The weirdest things we learned this week: Two sleeps are better than one

Our editors scrounged up some truly bizarre facts.

What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you’ll have an even weirder answer if you listen to PopSci’s hit podcast. The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week hits Apple, Anchor, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts every Wednesday morning. It’s your new favorite source for the strangest science-adjacent facts, figures, and Wikipedia spirals the editors of Popular Science can muster. If you like the stories in this post, we guarantee you’ll love the show.

This week’s episode is a recording of our latest live event at Caveat in New York City. Don’t worry, we’ll have another one soon. We can’t share all of our silly powerpoint visual aids in this article, but you’ll find the rules to the referenced drinking game at the bottom of this post! Enjoy the show:

Fact: Naked mole rats will inherit the earth

By Rachel Feltman

Summarizing my live fact is simple, because it was based on an existing PopSci article. Check out some breathtaking facts about an animal you likely don’t give nearly enough credit. Spoiler alert: naked mole rat queens use their poop to keep underlings from getting pregnant. How? You’ll have to listen to learn!

Fact: Prior to the Industrial Revolution, humans had two sleeps a night

By Claire Maldarelli

For the past few months, I’ve been waking up at nearly the exact same time every night: 2 a.m. Conversing with friends, I learned that plenty of people have experienced this same issue. But when I turned to the medical literature, I found something even more bizarre: Apparently, prior to the 18th Century, us humans used to split our night’s rest into two phases. One started shortly after dusk and ended at midnight, and we followed it with another that began at 2 a.m. and ended just after daybreak.

If you are following the timing, that left about two hours free in the middle of the night. By analyzing books, medical and court documents, and other texts from the time, historians have surmised that people indeed slept in two phases, and spent the middle bit of the night essentially having a blast. They socialized, read, drank, and some even worked. At least some scholars said it was the ideal time to have sex if you wanted to conceive. It seemed like a great time to be alive—and awake.

This bi-phasal sleeping pattern wasn’t reserved for the rich, and it wasn’t just something that people did during a time of leisure. It was the norm. Listen to the rest of this week’s episode to understand more about first sleep and second sleep, why it quickly ceased, and why, maybe, this sleeping system should be making a comeback.

a bird on a tombstone
RIP. Ryan F. Mandelbaum

Fact: Baby sharks chow down on the same birds that live in your backyard

By special guest Ryan F. Mandelbaum

Baby sharks don’t just blow up the internet with viral earworms. They also eat. And according to a recent study involving lots of baby shark puke, juveniles in the Gulf often eat birds. Not birds that are known for spending time around water, like ducks or pelicans—but the same kinds of birds that live in your backyard. Find out more on this week’s episode of Weirdest Thing, and check out my article about the study over at Gizmodo.

Drinking game rules

Take a drink of your fabulous and refreshing beverage of choice whenever:

  • Someone makes a pun (two drinks if it gets a groan!)

  • Rachel makes a joke about the fact that we obviously planned the live show in advance even though the podcast is totally spontaneous we swear

  • Unexpected butts

  • Someone in the audience is audibly appalled (or just appallingly audible)

  • A cast member says the word “Weird”

  • Ryan finds an excuse to bring up birds

  • Body horror or otherwise excessive mention of viscera

  • If we try to declare a tie you have to finish your drink, so you’d better cheer loud for your fave

If you like The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week, please subscribe, rate, and review us on Apple Podcasts (yes, even if you don’t listen to us on Apple—it really does help other weirdos find the show, because of algorithms and stuff). You can also join in the weirdness in our Facebook group and bedeck yourself in weirdo merchandise from our Threadless shop.