Page 222 - Animal Facts

The first immortal cell line was taken from a woman without her knowledge.

Immortal cells are almost exactly what you think they are - cells that can be grown for an unlimited amount of time, frozen for several years, and therefore are able to be shared among countless scientists. In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore created the first strain of these cells by taking a sample from a young black woman who had cervical cancer. No one knows why, but her cells never died! These amazing cells were named "HeLa cells," after their unwitting donor, Henrietta Lacks...however, Henrietta's identity was soon lost for several decades.

25 years after Henrietta's death, a scientist realized that cells thought to be from other tissue types were actually HeLa cells! In order to sort out which cells were which, Henrietta's relatives had to be located. The researchers managed to do so, which drew attention to the immorality of the original donation, especially considering that Henrietta's cells spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry while her family was living in severe poverty.

Though the initial extraction is be frowned upon (and for good reason!), that first scientist's good intentions did manage to come to fruition in countless extremely important ways. Henrietta's cells played an integral part in developing the polio vaccine and gave birth to the field of virology as a whole! They made manned space travel a possibility by showing what would happen to human cells in space aboard one of the first Soviet satellites in space. Several other scientific breakthroughs have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and cryogenics!

Read more about this amazing story here.

The gross external debt worldwide is $73,292,419,088.

External debt refers to that which is owed to nonresidents of a country and is repayable in internationally accepted currencies, goods, or services. Note that this is not the same as net debt, which calculates debt in relation to a country's assets, such as cash or goods that can be easily converted to cash. The top three highest debts are as follows: the United States with $13.98 trillion, the European Union with $13.72 trillion, and the United Kingdom with $8.98 trillion.


The temperature of a nuclear explosion can exceed 100,000,000°C.

You're probably wondering, so yes, that converts to over 180 million degrees Fahrenheit (not that you'd ever want to know what that feels like). This is about ten times the temperature of the surface of the Sun! What may be even more amazing is that the heat released by a nuclear explosion only accounts for 35 percent of its total energy. At temperatures this high, matter cannot exist in its typical solid, liquid, or gaseous state. This results in a substance being stripped of all its electrons and existing as an ionized plasma!

The heat from a thermonuclear blast can vaporize objects and living things over great distances. Depending on what sort of objects are in its path, a blast can even result in a firestorm of around 1000°C that can melt glass and several metals! This sort of fiery explosion on a Hiroshima-sized scale would scorch everything within a 1.2-mile radius.
Some awesome lists!

By some estimates, there as many neurons in the human brain as there are stars in the Milky Way.

According to astronomers there are between 200 billion and 400 billion stars in the Milky Way. A normal healthy human brain has as many neurons as the low estimate of stars in the galaxy: 200 billion! Pretty impressive when you compare the vastness of space to the size of the human brain.

In fact, the cerebral cortex (the brain's outer layer) is only 2 to 4 millimeters thick, but it alone contains around 10 BILLION neurons!

The number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy really pales in comparison to the number of the brains synapses, connections between the neurons. There are an estimated 125 trillion synapses within the cortex! This means there are 1,500 times as many synapses as there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy - and that's just in the tiny outer layer of your brain!

Scientists are still learning more about the human brain. Read more about what they found.

The world's most typical person is a 28-year-old Chinese man.

National Geographic recently sought to determine the characteristics of the most typical human being. Because the world's largest ethnic group is Han Chinese, males outnumber females, and the world's average age is 28, this person would have to fulfill all these qualifications. The magazine even took it a step further! Its researchers averaged the faces of 190,000 of the world's 9-million-plus 28-year-old Han Chinese men and came up with the photo shown above!

In addition to age, gender, and ethnicity, this individual would also have a few more typical attributes. He would have to be right-handed and earn less than $12,000 a year. To be totally average, this man would also be required to own a cell phone, but not a bank account, because less than a quarter of the world has one!

More typical facts can be seen in National Geographic's atypical YouTube video below!


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