Weird science facts, June 1 — June 7

Once again, the Twitter #weirdscifacts for the previous week!

445. June 01: “17th c. Archimedes”, Étienne-Gaspard Robert, suggested using mirrors to burn ships in 1796 war of France vs. Britain! I’ve written before about the Archimedes “death ray”, and numerous experiments to test whether it is feasible.  What I didn’t realize is that someone, namely Robert, wanted to implement it in war!  The proposal was rejected, perhaps not surprisingly.

446. June 02: Did 2nd century Roman fishing ships carry live fish tanks?  The evidence isn’t certain, but it is certainly plausible that Roman ships had tanks of live fish, with fresh water being pumped in.  This meant that fresh fish could be distributed over a wider trading area.  (h/t @history_geek)

447. June 03: Foreign accent syndrome: Traumatic brain injury can leave a person speaking w/ a foreign accent! 

448. June 04: The “hairy frog” that breaks its own bones to produce claws. Wolverine, anyone?  The claws are apparently a last-ditch defense mechanism, inadvertently discovered when a researcher picked one of the frogs up!

449. June 05: Rodney Fox: From near-fatal shark attack victim, to shark killer, to major shark conservationist.  Fox was nearly killed by a great white shark while fishing for abalone off of the coast of Australia; the shark tore him open so extensively that only his wetsuit was holding his internal organs in.  After recovering from his attack, Fox gained notoriety as a shark killer, but eventually grew fascinated with the creatures and became a significant shark researcher and documentary maker.

450. June 06: The 1725 story of the “lying stones”, fake fossils that wrecked the career of Johann Beringer

451. June 07: c. 1922, Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard finished his PhD thesis — conception, research, and writing — in three weeks.  This is described in Richard Rhodes’ excellent history The Making of the Atomic Bomb.  To be fair, Szilard actually worked for sixth months on a relativity problem assigned by his advisor Max von Laue.  Stumped by the problem, the proactive Szilard decided to find his own thesis topic!  Over the course of 3 weeks, he picked a difficult, supposedly unsolvable problem in thermodynamics, solved it, and wrote it up!  He presented it first to Einstein, who was skeptical at first but quickly won over.  Szilard then presented the manuscript to von Laue, who took it home.  The next morning, von Laue called to tell Szilard that the manuscript had been accepted as his thesis!

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4 Responses to Weird science facts, June 1 — June 7

  1. IronMonkey says:

    “Leo Szilard finished his PhD thesis in three weeks”. Wow I am jealous. Wish I could do the same 🙂 Hopefully I will finish that this summer.

  2. lycaon says:

    Wow, I think the Wolverine-frog is my favorite there. Because that’s just crazy.

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