Weird science facts, July 04-July 17

The Twitter #weirdscifacts from June 20 – July 03 are below the fold!

113. July 04: Feynman (1918-1988) demonstrated a hole in a security fence by reentering the guarded area multiple times w/out exiting. This is described in the chapter, “Los Alamos from below,” in Feynman’s memoir, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”  The sergeant at the gate almost had Feynman arrested for his shenanigans.

114. July 05: The liger: cross between a male lion and tigress; specimens reach 10 ft long and 900 lbs! It is also possible to breed a “tigon”, a cross between a female lion and male tiger.

115. July 06: Via @Laelaps, Funky worms cause ants to mimic fruit!

116. July 07: Over the right surface, a square-wheeled bicycle will give you a smooth ride!

117. July 08: (via @edyong209) Robins can literally see magnetic fields! (This was all over twitter on that day, and I decided I couldn’t beat it as a weird fact.)

118. July 09: Physicist Thomas Young (1773-1829) wrote his first autobiography in Latin — at age 14.

119. July 10: The “flying snake”, Chrysopelea ornata! This snake can glide great distances by curving its ribcage below its body, and can even make mid-air turns.  Be sure to watch the long-distance gliding videos (and note the grad students running to catch the snakes!).

120. July 11: The development of the CT scanner may have been aided by The Beatles!

121. July 12: The father of physicist J.W. Gibbs (1839-1903), J.W. Gibbs Sr., was a key witness in the Amistad trial.

122. July 13: Mathematician Niels Abel (d. 1829) died two days before receiving a letter notifying him of his 1st faculty appointment. Abel died tragically young, at age 27; he had contracted tuberculosis while traveling through Europe on a failed job hunt.  It’s probably cold comfort, but post-docs struggling for work should realize that things can be much worse!

123. July 14: Contagious Yawning in dogs. Dogs can catch yawns from humans! (Another popular post of the day that I just couldn’t beat!)

124. July 15: Haidinger’s brush: many people are able to (weakly) sense the polarization of light!

125. July 16: Reginald Scot’s 1584 book disproving witchcraft earned the ire of King James… of the King James Bible! This tweet refers to my own post on Scot’s work.  It is quite shocking (and depressing) to realize that the “author” of one of the most popular Bibles in existence was in fact a fanatical witch-believer.  James wrote his own book on witchcraft in answer to Scot’s refutations.

126. July 17: Physicist Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875) invented the “enchanted lyre“, an instrument that seemed to play by itself! (In fact, the lyre was connected by wire to instruments played on the floor above)

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