WTF Fun Fact 13746 – More Parking Lots Than Housing

Oddly enough, some cities have gone to such great lengths to accommodate cars that they now have more parking lots than housing!

The city landscape across America reveals a startling fact: in many places, there’s more room for cars than for people. From Seattle to Des Moines, the concrete sprawl of these lots often surpasses the space set aside for housing. This phenomenon isn’t just an urban planner’s nightmare; it’s a real puzzle for anyone trying to find a vibrant city life amidst the vast concrete expanses.

A Concrete Jungle Where There’s More Parking Than Housing

Imagine a city where cars have more room to rest than people do to live. This isn’t a futuristic dystopia; it’s the reality in several U.S. cities where parking lots devour city centers. It turns out we have not only sacrificed urban vitality at the altar of convenience but also transformed downtowns into mere waypoints rather than destinations.

In cities like Seattle, the ratio of parking spaces to housing units is staggering. Seattle boasts about 30 spaces for every acre, overwhelming the number of residential units five to one. Down in Des Moines, the scenario gets more dire with a parking-to-housing ratio of 20 to 1 per acre. These cities, famed for their ever-rising skyscrapers, surprisingly cater more to vehicles than to residents.

The Parking Lot Takeover

The sprawl gets absurd when you head to places like Arlington, Texas, or Detroit, Michigan—cities where the car is king and the pedestrian is a pauper. Arlington’s city center dedicates a whopping 39% of its land to parking. Detroit, the famed Motor City, isn’t far behind, dedicating about a third of its downtown to car spaces. These areas have become so optimized for cars that finding anything else to do can feel like a scavenger hunt.

What’s the big deal, you might ask? Beyond the obvious urban blight, this sea of parking has profound implications. City centers that prioritize parking over accessibility tend to lack the density that makes urban areas vibrant and walkable. The result? Cities that are easy to drive to but not worth staying in. Moreover, this excess of concrete slabs drives up real estate prices, making urban housing scarcer and more expensive.

A Shift Toward More Livable Cities

Despite these challenges, not all cities have succumbed to the parking plague. Washington, D.C., and San Francisco are leading by example, with only 4% and 3% of their downtown areas devoted to public parking, respectively. New York City tops the list with a mere 0.4% of midtown Manhattan given over to parking spaces.

This trend hints at a future where cities reclaim space from cars for people. As more Americans opt out of driving—thanks to the rise of ride-sharing, public transit improvements, and perhaps soon, autonomous vehicles—the demand for vast parking lots is set to decrease. This shift presents a golden opportunity for cities to transform car lots into parks, housing, and vibrant public spaces that foster community rather than car storage.

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Source: “These U.S. Cities Have More Parking Lots Than Housing” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13740 – The Vatican Regulates the Divine

The Vatican introduced a new set of guidelines aimed at scrutinizing claims of supernatural phenomena more rigorously. From weeping statues to miraculous healings, the Catholic Church is setting the bar high for what passes as a divine occurrence.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, responsible for promoting and safeguarding doctrine, has crafted these rules. They replace the older guidelines from 1978, marking a significant update in how the Church handles these mysterious claims.

A Call for Rigor and Rationality at the Vatican

At a media briefing last Friday, the Vatican made its stance clear: supernatural claims must undergo a thorough investigation to prevent fraud and exploitation. The Church aims to protect its credibility and unity, steering clear of scandals that could tarnish its image.

In an era where viral news can spread falsehoods in an instant, the guidelines stress the importance of careful validation. Reports of supernatural events have surged, propelled by the rapid spread of information online. The new protocol includes issuing a “nihil obstat,” meaning “no obstacle,” for unverified but harmless claims, allowing worship without formal recognition of the supernatural.

The Vatican’s Verdicts

Under the updated rules, bishops can make one of six decisions regarding supernatural claims. These range from outright rejection to prohibiting the worship associated with certain phenomena. To ensure consistency, bishops must seek approval from the Vatican before going public with any supernatural endorsements, with the Pope stepping in for exceptional cases.

