Fish Exist.

Fish Exist is a parody of QI’s excellent podcast No Such Thing as a Fish, designed to generate interesting facts instead of researching them.

It first pulls Wikipedia’s list of No Such Thing As A Fish episodes, pulls out all the headline facts, and feeds them into my Markov chain implementation. Every few hours, it picks a fact from the real list, and uses the first two words as a seed to generate a sentence. (If it generates one of the original facts verbatim, it rejects it and generates another — although it does sometimes rephrase them.)

The source code is on GitHub, and it generates things like:

Deck The Halls

Deck The Halls turned tweets with the correct meter into an endless and bizarre version of the classic carol:

Stop assuming Santa's gender. — Jesse (@jessetrowe)

Falalalala, la la, la la! — Deck the Halls (@falalala_la)

What the fuck is wrong with people — т૨אℓℓ รтα૨ (@TrxllStar)

Falalalala, la la, la la! — Deck the Halls (@falalala_la)

Freezer & refrigerator — 1⃣6⃣ (@_teegram)

Falala, lalala, la la la! — Deck the Halls (@falalala_la)

Oral Sex Can Lead to Cancer — daiana bridge (@daianabridge)

Falalalala, la la, la laaaa! — Deck the Halls (@falalala_la)

To do this, it listened to the public Twitter feed. This is a tiny, random subset of all tweets. It then strips out @names at the start of tweets, and URLs at the end, and feeds the rest through Carnegie Mellon University’s pronunciation dictionary which is an invaluable resource for automating puns. It ignores everything except the lexical stress pattern, and it ignores the difference between primary and secondary stresses. If what’s left is eight syllables with the stress on numbers one, three, five and seven, the tweet fits into the song.

If it’s been less than 20 minutes since the last tweet, then the matching tweet is quoted, with the appropriate line of “falala”s — that is, “falalala la, la la, la la!” for the first two tweets, “falala, lalala, la la la!” for the third, and “falalala la, la la, la laaaa!” for the fourth. After each such verse, it starts again.

The source code is on GitHub.

823 Years

People seem interested by unusual-looking dates. This meme, for example, gained a surprising amount of traction considering how strangely confused it is about how two-digit years correspond to four-digit ones:

At exactly 06 mins and 07 seconds after 5 o’clock on Aug 9th 2010, it will be 05:06:07 08/09/10. This won’t happen again until the year 3010.

And then there’s this one, which is just mad.

AN INTERESTING FACT ABOUT AUGUST 2010. This August has 5 Sundays, 5 Mondays, 5 Tuesdays, all in one month. It happens once in 823 years.

All Augusts do that. Not always with Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but near enough, and the exact combination isn’t rare. Even if it were, the calendar loops every 400 years so nothing like this could possibly happen every 823. It would be an astonishing coincidence if the 1-in-823 freak August contained the 1-in-1000 freak county date thing.

But how impressive is the county date thing really? I mean, yes, it won’t happen again until 2110, but if you use the UK date format it happened again in September. If you use the US date format, but write the time after the date, then it happened again later that morning.

And you don’t have to start at five. You could start at six, and it happened in 2011. If you start at eight, and it happened in 2013.

And you don’t have to count in ones. You could do just the odd numbers. Or just the primes. Or…

So I did what anyone would do: I fired up Python, scraped the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, and set my Raspberry Pi tweeting every interesting date it could find.

Present Day

A very silly bot which uses the Wikidata SparQL API to find historical events that happened almost-but-not-quite twice as long ago as other historical events. It then posts about them, in the form of Interesting Facts which say things like:

Did you know? The Battle of Cresson happened closer to the Synod of Constantinople than the present day

Fun fact: the 1986 NHL Supplemental Draft happened closer to the 1953 Maltese general election than the present day

Did you know? The VfL Bochum versus Borussia Mönchengladbach 1992-93 Fußball-Bundesliga happened closer to the Meidericher SV versus VfB Stuttgart 1965-66 Fußball-Bundesliga than the present day

Wanna feel old? The Second Defenestration of Prague (1618) happened closer to the Siege of Jazdów than the present day