Weird science facts, November 30 — December 6

Another week of non-stop Twitter #weirdscifacts!  How much more can I go on??!!  I hope for another few months, at least!

627. Nov 30: Bertholdia trigona, the tiger moth that can jam a bat’s echolocation with ultrasound!  Bats seek their prey using echolocation: seeing with sound waves.  Just like a radar jammer can block radio signals, the tiger moth can scramble a bat’s echolocation using its own ultrasound!

628. Dec 01: The giant weta: how giant do you like your insects?  (h/t @msbellows)  This is a pretty amazing insect but, as David Winter noted, it isn’t the largest insect on the planet by any measure, as the article reports!

629. Dec 02: I’m on an insect kick: Chan’s megastick, 22 inches long and with winged eggs! This giant insect is doubly odd, with its winged eggs!  The article describes them as a Harry Potter “snitch”, but this isn’t what they really look like.  The wings do serve a practical purpose, however: allowing the eggs to glide sufficiently far from the parent’s tree so that there isn’t competition between parent and offspring.

630. Dec 03: 65 billion solar neutrinos pass through every square cm of the Earth every second.  An unfathomable amount of neutrinos pass through the human body, and the entire Earth, every second!  Neutrinos interact so weakly with ordinary matter that they are exceedingly likely to pass through the entire planet without a single interaction.

631. Dec 04: Henry the tuatara, who became a dad at 111 years old (with a 70-something year old mate).  Age is very relative!  The long-lived tuataras can apparently breed up through exceedingly old age.

632. Dec 05: Wild gorilla tool use: Leah probing the depth of swampy water!  A number of primates are known to use tools, but wild gorillas were not known to do this until around 2005, when Leah was spotted using a stick to probe the depth of a treacherous swamp.  This is a surprising level of sophistication, and has led to a reassessment of gorilla intelligence and social structure; see photos of Leah in the act here. (This fact comes via @mireyamayor‘s memoir, Pink Boots and a Machete, which I hope to review soon!)

633. Dec 06: The planet Mercury, where a single day lasts 2 years!  Mercury actually takes 88 days to orbit the Sun; from a “fixed” perspective, it rotates completely on its axis 1.5 times for every orbit.  Keep in mind, though, that one full rotation per orbit would leave the same side of the planet illuminated all the time!  1.5 rotations per orbit means that, after one year,  it is full night on Mercury; after one more year, it is noon again.

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