Interesting Tab


Why Is Its Surface so Stormy?
The core of the Sun isn't the only place where interesting things are going on. Weird things are happening on the solar surface as well.

The Sun has spots that appear and disappear at random, clouds that are made of hot glowing gases (not cool, refreshing rain), and sudden explosions that release tremendous amounts of energy into space. All these features are caused by the same thing – a fluid, twisting magnetic field.

Sunspots Appear and Disappear
There aren't always sunspots on the sun. Sometimes there are many, sometimes there are few, and sometimes there are none at all.

The periods of time without sunspots on the surface and little, if any, solar activity are what astronomers call solar minimum.

During the 5.5 years following a solar minimum, the number of sunspots gradually increases until the sun reaches what is known as a solar maximum – when there are many sunspots.

Then, over the next 5.5 years, the sunspot activity gradually decreases until the sun has returned to a solar minimum.

This eleven year period, from solar minimum to solar maximum and back, is known as the sunspot cycle.

Some Animal Facts
The mucus trail that a snail produces is so effective that a snail can travel across the edge of the razor without getting cut.

The fastest speed recorded for a garden snail was 0.0313 miles (0.05km) per hour.

Earthworms are made up of many segments called annuli. The annuli are covered in tiny hairs that grip the soil, allowing the worm to move as it contracts its muscles.

A chameleon's body is only half the length of its tongue.

The capybara is an Amazon water hog that looks like a guinea pig, except that it weighs more than 100 pounds (45 kg). It is the world's largest rodent.

A healthy mole can tunnel through 300 feet (90 m) of earth in one day.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: Whose home provides the grounds for the Arlington National Cemetery?
A: Robert E. Lee. Arlington House was the home of Robert E. Lee for thirty years until Virginia joined the Confederacy and federal troops occupied the estate. During the Civil War, the grounds were appropriated for a military cemetery after Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs ordered that dead Union soldiers be buried in Mrs. Lee's rose garden. Many historians believe that Miegs directive was an act of revenge to prevent Lee from ever returning home.

Q: What is an "October Surprise"?
A: An extraordinary news event timed to influence the outcome of the United States presidential election in November. Notable October surprises include Lyndon Johnson's announcement of the cessation of North Vietnam bombing in 1968 and Henry Kissinger's statement about eminent peace in Vietnam in 1972. The "October Surprise conspiracy" alludes to reports that Ronald Reagan made an informal deal with Iranian officials to prevent the release of American hostages shortly before the 1980 election.

Q: What condition did Lizzie Borden, Emily Dickenson and Henry VIII share?
A: They were all redheads.

Q: What famous baby doctor participated in the Olympics before becoming a famous author?
A: Benjamin Spock was a member of the 1924 USA Olympic rowing team. He went on to be the author of the best seller Baby and Childcare, which has been translated into 39 languages and has sold more than 50 million copies.

Q: Which bird is the largest bird?
A: The ostrich, which can grow up to nine feet tall and weigh more than 350 pounds. This flightless species is also the fastest running bird; it can run at speeds greater than 40 miles per hour.

Odd Stuff In History
Men used to go to a barbershop for more than just a haircut. Each shop had a red-and-white striped pole outside. This was because barbers used to “bleed” people. They cut a person's arm and let it bleed. This was thought to cure some illnesses. Barbers wrapped the used bandages around the pole and left them outside as an advertisement of their services.

Vesuvius, 70 CE. That historic explosion buried all of Pompeii under a hot, suffocating blanket of ash and pumice 32 feet deep and claimed the lives of more than 20,000 inhabitants. So quickly did the disaster take place that only a few had time to escape. Most victims died suddenly in their homes and shops or as they fled toward the safety of the nearby bay.
            As the deadly sediment cooled, it hardened around its victims, forming natural and perfect molds of their bodies. Over the centuries, these bodies gradually turned into dust, but the hard molds that outlined the once-living contours remained intact.
            Almost 2,000 years later, workmen digging carefully down through the hard ash to unearth the ancient city would hear their tools tap on a hollow place. This sound told them that the body mold of a Pompeiian and killed by Vesuvius lay beneath.
            Upon this discovery, a hole would be carefully bored into the top of the "mold," and through this opening would be poured enough plaster of Paris to fill the empty space within. When the plaster hardened, the ancient covering would be broken away, revealing an absolutely lifelike case of one of the Vesuvius’s long dead victims.

Tourists who visit Warsaw are actually looking at a city that has been almost entirely rebuilt. The rebuilding was done using the original designs going back, in some cases, hundreds of years. During World War II, 90% of Warsaw was destroyed, and its population fell from 1,300,000 in 1939 to 162,000 in 1944.

Odd Stuff In History
In Alaska, when it was still a Russian possession, there was a tribe of Indians called the Tlingit. They carved totem poles. When Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States, they carved a huge wooden likeness of him. It can be seen now in a museum in Juneau.

