’s a common assumption that privilege, encompassing factors like socioeconomic status, health, and safety, heavily influences one’s perspective of the world.

However, recent research from the University of Pennsylvania challenges this notion, revealing surprising insights about the relationship between privilege and a positive worldview.

Unraveling Assumptions about What Shapes Our Worldview

This intriguing study, conducted by The Primals Project at Penn’s Positive Psychology Center, looked into primal world beliefs (or “primals”). Primals are fundamental beliefs about the world, such as viewing it as progressing or declining, harmless or threatening, interesting or boring.

Contrary to expectations, the study found that positive primals were not strong indicators of a privileged background.

Methodology and Results

Researchers surveyed over 14,000 individuals, examining their agreement with statements like “Life overflows with opportunity and abundance” and “The world is going downhill.” They also asked laypeople and psychology researchers to predict how different groups would respond based on their socioeconomic status, neighborhood safety, and other factors.

The predicted correlation between privilege and positive worldviews was significantly higher than the actual survey results. This disconnect suggests that positive worldviews may not be as closely tied to privilege as previously thought.

Shifting Perspectives on Trauma and Privilege

The study’s findings indicate that experiencing hardship or adversity doesn’t necessarily result in a negative view of the world.

For example, patients with cystic fibrosis showed a slightly more positive worldview compared to controls. This counters the narrative that those facing significant challenges are destined to view the world negatively.

Interestingly, the study found that women were slightly more likely to view the world as safe, defying the conventional assumption that women perceive the world as more dangerous due to societal and safety concerns.

The University of Pennsylvania’s study opens up new avenues for research. Teams are exploring genetic components and other factors that might influence one’s primal beliefs. With numerous independent research efforts underway, there’s a growing interest in understanding the origins and impacts of these fundamental worldviews.

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Source: “A positive worldview is less associated with privilege than expected” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13661 – Faith and Risk Taking

A recent study from York University’s Faculty of Health reveals an intriguing link between faith and risk-taking. The research, led by Assistant Professor Cindel White, looked into how beliefs about a protective God influence Christians’ willingness to take risks.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggests that the belief in a benevolent deity can boost confidence in pursuing uncertain or potentially dangerous activities.

Findings About Faith and Risk Taking

White, along with collaborators Chloe Dean and Kristin Laurin from The University of British Columbia, focused on Christian Americans known for their belief in a protective God. The study avoided risks with moral connotations, like drug use, and instead examined ‘morally neutral’ risks.

These included recreational activities like mountain climbing and life decisions such as relocating for a job. The research revealed a reliable connection between these beliefs and an increased willingness to take such risks.

The findings do not necessarily suggest that religious individuals are more inclined to take risks than non-religious people. However, they highlight the role of religious beliefs in creating a sense of safety and positivity. Belief in a protective God appears to help believers cope with life’s uncertainties and stressors. This sense of security and positive outlook may encourage them to seize opportunities they might otherwise avoid.

Understanding the Psychological Safety Net

The study provides insights into how religious beliefs function as coping mechanisms. For many believers, the idea of a protective God offers a psychological safety net.

This belief may empower them to face challenges and uncertainties with more confidence. It’s not just about risk-taking; it’s about how faith shapes the approach to life’s varied situations.

The research has significant implications for understanding the decision-making process of religious individuals. It suggests that their faith could subtly influence choices in everyday life, from career moves to leisure activities.

This understanding could be crucial for psychologists, counselors, and even employers in recognizing the factors that drive the actions and choices of religious individuals.

Broader Perspective on Religious Beliefs

These findings open up a broader perspective on the role of religious beliefs in modern society. They shed light on the nuanced ways faith intersects with daily life, influencing not just moral decisions but also personal and professional risks.

As society becomes increasingly aware of diverse belief systems, such insights are vital for fostering understanding and respect across different cultural and religious backgrounds.

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Source: “Thinking about God inspires risk-taking for believers, study finds” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13658 – Viking Dentistry

You probably haven’t pondered Viking dentistry. However, a recent study at the University of Gothenburg revealed that Viking dental practices were surprisingly advanced.

The study examined 3,293 teeth from 171 individuals in Varnhem, Sweden, dating back to the Viking Age. This region is renowned for well-preserved skeletal remains, offering a unique glimpse into ancient dental health.

Caries and Tooth Loss in Viking Dentistry

The findings, published in PLOS ONE, show a widespread occurrence of dental issues among the Vikings. About 49% of the population had one or more caries lesions, with 13% of adult teeth affected, often at the roots. Interestingly, children’s milk teeth were free from caries. Adults frequently experienced tooth loss, averaging a 6% loss over their lifetimes, excluding wisdom teeth.

