Twitter Weird Science Facts, Volume 6

Time for another roundup of Twitter #weirdscifacts!  Read below to learn the amazing secret this single unearthed coin revealed.

Domitianus_II_obverse_ashmolean_2014

90. (March 31). The world’s oldest museum? 2500 years old, built by a Babylonian princess.  The cultivation of knowledge is as old as civilization, though it is really strange to think of a museum having artifacts from an older museum.  One day, our museum pieces will be museum museum pieces, too.

91. (April 1). Giant freshwater stingray of SE Asia, which lives in rivers and weighs up to 1300 lbs.  When I think of stingrays, I think of ocean-dwelling creatures.  And not ones that weird on the order of a ton.

Photo by Barry Rogge, via Wikipedia.

Photo by Barry Rogge, via Wikipedia.

92. (April 2). Max Born (1882-1970), one of the founders of quantum mechanics, also has a famous granddaughter: Olivia Newton-John.  I have personal knowledge of this.  My PhD advisor, Emil Wolf, wrote the classic text Principles of Optics with Born.  Wolf ended up meeting Newton-John, and has a pair of autographed photos of her.

93. (April 3). Using a decompression chamber to treat an excessively gassy sea turtle? This is an interesting application of a technology for reasons beyond those originally intended.

94. (April 4). Uranus is the coldest planet in the solar system: as low as 49 degrees Kelvin!  This is surprising, because Uranus isn’t even the farthest planet from the Sun; that honor goes to Neptune.  (Sorry, Pluto!)

95. (April 5). Cosmic rays, first discovered on the top of the Eiffel Tower!  This is one of my old blog posts! Curiously, the observations on the Tower were not conclusive, so the credit for the discovery of cosmic rays, and the Nobel Prize, went to later researchers.

96. (April 6). The Banach-Tarski paradox: breaking up a sphere & reassembling into two identical to the first? Like most bizarre mathematical paradoxes, there is quite a lot of subtlety to this theorem, and it is not something one expects to “see” in the real world.  It is nevertheless quite cool.

97. (April 7). Wolves have local howl accents!  With some reflection, perhaps this is obvious — however, it is a reminder that animals share more similarities with us than we imagine.

98. (April 8). Psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich believed in orgone, & through it that sex could control the weather. Lots of researchers and scientists have had… unconventional… ideas.  We’ll see more of them as we go on.

99. (April 9). Louis Le Prince (d. 1890) would’ve been the father of movies had he not disappeared mysteriously.  This one I featured on my “Science Chamber of Horrors” Tumblr.  There are many possible explanations for his disappearance, but the possibility that Thomas Edison had a hand in it is genuinely creepy.

100. (April 10). Hans Christian Oersted has the only major science discovery made in front of a lecture audience!  Another of my blog posts!  Oersted was convinced, for philosophical reasons, that electricity and magnetism were related.  He wanted to test his idea before his lecture, but didn’t get the chance.  So an audience saw the birth of one of the greatest physical revolutions in history — and probably slept through it!

101. (April 11). The 1980 Manchester experiments tested whether humans can detect magnetic fields!  Other animals can sense magnetic fields — why not humans?  The jury is still out.

102. (April 12). Thorny devil lizard gets water that condenses on its body to its mouth by grooves on its skin. File this under “amazing animal adaptations.”

103. (April 13). A lost Roman “emperor” was rediscovered w/ unearthing of a single coin. Though really *two* coins were conclusive, and he was really more of a *pretender* to the throne, this is a poignant reminder of how delicate and precarious our history is.

104. (April 14). The bombardier beetle: sprays boiling toxin at any predators that attack it!  If you want to write a freaky horror novel, just become a student of nature.  Animals have developed adaptations that are the stuff of nightmares.

105. (April 15). Giraffes engage in stunningly violent fights… with their necks. I learned of this via a gif posted on twitter by Dani Rabiotti! I did not know that giraffes did this.

giraffemadness

106. (April 16). Komodo dragons eat animal intestines, but only after swinging them around to fling out feces.  Komodo dragons are weird and scary for many reasons, but their habit of clearing feces out by swinging them is weird and scary all at once.

107. (April 17). Michael Faraday (c. 1839) did experiments on electric eels in which he zapped himself.  (Another old blog post of mine!) Back in Faraday’s day, there weren’t good quantitative ways to measure electrical voltage.  So one’s own body was perhaps the best voltmeter available.

108. (April 18). “Sex with wife leads to scientific breakthrough.”  This article came out in 2011, and describes how a husband and wife learned that the Zika virus is sexually transmittable.  Zika is now very much in the news, as it spreads through the Americas.

109. (April 19). The wombat’s deadliest weapon? Its ass!  Oh, just read the article. Yes, I was thinking about the scene below when I wrote the tweet.

walkenass

110. (April 20). 155 years ago today, muskets were given to Smithsonian as Civil War began.  It is weird to think of a major institute of science and  history carrying weapons, but such were the uncertain times.

Whew! That was a long catch-up list! Tune in soon for more ‘facts!

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