This rigorous approach is not about stifling faith but about safeguarding it from the distortions of modern myth-making. The Vatican recognizes the powerful draw of pilgrimage sites, like Lourdes in France and Fatima in Portugal, where millions visit annually, drawn by tales of Marian apparitions and miracles recognized by the Church decades ago.

The Challenge of Modern Miracles

Not all supernatural claims make the cut. Take the 2016 incident in Italy, where a woman claimed regular visions of Jesus and Mary. It took eight years for the Church to investigate and dismiss the claims, which included contentious messages on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. This case underscores the challenges the Church faces in distinguishing genuine spiritual phenomena from well-crafted hoaxes.

The new guidelines aim to streamline this process, ensuring that any claim of a heavenly apparition or miraculous event receives the scrutiny it deserves before being accepted or rejected.

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Source: “Vatican tightens rules on supernatural phenomena” — BBC News

WTF Fun Fact 13733 – Flame-Throwing Robot Dog


Throwflame, an Ohio-based company, has introduced Thermonator, a flame-throwing robot dog now available for $9,420. What a steal.

This fiery beast combines a quadruped robot with an ARC flamethrower, creating the world’s first flamethrower-wielding robot dog. If you’ve ever wanted a pet that can roast marshmallows from 30 feet away, Thermonator is here to fulfill that oddly specific dream!

Fueled by gasoline or napalm, Thermonator can blast fire up to 30 feet, making it perfect for impressing your neighbors – or terrifying them. It also features a one-hour battery, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can control this fiery pup via your smartphone.

Thermonator even has a Lidar sensor for mapping and obstacle avoidance, laser sighting, and first-person-view navigation through an onboard camera. It uses a version of the Unitree Go2 robot quadruped, which alone costs $1,600.

Meet Thermonator: The $10,000 Flame-Throwing Robot Dog

Thermonator’s flamethrowing skills open up a range of potential uses. Throwflame suggests applications like wildfire control and prevention, agricultural management, ecological conservation, snow and ice removal, and entertainment and special effects. Essentially, if it involves setting things on fire, Thermonator is your go-to gadget.

For wildfire control, Thermonator could help create controlled burns to prevent larger wildfires. In agriculture, it might assist in clearing fields or giving pesky weeds a hot farewell. Its use in ecological conservation could involve controlled burning to manage vegetation.

Ok, sure.

In snowy climates, it could serve as the world’s hottest snow blower. For entertainment, it’s a pyrotechnic dream come true, perfect for dramatic effects in films or epic backyard barbecues. And we have the feeling that if you need your flamethrower in the form of a dog, you’re probably using it for some type of entertainmen.

A Dystopian Moment?

While they sound like a device straight out of a dystopian sci-fi movie, flamethrowers, including Thermonator, are legal in 48 U.S. states. They aren’t classified as firearms by federal agencies, though they fall under general product liability and criminal laws.

Specific restrictions exist in Maryland, where a Federal Firearms License is required, and in California, where the flame range cannot exceed 10 feet.

Even with its legality, flamethrowers are not exactly toys. They can easily start fires, cause property damage, and harm people. So, if you decide to get one, handle it with care. Thermonator’s advanced features, like obstacle avoidance and first-person navigation, aim to enhance safety, but users must still exercise caution. In other words, don’t try to light your birthday candles with it.

A Nod to Flamethrower History

Thermonator joins the ranks of other notable flame-throwing devices, such as Elon Musk’s Boring Company flamethrower. Back in 2018, Musk’s flamethrower sold 10,000 units in just 48 hours, causing quite a stir due to its potential risks.

Unlike traditional flamethrowers, Thermonator combines the latest in robotics with pyrotechnics, offering a high-tech twist on fire-wielding gadgets. See for yourself:

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Source: “You can now buy a flame-throwing robot dog for under $10,000” — Ars Technica

WTF Fun Fact 13731 – The Weight of the Internet

Have you ever stopped to consider the weight of the internet? Ok, probably not.

