Interesting Tab


Some Animal Facts
Mammals have red blood, insects have yellow blood, and the blood of lobsters is clear – but it turns blue when exposed to oxygen.

It's hard – even for fingerprint experts – to distinguish koala bear fingerprints from human ones.

Chimpanzees spend about a quarter of their lives walking on two legs instead of four.

A cow produces the equivalent of nearly 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.

The American opossum has the shortest gestation period in the animal kingdom – about twelve days after conception. The Asiatic elephant has the longest – 608 days, or just over twenty months.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: Why is a college student in her second year referred to as a "sophomore"?
A: After her first, or "freshman," year, a college student is called a "sophomore," and has been since the description emerged at Cambridge in 1688. The word is constructed from the Greek sophos, meaning wise, and moros, meaning foolish. So a second-year student is somewhere between ignorance and wisdom. Similarly, when we say something is "sophomoric," we mean it is pretentious or foolish

Q: What is the name of the club where Tony Soprano and his crew kill time?
A: The Bada-Bing! Scenes of this cozy mob hangout are shot on location at Saxon Dolls, a real-life Lodi, New Jersey go-go bar.

Q: Why do the characters on the Gilmore Girls speak so quickly?
A: Show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino explains the Gilmore gal’s rapid-fire dialogue by noting that they are "chatty bright chicks." But Amy (a fast-talker herself) also notes that like other features of the show (chats while walking; the absence of close-ups), quick dialogue reinforces the zippiness of the show. In any case, the pace is almost dizzying: Most screenwriters figure that a page of dialogue consumes a minute on air; on The Gilmore Girls, the gab takes only 20 to 25 seconds.

Q: Where do Lorelai and Rory live?
A: The Gilmores reside in Stars Hollow, a small, completely fictional town in Connecticut.

Q: Who invented contact lenses for chickens?
A: According to attentive bird watchers, chickens are less aggressive under red light. Recognizing that trait, enterprising California chicken farmer Irvin Wise came up with the idea of developing red contact lenses for his cluckers. He was not successful, but his son, Randall E. Wise, after perfecting his father’s designs, started marketing the red contact lenses in 1989. The chickens are now more tranquil, and consequently, we are told, more productive.

Let's Talk Planets
Which Planet Is The Densest?
First, here is a definition: Density equals mass divided by volume.
Now here is a simple demonstration of density: Imagine two identical boxes, one box filled with feathers and the other filled with rocks. Even though the boxes are the same size, the box of feathers will be lighter because it is less dense, or has a lower density.

Now if you had eight identical boxes, each containing an average sampling of material from a different planet, the box holding the Earth samples would be the heaviest. Even though Jupiter is more massive, it turns out that Earth is the densest planet in the solar system.
True, a box full of material from the core of Jupiter would be denser than the same box full of material from Earth's atmosphere. But on average, there is more "stuff" packed into every cubic inch of earth than on any other planet.

It may seem strange, but the gas giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are less dense than the smaller, rocky planets. Does this make sense? How can Jupiter be less dense than Earth but more massive?

Simple, there is just more of Jupiter. Think back to the boxes of feathers and rocks. A Jupiter size box of feathers is heavier than an Earth sized box of rocks. The feathers (or hydrogen and helium in the case of Jupiter) are less dense than the rocks (that make up Earth), but there are just so many of them that they weigh more.

So Earth is more dense; Jupiter is more massive.

Which Is The Lightest?


Even though this ringed world is the second largest planet in the solar system, it is by far the lightest (or more accurately, the least dense).

Saturn is so light, it could float on water – if you could find a body of water large enough to hold this giant planet!

Earth's oceans wouldn't be big enough. Saturn is more than nine times larger than our entire planet.

What makes Saturn so light?

Saturn is made of the same gases as Jupiter and the other gas giant planets. It just doesn't have as much gas as the others, so it's less dense.

Just Stuff
Why do we say that someone with a hidden agenda has an "axe to grind"?
As a boy, Benjamin Franklin was sharpening tools in his father's yard when a stranger carrying an axe came by and praised the boy on how good he was with the grindstone. He then asked Franklin if he would show him how it would work on his own axe. Once his axe was sharpened, the stranger simply laughed and walked away, giving young Franklin a valuable lesson about people with an "axe to grind."

