On a personal note: still going through a rough patch of life, and so I’m still on a sort of unofficial hiatus from writing substantial posts — though I may write one here or there. Hopefully will be back and active in a month; in the meantime, I will continue updating my weirdscifacts.
Welcome to the 10th volume of Twitter Weird Science Facts! Read below to discover the sinister secret of this otherwise adorable bird.
171. (June 20). Sulfur hexafluoride is a gas heavy enough to hold in a tank and float a foil “boat” in. Seeing is believing, so watch the video below! Also, Sulfur hexafluoride has the opposite effect of helium when inhaled — it makes your voice lower. (But it can be dangerous, as it sits in the lungs and can suffocate a person.)
172. (June 21). The vampire finch: a bird that (occasionally) drinks the blood of other birds. We’re used to the idea of vampire bats, but vampire birds are less well-known. A reminder that very different animals can take advantage of the same evolutionary strategies.
173. (June 22). A weird creepy sound is coming from the depths of the Caribbean! It fortunately turns out to be due to an undersea wave, not a giant monster, but it is still pretty cool.
174. (June 23). Comets smell like cat piss, science confirms. Now that we know the chemical composition of comets, we can recreate their odor. Scientists even made a perfume out of it, not that you’d want to wear it.
175. (June 24). The infamy of the Tacoma Narrows bridge followed one engineer even as a Japanese POW. The collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, due to a phenomenon known as aeroelastic flutter, is one of the most infamous engineering failures in history. The poor engineer couldn’t escape that recognition even in war.
176. (June 25). Geologist William Buckland (1784-1856) would wear his academic gown to do field work. Buckland was one of the true eccentrics of science. He also practiced zoöphagy — eating his way through the animal kingdom.
177. (June 26). While developing the bubble chamber c. 1950, physicist Donald Glaser tested early prototypes filled with beer. Bubble chambers are liquid-filled chambers that form bubbles along the paths of high-energy particles, allowing them to be observed and analyzed. Below is the first set of images formed in a chamber in 1954.
178. (June 27). In 1966, physicist Luis Alvarez performed a photo analysis of the Kennedy assassination, improving on the FBI analysis. Alvarez had an amazing, diverse, and productive scientific career; it’s worth looking at his entire wikipedia history.
179. (June 28). Solitons: the physics discovery that was literally chased down on horseback. This is one of my favorite science stories! I have the original paper written by John Scott Russell, and need to blog about it in detail in the near future.
180. (June 29). The carnivorous harp sponge! Be sure to click the link to see what this thing looks like. It looks more like modern art than a living creature.
181. (June 30). A frigatebird can stay in the air for two months without needing to land. These birds are some of the most efficient fliers in the world, with a small weight and huge wingspan.
182. (July 1). There exist “flying frogs.” A learned a lot about frogs from a visit to Charlotte’s Discovery Place last weekend! The Malabar gliding frog uses the webbing between its toes to help glide from the trees.
183. (July 2). The tomato frog can gum up the eyes & mouth of a predator! Something else I learned about from Discovery Place! The frog secretes a substance somewhat like rubber cement, that will gum up an attacking predator and cause it to release its prey.
184. (July 3). Single-Celled Organisms Playing Microscopic Pac-Man? Scientists are weird. They made what amounts to a real-life game of Pac-Man, played on a microscopic scale by living organisms.
185. (July 4). Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot“: a storm that could fit 2-3 Earths within it, ongoing 300 years! Picture a hurricane 3 times larger than the Earth, running for 350 years and ongoing. Awe-inspiring.
186. (July 5). The 1903 discovery of safety glass was literally an accident. Science is filled with discoveries that were happy accidents, though the discovery of safety glass would in the long run reduce the severity of countless other accidents!
Tune in again soon for more weirdscifacts!
Reading about William Buckland dropped me in a click-hole of weird science phenomena. “Coprolites”! “Bezoar stones”! Even a female 19th century paleontologist! Girls… doing science?! The mind boggles.