Weird science facts, February 16 — February 22

I’ve been working on another history of science post, but it is taking quite a bit of effort, so I haven’t posted anything on the blog since last week’s Twitter #weirdscifacts!  Sorry if it seems like I’m all weird science facts, all the time, but new posts will be coming soon.

Incidentally, you may notice that I’m really, really close to having done a full year’s worth of #weirdscifacts!!! I’d like to present some pretty weird stuff for the final week, so if you’ve got something bizarre to share, please let me know.

340. Feb 16: Another fun Komodo dragon fact: young smear themselves w/ feces to avoid being eaten by adults. Komodo dragons are not above eating their young, but they are averse to eating poo.

341. Feb 17: Lesson concerning self-experimentation: Reichelt’s 1912 disastrous & fatal Eiffel Tower parachute test. The amazing thing is that Reichelt was given permission to run the test using a dummy.  He ostensibly had arrived at the tower to do such a test, but revealed his intention to do the jump himself at the last minute.  Impulsiveness + skydiving = bad idea.

342. Feb 18: Abraham Lincoln tried to square the circle! (by @divbyzero)  “Squaring the circle” refers to the classic mathematical problem of drawing a square with the same area of a given circle using only a compass and a straightedge.  The problem in this form goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks, though even earlier mathematicians tackled closely related ideas.  It was proven to be impossible in 1882, but unfortunately Lincoln didn’t live long enough for the revelation.

343. Feb 19: The man who stuck his head in a particle accelerator. (h/t @patrickneville)  Considering the beamline of an accelerator is, in essence, carrying a beam of radiation in it in the form of ultra-high energy particles, it is considered a bad idea to stick any part of the body into the beam.  The fact that safety mechanisms were not present to prevent such an occurrence is amazing in itself.

344. Feb 20: Highest g-force survived by a human: 46.2g (!), c. 1950.  Intentional test by pilot John Stapp. Keep in mind that this is equivalent to suddenly becoming 46.2 times as heavy!  Stapp would be subject to rapid accelerations/decelerations via rides on a rocket sled.  To consider how crazy this is, before Stapp’s work the human body was thought to be able to survive 18 g’s at most.

345. Feb 21: Telescopes can, and have been, made out of big pools of spinning liquid mercury. Mercury is highly reflective, and when a dish of it is spun the surface forms a perfect parabola, ideal for image formation.  A giant mercury mirror is much, much cheaper than a solid mirror; the disadvantage is that the mercury mirror can’t be tilted, for obvious reasons.

346. Feb 22: Bloop!  ‘Nuff said. This one also counts as a #creepyscifacts!  In 1997, an unidentified, extremely loud low frequency sound was detected in the ocean.  The signal seems to have been produced by a living creature, but was louder than any known animal can produce.  The online promo material for the movie Cloverfield tied the “Bloop!” to the movie’s monster.

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4 Responses to Weird science facts, February 16 — February 22

  1. Lowell says:

    Guess Komodo’s won’t eat what goes in the old Commodo! I wager that this has much more to due with pheromones and a lot less to due with palate. The characteristic odor probably identifies the offspring of that individual. If your frontal cortex is the size of a spring pea, odds are you eat almost anything. A test of this would be to place a poo smeaked younster in the same area of an adult that is not the parent and see what happens.

  2. Alan Kellogg says:

    The Bloop, it was recently pointed out to me, also took place at the location of the Great Cthulhu’s sub-marine digs, R’lyeh.

    “Oh, R’lyeh?”

    Yes, R’lyeh.

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