Why is a newcomer called a "rookie"?
A "rookie" is anyone new to an organization requiring teamwork and whose lack of experience may cause errors. The word originated in the American military during the Civil War when massive numbers of young and untrained soldiers were rushed into battle, causing major problems with discipline. The veterans called the incompetence "reckies," an abbreviation of recruits, which through time became "rookies."

Why are strangers who plead for help called "beggars"?
The name of a twelfth-century monk, Lambert de Begure, whose followers wandered the French countryside depending on handouts, gave us the verb to beg. When in 555 A.D. the Roman general Belisarius was stripped of his rank and wealth, he became one of history's most notable beggars, and his frequent cry, "Don't kick a man when he's down," gave us a maxim for all who are on very hard times.

Strange Stuff About Sharks
Tidbit, a female blacktip shark, grew up in an aquarium in Virginia and had no contact with male blacktip sharks for the eight years of her life. So imagine how surprised her handlers were when she turned up pregnant. Tidbit’s pregnancy confirmed what ichthyologists (fish biologists) had long suspected: Sharks have the ability to reproduce by virgin birth. Female sharks can become pregnant without the assistance of males, and those offspring have the same DNA as their moms without any contributions from another shark. Ichthyologists believe that this type of reproduction could become even more common as shark populations are overfished and females have a tougher time finding mates.

The skin of female blue sharks and Greenland sharks is twice as thick as that of their male counterparts. That's because sharks meet face to face, and the males of these species bite the females violently to hold them in place while copulating.

Most sharks live in tropical or temperate waters, but the Greenland shark likes it cold – really cold. It's found as far north as the Arctic, and it spends much of its time in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean.

Parasites attach themselves to the Greenland shark’s eyes, damaging the corneas and leaving the shark virtually blind. Since its habitat is pitch dark anyway, this isn't as detrimental as it might sound. The Greenland shark uses its other senses to detect prey, and it's not a picky eater – it will consume anything that crosses its path.

The stomach contents of one Greenland shark included seals, squid, fish, nematode worms, rope, fishing nets, and pieces of wood.

Fictional Trivia
Q: During the five-year TV run of the Brady Bunch, only one character was added to the family. Who?
A: Cousin Oliver came to live with the Brady’s during the show's final season. To this day, Brady Bunch purists refuse to acknowledge his existence.

Q: What rock star performed at Marcia Brady's prom?
A: Former Monkey Davy Jones.

Q: On the TV series Frasier, father Martin Crane has a pet dog. What is the pooch's name and what is his breed?
A: Frasier Crane’s willful canine nemesis is a Jack Russell Terrier named Eddie.

Q: According to her theme song, "Who can turn the world on with a smile? Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?"
A: The effervescent title character of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970 – 1977), of course.

Q: What was the Cleavers’ address in the 1950s show, Leave It to Beaver?
A: The Cleavers lived at 485 Grant Avenue in Mayfield. Later on, they moved to 211 Pine. The state in which Mayfield is located is never revealed on the show. Leave It to Beaver was on the air in prime time from the fall of 1957 to 1963.

Weird & True Facts about Hot & Cold
There are some pretty bizarre life-forms in the world, and many of them live in incredibly harsh surroundings. Take the microbes that thrive in the purely acidic, sulfur-ridden environments of hot springs in Japan – environments that would literally strip the skin from your bones if given the chance. These little buggers are called Picrophilus torridus (Picrophilus means "acid-loving;" torridus means "hot"), and they live in extremely hot conditions with a pH of near zero. Thermoacidophiles like these are the type of organism scientists point to when they wonder about life-forms that might exist on other planets. With the acid environment of Mars or Venus keep them away? Probably not. In fact, these microbes might be out there in the galaxy soaking up the sulfur right now…

Scientists working at the United States Department of Energy Brookhaven national laboratory recently created the highest temperature ever recorded in the universe: 7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit. That's 250,000 times hotter than the core of the sun.

When something is heated, the molecules within it move faster. When something is cooled, the molecules within it move slower. How can you make the molecules stop entirely? Bring them to absolute zero on the Kelvin temperature scale (about -459°F or - 273°C). But that's easier said than done. Physicists haven't been able to create an absolute zero temperature yet (it can exist only under controlled conditions). They've missed it by about a billionth of a degree.

While there is an accepted concept of absolute zero among scientists with regard to temperature, there is no universally accepted concept of absolute hotness.