A collection that begins as a hobby can become quite important. Thomas Jefferson was a great collector of books. His collection was so fine that it eventually became the nucleus of the Library of Congress after the original holdings of the library were destroyed by fire in 1814. Incidentally, there are now more than 29 million books in the Library of Congress.

A Washington museum in England? Yes. It's Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire. It was George Washington's family home, and it has been restored and refurbished and made into a museum.

Because all modern presidents were born citizens of the United States, it is widely assumed that all presidents were natural born citizens. Actually, the first seven presidents were not born United States citizens, but British subjects. When these presidents were born, to put it simply, there was no such thing as the United States. Martin Van Buren (1837 – 41), the eighth president, was the first United States born president.

The United States Constitution requires that "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of president." Once the Constitution was ratified, unless they declined citizenship (which many Loyalists did), all former British subjects automatically became citizens of the United States. The first seven presidents were thus granted citizenship and became eligible for the office.

Alexander the Great, who lived about 2,300 years ago, ordered all his soldiers to shave their heads and faces. This prevented an enemy from grabbing a soldier by the hair to cut his head off.


Stars – Old Sun-like Stars – How They End
Old stars like our Sun will not quietly fade away like old red dwarf stars.
            Instead, when the sun-like stars uses up the hydrogen in its core, it will become a red giant, create a planetary nebula, and end up as a white dwarf – and that's just the brief version of its life ending contortions.
            Here is a more detailed look at what an old sun-like star goes through when it dies.

The fun begins when a sun-like star runs out of fuel. After all the hydrogen in the star's core has been converted to helium, there is nothing left to burn. So the reactions stop.
            Note: There are still tremendous amounts of hydrogen in the star; it's just not in the core, so it's not hot enough to undergo nuclear reactions.
            Without nuclear reactions exploding outward, the gravity pushing inward takes over, causing the star to collapse in on itself.
            As it collapses, the pressure and temperature in the area surrounding the core increase enough to trigger a new round of nuclear reactions. So now what surrounds the collapsing core is a layer of hot, "burning" hydrogen.
            Note: There isn't enough mass in a red dwarf to trigger this round of reactions, which is why a red dwarf will simply fade to black.
            From here, things get a little complicated.

With the heat from the collapsing core and the surrounding layer of burning hydrogen, the star is now hotter than ever. To get rid of some of its extra heat, the surface of the sun-like star begins to swell.
            In other words, while its core is collapsing, its surface is swelling. When it finally stops swelling, the surface of the star would reach almost to the orbit of Earth.
            Because the star's surface is spread out over a much larger area, it's easier for heat to escape. The surface cools down and turns red. It has become a red giant.
            During this red giant phase, the new layer of nuclear reactions is busy converting hydrogen into helium. The newly formed helium falls inward toward the collapsing core.
            As more mass is added to the helium core, the pressure and temperature increase as well. Finally, the pressure and temperature are high enough that helium atoms are forced to fuse together, forming carbon.
            At this point, helium burning begins.

When the helium nuclear reactions start pushing outward from the core, this force counteracts the gravity pushing inward, and the core stopped its collapse.
            As a result, the star actually starts to cool. It's hard to imagine a place that is cooler after nuclear reactions begin, but it's true here.
            As it cools, the surface of the star begins to shrink. By the time gravity and pressure reach a balance, the star is no longer a red giant. In fact, it has shrunk back almost to its original size. The star will continue in this phase until all the helium in the core has been converted to carbon. 

When the core runs out of helium, the nuclear reactions stop. Once again, gravity takes over and the core collapses. As it heats up, a new layer of hydrogen begins to burn in a layer surrounding the collapsing core.
            And once again, as the star burned hotter and hotter, its surface begins to swell in an effort to cool off. And you guessed it. The star once again becomes a red giant.

The second red giant phase is much more unstable than the first.
            With a denser core (one that is now made up of solid carbon), it is collapsing much faster and temperatures are much hotter than they have ever been. As a result, the star is emitting tremendous amounts of energy, sometimes in massive bursts.
            These bursts cause the star to eject its outer atmosphere into space. It travels away from the star as an ever-expanding bubble of gas and dust.
            From Earth, this bubble (what astronomers call a planetary nebula) appears as a ring moving away from a central star.

With a core of solid carbon and an atmosphere that has been blown away, the sun like star has entered its final phase.
            As the core continues to collapse, its temperature and pressure continue to rise. This time, however, they will not be able to rise high enough to trigger another round of nuclear reactions.
            Eventually, the collapse slows down. At some point, gravity won't be able to collapse the core any further. The former sun-like star will end up as a small sphere about the size of Earth. It is now a white dwarf.
            With no nuclear reactions in its core, the white dwarf is classified as a dead star. It is, however, still very hot and very bright. It will take thousands, sometimes millions of years for the white dwarf to cool off and fade to black.

