WTF Fun Fact 13616 – Belly Flop Science

In a splash of scientific curiosity, researchers from Brown University have dived into the mechanics of the belly flop. They’ve emerged with insights that could ripple through the field of marine engineering. Their research didn’t just skim the surface. The air-to-water impact dynamics resonate beyond the poolside into naval design and safety.

The Sting of Impact: A Fluid Problem

Assistant Professor Daniel Harris explained the painful truth behind the belly flop’s notorious smack. The sudden halt of a body moving from air to still water creates a formidable reaction force. This results in the body’s shockingly painful reception. This resistance, familiar to any brave soul attempting a belly flop, also poses serious considerations for naval engineering, where structures frequently endure similar high-impact forces.

The research team conducted experiments that replicated the belly flop using a blunt cylinder that vibrated upon impact. Previous studies have often focused on rigid bodies hitting the water. But Harris’s team explored the effects when the object is flexible, allowing for shape change or deformation under force.

Springing into Safer Belly Flop Landings

The researchers attached a soft “nose” to their impactor, buffered by a system of springs designed to soften the blow. It works much like a car’s suspension system. The assumption was that a more flexible system would distribute the impact over a longer period. This would reduce the maximum force felt during the splashdown.

However, their findings defied expectations. Instead of consistently cushioning the blow, the flexible system sometimes intensified the impact force. The culprit? The springs themselves. If not perfectly tuned, the springs’ softness could lead to increased vibrations, adding to the slamming force rather than mitigating it.

The key to a less painful impact lies in the delicate balance of the springs’ stiffness and the height from which the object is dropped. The springs must be just soft enough to absorb the impact gently without causing additional rapid oscillations.

The experiments, while causing a few wet lab coats, have paved the way for innovative approaches to entering water smoothly. Taking cues from nature, the researchers are now exploring how diving birds maneuver to lessen the blow of water entry. Their aim is to design a robotic impactor that mimics these biological techniques for blunt objects.

Implications Beyond the Belly Flop

This study, supported by the Office of Naval Research and Naval Undersea Warfare Center, has far-reaching implications. By understanding the vibrational interplay between structure flexibility and impact forces, engineers can develop safer, more resilient marine vessels and structures. They’ve effectively turned the dreaded belly flop into a lesson in sophisticated design and safety.

The research not only offers a recipe for less painful pool antics but equips marine engineers with the knowledge to better navigate air-to-water transitions.

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Source: “Want the secret to less painful belly flops? These researchers have the answer” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13613 – First Chimeric Monkey

Researchers have made a monumental stride in primate research by making the first chimeric monkey.

This marks the first successful birth of a chimeric monkey from embryonic stem cell lines. This scientific achievement has profound implications for the fields of genetic engineering, species conservation, and biomedical studies.

Understanding Chimerism in Primates

The study, led by senior author Zhen Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, culminated in the birth of a monkey with cells originating from two distinct embryos. Until now, this feat of chimerism had been achieved only in smaller mammals such as rats and mice. Published in the prestigious journal Cell, the research opens new avenues for understanding pluripotency. That’s the capability of stem cells to differentiate into any cell type—in non-human primates and possibly humans.

The cynomolgus monkeys, commonly used in biomedical research, served as the subjects for this groundbreaking experiment. The researchers established nine stem cell lines from blastocyst embryos and selected a subset of these pluripotent cells to inject into early-stage monkey embryos. This meticulous process led to several pregnancies and the birth of six live monkeys. One of these showcased a substantial level of chimerism.

The Making of a Chimeric Monkey

The researchers tagged the stem cells with green fluorescent protein. This enabled them to trace which tissues originated from the stem cells. Extensive analysis revealed that the chimeric monkey exhibited a wide distribution of stem-cell-derived tissues across the brain, heart, kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. Remarkably, the live monkey displayed stem cell contributions ranging from 21% to 92% across various tissues, averaging 67%.

The presence of stem-cell-derived cells in the reproductive tissues was a significant discovery. It underscors the potential for these cells to contribute to the germline and possibly influence future generations.

Implications and Future Directions

The success of this study is not merely academic. It has practical implications, offering the potential to create more precise monkey models for neurological and other biomedical research. By enhancing the understanding of primate cell developmental potential, the study paves the way for innovative approaches in medical science.

Looking ahead, the team aims to refine their method to increase the efficiency of generating chimeric monkeys. They plan to optimize the stem cell cultures and the blastocysts’ environments, hoping to improve the survival rates of these embryos in host animals.

