Weird science facts, October 26 — November 1

This is a special edition of Twitter #weirdscifacts: it is also my 1000th blog post at Skulls in the Stars!

(image source)

Not sure exactly what I should do to celebrate: post your suggestions in the comments!

In the meantime, here are the facts for the week:

592. Oct 26: The world’s oldest museum? 2500 years old, built by a Babylonian princess. It is fascinating to realize that the basic display labels from this ancient museum are now museum pieces in their own right.

593. Oct 27: Barnacle penises shaped by waves!  (Post by @kzelnio, h/t @jenlucpiquant)

594. Oct 28: Giant freshwater stingray of SE Asia, which lives in rivers and weighs up to 1300 lbs.  (h/t @highlyanne)

595. Oct 29: Pope Sylvester II (946-1003), was accused of witchcraft — but was in fact a mathematician!  In those early days, people of exceptional knowledge were often accused of witchcraft.  Sylvester was the first Christian known to teach math using the Arabic numerals and zero.

596. Oct 30: Max Born (1882-1970), one of the founders of quantum mechanics, also has a famous granddaughter: Olivia Newton-John.  I have personal experience with this, as my thesis advisor Emil Wolf wrote a classic optics text with Born.  Wolf actually has an autographed photo of Olivia in his office, as he has met her and corresponded with her a number of times.

597. Oct 31: Did a volcanic eruption lead to the creation of “Frankenstein”?  Special Halloween weird fact!!! The 1815 volcanic eruption of Tambora was the most powerful in recorded history, releasing over 100 times as much material as the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.  The ash cloud blanketed the atmosphere and reflected sunlight away from the Earth, leading to a global drop in temperatures.  1816 was known as “The Year Without a Summer”, with dramatically unseasonable and intemperate weather.  This bad weather ruined the summer of a circle of friends vacationing in Switzerland, including Lord Byron and Mary Shelley.  Trapped indoors in the gloom, the group proposed a ghost story writing contest — Shelley produced the first draft of the immortal “Frankenstein”!

Was the volcano really responsible, even indirectly, for the creation of “Frankenstein”?  It’s impossible to say for certain, but the case in favor is reasonable.  (h/t @MGhydro)

598. Nov 01: A life-saving medical procedure: fecal transplants!  It sounds bizarre, and the news reporters in the accompanying video were, in my opinion, rather obnoxious the patient; nevertheless, it is remarkable how effective such a transplant is!  (h/t @canislatrans)

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3 Responses to Weird science facts, October 26 — November 1

  1. Don’t forget that fateful 1816 contest also led to John Polidori’s contribution, “The Vampire”. So we can blame Tambora for the Twilight books as well. Yet another tragic consequence of volcanic activity along with ash clouds and lava.

  2. Milley says:

    great article,but some of the links are not working.Please fix them if you can 🙂

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