A Little of This – A Little of That
If you looked out your train window in Llanfair, Wales, you would see a strange sign. It is actually one long sign above the platform, and it has this on it: LLANFAIRPWLLGWYNGYLLGOGERYCHWYRNDROBWLLLLANTYSILIOGOGOGOCH
It identifies the place in the Welsh, and means: "St. Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio of the red cave."

It's so hot in India that a great deal of the trade and business in the villages is done out in the open. Even barbers give haircuts right out in the street.

Salt, at one time, was so precious a commodity that explorers set out in search of it, wars were fought over it, and some lucky people were paid for their labor in salt. That, by the way, is how we got the word salary.
            So a salt mine was a treasure house. And in Hallein,  in the Salzburg province of Austria, there are mountains where they have been mining for salt for more than 2,000 years. Today, the equipment is modern, but they are still going down into those mines for the same product – salt.

About Space – The Moon
The moon's gravity is about 1/6 of Earth's. If you weigh 170 pounds (77 kg) on Earth, you would weigh 28.3 pounds (12.8 kg) on the moon.

The moon is approximately 234,000 miles (376,600 km) from Earth.

The moon is moving away from Earth at a little more than an inch (3 cm) per year.

During the six lunar missions from 1969 to 1972, twelve humans have walked on the moon, returning with over 840 pounds (381 kg) of lunar rocks.

The highest ocean tides – caused by the pull of lunar gravity – are called spring tides. When the tides are at their lowest, they’re neap tides.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: Who starred in the film Son of Captain Blood?
A: Sean Flynn starred in the 1962 sequel to his father's breakthrough film. After making several cinematic swashbucklers, the younger Flynn became a war correspondent. In 1970, he disappeared while covering the fighting in Cambodia.

Q: Which of these people graduated from elementary school: Andrew Carnegie; Thomas Edison; John Philip Sousa; Cher?
A: Of this illustrious quartet, only high school dropout Cher completed elementary school.

Q: Patty Hearst, Lily Tomlin and Carly Simon all participated in what high school activity?
A: They were cheerleaders.

Q: What condition afflicted Homer, Jorge Luis Borges and Joseph Pulitzer?
A: They were all blind.

Q: What condition did Jack the Ripper, Leonardo da Vinci and Sandy Koufax share?
A: They were all left-handed.

Interesting Customs
People all over the world have different ways of identifying themselves. Members of the Luo tribe in Kenya take out six lower teeth at the front of their mouth.

When the king or queen of England is to be present in the House of Lords, peers never show up with gloves on. This is a way of making certain that they will carry no hidden weapons. It's a precaution that goes back to the days when gloves were much larger – and plots against the monarch rather frequent.

If you've ever been in a house where they pointed out "the drawing room" – you know it's not a room where drawing or painting is done.
            It seems that during the 16th century in England, it became the custom for ladies and gentlemen to separate after dinner. The men remained in the dining room to drink and talk. The ladies went to a special room set aside for their gossip and talk.
            What the ladies did was withdraw – and the room they went to came to be known as the withdrawing room. In time, this was shortened to the drawing room, which is still called today.

Don't step on a cat’s tail – if you're an unmarried male. In certain parts of France people believe that a bachelor who does so won't find any woman willing to marry him for the next 12 months.

Stuff About Inventions
During battles, the ancient Chinese used specially designed "warrior kites" to drop flaming pitch over enemy lines.

The Italian explorer Marco Polo brought porcelain to Europe in the 14th century.

A fine clay called kaolin was utilized to make porcelain in China around A.D. 1280. A cruder form of porcelain, called seladon, had been developed 200 years earlier.

In ancient Rome, wooden cranes were often used to hoist heavy materials. From wall paintings that survive, modern engineers can see details of their construction, and that some cranes were powered by as many as 50 men walking on large treadmills.

Although Leonardo da Vinci sketched a bicycle design in one of his notebooks, the Frenchman Edouard De Sivrac built the first bicycle-type vehicle in 1690.

The modern bicycle looks almost exactly the same as a bicycle from around 1900.