In conclusion, the birth of the first chimeric monkey from embryonic stem cells is a remarkable scientific milestone. It broadens our knowledge of primate biology and holds promise for future applications that could benefit both primate conservation and human health.

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Source: “First live birth of a chimeric monkey using embryonic stem cell lines” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13595 – Gender in Human-Robot Interaction

In the world of hospitality, there’s a growing preference when it comes to gender in human-robot interaction.

When guests interact with robots at hotels, they tend to feel more at ease with female robots. This trend is stronger when these robots possess human-like features, reveals a study from Washington State University.

Gender Stereotypes Extend to Robots

Soobin Seo, the mind behind the research and an assistant professor at WSU’s Carson Business College, sheds light on the reasons for this phenomenon. “People generally find solace when cared for by females, a result of prevalent gender stereotypes associated with service roles,” she explains. “This stereotype doesn’t stop at human interactions; it extends to hotel robot interactions too. And when these robots resemble humans closely, the preference is even more evident.”

Before the onset of the global pandemic, the hotel industry grappled with keeping its staff. Some hoteliers found a solution in automation and robots, employing them in various roles. They’re not just tucked away in the back, handling chores like dishwashing or cleaning. Robots today, in some establishments, welcome guests or even handle their luggage.

The upscale Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas, for instance, employs female humanized robots named “Pepper.” On the other side of the spectrum, China’s fully automated FlyZoo hotel chain offers an exclusive robot and AI-powered experience to its guests.

Study Highlights Distinct Preferences for Human-Robot Interaction

To delve deeper into this preference, participants in Seo’s study visualized interactions with AI service robots during their hotel stay. Four distinct scenarios were crafted for this experiment:

  1. A male service robot, “Alex,” equipped with a face and a body resembling a human.
  2. “Sara,” a robot identical to Alex but female.
  3. Two other robot descriptions, gendered differently but portrayed as more mechanical with interactive screens replacing faces.

Feedback from participants was quite revealing. Those who imagined interactions with female robots, especially the human-like ones, found their experience more pleasant. In contrast, the male robot scenarios didn’t evoke a similarly positive response.

Future Considerations in AI and Hospitality

But it’s not just about gender preferences. The implications of substituting human hotel staff with AI robots span broader issues. Seo highlights a crucial consideration: “When a robot errs or malfunctions, like misplacing luggage or botching a reservation, guests will likely seek human intervention.”

Moreover, Seo and her team at WSU are currently probing another dimension: the robot’s personality. Do guests prefer robots that are chatty and outgoing, or those that are more reserved?

For AI robot developers and hotel employers, these findings are invaluable. Seo predicts an uptick in robot usage in hotels and restaurants, emphasizing the importance of understanding psychological dynamics in such interactions. “The intricacies we see in human-to-human interactions might very well shape the future of human-to-robot interactions,” she concludes.

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Source: “People prefer interacting with female robots in hotels, study finds” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13586 – Giant Squid Eyes

Did you know that giant squid eyes are the size of beach balls?

You might be able to surmise that a giant squid is…well, giant, simply by its name. And it stands to reason that a giant creature would also have giant body parts. But beach ball-sized eyes is a pretty amazing trait.

Deep-Sea Adaptations: The Role of Giant Squid Eyes

In the deep parts of the ocean, light is scarce. Giant squids live in this dark environment, and to navigate through it, they’ve evolved to have exceptionally large eyes. These eyes allow them to maximize the available light, providing them with a better chance of spotting food or potential threats.

In addition, bioluminescence is common in deep-sea creatures. This means they produce light, often in patterns or pulses. The giant squid’s big eyes also help it detect these faint light signals, enabling it to identify prey or predators from a distance.

The ability to interpret light signals in the ocean’s depths is crucial for survival. Different marine creatures produce varying light signals, each serving a unique purpose. Some use it to lure prey. Others to find a mate. And some even deploy light to distract or deter predators.

With eyes as large as theirs, giant squids can distinguish between these signals. Recognizing the right light patterns means they can respond accordingly, whether that’s by hunting, escaping, or interacting with other marine life.

The Threat of Sperm Whales

Despite their impressive size, giant squids aren’t the top predators in their environment. That title goes to sperm whales, which are known to hunt giant squids. For the squid, detecting these formidable hunters early on is crucial.

The disturbance caused by diving sperm whales often triggers light reactions from bioluminescent organisms. Giant squids, with their big eyes, can spot these disturbances from afar, giving them a warning sign and a chance to evade the approaching danger.