On the Celsius or centigrade scale, 0° is the temperature at which water freezes and 100° is water's boiling point. But that is not how Anders Celsius intended it to be. When the Swedish astronomer introduced his temperature scale in 1742, he placed the boiling point at 0° and the freezing point at 100°.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: Why is a private detective called a "private eye"?
A: In 1850, the Pinkerton Detective Agency opened in Chicago with the slogan "We never sleep," and its symbol was a large wide-open eye. Pinkerton was very effective and criminals began calling the feared operation "the eye." Raymond Chandler and other fiction writers of the 1930s and 1940s simply embellished the underworld expression by introducing "private eye" as a description for any private investigator.

Q: Why are women temporarily separated from their husbands called "grass widows"?
A: The expression "grass widow" originated hundreds of years ago in Europe where summers were unbearably hot. Because grass was scarce in the low lands, husbands would send their wives and children, along with their resting workhorses, up into the cooler grassy uplands while they stayed in the heat to till the land. It was said that both the wives and horses had been "sent to grass," which gave us the expression "grass widows."

Q: Why does a man refer to his wife as his "better half"?
A: Most men call their wives their "better half" because they believe it, but the expression comes from an ancient Middle Eastern legend. When a Bedouin man had been sentenced to death, his wife pleaded with the tribal leader that because they were married, she and her husband had become one, and that to punish one-half of the union would also punish the half who was innocent. The court agreed and the man's life was spared by his "better half."

Q: Why is someone who challenges what appears to be an obvious truth called a "devil's advocate"?
A: During the Roman Catholic proceedings leading to the assignment of sainthood, a specific individual is given the job of investigating the candidate and the validity of any associated miracles. He then argues vehemently against the canonization by denigrating the potential saint on behalf of the devil. His official Vatican title is the "Devil's Advocate."

Q: Why do we call someone who does things differently a "maverick"?
A: In the nineteenth century, Samuel A. Maverick was a stubborn Texas rancher who, because he said it was cruel, refused to brand his cattle even though it was the only way to identify who owned free range livestock. Instead, he would round up all the unbranded cattle he could find, even those not from his own herd. At first any stray unbranded cow was called a "maverick," but the word has grown to mean anyone who doesn't play by the rules.

Unusual Food Facts
The national beverage of the Scandinavian countries is akvavit (an alcoholic drink made from grain or potatoes and flavored with caraway seeds). It is not to be sipped but taken at one swallow. And an old Scandinavian custom at formal gatherings is to drink as many toasts as there are buttons on the men's dress vests. That's some custom!

Not everybody in the world drinks the same kind of milk. Milk is obtained by different people from dairy cows, goats, sheep, mares, reindeer, camels, zebras, llamas, yaks, and water buffalo.

When some English people want to "clean" their blood, they drink "agrimony" tea. The odd thing is that that this tea is made from a weed that grows in garbage dumps and junkyards in the British Isles.

Is it possible to build up a tolerance for the poison arsenic by taking increasingly larger doses over a long interval of time? It seems so. The Aztecs claim to have immunity (but only up to a point). They begin to eat arsenic regularly as children. It is said that their skin color was caused by the peculiar interaction between the sun and the arsenic under

Some Animal Facts
When an opossum plays "possum," it has actually passed out in terror.

A camel’s milk never curdles.

To protect themselves from blowing sand, camels have a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane.

An 1872 virus epidemic destroyed nearly a quarter of America's horse population.

Sleepwalking horses: Firehouses traditionally have circular stairways because the early fire engines, kept on the ground floor, were pulled by horses. When the horses were in the stables, they would often break out and walk up straight staircases – surprising many a sleeping fireman!

A mule is the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. The offspring of a male horse and a female donkey is called a hinny.

The Sun
The sun is a star. Saying that is easy. Explaining exactly what a star is, is not. But let's give it a shot.
A star is a seething ball of hydrogen and helium gas whose power comes from the intense nuclear reactions occurring in its core. These reactions produce more energy every second than all the Earth's power plants could produce in hundreds of years. The energy travels out from the sun, through space, and bathes our planet in heat and light, allowing plants, animals, and humans to survive.