But despite its intangible nature, the internet has a physical weight. The internet operates on electricity, which consists of electrons that have mass. University of California professor John D. Kubiatowicz explained this concept in a 2011 New York Times article. He discussed how electrons, despite their minuscule mass of 9.11 x 10^-31 kilograms, contribute to the internet’s weight.

To understand the internet’s weight, consider an e-reader loaded with books. E-readers use flash memory, which involves trapping electrons in a higher energy state to store data.

Though the number of electrons remains constant, their higher energy state increases the e-reader’s weight by a minuscule amount. For example, loading a 4-gigabyte e-reader with books changes its energy by 1.7 x 10^-5 joules, translating to a weight increase of 10^-18 grams.

While this difference is extremely small, it demonstrates the principle that data storage impacts physical weight.

Calculating the Weight of the Internet

Expanding this concept to the entire internet involves considering the global network of servers. Approximately 75 to 100 million servers worldwide support the internet. These servers collectively generate about 40 billion watts of electricity. Given that an ampere, the unit of electric current, involves the movement of 10^18 electrons per second, we can estimate the internet’s weight.

By calculating the total number of electrons in motion and their individual mass, scientists estimate the internet’s weight to be about 50 grams.

This weight is equivalent to a medium-sized strawberry. Every email, website, online game, and digital interaction contributes to this overall mass.

Implications and Fascination

Understanding the internet’s weight highlights the physical realities of our digital world. While we perceive the internet as intangible, it relies on physical components and energy. The electrons powering data transfer and storage have a measurable mass, illustrating the connection between digital information and physical science.

This knowledge emphasizes the importance of efficient data management and energy use in maintaining the internet. As the internet continues to expand, optimizing server efficiency and reducing energy consumption becomes crucial.

These efforts not only lower operational costs but also minimize the environmental impact of our digital infrastructure.

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Source: “The World Contained in a Strawberry” — Futurism

WTF Fun Fact 13729 – The White Shark Cafe

The White Shark Cafe is a mysterious mid-Pacific region where great white sharks gather. This area, located between Hawaii and Baja California, has fascinated scientists for years. Sharks migrate thousands of miles to reach this spot, usually during spring and early summer. The purpose of their journey to this remote location remains largely unknown, though scientists continue to study it.

Scientists discovered the White Shark Cafe through satellite tagging. They tracked the movements of great white sharks, leading to the identification of this unique area. Despite its remote location and depth, the café attracts a significant number of sharks annually. This gathering area is essential for understanding great white shark behavior and migration patterns.

Shark Behavior at the White Shark Cafe

The behavior of sharks at the White Shark Cafe is intriguing. While there, the sharks exhibit deep diving patterns, often diving to depths of 1,500 feet. They alternate between these deep dives and periods near the surface. This pattern suggests they might be hunting for prey or engaging in social behaviors.

Scientists have proposed several theories about why sharks gather at the White Shark Cafe.

Some believe it may serve as a breeding ground, though no mating has been observed. Others think the sharks might be hunting for squid or other deep-sea creatures that are abundant in this area. Another theory is that the café might serve as a social meeting point for sharks from different regions.

Research and Discoveries

Research at the White Shark Cafe has yielded valuable insights into shark behavior. Scientists have used satellite tags and underwater cameras to monitor shark activities in this area. These technologies have provided data on diving patterns, travel routes, and potential prey species. The findings have challenged previous assumptions about shark migration and social behavior.

The research has also revealed the sharks’ preference for this area’s unique oceanographic features. The White Shark Cafe’s location in the mid-Pacific provides a mix of deep and shallow waters, creating a diverse habitat. This diversity likely supports a range of prey species, making it an attractive spot for sharks.