A Star’s Life - Early childhood thru old age.
Kindergarten is where you can find a group of young children who are all about the same age.
            In the sky, the star equivalent of kindergarten is known as an open cluster or galactic cluster.
            Within an open cluster, you will see a beautiful group of young stars, all of which formed at about the same time within the same diffuse nebula.
            Their bright light sometimes reflects off the leftover dust from their birth nebula, giving them a kind of halo. The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, is a great example of an open cluster.
            Several of the stars within the cluster will remain together in double, triple, or other multiple Star combinations. But the group as a whole will gradually drift apart. After all kindergarten can't last forever. Someday we have to grow up.
            Human beings go through middle age – a time when life can be kind of predictable. Stars aren’t people, of course. But all stars – small,  medium, and large – go through a similar stage of life.
            During the stellar version of middle-age, a star is busy converting the hydrogen in its core into helium. It burns steadily, with little change in its size or energy output.
            Astronomers call this time a stars hydrogen burning phase. It will remain in this phase for most of his life – which could be millions of years (for blue giants), billions of years (for sun-like stars), or trillions of years (for red dwarfs).
            In the sky, about 90% of all the stars are in this: phase of their lives.
            It's only when a star begins to run out of fuel that things get interesting (at least for the sun-like and blue giant stars.) What happens to the red dwarf stars?
            Older red dwarfs are the oldest and least active of all the stars.
            These small, ancient stars have been slowly burning hydrogen for billions of years, and they will continue to burn for many more.
            Why do red dwarfs burn for so long?
            Because of their low mass, their gravity is less than that of any other star. With less gravity pushing on it, the core of the red dwarf isn't under as much pressure. It's temperature and pressure are high enough to keep the nuclear reactions going, but at the slowest pace possible
            When a red dwarf eventually runs out of fuel (when all the hydrogen in the core has been converted to helium), the nuclear reactions will simply stop. Without explosions pushing outward from the center, the gravity pushing inward will cause the star to collapse in on itself.
            A now much smaller dead star will cool off and fade to black – and uneventful end to a quiet, slow burning star.

More Stuff
He is called Gosiathus goliathus, which is like saying "giant giant." But the name fits him well, since this monster beetle from Africa is the biggest bug in the world. Stretched out, he measures 6 inches or more in length and has a wingspan of 8 inches.
            The only living Goliath beetle ever known to be in the United States was seen several years ago at New York's Museum of Natural History.
            Affectionately called Buster the Bug by an admiring staff, the Goliath had been secretly left one Christmas Eve on the museum's doorstep. He was found inside a covered coffee can lined with grass – obviously an effort made to protect him from the wintry blasts.
            Buster was installed in a fine, temperature-controlled glass house and fed a lush diet of ripe melons, mangoes and tomatoes. He gained weight (almost half an ounce) and seemed happy to do nothing else but loll around as the museum's star attraction.
            Only one sticky little incident marred the idyll of this coleopteron (the scientific name for beetles). That was when Busters fame spread to the immigration department. The department, which takes a very dim view of any insect being imported into United States, promptly declared Buster and undesirable alien and ordered his demise. But Dr. John C. Pallister, chief entomologist at the museum, would have none of that, and went to bat for his rare bug.
            It is very hard for anyone to win an argument with a scientist. So in the end Buster was allowed to stay at the museum. He was given a special "passport," and Dr. Pallister promised that "adequate safeguard measures would be employed to prevent escape."

Waves wear away the coasts all the time. At Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, the cliffs are being worn away at a rate of about 5 feet a year. The lighthouse there has been moved inland three times.

Hunters in the Western world pride themselves on the efficiency of their weapons, which are usually guns, and on their own ability to fire those guns accurately.
            In Malaya, a group of tribal huntsman, the Sakai, have a much more delicate – but equally accurate – weapon: the blow pipe. They take along this long, hollow rod when they roam the jungles in search of fruit and animals.
            When they sight a creature in a treetop, they blow into the barrel, and a thin dart flies out and kills the prey. To ensure its effectiveness, the tip of the dart is dipped in a poisonous substance before it is inserted into the blow pipe.

Strange Stuff About Ordinary Things
The element of fluorine is one of the most corrosive of all elements. Combined with lead and warmed, it is a milky white liquid, called diamond ink, that is used to etch glass.

The smallest object ever weighed was a 22 femtogram graphite speck. It was placed on the end of a microscopic tube that was then electrified. The frequency of oscillation of the tube with the speck attached allowed the scientists to precisely determine the speck’s mass.

The 1938 edition of the periodic table of elements lists “virginium” as an element. The element was named for the state of Virginia and had the symbol Va. The element was later renamed francium.

Using relatively simple techniques found in in classified literature, it is possible for almost anyone to make a 1-kiloton bomb as powerful as the one that devastated Nagasaki in World War II. Thankfully, obtaining the 2.2 – 6.6 pounds (1 – 3 kg) of pure plutonium necessary for the nuclear reaction is much more challenging.

According to the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council, the can containing a soft drink can hold enough plutonium to make up to six bombs, capable of destroying 40 blocks.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: In the 1959 film Darby O’Gill and the Little People, who played Michael McBode, the replacement for aging groundsman Darby O’Gill at Lord Fitzpatrick's summerhouse?
A: Sean Connery.

Q: What was Pierce Brosnon’s first credited film role?
A: Brosnon portrayed the "first Irishman" in the critically acclaimed 1980 film, Long Good Friday which starred Bob Hoskins. His first actual appearance on film was an uncredited role the same year in The Mirror Cracked.