Sun Stats:
 864,400 miles   (1,392,000 km)
Surface: 10,000°F   (6000°C)
Core: 27,000,000°F   (15,000,000°C)
ROTATION RATE (It's "day")
Equator: approximately 25 days
Poles: approximately 35 days
75% hydrogen
24% helium
1% other gases
Average: 92,900,000 miles   (149,600,000 km)
Maximum: 94,450,000 miles   (152,100,000 km)
Minimum: 91,350,000 miles    (147,100,000 km)


Odd Laws and Lawsuits
Harold was driving his Chevy one winter day when suddenly he spotted another car coming at him in his own lane. He swerved, hit a chunk of ice, skidded into another chunk, and flipped his car – toppling 15 feet down into a gully with an icy stream at the bottom.
            When he came to in his upside-down car, Harold saw lots of broken glass and twisted metal, but his own body parts seemed to be in working order. He was, however, in a jam. The car was wedged so tightly in the gully that he couldn't open either door, and the icy stream was gurgling past his ears.
            Harold could hear cars passing above him, but blow his horn as hard as he might, he still couldn't make them hear him. He was starting to panic. Then Harold felt an enormous jolt. His car spun around in the creek, and when it stopped – bingo, he was able to open the door!
            Sprung from his icy prison, Harold staggered out to see what had happened and discovered that – miraculously – a second car had crashed into the creek.
            Did Harold fall on his knees and thank the driver, Lucas, for saving his neck? Hardly. Pointing to the back injury he'd gotten when the two cars collided, he sued Lucas for $10,000.
            A trial judge scoffed at the suit. There wasn't a shred of evidence that Lucas was negligent, he said.
            But when Harold appealed his case, he had better luck. Harold had a right to be in that creek, said the appeals court judge. He proved he got there through no fault of his own, forced off the road by an oncoming driver. And once he was there, he had a right to peace and quiet.
            But what right did Lucas have accidentally landing on top of Harold? Lucas, said the judge, hadn't proved he had any more business in that creek than "in a cornfield or in somebody else's front yard."

If you’re a motorist passing through Pennsylvania and sight a team of horses coming towards you, you must pull well off the road, cover your car with a blanket or canvas that blends in with the countryside, and let the horses pass. If one of the horses is skittish, you must take your car apart piece by piece and hide it under the nearest bush.

In Omaha, Nebraska, each driver on a country road is required to send up a skyrocket every 1500 yards, wait 8 minutes for the road to clear, and then drive cautiously, blowing the horn while shooting off a Roman candle.

Facts About the Weather
Everyone knows that rain is precipitation in the form of water drops. But to qualify as a drizzle, the drops have to have a diameter of less than 0.02 inch (0.5 mm).

The wavy line that represents areas of rainfall on a weather map is called an isohyet.

The most common type of rain, frontal rain, is caused when warm air crashes into cold air, creating what meteorologists call a warm front. The lighter warm air flows over the top of the cooler air. As it rises, it cools and condenses into rain. Frontal rain is the most common type, occurring in most of the world’s temperate zones.

Rainfall intensity can be light, moderate, or heavy. For rain to qualify as heavy, it must accumulate at a rate greater than 1/6 of an inch (4 mm) per hour.

Rain caused by heat rising from the ground is called convection rain. This is the kind of sudden shower that happens on a hot day. The ground heat, rising by convection, causes cumulonimbus clouds to form and precipitate.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: Why is a self-employed professional called a "freelancer"?
A: The word freelance came out of the period between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, when mercenary knights with no particular allegiance would take their lances into battle for the prince or state that paid them the most money. They were referred to as freelancers by authors in the nineteenth century and operated much like the gunfighters in the American West, a freelancer is anyone who works independently.

Q: Why do we call an enthusiastic amateur a "buff"?
A: A "buff" is someone with a keen interest in a subject that is not related to his or her profession. The term was coined by New York's firemen, who were often hindered by crowds who gathered at fires either to help or stand around and criticize. At the same time, around 1900, most winter coats worn by the spectators were made of buffalo hide, and from those the fireman came up with the derogatory term "buffs" to describe those pesky amateur critics.

Q: What did architect Walter Gropius, novelist Franz Werfel and composer Gustav Mahler have in common?
A: They were all married (at different times) to the same woman, Alma Schindler. Apparently irresistible Alma married Gustav Mahler in 1902; in 1915, she married architect Walter Gropius; and 14 years later, she tied the knot with writer Franz Werfel  in 1929.

Q: Who invented the electric starter for automobiles?
A: Clyde J. Coleman invented the electric starter in 1899. Subsequently, Charles F. Tittering and others improved it. Millions of motorists should be grateful for Coleman's brainstorm: Before his device, travelers were obliged to crank up their own engines.

