Weird science facts, May 4 — May 10

Still going strong with the Twitter #weirdscifacts!  Here are this week’s facts.

417. May 04: Aerogel: lowest-density solid with density almost as low as air: 1.9 mg/cm^3 for gel, 1.2 mg/cm^3 for air!  Aerogel is an amazing substance — it is also incredibly heat-resistant and shows Rayleigh scattering just like the atmosphere, appearing blue when looking at it with reflected light and yellow when looking at it with transmitted light.  Small disks can be purchased, as I did the other day:

418. May 05: The Malaysian ant — a suicide bomber that explodes when threatened, covering predator with poison! I happened across a couple of lists of “animal weapons” recently, so we’ll see a number of these in the ‘facts!

419. May 06: The Pythagoras cup — fill it too much, and it will completely drain from the bottom!

420. May 07: Chemist Linus Pauling did not get his high school diploma until age 61 — after winning 2 Nobel Prizes.  Pauling had enough credits to go to college at age 15, but didn’t have the required courses to graduate from high school.  As one might expect from a groundbreaking-scientist-to-be, he simply skipped out on high school!  After getting his second Nobel, for peace, he was finally awarded the long-delayed diploma.

421. May 08: The horned lizard has an unusual defense weapon — ability to squirt blood from its eyes up to 5 ft

422. May 09: Biggest fossilized poo ever discovered was found under the future site of a Lloyds Bank branch!  I leave it to others to decide on the symbolism of the discovery…

422a. Bonus fact! Venn-like diagrams go back to the mystic Ramon Llull in the 1200s!  (via @blakestacey)

423. May 10: The strange obsession in the 1920s-1930s with the invention of “death rays” by multiple researchers.  Nikola Tesla was the most famous of these “death ray” enthusiasts, but a surprising number of folks claimed to have developed prototypes, though none ever were demonstrated to a scientific audience.  I looked up the history of “death rays” after stumbling upon a commercial product dubbed such — actually a powerful infrared laser.

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