Q: Which movie star in the 1940s successfully sued Warner Bros. studios over the studio contract system?
A: Olivia De Havilland won the suit, and the "De Havilland Law” effectively limited studio contracts to seven years and made suspending actors difficult, which had been commonplace before the decision.

Q: In 1941 which actress beat out her sister for the Oscar for best actress?
A: Joan Fontaine won the 1941 Oscar for Suspicion, beating her sister Olivia De Havilland, who had been nominated for Hold Back the Dawn.

Q: In 1935 Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was replaced in a movie role because of illness. As a result of the film, his replacement became Fairbanks's biggest box office rival. Name the film and the rival newcomer.
A: The movie was Captain Blood; it established young Errol Flynn as an action star. It was also the first of eight films in which Flynn would team with the alluring Olivia De Havilland.

Interesting and Odd Facts About Nature
The "midnight sun" creates really unusual conditions in lands that lie north of the Arctic Circle. In northern Finland, for example, in midsummer, there is constant daylight 24 hours a day – for 73 consecutive days.

Any two places on opposite sides of the earth, situated so that a straight line from one to the other passes through the middle of the earth, are called the antipodes of each other.
            Many people believe that China is the antipode of the United States. Thus, if a deep enough hole were dug in the United States and passed through the midpoint of the earth, the hole would come up somewhere in China. This is simply not the case. Both China and the United States are, in fact, in the northern hemisphere. The true antipode of the United States is an area of the Indian Ocean west of Australia and east of South Africa.

How many times can you hear an echo? It depends on where you make the sound. In Killarney, Ireland, there is a cave called the Eagles Nest. Folks will tell you that if you sound a bugle note there, you'll hear repeated at least 100 times.

Stones can't move by themselves, but the natives of a town called Reynoldston, in Wales, think otherwise. There is a huge prehistoric pillar there called Arthur's Stone. They say that at night it goes down to the sea to quench its thirst.

About Mother Nature
The oldest fossils of living organisms are about 3.5 billion years old.

Fossils can take many forms. Plant or animal parts preserved in shale or glacial ice are called original remains because a portion of the original organism exists.
A carbonized fossil is one where the organism itself has vanished, but a perfect cast of it exists in mud or shale. Many delicate plant fossils take this form.

A mineralized fossil refers to animal or plant matter where the soft tissue has been replaced by minerals – frequently calcite, quartz, or pyrite. Carried by groundwater, the minerals seep into the soft tissue, eventually replacing it.

One of the most abundant mineralized fossil found in the United States is the trilobite– a hard shelled, boneless marine animal that lived more than 500 million years ago, but is now extinct.

Trilobites roamed the sea floor and coral reefs in search of food.

Stars – A star is born. The Stellar Nursery.
All stars, no matter how big or small, begin their lives in the same place, a diffuse nebula.
            While this Star birthplace has a pretty fancy name, it is really just a huge cloud of hydrogen atoms with a little helium and interstellar dust thrown in for good measure. (The Orion Nebula is one of the brightest diffuse nebulae in the sky.)
            The hydrogen, helium, and dust are not evenly distributed throughout the nebula. Instead, like brownie batter that didn't get mixed up very well, there were clumps of atoms and dust here and there, in between large empty spaces.
            These clumps are protostars – stars in the making. Since a protostar is a concentration of many atoms and dust specks, it's combined gravity is much stronger than the gravity of a single atom. So if a lone atom happens to drift by, the stronger gravity of the protostar tugs on it, pulling it in.
            With its new addition, the gravity of the protostar increases, and its effects can therefore be felt farther away. The protostar continues to attract atoms and dust from farther and farther away, with its gravity increasing all the time as it pulls more matter into it.
            In addition, the stronger gravity forces atoms already within the protostar to crowd closer together. This causes the temperature and pressure in the center of the protostar to soar.
            After a time, the pressure is great enough and the temperature is high enough that hydrogen atoms in the core are forced to fuse together, causing nuclear reactions to begin.
            At this point, a star is born. It quickly reaches a balance between the nuclear explosions pushing outward and the gravity pushing inward, and a nice round star begins to shine.
            If a protostar forms in a region of the diffuse nebula where there is a large concentration of single atoms, this process happens fairly quickly. The result is a high-mass, blue giant star.
            If a protostar forms where there are few atoms or little dust, it takes much longer to pull together enough matter. The result is a low mass, red dwarf star.
            As for sun-like stars, you guessed it: they formed in a region that isn't too crowded or too empty.
            Stars will continue to form in this region until they have used up most of the free-floating atoms and dust specks within the diffuse nebula. At this point, the region that used to hold a giant cloud of gas and dust will be ablaze with newly formed stars.
            Although the protostar's haven't moved, the diffuse nebula where they were formed has changed and has now become an open (or galactic) cluster. (Think of it as a type of stellar kindergarten.)