Q: Identify the presidential pets and their owners: 1) Nanny.  2) Buddy.  3) Fala.  4) Him and Her.  5) Pete.
A: 1) Abraham Lincoln’s goat.  2) Bill Clinton's Labrador.  3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s terrier.  4) Lyndon Johnson's beagles.  5) Theodore Roosevelt’s bull terrier. Unlike some of the other pets, Pete did not finish his term. He was banished from the White House after he tore the French ambassador's pants.

Odd Stuff In History
The two great pyramids in Mexico are quite different from the Egyptian Pyramids. The Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun are not built as burial grounds, but as temples of worship and astrological observatories. The Pyramid of the Sun is more than 200 feet high, and all the work was done by hand. What held the stones together? A mortar made of lime, sand, clay – and ground corn.

The postal system used today started because an English poet was shocked by an old woman's trickery.
            The poet was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and the woman was a farmer's widow he met one day while taking a country walk.
            Coleridge found the woman arguing with a post man about accepting delivery of a letter. At that time, all payments for postal services were based on distance, and the fee would be paid at either end. In this case, it was the woman who had to pay, but she had no money so the postman would not let her have the letter.
            Touched by the woman's poverty, Coleridge paid the postage.
            Instead of thanking him, however, the woman said he's put out his money needlessly. The letter, she said, was from her son in the south of England. Every week he mailed her a blank piece of paper, and every week she refused to accept the mail. Her son had worked out this little trick so that his mother might know he was well without paying the high postage fee.
            Coleridge was shocked. It seemed to him that something was wrong with the system that made poor people resort to such trickery.
            So Coolidge went to his friend Rowland Hill, then the postmaster general of England, and told him that the system must be reformed.
            Hill agreed, and in 1839 the Penny Post Act became law. This act allowed an ordinary letter – prepaid by the first adhesive postage stamp ever used – to be sent anywhere in England for the same penny rate. This was the beginning of the world's modern postal system.

It isn't often that a place gets named even before it's discovered. But this is actually what happens to a continent – Australia.
            Austrailis means “southern” in Latin. When the mapmakers in the 17th century were studying the earth, they figured since there were all those great landmasses in the north, there had to be a great tract of land in the Southern Hemisphere to balance them. They marked this empty space Terra Australis Incognita – the Unknown Land of the South.
            The Dutch, who got there first, called it New Holland. But in 1795, an English navigator, Matthew Flinders, called it Australia, meaning "south land," – exactly what the mapmakers had called it before it was even discovered.

About Mother Earth
A coral ring, or atoll, forms when a volcanic cone – made from spewing lava – rises from the sea. Living coral attach themselves to the base of the cone. Eventually, the volcanic activity stops and the cone begins to sink, leaving a ring of coral behind.

Coral atolls can be found around mountaintops in Alaska. These mountaintops were once volcanic islands.

The Great Barrier Reef, along the continental shelf of northeastern Australia, is the longest coral reef on Earth, measuring about 1243 miles (2000 km).

The theory of plate tectonics states that the Earth is covered in huge plates that move as a result of heat currents deep below the surface.

Earthquakes occur when the edges of these plates rub against each other. The rifts and cracks that result are called fault lines. Some of them are more active than others.

Each magnitude level on the Richter scale is a 10 fold increase. This means that an earthquake measuring six on the Richter scale is 1000 times stronger than a quake measuring three on the scale.

The location of an earthquake underground is called its focus. The point directly above the focus on the surface is the epicenter.

Stars – The same yet different.
Even though all stars are made up of the same stuff – mostly hydrogen and helium gases – astronomers have discovered that they come in several different colors, sizes, and masses. And as they live out their lives, stars of different masses will go through several wild and weird stages.

For example: Yellow stars will become red giants, blue giants will turn into red supergiants, red giants will create planetary nebulae, red supergiants will go supernova, and so on.

If all stars are made up of the same type of stuff, how is it possible for there to be so much variation?

It all has to do with mass, or how much hydrogen the star has inside when nuclear reactions first begin in its core. More mass means more variations.

Interesting Customs
Cornhuskings in rural parts of New Hampshire are still quite popular – especially among young people. Neighbors gather to help husk the corn. And the tradition is that if a girl finds a red ear – she can be kissed by the first man who can catch her.

