Twitter Weird Science Facts, Volume 8

Time for another recap of weird science facts from Twitter! Click below the fold to see how the system pictured below provided entertainment for Victorian folks.


134. (May 14). Welp. Scientists have invented transparent wood.  This is pretty neat! Though Star Trek fans probably, like me, immediately thought of this scene.


135. (May 15). The bugs that COOL the planet: Pelagibacterales!  In essence, these bacteria multiply more when temperatures warm, releasing gasses that produce more clouds, cooling the planet. Though almost certainly not enough to counteract global warming, so don’t get too excited.

136. (May 16). The paper announcing the first working laser was rejected by Physical Review Letters in 1960.  This is a good thing to point out to students when they get papers rejected — some of the most important discoveries in history have been rejected for being too “out there.”

137. (May 17). Under the right conditions, you can generate X-rays by peeling scotch tape.  The link is from an old blog post of mine!  When you peel tape, you separate positive and negative charges; in a vacuum, these charges can recombine really fast, resulting in X-rays.  So don’t worry about X-rays while wrapping birthday gifts, unless you’re doing it in a vacuum!

138. (May 18). In 1892, you could already get music on demand through your phone!  This is the origin of the image from the beginning of the post! The Theatrophone was a system that people could call into to be connected to live or recorded musical performances.

139. (May 19). Terrifying photos of the first ever evidence of bears using tools. It’s not much of a tool, admittedly, but bears already have enough natural advantages that any edge up they get is worrying.

140. (May 20). Mars may have been carved up by ancient tsunamis.  We’ve known for a while that Mars used to be a very wet planet; it’s quite another thing to realize that it might have had massive waves.

141. (May 21). Like a 50s horror movie: the Cambrian predator with 16,000 eyes!  Anomalocaris was only a meter long, which is quite small for a 50s sci-fi monster, but I would be pretty freaked out by a meter-long-tentacled-thing in the water with me.

142. (May 22). Average density of Saturn is so low, it would float in a (sufficiently large) bucket of water.  Of course, that bucket would have to be sitting on an even larger planet, which would have to provide the gravity to hold the bucket, water, and Saturn down, but… ah, forget it.

143. (May 23). The Southern Sand octopus injects water into the sand liquefying it to form quicksand and bury itself.  This comes with a nifty gif!


… though the image gives me a real 1990 Tremors movie vibe.


144. (May 24). Neanderthals Built Mysterious Stone Circles!  This discovery, deep in a French cave, is some 176,000 years old!  It’s not as spectacular as Stonehenge, but does predate it by some 171,000 years.

145. (May 25). Janet Parker, the last person to die of smallpox… in 1978.  The very definition of “tragedy.” An innocent person died due to improper laboratory procedures.

146. (May 26). Mount Roraima, a genuine lost world that inspired “The Lost World”.  Many species on the plateau are not found anywhere else, due to its extreme geographical isolation.

Mount Roraima, via Wikipedia.

Mount Roraima, via Wikipedia.

147. (May 27). Nicolas Cugnot built a steam-powered car… in 1769?   I doubt it would pass modern road safety tests, but it is remarkable that such a car was built some 100 years before the cars that we are familiar with today.


148. (May 28). After a meal, mosquitoes are essentially panting from their anuses to cool down.  No comment.

149. (May 29). Isaac Newton Once Tried To Invent His Own Language.  It is always worth remembering that, despite the huge influence his physics work had, it was but a small part of his life’s investigations, which included alchemy. Lots of useless alchemy.

150. (May 30). Squid have mirror eyeballs — dielectric mirror eyeballs!  As an optics person, I’m fascinated at how evolution has resulted in really complicated optical elements in animal vision.

151. (May 31). Elephants — coordinating their efforts and cheating at it, too!  Primates aren’t the only animals that can be deceptive.

152. (June 1). Telescopes can, and have been, made out of big pools of spinning liquid mercury. I’ve had the pleasure, some years back, of seeing one of these spinning pools in person.  The shape of a spinning pool of liquid is naturally the perfect shape for a focusing mirror.  The only difficulty?  You can’t tilt the pool of liquid to image objects at different points in the sky — clever secondary optics are required for tracking.

153. (June 2). How hard is it to fold a piece of paper in 1/2 a successive number of times? World record is 13!  This is a perfect demonstration of power law growth: a piece of paper folded N times is 2^N times thicker than a single sheet.

154. (June 3). Submerged ‘Lost City’ is Actually a Naturally Occurring Phenomenon.  Nature is very good at creating structures that look like they must have been designed intelligently.  In fact, I wrote a blog post about this effect yeeeeears ago!

Tune back in several weeks from now for more weirdscifacts from Twitter!

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