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Literally Just 8 Weird Things We Learned In August

A zombie octopus arm? In front of my salad?

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1. Octopuses' legs have a mind of their own.

Monterey Bay Aquarium / Via

I learned so many cool things about octopuses reading The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery, but all of the facts and tidbits about their arms were what really blew my mind. First, octopuses can taste with their skin (and their suckers have a more heightened sense of taste), so their arms are tasting the environment around them basically all the time. Also, three-fifths of the octopus's neurons are in its arms — not its brain — which could mean their mind and sense of self are organized and distributed in a radically different (and kind of impossible to comprehend) way than humans' are. If an octopus's arm is cut off, the arm will often just continue on as though nothing has happened for several hours. The severed arm may even grab food and try to put it into its mouth (which, of course, is not there). AND! AND!!! Their arms may even have different personalities. Researchers have observed that an octopus may have some arms that are bold (walking toward food in an unfamiliar setting, for example) while other arms appear to be shy or hesitant. It's been said that octopuses are the closest thing to intelligent aliens that humans may ever meet, and honestly, after reading this book, I believe it. —Rachel Wilkerson Miller

2. There's a type of dog breed called the Swedish Vallhund and it honestly looks like a wolf corgi.

It's a herding breed that really looks like a corgi dressed up like a wolf for Halloween, but genetically they don't seem to be closely related. So magical, fierce and smol! I would volunteer to be mauled by a pack of these! —Sarah Aspler


3. The Graham cracker was invented to prevent masturbation.

Andrea Goh / flickr

Hey, you! Before you pick up another s’more, you should probably know that Reverend Sylvester Graham of Connecticut invented the Graham cracker as a way to prevent masturbation. Back in the Victorian Era, when sex was basically viewed as the root of all evil, Graham proclaimed that a person could become physically ill from masturbation — an act he believed "inflames the brain more than natural arousal."

So, beginning in the 1830s, he launched a movement against masturbation, preaching that a bland diet could curb sexual appetite (you know, like Atkins, but anti-wanking), which is why he made a snack as boring as never jerking off. How does this sad tale end? Well, because karma is real, Graham was later mobbed after attempting to lecture women on chastity. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ —Tom Vellner

4. The swim stroke we call "freestyle" is actually the front crawl.

cmaccubbin via Wikimedia Commons

The four basic swim strokes are breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle, right? Wrong! Apparently, the swimming stroke most people call "freestyle" is actually called "front crawl." Freestyle literally means "swim any way you want," as long as it's not breast, back, or fly. Everyone does the front crawl, though, because it's known to be the fastest stroke. Until the early 20th century, when the front crawl became popular, people did the Trudgen, aka a version of sidestroke during freestyle swim. —Terri Pous

5. Your nonsense password is basically useless and the guy who advocated for it is sorry.

XKCD / Via

You guys, I feel so cheated! I was reading Wired's security news roundup (which everyone should read!) and learned this tidbit. You know how we're told we need uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters for an uncrackable password? That's all thanks to one dude and he kinda lied to us. His name is Bill Burr and back in 2003, he was a manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, just writing an eight page manual on password security, something he didn't know too much about. He based his research on a paper from the '80s, when the internet wasn't even a thing, but to be fair, password security wasn't a hot topic back then. NIST has since updated their memo on best password practices, but a lot of us are still stuck with sad passwords we can't actually remember. At least he's sorry? —Alana Mohamed

6. Fungi can help trees grow and talk to each other!

HeyouRelax via Pixabay

I heard about this on an episode of RadioLab called "From Tree to Shining Tree", where they talked about how fungi were more closely related to animals than plants. Basically, the tree turns CO2 into sugar which it shares with the fungi and then the fungi shares the nutrients it absorbs with the soil with the tree. Yeah, we've all been thinking that trees have been going around sucking everything they need from their roots, but apparently the tips of the roots are too small for the job. And then, things get even more wild because the trees and fungi actually communicate to tell each other what they need. AND the fungi help the trees of a forest communicate with each other! Science is cool.

If you listen to the podcast and decide you want to learn more, the same scientist talks about her research in more detail here. —Emily Shwake

7. There is a new king of frog in our world and it's really cute.

Jegath Janani via National Geographic / Via

I was on my daily scroll through Facebook when this little cutie caught my attention. I instantly clicked, and according to National Geographic, a new frog species has been discovered in India! It’s amazing to me that we are still learning about new animals and their way of life. Apparently these lil’ blobs, now known as purple pig-nosed frogs, hang out underground and only emerge to mate. Oh, it has to be raining, though! No sun for these squishies. They’ve adapted to life underground and use their long tongues to eat termites and ants. Honestly, it doesn’t look like a frog but it’s still kinda cute?? —Kayla Suazo

8. Australia launched a war against emus and lost.

Christian Jansky / Via

I am not even sure how I first found out about this, but so reports Scientific American. Emus had been classified as nuisances after destroying crops grown on land the Australian government had provided to World War I vets. When these trained gunmen couldn't get their hands on the ammunition they needed, the army was called in. On November 2, 1932, three men and Major G.P.W. Meredith were sent to rid Western Australia of 20,000 emus, which seemed like a simple enough task. Only, emus are terrifying and smart and we should 100% just leave them be. While a few went down, Meredith realized that it took about 10 bullets to kill even one emu and his troop was making slow progress. His men were recalled in December and the emus #persisted. At least, for a time. Veterans eventually took down 57,034 emus by themselves, but I highly recommend reading up on the details of emu warfare. Let history never repeat itself. —AM