"Have a pretzel" is not just a friendly expression in Luxembourg. They have a holiday called Pretzel Sunday. On this day, young men give young ladies cakes in pretzel form as a sign that they are interested in eventual marriage.

The Aborigines of Australia had a unique method of getting fresh honey. They captured a bee, stuck a feather on it and then, using the marked bee as a guide, followed it to the hive.

When you raise your glass set mealtime and drink to the health of your guest, you're following an ancient custom that really had to do was health!
            Long-ago, the host would raise his glass and drink first to show that the beverage was not harmful. This little ceremony would indicate to the guests that the host was friendly and wished him no harm. So when you toast your guest by raising a glass, you're observing an old custom of assuring him that it is all right for his health to drink what you served.

Botanical Oddities
Because they contain so little water, pecans are the only food that astronauts do not have to dehydrate when flying in space.

It takes a coffee bean five years to yield consumable fruit.

The most widely cultivated and extensively used nut in the world is the almond.

The deadly water hemlock herb belongs to the carrot family. It also goes by the names of spotted cowbane, snakeroot, beaver poison, and death-of-man. Its root contains the lethal poison cicutoxin, the upper part of the plant looks like a harmless artichoke.

The herb rosemary comes from an evergreen shrub that originated in the Mediterranean. It enjoys hot weather and requires little water.

Just Stuff  Q & A
Q: How did the laser get its name?
A: Laser is an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation."

Q: What comprises a Manhattan cocktail?
A: This popular beverage consists of about 2 ounces of rye or bourbon; a half ounce of sweet vermouth; a dash of bitters, if you so desire; and a cherry.

Q: What ingredients are in a Molotov cocktail?
A: A Molotov cocktail contains two parts champagne and one part each of cherry brandy, curacao, gin, and vodka. The original Molotov cocktail, a makeshift incendiary device used by the Russians against German tanks, was an even more volatile brew: It was made with a flammable liquid, usually gasoline, poured into a glass bottle, with a fuse. The explosive Molotov cocktail was named after the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Soviet Union.

Q: Who invented the Singapore Sling and what are its ingredients?
A: The Singapore Sling was first concocted by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Raffles Hotel bartender. A perfect Singapore Sling consists of one half measure of gin; quarter measures of cherry brandy and fruit juices; a couple of drops of cointreau and benedictine; just a dash of Angostura bitters; and a proper topping.

Q: How do you make a dry martini?
A: To make a martini dryer, lighten up on the vermouth. Take one part dry vermouth and three parts gin. Don't forget the slice of lemon.

Interesting and Odd Facts About Nature
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543), the great Polish scientist who founded modern astronomy, is commonly thought to have been the first to argue that the sun is the center of our planetary system and that the planets, including the earth, revolve around the sun. Actually, it was Aristarchus of Samos who, in the third century B.C.E., first developed a theory in which the sun, not the earth, held the central position in the solar system.
            However, Aristarchus’ analysis of the universe was not accepted by his fellow Greeks. After all, didn't their eyes show them what happened in the heavens? The sun rose in the east and set in the west, and the moon and stars turned in the sky. Everything seemed to move but the earth. Therefore, mankind continued to consider the earth to be the center of the universe, the planet around which everything in the heavens revolved. Not until Copernicus was this notion, despite initial resistance, finally abandoned.

If you know where to look in the sky, you will be able to see Venus with the naked eye in the daytime for several weeks each year. Incidentally, once in about every eight years, Venus at night is about 12 times as bright as Sirius, the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere.

If you ask most people, they will say the earth is perfectly round, a sphere. In fact, it is almost a sphere, but not quite. As a result of its rapid rotation, the earth bulges slightly at the equator and is somewhat flattened at the poles.

People are incorrect in saying that the moon shines. The moon, having no light of its own, does not shine but reflects the light of the sun.

Stuff About Inventions
In 1604 the Italian astronomer Galileo designed a pendulum clock, but never built one.

The artificial grass we know as AstroTurf was invented in 1965 by Monsanto scientists James Faria and Robert Wright. It was first used to carpet a school in Rhode Island. Later that year, it was chosen for covering the field in the Houston Astrodome.

The first fax system, invented in 1842 by the Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain, consisted of swinging a pendulum over metallic tape. Contact with the type caused an electric current to flow over wires to a distant swinging pendulum synchronized with the first. Chemically treated paper was placed under the second pendulum and produced a brown image when the current passed from the pendulum to the paper.