Just Stuff
What are the safest years in the life of a person in the United States? The chances of surviving from one year to the next are greatest at the ages of 9, 10, and 11. The mortality rate is the lowest during these years.

The master-slave manipulator has nothing to do with masters or slaves. It is a pair of artificial hands, with forearms, wrists, fingers, and thumbs, used by research workers who deal with radioactive substances. The research worker, safe behind a window of lead glass, can make the master-slave manipulator do anything he could possibly do with his own hands.

The nuraghi are some of the strangest monuments in the world. Built by people who invaded the island of Sardinia about 5000 years ago, nuraghi are made of rough, unhewn stones piled up to form a round tower with walls that slope inward. There were once about 8,000 of these towers, and there are now about 6,500 left. And nobody is sure why they were ever built in the first place.

It's amusing, most people who see it smile, and it's considered practically a trademark of the city. It's the Manneken-Piss, the statue of a little boy "urinating" into the fountain near the Grand Palace in Brussels, Belgium.
            But the Belgians don't just look at the Manneken. Whenever there is some special occasion that calls for it, they dress the popular little statue in a costume. He is said to have a very large wardrobe that includes everything from Boy Scout uniforms to native dress from many parts of the globe.


The Human Body (Scientifically Speaking)
The term plexus refers to the network of blood vessels or nerves that interweave together, such as those on the surface of your skin.

The gluteus maximus or buttocks muscle is the largest muscle in your body.

If the small intestine were stretched out, they would reach the length of 20 feet (6 m).

The longest single nerve in the human body is called the sciatic nerve. It runs through the leg and into the buttocks.

The shoulder is the only point in the human body that can rotate 360 degrees.

The knee is the largest joint in the human body.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: In 1997 Kurt Vonnegut gave a commencement speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he supposedly advised the students to do what?
A: Wear sunscreen. However, the speech was nothing but a widely circulated urban legend. The "wear sunscreen" speech was actually a column written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune. The text was then erroneously attributed to Vonnegut and spread throughout the Internet as part of a hoax. The actual commencement speaker at M.I.T. that year was U.N. Secretary-General Koje Annan.

Q: What was the longest running series to never win an Emmy?
A: Baywatch, which ran from 1989 to 2000.

Q: Which cast member of Charles in Charge went on to be a regular on Baywatch?
A: Nicole Eggert played teenager Jamie Powell on the popular eighties situation comedy Charles in Charge. Years later, she blossomed into beach bunny lifeguard Summer Quinn on Baywatch. (If you answered Pamela Anderson, you're not completely wrong. Multi-talented Pam was a guest on the Scott Baio comedy before lending a whole new dimension to beach safety as C.J. Parker on Baywatch.)

Q: Can any birds fly backwards?
A: The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards; it can even fly sideways!

The Sun: Why Is It So Hot?
The core of the Sun is the hottest place in the entire solar system, and for good reason. It is where all the action takes place – where hydrogen atoms are squeezed together to form new helium atoms.

When these atoms are forced together, they create some of the most powerful explosions around. Why the big booms? Well, first, let's talk a little about atoms.

Atoms are some of the most basic building blocks in the universe. Everything you see is made up of atoms, billions and billions of them. While these atoms crowd close together to make up things such as humans, trees, steel beams, and everything else, they never actually touch one another. Each atom keeps its distance from all the other atoms. How large a distance it keeps is determined by its size.

How does this work? Every atom has a charge that repels other atoms, keeping them from bumping into one another. Hydrogen, the smallest atom, is the smallest charge. Larger atoms have stronger charges.

The only way to overcome this repulsive charge is to heat up the atoms until they are really hot and – at the same time – squeeze them together really hard. The center of the sun does just that.

At the Sun's core, the temperature is a sizzling 27 million°F (15 million°C). The pressure is even more unbelievable: 340 billion times the air pressure you’d feel standing on a nice sandy beach on Earth.

The incredibly hot temperature excites the hydrogen atoms, causing them to move faster and faster. At the same time, the extreme pressure forces the atoms closer and closer together.

Eventually, two of the fast-moving, tightly packed hydrogen atoms will bump into each other. Then, whether you call it a nuclear reaction, a fusion reaction, nuclear fission, hydrogen burning, or a thermonuclear explosion, the result is the same – BANG!

You see, if one atom gets too close to another, they destroy each other in a spectacular explosion.

The moment two hydrogen atoms slam into each other, they begin a series of nuclear reactions that end up fusing four hydrogen atoms into one helium atom, and they release a tremendous amount of energy in the process.

From the amount of energy the sun releases every day, astronomers can tell that our sun must be using 660 million tons of hydrogen every second.

Even though the Sun uses that much hydrogen, astronomers estimate that it has enough hydrogen atoms to keep burning for another 4.5 billion years.

