The world is big…and it is a weird place. It is then too easy to forget about the world’s strange complexities in our preoccupation with the daily grind. But every once in a while, it astounds us so completely with its propensity for bizarre that we are compelled to stop and take notice. There is no dearth of oddball characters and freak happenings in this world if one knows where to look. From penis-fencing to unicorn bulls (and everything in between), we bring you a collection of 20 strange and unusual facts that will alternately shock and amuse you. So much so that you begin to question their authenticity. Sounds good? Read on.
1. Playing a deep B-flat on tuba gets gators Crazy!
“The science of music and it’s effect on animals and even plants reveals something startling: It’s not just an art form — it’s essentially a force of nature.” – Jordan Taylor Sloan for mic.com
In an attempt to replicate a 1944 experiment, reporters from Tampa Tribune teamed up with tuba players to test how alligators responded to a B-flat note. The impetus for the experiment was an NPR tidbit about the B-flat and its ‘mysterious effect on nature’. The team chose Gatorland, a bustling tourist spot that showcased these majestic reptiles, to figure out once and for all if there was any truth to this unusual phenomenon.
Sure enough, after a little trial-and-error, the alligators responded in a terrifyingly beautiful symphony, even managing to stun the infamous gator-man Tim Williams who accompanied the team as a guide. In fact, scientific literature specific to this topic dates all the way back to Aristotle and Darwin, who reported extensively on the behavioural and social changes in animals when exposed to various kinds of music.(1,2)
2. Franz Reichelt, a French tailor, jumped to death from Eiffel Tower trying to test a wearable parachute he had designed.
In a tragic and gruesome real-life retelling of the myth of Icarus (whose wax wings burnt-off because he flew too close to the sun), this Parisian tailor, absolutely convinced that his self-designed wing-suit would be path-breaking in aerial navigation, plummeted to his death in pursuit of proving it. The suit was a little more than a few extra meters of fabric with a huge hood of silk on top when extended. The mechanics of the suit were rudimentary at best requiring nothing more than a ‘strategic’ extension of Reichelt’s arms.
Refusing his colleagues’ words of caution (as he reasoned that the dramatic demonstration would attract sponsors), Reichelt took off from the top of the Eiffel Tower with unparalleled confidence in his wing-suit as the entire Parisian crowd watched from the ground. The suit enveloped him instantaneously making any sort of movement impossible. Reichelt hit the ground mere seconds later. The impact of his fall was so massive that he left a 5.9-inch-deep crater the ground.
According to one anonymous journalist, who famously commented on the spectacle’s aftermath, only half of the term ‘mad genius’ applied to Reichelt.
3. The Nazis tried teaching dogs to talk and read.
More than half a century later, Hitler’s wartime experiments still manage to confound our mind.
Following recently declassified files (which also included strategic reports on the army using poisoned sausages, chocolate and other strange weapons against the Allied troops), Hitler’s plans to employ dogs for helping with the wartime effort was brought out into the open.
Believing that dogs are similarly wired as humans, Hitler put his troupe of scientists and officers to immediate work – they recruited, trained and (apparently) worked alongside dogs to further establish the Nazi regime. He hoped that these special dogs would work alongside the SS officers in a human capacity. Hitler set up a dog school, Tier-Sprechschule ASRA, in Hanover specifically for this purpose. These dogs, meticulously scouted from all over Germany, were taught to read, spell and even engage in telepathic man-to-dog communication.
It gets even more outrageous.
Rolf, one of the terriers enrolled in Hitler’s dog school, apparently speculated about a religion, wrote poetry and expressed political inclinations – he desired to join the army because of his contempt for the French. Kurwenal, a Dachshund, developed a complicated system of barks for the English alphabet and reportedly told his biographer that he would be voting for Hindenburg.(source)
4. The ‘Vampire Squirrel’ of Borneo has the fluffiest tail of any mammal on earth which is 130% the size of its own body.
It’s so fluffy you could die.
These vicious rodents use their tails (which developed as an evolutionary defense against predators) to effectively camouflage their tiny bodies. Their tails have a staggering volume of 130% of their total body, placing these furry predators as the fluffiest-tailed mammals on earth.
Borneo’s forest-dwellers and Dayak hunters tell incredible tales of these squirrels’ supposed vampiric abilities. They are known to inhabit low hanging branches and strike at their prey when they wander too close, completely mauling their internals organs and feasting on the desired parts.
5. Shining a bright light on the backs of human knees can reset the brain’s sleep-wake clock..
Humans have developed highly intricate mechanisms for biological time-keeping, as evidenced by this weird experiment. For decades, the light-sensitive cells in eyes were thought to be the prime regulators of the sleep-wake cycle, until a team of scientists studying the circadian rhythm discovered that these cells exist elsewhere in the body as well – like the backs of knees.
By shining a bright light on this area, they could successfully alter the body’s sense of time by speeding up or slowing down their biological clock. These findings challenged the established ideas of how the circadian rhythm operates and could potentially have far-reaching consequences on how we deal with sleep disorders, insomnia, and seasonal depression.(source)