Evolutionary adaptation is all about improving survival chances. For the giant squid, having large eyes is a product of this. Their eyes are specialized tools, honed over millennia, to give them an advantage in an environment where visibility is minimal. The size of their eyes facilitates more light absorption, allowing them to see and interpret crucial light signals in the vast, dark expanse of their deep-sea home.

In conclusion, the giant squid’s enormous eyes are more than just a fascinating feature; they’re instrumental in its survival. This adaptation serves as a testament to the incredible ways life evolves to meet the unique challenges of different environments.

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Source: “World’s biggest squid reveals ‘beach ball’ eyes” — Sydney Morning Herald

WTF Fun Fact 13585 – Butterflies Taste With Their Feet

Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet?

A Different Sensory World

Humans rely heavily on their eyes, ears, and mouth to interact with the world. We use our tongues to savor different flavors, but butterflies operate on a completely different sensory level. Their feet, not their mouths, are the primary tools for tasting. Before they even consider taking a sip of nectar from a flower or laying an egg on a plant, they first “taste” the surface to ensure it’s the right spot.

Why is this so? For a butterfly, survival depends on precise choices. Laying eggs on the wrong plant can spell disaster for the caterpillars that hatch, as they might not have the right food to eat. By using their feet to taste, butterflies can instantly determine if a plant is suitable for their offspring.

The Science Behind Foot-Tasting and How Butterflies Taste With Their Feet

Butterflies have specialized sensory organs called chemoreceptors on their feet. These chemoreceptors can detect and analyze minute chemical compositions on surfaces. When a butterfly lands on a plant, these sensors quickly determine the plant’s chemical makeup. If it matches the dietary needs of their caterpillar offspring, the butterfly knows it’s found the right place to lay its eggs.

Additionally, these chemoreceptors help butterflies locate nectar. Just by landing on a flower, they can sense if it’s worth their time or if they should move on to another bloom. Their feet essentially function as both a survival tool and a guide to the best dining spots.

How Do Chemoreceptors Work?

Just like our taste buds can identify sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, butterfly chemoreceptors detect various chemical compounds. When these compounds come into contact with a butterfly’s feet, a reaction occurs that sends signals to the insect’s brain. This rapid transmission of information allows the butterfly to make almost instantaneous decisions. It’s a quick and efficient system that ensures the butterfly spends its short life making the best choices for feeding and reproduction.

This unique tasting method has influenced various aspects of butterfly behavior and anatomy. For one, butterflies are exceptionally picky about where they land. They are often seen flitting from one plant to another, not just for the joy of flight, but in a quest to find the perfect spot that matches their tasting criteria.

Furthermore, their legs are perfectly designed for this purpose. Lightweight yet strong, they allow for quick landings and take-offs, and their structure ensures that the chemoreceptors come into maximum contact with surfaces, providing the most accurate readings.

Butterflies have short lifespans. Many species only live for a few weeks as adults. Given this limited timeframe, it’s essential for them to make the most of every moment. This is where their foot-tasting ability becomes crucial. It allows them to quickly discern the best places to lay eggs or feed, ensuring their genetic legacy and personal survival.

Moreover, the tasting mechanism influences their mating rituals. Male butterflies release specific chemicals to attract females. When a female lands near a potential mate, she can instantly “taste” these chemicals and decide whether the male is a suitable partner.

The Wider Impacts of Butterflies Tasting With Their Feet

This incredible adaptation doesn’t just affect butterflies; it impacts entire ecosystems. Plants have co-evolved with butterflies over millions of years. Some plants have developed chemicals specifically to attract butterflies, ensuring their pollen is spread. Others have developed deterrent chemicals to ward them off.

Such co-evolutionary dynamics shape our environment, leading to the diverse range of plants and butterfly species we see today. It’s a dance of chemistry and taste, all playing out under our very noses (or, in the case of butterflies, under their feet).

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Source: “How Do Butterflies Taste And Eat Their Food?” — Science ABC

WTF Fun Fact 13584 – Owls Don’t Have Eyeballs

Owls don’t have eyeballs. At least not in the traditional sense.

If Owls Don’t Have Eyeballs, What Do They Have?

Owls possess elongated, tubular eyes that are fixed in their sockets. This unique design provides them with exceptional vision, especially in low light.

The reason behind this peculiar eye shape is all about maximizing light intake and enhancing their depth perception. With their long, tube-shaped eyes, owls can collect and process a significant amount of light. This feature is vital for a creature that does most of its hunting during twilight hours or in the dark of the night.