The Importance of the White Shark Café

Understanding the White Shark Café is crucial for conservation efforts. By studying this area, scientists can learn more about the needs and behaviors of great white sharks. This knowledge can inform strategies to protect these important marine predators. The café’s role in shark migration highlights the need to protect not just coastal areas but also critical offshore habitats.

Conservationists emphasize the importance of international cooperation in protecting the White Shark Café. Since the area lies in international waters, coordinated efforts are needed to ensure its preservation. Protecting this unique shark gathering spot is essential for maintaining healthy shark populations and the overall balance of marine ecosystems.

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Source: “Voyage to the White Shark Café” — Monterey Bay Aquarium

WTF Fun Fact 13720 – Brain-Computer Interfaces

Interactive technology took a significant leap forward with the latest development in brain-computer interfaces by engineers at The University of Texas at Austin. This new technology allows users to control video games using nothing but their thoughts, eliminating the need for traditional manual controls.

Breaking Barriers with Brain-Computer Interfaces

One of the groundbreaking aspects of this interface is its lack of need for individual calibration. Traditional brain-computer interfaces require extensive customization to align with each user’s unique neurological patterns. This new system, however, uses machine learning to adapt to individual users quickly, allowing for a much more user-friendly experience. This innovation drastically reduces setup time and makes the technology accessible to a broader audience, including those with motor disabilities.

The interface works by using a cap fitted with electrodes that capture brain activity. These signals are then translated into commands that control game elements, such as steering a car in a racing game. This setup not only introduces a new way of gaming but also holds the potential for significant advancements in assistive technology.

Enhancing Neuroplasticity Through Gaming

The research, led by José del R. Millán and his team, explores the technology and its impact on neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to form new neural connections. The team’s efforts focus on harnessing this capability to improve brain function and quality of life for patients with neurological impairments.

Participants in the study engaged in two tasks. First, a complex car racing game requiring strategic thinking for maneuvers like turns. Then, a simpler task involving balancing a digital bar. These activities were chosen to train the brain in different ways to leverage the interface’s capacity to translate neural commands into digital actions.

Foundational Research and Future Applications

The research represents foundational work in the field of brain-computer interfaces. Initially tested on subjects without motor impairments, the next step involves trials with individuals who have motor disabilities. This expansion is crucial for validating the interface’s potential clinical applications.

Beyond gaming, the technology is poised to revolutionize how individuals with disabilities interact with their environments. The ongoing projects include developing a wheelchair navigable via thought and rehabilitation robots for hand and arm therapy, which were recently demonstrated at the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals.

This brain-computer interface stands out not only for its technological innovation but also for its commitment to improving lives. It exemplifies the potential of using machine learning to enhance independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. As this technology progresses, it promises to open new avenues for accessibility and personal empowerment, making everyday tasks more manageable and integrating advanced assistive technologies into the fabric of daily living.

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Source: “Universal brain-computer interface lets people play games with just their thoughts” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13714 – Peachtree City and Golf Carts

Peachtree City, Georgia, is not just another suburb of Atlanta. It stands out with a unique transportation system dominated by golf carts. This city has developed a comprehensive network of paths that cater specifically to these small vehicles, offering a glimpse into a different kind of suburban life.

A Network of Paths

Peachtree City boasts over 100 miles of multi-use paths that weave throughout the city. These paths are not just side features; they are a well-integrated transportation network that connects homes, schools, shopping centers, and recreational facilities. This extensive system allows residents to travel mostly by golf cart to conduct their daily activities. The city’s planning revolves significantly around this alternative mode of transport, making it an integral part of the community’s identity.

Golf carts in Peachtree City are not limited to the elderly or golf enthusiasts. Families use them to take kids to school, do grocery shopping, or just enjoy a pleasant ride around the neighborhood. This mode of transportation supports a slower-paced, more observant way of life. It encourages residents to enjoy their surroundings more intimately than they might when speeding by in a car.