It took 6 minutes to send a single page by fax in 1924. In 1974, it took 3 minutes, and by 1980, 1 minute, today, a single page fax takes about 2 seconds.

Magnavox manufactured and Xerox marketed the first commercial fax machine in 1966.

A fax machine cost about $2000 in 1982.

The first photograph to be transmitted via fax was sent in 1904 by American inventor Arthur Korn.

Stars – The North Star
The North Star (or Polaris) is famous because of its location in the sky, not because of its brightness.

The North Star just happens to be lined up almost directly with Earth's rotational access.

To help picture this, imagine a giant who is spinning Earth on his finger like a basketball. As Earth spins on its access, the giant’s finger represents the South Pole, pointing up through the North Pole and on to Polaris.

As the surface of Earth rotates away from all other stars, rotational access (or the giant's finger) always points to Polaris. Even though Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, there are about 50 other stars that are brighter than our North Star.

Polaris will direct us north for a really long time, but won't always be the North Star.

Why not? Well, as Earth spins on its access, it wobbles a little bit, like a spinning top that is just about ready to fall over. This wobble is called precession, and it slowly changes the direction in which Earth's rotational access is pointing.

Five thousand years ago, the North Pole pointed toward the star Thuban in the constellation of Draco.

In 12,000 years the North Pole will point to the star Vega in the constellation of Lyra.

In another 26,000 years, the North Pole will once again point to Polaris.

If you are sending a box of candy to your sweetheart in Idaho, it must weigh a minimum of 50 pounds.

Nebraska tavern owners may not sell beer unless they are simultaneously brewing a kettle of soup.

In Wisconsin, apple pie cannot be served without a cheese topping.

In Boston, Massachusetts, legislators said a pickle should bounce 4 inches when dropped from waist height.

If you are staying in California, do not peel an orange in your hotel room; it's illegal.


Clarence worked in the kitchen of a cruise ship, filling ice cream orders for the ship’s waiters. He had scooped his way down to the middle of the 2 1/2 gallon tub one day when he reached a patch of ice cream that was "hard as a brickbat."

Clarence took an 18 inch butcher knife and was chipping away at the iced stuff when the knife slipped. He cut his hand – so badly that he lost two fingers. "Inadequate tools to safely perform the task," Clarence cried, and then proceeded to sue the shipping company.

A jury awarded Clarence $17,500, but the appeals court reversed the decision. Honestly now, who could have guessed that Clarence would use a butcher knife to chip the ice cream? The judge reasoned.

The case of the butchered ice cream made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which found in favor of Clarence after all. Someone should have transferred the ice cream out of the deep freeze earlier to soften it before serving, the Court ruled. Clarence shouldn't have been stuck with the "totally inadequate" scoop, and, yes, the employer should have foreseen that he "might be tempted to use a knife to perform his task with dispatch."

Let's Talk Planets
Our solar system has big planets and small planets, cold planets and hot planets, planets with rings and planets without rings, planets with many moons and planets with no moons at all. There is even one planet with life growing on its surface.

In other words, when it comes to planets, our solar system seems to have a little bit of everything.

Who discovered them?

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn's have always been visible to anyone who bothered to look up – and many people did.

After all, the bright planets stand out because they moved in the sky as they orbit the sun. All the stars stay fixed.

Because these plants were so noticeably different, many ancient cultures knew about them. So it is impossible to give credit to any one person for their discovery.

However, it's an entirely different story for Uranus and Neptune. These planets are too faint to be seen without a telescope. In other words you really have to hunt for them, and that is just what the following astronomers did.

William Herschel discovered Uranus on March 13, 1781

Credit for Neptune's discovery is shared by two men – John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier. The planet was discovered on September 23, 1846.

Remembering Their Names

Need a memory helper to remember the names and order of the planets in the solar system?

First, here are the planets listed in order, starting with the closest planet to the sun:

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

Now here are the memory helpers (it's supposed to be easier to remember one wacky sentence then eight individual names):

My Very Energetic Monkey Just Scampered Up North.

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nuts.

My Violin Entertained Many Jumping Singles until Nine.

If you can remember any of these memory helpers, you will be able to remember the order and the names of the planets as well. Simply match the first letter of each word with the appropriate planet. Use any of these memory helpers, or make up your own.

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