These results suggest that tooth infections and aches were common, likely impacting daily life.

The Vikings weren’t just suffering in silence; they actively attempted dental care. Evidence of toothpick use, front teeth filing, and even treatment for infected teeth were found. Molars showed filed holes from the crown to the pulp, probably to relieve toothache caused by infection.

This method mirrors modern dental treatments, where drilling into infected teeth relieves pressure. It’s unclear whether Vikings conducted these procedures themselves or sought help.

Cultural Significance of Teeth

Filed front teeth, found predominantly in males, may have served as identity markers. This practice indicates that teeth held significant cultural importance in Viking society. The study suggests that Viking Age dentistry might have been more sophisticated than previously thought, with a better understanding of oral health than assumed.

This study offers more than just a medical perspective; it sheds light on the cultural aspects of Viking life. The care and attention given to teeth, from practical health to aesthetic modifications, reflect a society that valued oral health and appearance.

Such findings challenge the stereotypical image of Vikings and offer a more nuanced view of their daily lives.

Advancements in Viking Dentistry

The dental techniques observed in Viking remains were not rudimentary. The evidence of infection treatment and cosmetic modifications speaks to a level of sophistication in their dental knowledge.

These practices show parallels with modern dentistry, highlighting an unexpected advancement in medical understanding during the Viking Age.

This groundbreaking research opens doors for further study into the health and cultural practices of ancient civilizations. Understanding the significance of oral health in Viking society could lead to more discoveries about their lifestyle, medical practices, and societal norms.

As we uncover more about the Vikings, our perception of them evolves from mere warriors to a complex society with advanced practices.

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Source: “Viking dentistry was surprisingly advanced” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13655 – Ice Age Fire Art

Surviving the Ice Age required more than just hunting and gathering – there was fire art. OK, hear us out.

As they gathered around fires for warmth and safety, something more than just physical comfort emerged. This was a time for them to indulge in an artistic pursuit that continues to fascinate us today.

The Paleolithic Animator and Ice Age Fire Art

In recent research published in PLOS ONE, a team led by archaeologist Andy Needham proposed an intriguing idea. They suggested that Ice Age artists used the flickering light of fire to bring their stone carvings to life.

These 15,000-year-old limestone plaquettes, adorned with animal figures, were not just static art. Instead, under the dynamic light of a fire, they appeared to move, animating the etched creatures. Fire art!

Needham’s team studied various limestone plaquettes found at the Montastruc rock shelter in southern France. These carvings, attributed to the Magdalenian culture, showcased a range of animals like horses, ibex, and reindeer.

Interestingly, these plaquettes showed signs of thermal damage, suggesting exposure to fire. But was this intentional?

Experimental Archaeology Sheds Light

To answer this, the researchers turned to experimental archaeology. They created replica plaquettes and subjected them to different fire scenarios. These experiments aimed to replicate the pinkish discoloration seen on the originals. The results? The patterns suggested that the artworks were deliberately placed near the hearth, likely as part of the creative process.

Further exploring this idea, the team used virtual reality to simulate firelight’s effect on the plaquettes. The results were fascinating. The irregular lighting from the fire brought an illusion of movement, making the animals seem like they were alive and moving across the stone surface.

The Role of Pareidolia in Ice Age Fire Art

This phenomenon can be partly explained by pareidolia, where the human brain perceives familiar patterns in random objects. In the flickering firelight, viewers would see incomplete forms on the plaquettes. Their brains would fill in the gaps, creating a dynamic viewing experience.

The Ice Age artists might have used this to their advantage. They could start with natural rock features to shape their animals, allowing the firelight to complete the picture. This interaction between the art, the rock’s natural form, and the dynamic firelight created a captivating experience, unique to the Paleolithic era.

Beyond survival, these artistic endeavors provided a social outlet. After a day of survival tasks, our ancestors likely gathered around the fire, not just for warmth but for a communal experience. Here, they could indulge in storytelling, companionship, and artistic expression.

The act of creating art by firelight was perhaps as important as the art itself. It wasn’t just about the final product but about the process of creation, the gathering of minds, and the sharing of ideas. This communal aspect of Ice Age art adds a deeply human dimension to our understanding of these ancient peoples.

Art as a Cultural Practice

Ice Age art wasn’t merely aesthetic; it was a cultural practice imbued with meaning. The process of drawing, the summoning of spirits, and even acts of destruction (like deliberate breakage or fire damage) could have had significant roles in their society.

These artistic sessions by the firelight might have served multiple purposes – from summoning spirits to strengthening community bonds. The plaquettes, once used, could have been discarded or intentionally destroyed, suggesting a transient nature to this art form.

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Source: “Ice Age Artists May Have Used Firelight to Animate Carvings” — Smithsonian Magazine