Peachtree City & Golf Cart Regulations

To manage this unique traffic system, Peachtree City has implemented specific regulations. Golf cart drivers must hold a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit, emphasizing the community’s commitment to safety. Furthermore, all golf carts need registration with the local authorities and must adhere to safety standards, such as having headlights, rear lights, and reflectors for nighttime travel.

The city also takes an active role in educating both children and adults on safe driving practices specific to golf carts. This education helps maintain safety standards and ensures that all age groups can participate in this communal lifestyle.

Community Impact of Golf Carts in Peachtree City

The golf cart culture in Peachtree City extends beyond simple transportation. It fosters a tight-knit community atmosphere. Neighbors are more likely to stop and chat when they encounter each other on the paths. This accessibility and openness encourage a friendlier, more connected community.

The environmental impact is also notable. Golf carts are electric, offering a green alternative to gas-powered vehicles. Their use helps reduce the carbon footprint of the community, contributing to cleaner air and less traffic congestion.

Economic and Recreational Benefits

Economically, the golf cart infrastructure attracts tourists curious about this unique lifestyle, providing a boost to local businesses. Visitors can rent carts to explore the city, thus experiencing local hospitality and commerce in a leisurely and enjoyable manner.

Recreationally, the paths provide scenic routes for more than just golf carts. They are popular among joggers, cyclists, and walkers. The city ensures these paths are well-maintained, safe, and accessible, enhancing the quality of life for all residents.

As Peachtree City continues to grow, the challenge will be to maintain the integrity and safety of the golf cart system while accommodating new residents and evolving urban needs. The city’s commitment to this unique mode of transport is evident in its ongoing efforts to improve and expand the path network.

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Source: “In This Atlanta Suburb, Teens Taste Freedom at 10 M.P.H.” — The New York Times

WTF Fun Fact 13693 – Wearing a Tie and Blood Flow

The simple act of wearing a tie, a staple of professional attire for many, carries with it an unexpected physiological implication: it may reduce blood flow to the brain. This revelation brings to light the intersection between fashion choices and health, particularly in how something as innocuous as a tie can have an impact on cerebral circulation.

Understanding the Impact

Wearing a tie, especially when knotted tightly around the neck, can exert pressure on the veins that are responsible for returning blood from the head to the heart. This pressure can lead to a slight reduction in the blood flow to the brain.

The constriction caused by a tightly worn tie affects the internal jugular vein. This is one of the major veins that facilitate blood flow from the brain back to the heart. The result is a potential decrease in cerebral blood flow. While the change is typically minimal, it has sparked discussions about the long-term effects on brain health and function.

Research into the effects of tie-wearing on cerebral blood flow has provided intriguing insights. Studies utilizing Doppler ultrasound technology have shown that the compression of neck veins by a tight necktie can indeed reduce blood flow velocity.

However, it’s important to note that for most people, this reduction is not significant enough to cause immediate health concerns. The interest in these findings lies more in the potential long-term implications. Not to mention the subtle ways our daily choices can influence our physiology.

The Broader Implications of Wearing a Tie

The conversation around ties and their impact on blood flow extends beyond the medical to the societal. In many professions, wearing a tie is considered a part of the dress code, a symbol of professionalism and authority. This research prompts a reevaluation of such norms, especially in light of growing awareness about the importance of workplace health and comfort. It challenges the balance between appearance and well-being, encouraging a dialogue on how professional attire standards can adapt to foster healthier practices.

Rethinking Fashion and Health

Insights into how wearing a tie may affect cerebral blood flow contribute to a larger discussion. How healthy are our everyday fashion choices?

From high heels affecting posture and foot health to tight belts and waist trainers impacting digestion, the intersection of fashion and health is complex. The necktie case is a reminder to consider the physiological costs of our clothing choices. And it reminds us to prioritize comfort and health alongside professional appearance.

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Source: “Why wearing a tie is surprisingly bad for your health” — BBC Science Focus

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