Just Stuff
How did the Wizard of Oz get that name?
The classic tale of Dorothy and the land of Oz came from the imagination of L. Frank Baum, who made up the story for his son and a group of children one evening in 1899. When a little girl asked him the name of the magical land with the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion, he looked around the room for inspiration. He happened to be sitting next to a filing cabinet with the draws labeled "A – G," "H –N," and finally "O – Z," which gave him a quick answer: "Oz."

How did the name Wendy originate?
The name Wendy was invented by J. M. Barrie for a character in his 1904 play Peter Pan. The poet W. E. Henley, a close friend of Barrie's, had a four-year-old daughter, Margaret, and because her father always referred to Barrie as "friend," she would try to imitate him by saying "fwend" or "fwendy-wendy." Sadly, Margaret died at the age of six, but her expression lives on in Peter Pan and all the Wendy's that I followed.

Have you ever wondered how Cinderella could have walked in a glass slipper?
The story of Cinderella was passed along orally for centuries before it was written down by Charles Perrrault in 1697. While doing so he mistook the word vair, meaning ermine, for the word verre, meaning glass. By the time he realized his mistake, the story had become too popular to change, and so instead of an ermine slipper, Cinderella wore glass.

Why is a beautiful blonde called a "blonde bombshell"?
The expression "blonde bombshell," often used to describe a dynamic and sexy woman with blonde hair, came from a 1933 movie starring Jean Harlow. Hollywood first titled the film Bombshell, but because it sounded like a war film, the British changed the title to Blonde Bombshell. It originally referred only to the platinum haired Miss Harlow, but has come to mean any gorgeous woman of the blonde persuasion.

Satellites & Other Space Junk
Almost half of the working satellites in orbit today are from the United States.

The United States operates more than four times as many satellites as any other nation. Russia is second.

In February 2009, the American Iridium 33 communications satellite collided with the inactive Russian Cosmos 2251 satellite over Siberia, about 491 miles above Earth. It's the first time such a collision has happened, but scientists fear it probably won't be the last. As of October 2009, there were approximately 900 working man-made satellites orbiting Earth and many other defunct satellites still floating around space; it's possible that some of them will unintentionally end up colliding with each other.

Orbital debris – better known as "space junk" – is a serious hazard. Think of what a random pebble kicked up on the highway can do to your car. Now, imagine billions and billions of pieces of metallic garbage – everything from entire satellites to fuel tanks, nuts and bolts, and even tiny paint chips – zooming around in orbit at speeds of more than fifteen thousand miles per hour.

The Iridium – Cosmos collision produced more than 700 new pieces of space junk. At present there are more than nineteen thousand pieces of space junk being tracked by authorities such as the United States Department of Defense.

Between 1994 and 2002, the solar panels on the Hubble Space Telescope were struck an estimated 725,000 times by space junk.

Some Animal Facts
All polar bears are left-handed.

Carnivorous animals will avoid eating another animal if it has been hit by lightning.

When bats fly out of a cave, they always turn left.

Of all the land animals, howler monkeys are the loudest. Their calls can be heard over two miles away.

The turkey was named for what was wrongly thought to be its country of origin.

One of the longest hibernation periods in the animal kingdom is that of the snail. A snail can sleep for nearly 3 years without eating.

Let's Talk Planets - Mercury: Craters, Craters and more Craters
This poor planet has been pounded by space debris for billions of years and has the scars to prove it – the telltale around markings of impact craters.

Why do craters dominate Mercury's landscape? Because Mercury doesn't have an atmosphere to protect its surface.

Any space debris that tries to hit our planet must first pass through Earth’s dense atmosphere. As a result, almost anything burns up before it makes it to the ground. (The burning debris is what we call a falling star or shooting star – technically, it's called a meteor.)

Without an atmosphere, anything and everything aimed in the direction of Mercury slams into the planet and leaves its mark – craters of all sizes.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: Who wrote the novel upon which the TV series Sex and the City is based?
A: Candace Bushnell.

Q: Is Abe Vigoda dead or alive?
A: That's a matter of opinion. As the cynical Sergeant Philip K. Fish on Barney Miller and Fish, Vigoda seemed to be hanging onto life almost against his better judgment. After People erroneously reported the actor's death in 1992, Vigoda obligingly played along by posing in a coffin. Seven years later, the character actor had a real brush with death when the American Airlines flight he was on was forced to make an emergency descent from 31,000 feet. To discover whether Abe is still alive, well, and kvetching, just check the popular website

Q: What was the name of Philip K. Fish’s wife on Barney Miller?
A: Bernice.

Q: Which of the following movies was not based on a Philip K. Dick novel?
            a) Blade Runner
            b) The Terminator
            c) Total Recall
            d) Minority Report
            e) Screamers
A: The Terminator.

