Twitter Weird Science Facts, Volume 12

Time for another summary of weird science facts, as posted by me on Twitter!  Read below to see the devilish secret held within this innocent-looking cup. (Which I own, btw.)


207. (July 26). Snow rollers: rare, naturally-rolled snowballs! Such unusual formations, as pictured below, require weather conditions to be just right.

Photo by Kathrin Spiegler, via Wikipedia.

Photo by Kathrin Spiegler, via Wikipedia.

208. (July 27). Ice bucket challenge funds new ALS discovery? I end this fact with a question mark, because there’s been some pushback about how accurate it is.  The claim, however, is that all that ice bucket challenge money actually contributed to some helpful ALS research.

209. (July 28). Why did a humpback whale just save this seal’s life? Most of us have seen videos at this point of very unusual cross-species animal friendships; one species rescuing another, however, is much more rare.

210. (July 29). Eigengrau: the color you see in complete darkness.  Do you think you see black when you close your eyes? WRONG! You see something very close to black, but not quite. What is weird is that researchers have actually isolated the specific color.

Eigengrau, via Wikipedia.

Eigengrau, via Wikipedia.

211. (July 30). Okay, more on frigate birds, sleeping and dreaming in flight!  I talked about frigate birds here a couple of posts ago, and their amazing ability to stay aloft for months at a time.  Previously, researchers assumed that they rested half of their brain at a time, giving them the rest they need to stay awake. The research linked above, however, shows that they sometimes fall asleep entirely in flight, including REM sleep, associated with dreaming in humans.

212. (July 31). Patch of seagrass is world’s oldest living organism? This seagrass, which reproduces by cloning, is estimated to be between 80,000 and 200,000 years old.  Remarkably, this means that this seagrass might already have been alive at the time that the first anatomically modern humans evolved.

213. (August 1).  Aerogel: lowest-density solid with density almost as low as air!  You can buy small pieces of aerogel from science supply stores; the photo below is the little disk that I have in my office. Larger pieces tend to look blue in person, and the blue color of aerogel comes from the same light scattering phenomenon that makes the sky blue.


214. (August 2). The Pythagoras cup — fill it too much, and it will completely drain from the bottom!  The link is to one of my old blog posts!  I own two Pythagoras cups: a lovely model from Greece pictured at the top of this post, and a see-through version that I bought for demonstrations.

215. (August 3). The tarantula hawk wasp, which hunts tarantulas for dinner. The sting of a tarantula hawk is considered the second most painful insect sting in the world.

216. (August 4). When Buffon claimed that New World animals were weaker than Old World ones, Thomas Jefferson sent him a bull moose!  The whole article is worth reading. This story highlights how science — and pseudoscience — can have a significant impact on politics.

217. (August 5). From the annals of weird inventions: rose-colored eyeglasses for chickens!  These glasses were designed, in principle, to prevent chickens from attacking or killing each other. Did they have any real effect? I honestly don’t know.

Advertisement, via Wikipedia.

Advertisement, via Wikipedia.

218. (August 6). Sand tiger shark: only shark known to adjust its buoyancy by burping! Most of us probably don’t think very often about how sea creatures maintain their buoyancy, though it is clearly an important problem — it takes energy to swim, so any strategy that can allow a creature to maintain neutral buoyancy without effort is important.  Deep-sea giant squid have a lot of ammonia in their bodies to achieve this effect, but that’s not nearly as amusing as a shark gulping and burping air.

That’s it for this edition — tune in soon for the next one!

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