Now, since owls can’t move their eyes within their sockets like humans can, they’ve developed an incredible neck flexibility. An owl can rotate its head up to 270 degrees in either direction. Imagine turning your head almost entirely backward! This ability allows them to have a wide field of view without needing to move their bodies.

The Trade-Off

There’s always a trade-off in nature. While owls can see far and wide with their tubular eyes, their peripheral vision is limited. That’s where their keen sense of hearing comes into play. Together with their exceptional eyesight, their auditory skills make them formidable nocturnal hunters.

An owl’s retina has an abundance of rod cells, which are sensitive to light and movement. These cells help the owl detect even the slightest movement of prey in dimly lit conditions. And while they have fewer cone cells, responsible for color vision, recent studies suggest that owls can see some colors, particularly blue.

Given the size and prominence of an owl’s eyes, protecting them is crucial. Owls have a third eyelid known as a nictitating membrane. This translucent lid sweeps across the eye horizontally, acting as a windshield wiper to remove dust and debris. It also helps in keeping their eyes moist.

The unique eye structure of owls has fascinated scientists and researchers for years. By studying how owls see, we gain insights into improving visual technologies, especially those required to function in low-light conditions.

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Source: “Do Owls Have Eyeballs: The Unique Vision And Skills Of Owls” — DiscoveryNatures

WTF Fun Fact 13578 – Presidential DNA in Space

What happens to a deceased person’s DNA in space? We don’t yet know, but one company is finding out.

In an unprecedented melding of history, space exploration, and pop culture, DNA samples of four iconic American Presidents are set to take an out-of-this-world journey. In a move that combines reverence for national leadership and a nod to entertainment legends, Texas-based space burial company, Celestis, is gearing up to launch an astonishing payload.

Sending Founding Fathers’ DNA in Space

Determined to make history, Celestis has chosen the DNA samples of four of the most recognized U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. These samples will be part of Celestis’ deep space remembrance Enterprise Flight. This flight’s announcement fittingly occurred on Presidents’ Day, honoring some of the nation’s foremost leaders. The mission is groundbreaking, marking the first instance any U.S. president is symbolically dispatched to space.

Joining Trekkies on an Epic Journey

These presidential DNA samples are not traveling alone. Sharing their celestial voyage are the remains and DNA samples of some of the most beloved names from the “Star Trek” franchise. Among them are Nichelle Nichols, DeForest Kelley, and the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, along with his wife, Majel Barrett Roddenberry.

The list doesn’t end there. James “Scotty” Doohan, renowned for his role as the “Star Trek” engineer, and Douglas Trumbull, the visual effects genius behind classics like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, will also join the journey.

Interestingly, the hair samples, which are the DNA sources for these presidents, are from the collection of Louis Mushro. A global celebrity in the realm of hair collection and appraisal, Mushro’s reputation is unparalleled. Before his demise in 2014, he ensured these samples were stored meticulously in a climate-controlled facility. They now embark on a mission of historic significance, thanks to an anonymous donor who gifted these samples to Celestis.

DNA in Space, Beyond the Earth-Moon System

According to Charles M. Chafer, Co-Founder & CEO of Celestis, Inc., their “Enterprise Flight is historic by any standard.” Celestis envisions an ambitious future: assisting human expansion throughout the solar system. By sending the DNA of such significant figures into space, they aim to pave the way for future human missions.

This Enterprise Flight will transcend the Earth-moon system, traveling between 93 to 186 million miles into deep space. It will carry over 200 flight capsules, each loaded with cremated ash remains, DNA, personal messages, and greetings from global clients.

The journey of these capsules isn’t just about remembrance. The Vulcan Centaur rocket, responsible for transporting these capsules, has a primary mission: aiding the Pittsburgh aerospace company Astrobotic. This assistance involves directing their Peregrine lunar lander toward the moon’s surface. Following this, the Vulcan Centaur’s upper stage will delve deeper into space. Its destination? An orbit around the sun, where it will establish humanity’s furthest outpost, the Enterprise Station.

Adding to the mission’s allure is its partnership with Amazon. The 2023 Enterprise Flight will carry two prototype satellites, set to be part of Amazon’s internet constellation, Project Kuiper. As space exploration moves forward, collaborations like these symbolize the fusion of commerce, innovation, and remembrance.

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Source: “DNA from 4 American presidents will launch to deep space” —

WTF Fun Fact 13577 – Man Wins Lottery 20 Times

You might marvel at the luck of the gentleman behind those “man wins lottery 20 times” headlines. But it’s a little trickier than it sounds.