Just Stuff
How many movies are made annually in Hollywood?
There hasn't been a movie made in Hollywood since 1911, when, fed up with the ramshackle sets and the chaotic influence of hordes of actors and crews, the town cast out the Nestor Film Company and wrote an ordinance forbidding the building of any future studios. Even so, the magic of the name was already established, and so the industry we call Hollywood grew up around that little town in such places as Burbank, Santa Monica, and Culver City – but not in Hollywood.

Who was Mona Lisa in da Vinci's famous masterpiece?
Although it's known as the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting was originally titled La Giaconda. Painted on wood, it's a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine merchant. X-rays revealed that Leonardo sketched three different poses before settling on the final design. The painting of Lisa has no eyebrows because it was the fashion of the time for women to shave them off.

Why do they call Academy Awards "Oscars"?
Since 1928, the Academy Awards have been issued by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for excellence in filmmaking. The statuettes were nicknamed "Oscar" in 1931 by Margaret Herrick, a secretary at the Academy who, upon seeing one for the first time, exclaimed, "Why it looks just like my uncle Oscar." Her uncle was Oscar Pierce, a wheat farmer.

What is the most popular rock 'n roll song in history?
Because the lyrics in the Kingsmen’s 1963 recording of the song "Louie, Louie" were unintelligible, people thought they were dirty, and although they weren't, a United States Congressional investigation assured the song’s enduring success. Since being sold by its author, Richard Berry, for $750 in 1957, "Louie, Louie" has been recorded by nearly one thousand different performers and sold an estimated quarter-million copies

Junk & Garbage - We leave it and can find it everywhere.
In 2010, the California State Historical Resources Commission designated the items left by Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon to be a state historical resource. This action could mark the first time that such a designation was given to something not on Earth.
The move was considered to be the first step toward having tranquility base (where the United States astronauts landed on the moon in 1969) declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The list of more than 100 items left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts includes two pairs the space boots, tools, cameras, pieces of the Lunar Module spacecraft, airsickness bags, and containers used to collect the astronauts urine and feces.

There is a giant garbage patch floating in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. The part of it known as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch is roughly twice the size of the state of Texas. It is made up largely of plastic trash – soda bottles and the like – some of which has been carried on the currents from as far away as China.
By some estimates, the entire Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches from California to Japan.
In 2010 a similar garbage patch was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean spanning the distance between Virginia and Cuba.

Interesting and Odd Food Facts
Hush Puppies are a kind of cake originally made in Florida. They got their name this way: When people used to fry fish outdoors, the savory odor attracted hounds, who would whine and bark. So, to quiet the dogs, the cook would take some cornmeal, scalded milk, pat it into cakes, and cook it in the grease of the frying fish. When done, it was thrown to the dogs and the cook shouted "hush, puppies!"

Tomatoes were once called love apples because people thought they inspired love. They were grown for food by Native Americans long before Columbus arrived.

John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718 – 1792), is credited with having invented the sandwich. Among the corrupt ruler’s vices was an addiction to gambling. It is said that in order to avoid interrupting his card games for meals, he would order a servant to bring him a piece of meat between two slices of bread.

You may drink cola and enjoy it, but in Africa they chew it. A kola is the seed of an African tree that is rich in caffeine and has a stimulating effect when chewed.

Weather Facts: About Tornados
Although tornadoes occur worldwide, their greatest concentration is in the United States. About 800 tornadoes strike the United States each year.

Some of the conditions that forecast a tornado include large hail, a dark greenish sky, a loud roar in the distance from the developing vortex. Wildlife seems mostly unperturbed by developing tornadoes.

The use of radar has allowed meteorologists to predict tornadoes and to decrease the number of injuries and deaths they cause.

A twister can land anywhere. In the late 1980s, one touched down at Yellowstone National Park in the United States, carving a path up the side of a 10,000 foot (3,050 m) mountain.

The term waterspout refers to a tornado that forms over water. They're usually much weaker than those that form overland, but can become very powerful once they reach shore.

Even more destructive than the tornado itself is the flooding that occurs after a tornado strikes. The flooding is the result of damaged water mains.

Interesting & Odd Food Facts
A visit to Salley, South Carolina, wouldn't be complete without attending a Chitlin’ Strut. Chitterlings – hog intestines that are boiled or fried – are consumed by the ton at this festival.

If you ever get up the courage to eat an opossum, you might as well prepare it as they do in South Carolina. The opossum is boiled whole, surrounded with big yellow sweet potatoes and basted with grease in which the ‘possum was boiled, then baked until brown. It is called Carolina Opossum and Sweet Potatoes.

A worm called the palolo lives in the coral reefs of the South Pacific. Twice a year, millions of these worms come to the surface to mate. The natives of the island stop everything and collect huge quantities of the palolos then they bake the worms and have a feast.

Anteaters eat ants, as we all know. They extend their long, sticky tongues and that brings in their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But who eats and anteater? The natives in South Africa do. They salt the meat of the aardvark, as the anteater is also called, smoke it, and store it to be eaten in winter.

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