This is it — the last regular installment of my Twitter weird science facts! I’ve done a full year of weirdscifacts, averaging one fact per day for the entire year (though I’ve had to play catch up on missed days quite often). It’s quite a lot of work to find and post reliable facts every day, even with the amount I’ve got backed up, so I won’t be continuing the series at this time. You can always read the whole series of this year, and past years, by clicking this link.
Read below to learn about the long history of dropping balls to signify time, as in this 19th century image!
360. (December 26). Walruses use birds as toys — dead, or alive. Lots of animals engage in play activity, though walruses had not been known to do so — or to use live birds as their toys.
361. (December 27). N-rays: the weird mysterious rays discovered in 1903 that turned out not to exist. “Discovered” by French physicist Prosper-René Blondlot in Nancy, France (the “N” in “N-rays”), the mysterious rays seemed to fit in quite well with cathode rays, X-rays, ultraviolet rays, and so forth. However, it was later shown that the findings were simply the experimenters seeing in their data what they wanted to see.
362. (December 28). The horrific 1983 Byford Dolphin decompression accident. (warning: grisly description). This is a testament to the destructive power of pressure differences as well as the importance of proper safety procedures. In this accident, a decompression chamber was vented improperly with deadly consequences.
363. (December 29). Horseshoe crab blood — an important ingredient to detect bacterial toxins in medical devices. Horseshoe crabs look silly and seem to be an evolutionary “throwback” of little import; however, their blood turned out to have a significant medical purpose. This is a reminder that we should not take any of the biodiversity on our planet for granted.
364. (December 30). The underwater diving-bell spider, which actually uses its webs as gills! This is quite an amazing adaptation! Check out the video below to see it in action.
365. (December 31). There are earthquakes in Maine due to ground relaxing from weight of ice during last Ice Age! The last Ice Age ended some 14,000 years ago, yet the ground has not yet fully relaxed from the pressure of all the ice present. It is hard to appreciate how geologic effects can linger over such long timescales.
366. (January 1). The long history of dropping balls to signify the passing of time, and not just on NYE.
Thanks to all for reading during this long year of weird science, and stay tuned at this blog for other posts on science, history, and fiction!
Thank your for this year of wonderful posts!
Thanks I really enjoyed this…
We forget how bad time keeping was before the AC electric grid dramatically improved it. (The power companies agreed to provide 60 x 86,400 cycles per day in exchange for a 5 watt minimum draw for electric clocks.) I remember a throwaway comment by Amelia Edwards, the 19th century author of ‘1000 Days Up the Nile ‘. She said it was impossible to arrange a meeting because each person’s watch showed a different time. They were out of synchronization because there were no clock or church bells to synchronize them by.
Synchronizing clocks is a hard problem. For meeting people in town, a few bells would do. For finding longitude, a more precise means was needed, hence the time balls. Better clock synchronization meant more accuracy, so it is no wonder that Einstein came up with relativity while working on the problem.