Weird science facts, October 12 — October 18

Time for Twitter #weirdscifacts!  I found a few minutes at the Frontiers in Optics meeting to get the post up.

578. Oct 12: Via @DiscoverMag, Fish have been jumping on land for 150 million yrs & hiding it from the fossil record.  You might think that the flopping of a fish out of water is a simple act of desperation, but some species have used it as a genuine motion technique to escape water-bound predators.  Because this motion doesn’t leave tell-tale footprints, it wouldn’t appear in the fossil record, but has probably gone on for quite some time.

579. Oct 13: Check out Cox’s 1760s-era clock powered by atmospheric pressure and later related clocks. (Also, check out the Beverly Clock, which hasn’t been rewound since 1864!)  Such devices were originally thought to be true perpetual motion machines, but they in fact draw in energy from the atmosphere.

579a. Bonus #weirdscifacts via @plutoniumpage: The cheeseburger cook who witnessed the first atomic bomb explosion.  How cool is this?  Due to his position as the cook for the nuclear engineers, he was tipped off to see one of the most significant and frightening events in history.

580. Oct 14: Did you know there’s a technical term, “petrichor“, for the smell after it rains?  (h/t @discoveryplace)

581. Oct 15: Champollion (1790-1832), first translator of heiroglyphics, had mastered 12 languages by age 16 & given an academic talk. (Champollion was also an assistant professor by age 19.) Champollion isn’t the first young prodigy we’ve discussed in these facts, but his mastery of languages is mind-boggling.

582. Oct 16: The world’s longest continuously running experiment: the pitch drop experiment (84 yrs!).  There’s some controversy in calling it the “world’s longest continuously running experiment”, even though certified by Guinness: at least two biology-related experiments have been in existence far longer!  There is the Park Grass experiment, which has been running for 155 years, (h/t @BobOHara) and there is the Beal seed viability experiment, which has been running for 132 years (h/t @Glethnohistory)!

583. Oct 17: The blobfish. Enough said.  This fish is odd in both its appearance and its manner of buoyancy.

584. Oct 18: Islamic biologist al-Jahiz (781-869) allegedly died when books in his library toppled and crushed him.  Like many stories from that early era, it is possible that the story is a legend; however, it does seem to be widely accepted.

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