The 20 Catchiest Songs (According to Science)

The catchiest song is "Wannabe," by the Spice Girls! At least that's the conclusion researchers in the UK have come to after a year-long study.

In the experiment, developed by the UK's Museum of Science and Industry, people played an interactive online game called Hooked on Music, created by computational musicologist John Ashley Burgoyne and a team at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht. The game contained 1000 clips of best-selling songs spanning seven decades, from the 1940s until the present day. There were four different ways to play, as Cnet describes:

Recognise that Tune, where users had to hum along with the track, continuing when the sound dropped out and gauging whether they were still in time when the sound resumed; What's the Hook, where users had to listen to two different clips from the same song and choose which clip was catchier; Time Trial, where users had to recognise as many songs as possible in three minutes; and In a Row, where users had to recognise as many songs in a row as they could.

Researchers analyzed the data of 12,000 participants, which revealed that, on average, it took users just 2.29 seconds to recognize "Wannabe." Here's the full list:

1. "Wannabe," Spice Girls - 2.29 seconds
2. "Mambo No. 5," Lou Bega - 2.48 seconds
3. "Eye of the Tiger," Survivor - 2.62 seconds
4. "Just Dance," Lady Gaga - 2.66 seconds
5. "SOS," ABBA - 2.73 seconds
6. "Pretty Woman," Roy Orbison - 2.73 seconds
7. "Beat It," Michael Jackson - 2.80 seconds
8. "I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston - 2.83 seconds
9. "Don't You Want Me," The Human League - 2.83 seconds
10. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," Aerosmith - 2.84 seconds
11. "Poker Face," Lady Gaga - 2.88 seconds
12. "MMMbop," Hanson - 2.89 seconds
13. "It's Now or Never," Elvis Presley - 2.91 seconds
14. "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," Bachman-Turner Overdrive - 2.94 seconds
15. "Billie Jean," Michael Jackson - 2.97 seconds
16. "Karma Chameleon," Culture Club - 2.99 seconds
17. "Baby One More Time," Britney Spears - 2.99 seconds
18. "Devil in Disguise," Elvis Presley - 3.01 seconds
19. "Rivers of Babylon," Boney M - 3.03 seconds
20. "Candle in the Wind," Elton John - 3.04 seconds

The researchers hope to figure out not only what makes a song catchy but how musical memory works, which could help people with dementia. "There has already been some research that shows that if you can find the right piece of music, something that had a very strong meaning, playing that piece of music can be very therapeutic," game creator Burgoyne said. "But the challenge is figuring out what is the best piece of music."

[h/t The Science of Us]

Lítla Dímun: The Smallest of the Faroe Islands Has Its Very Own Cloud

While some islands are known for their unusual geography or unique history, Lítla Dímun is notable for its weather. The island, which is the smallest of Denmark's Faroe Islands chain, is often capped by a lens-shaped cloud, making it resemble a scene from a fairytale.

According to Mental Floss's own Kerry Wolfe writing for Atlas Obscura, the cloud floating above Lítla Dímun is a lenticular cloud. This type of cloud forms when moist air flows over a protruding geological feature, like a mountain top. When the wind moving up the landmass hits the air current directly above it, a sort of wave is created on the downwind side of the mountain. The moist air falling down this wave evaporates and then condenses into a large, flying-saucer-shaped cloud atop the mountain peak as a result.

Another factor that makes Lítla Dímun distinct is that it's the only one of the 18 main Faroe Islands without human inhabitants. Visitors to the mystical location will instead find a thriving population of sheep. Originally, Lítla Dímun was home to a group of feral sheep likely dating back to the Neolithic era. But they were hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Domesticated sheep were introduced there around the same time, and today, farmers visit the island once a year to round up their flocks.

One of the few signs of human life are the ropes farmers use to scale the cliff faces bordering the island. Even if you have rock-climbing skills, Lítla Dímun may be dangerous to visit. A boat ride to the rocky shore is only possible when the surrounding sea is calm.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Why Are Sloths So Slow?

Sloths have little problem holding still for nature photographers.
Sloths have little problem holding still for nature photographers.
Geoview/iStock via Getty Images

When it comes to physical activity, few animals have as maligned a reputation as the sloth. The six sloth species, which call Brazil and Panama home, move with no urgency, having seemingly adapted to an existence that allows for a life lived in slow motion. But what makes sloths so sedate? And what horrible, poop-related price must they pay in order to maintain life in the slow lane?

According to HowStuffWorks, the sloth’s limited movements are primarily the result of their diet. Residing mainly in the canopy vines of Central and South American forests, sloths dine out on leaves, fruits, and buds. With virtually no fat or protein, sloths conserve energy by taking a leisurely approach to life. On average, a sloth will climb or travel roughly 125 feet per day. On land, it takes them roughly one minute to move just one foot.

A sloth’s digestive system matches their locomotion. After munching leaves using their lips—they have no incisors—it can take up to a month for their meals to be fully digested. And a sloth's metabolic rate is 40 to 45 percent slower than most mammals' to help compensate for their low caloric intake. With so little fuel to burn, a sloth makes the most of it.

Deliberate movement shouldn’t be confused for weakness, however. Sloths can hang from branches for hours, showing off some impressive stamina. And because they spend most of their time high up in trees, they have no need for rapid movement to evade predators.

There is, however, one major downside to the sloth's leisurely lifestyle. Owing to their meager diet, they typically only have to poop once per week. Like going in a public bathroom, this can be a stressful event, as it means going to the ground and risking detection by predators—which puts their lives on the line. Worse, that slow bowel motility means they’re trying to push out nearly one-third of their body weight in feces at a time. It's something to consider the next time you feel envious of their chill lifestyle.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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