A Leap of Faith on Lucky Numbers

Fekru Hirpo’s choice of numbers, 2-5-2-7, wasn’t a common strategy. Usually, the top prize for the Pick 4 game in Virginia is $5,000. However, in a unique twist of events, Hirpo didn’t simply play his numbers on a single ticket. He purchased 20 identical lottery tickets, all bearing the same four numbers. By doing so, he exponentially increased his chances of multiplying his potential jackpot.

When the draw took place on April 5, Hirpo’s gamble paid off handsomely. The seemingly innocuous numbers were declared the winners, turning what would have been a $5,000 win on a single ticket to an impressive haul of $100,000 for Hirpo. But what made him adopt this unprecedented strategy?

According to a news release, Hirpo himself confessed to lottery officials that he doesn’t usually buy multiple tickets with the same numbers. This time, however, intuition nudged him in that direction. “Something just told him to do it,” the release stated.

A Glimpse at the Odds

For those wondering about the odds, the Virginia Lottery sheds some light. The chances of Hirpo’s specific number combination emerging victorious stood at a staggering one in 10,000. So, despite the long odds, Hirpo’s trust in his numbers and the unique strategy of buying 20 identical tickets was nothing short of a masterstroke.

He purchased his tickets from a Four Mile Run Shell in Arlington, which will likely now gain some attention from other lottery hopefuls.

Fekru Hirpo isn’t the first individual to harness the power of repeating numbers in a lottery game. Not too long ago, a woman from Boca Raton, Florida, employed a similar strategy. She decided to play the same numbers on two Mega Millions tickets. As luck would have it, both her tickets matched all five white balls, resulting in a win. While she didn’t get the Mega Ball, her dual wins netted her a whopping total of $4 million.

The Future with His Fortune as Man Wins Lottery 20 Times

As for Hirpo’s plans for his newfound wealth? He remains tight-lipped. He’s indicated no immediate plans for his winnings. Whether he decides to invest, indulge in a luxury, or maybe just buy more lottery tickets, one thing is clear: his faith in his numbers and his audacious strategy will be talked about for a long time.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Virginia man wins $100,000 after playing same numbers on 20 lottery tickets” — FOX 5 San Diego

WTF Fun Fact 13572 – Reproduction in Space

SpaceBorn United, a Netherlands-based startup, is rocketing into the next frontier of space exploration: human reproduction in space.

While recent advancements have made space travel more tangible, the challenge of ensuring human reproduction in foreign environments remains largely unaddressed. Natural conception in space poses multiple risks. Factors such as space radiation and potential changes in embryonic development in microgravity environments call for an innovative approach.

IVF: The Compact Solution

To meet this challenge head-on, SpaceBorn United has pioneered the development of a miniaturized in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo incubator. This device, resembling a CD-ROM in size, uses advanced microfluidic technologies to condense the extensive apparatus required for IVF. The disc, beyond being programmable, spins to simulate the effects of Earth-like gravity, hosting distinct chambers for sperm fluids and female eggs, enabling a controlled conception process.

SpaceBorn’s initiative not only targets the mysteries of space reproduction but also aims to enhance IVF treatments on Earth. Conducting IVF in space’s varying gravity levels might yield insights, potentially refining IVF procedures on our home planet.

Regulatory and Ethical Hurdles

The path SpaceBorn United treads is strewn with challenges. International guidelines tightly regulate human embryo research. These standards, which limit the cultivation of human embryos to a mere 14 days, present a formidable obstacle for the company. Their planned ARTIS missions, set to embark into space in the forthcoming years, will initially involve mouse cells. Transitioning to human cells hinges on both successful results and regulatory approvals.

The Future of Space Reproduction

Despite the intricacies involved, SpaceBorn United’s ambition transcends mere conception in space. Should embryos gain the required approvals, they envision the subsequent stages of pregnancy and birth taking place on Earth, ensuring safety and optimal conditions.

The recent surge in the space tourism industry, backed by heavy investments, paints a future where common individuals, not just astronauts, venture into space or even other planets. Yet, amid these grand visions, the elemental aspect of long-term human survival and propagation in alien environments is often overlooked. SpaceBorn United’s mission accentuates this crucial element, reminding the world that space exploration is not solely about setting foot on new territories but ensuring life flourishes there.

As space exploration narratives continue to captivate global attention, initiatives like SpaceBorn United’s push the boundaries of what’s possible. Their work underscores the holistic challenges of becoming an interplanetary species, spotlighting the importance of life itself in the vastness of space.

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