Page 3 - Science Facts

Lightning kills about 58 people a year.

These victims are usually those that are caught outside during thunderstorms. However, lightning has injured--and even killed--those who have been indoors. 

Lightning strikes into the ground near homes, sending jolts through pipes and into sinks and bathtubs. Not only do metal pipes serve as effective conduits for these electrical charges, but it has even been reported that individuals standing near windows and talking on landline phones have also been injured by lightning. 


There's an organism with almost 1000 more chromosomes than ANY other known organism. What is it, and how do humans compare?

Chromosomes are organized structures of DNA and proteins that are found in cells of almost all living organisms. DNA, of course, contains the specific instructions that make each type of living creature unique. The number of chromosomes an organism has doesn't really mean much as far as intelligence or complexity, but it's interesting to see the vast range that exists.

The genus Ophioglossum reticulatum, more commonly known as Adders-tongue, holds the title of the most chromosomes with a whopping 1,260! That's by far the highest number of any known organism.

So what is an Adders tongue? It's a type of fern that grows mainly in tropical and subtropical climates. The name "Adders-tongue" is Greek and means "devils tongue." It gets this name from its spore-bearing stalk that resembles the tongue of a snake.

The highest chromosome count after these ferns? That title belongs to the Agrodiaetus butterfly with 268. That's 992 less than the Adders-tongue. Humans, by comparison, have only 46.

Humans have fewer chromosomes than a large number of organisms. Shrimp, pigeons, turkeys, chickens, sheep and potatoes all have more chromosomes than humans, and those are just a few of many. So what about some of our favorite companions? Dogs have 39, which just beats out cats at 38.

Scientists estimate that two-thirds of species have yet to be categorized. With so many yet undiscovered, could a rival to Adders-tongue be out there?


Flames get their shape due to gravity!

When you strike a match, you get a flame of burning gases. Vaporized fuel from the match mixes with air and produces heat by a chemical reaction. Flames get their tongue-like shapes from the way these gases move and interact under earthly gravity. Near the match head, a column of hot gas is created. This column is wider than the match itself. Hot gases have more energy than colder gases and can more easily shake off the tug of gravity. So, the column of hot gas starts to rise and it rises faster and faster.

Since the amount of gas is constant, as it rises faster, the column is stretched thinner. The result is a wide column near the match, and a thin column higher up. So, if you strike a match in space, where there is no air or gravity, it burns in a sphere shape! It is a pretty neat thing to see.


Some awesome lists!

The first person to take LSD did so by accident—and then liked it so much he took it again on purpose!

A Swiss scientist by the name of Albert Hofman was hired at a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland. He was assigned to work in the chemical-pharmaceutical department of Sandoz Laboratories. He was working on an analeptic for women that was safe on the uterus.

An analeptic is a drug used in the aid of restoring a person's health. Hofman had decided to use different chemicals as trial and error. He introduced lysergic acid to his chemical structure creating lysergic acid diethylamide, but never got to test his results due to other incoming projects.

The compound using lysergic acid was shelved for nearly five years. On April 16th, 1943, Hofman decided to open his forgotten case and re-examine it. As he was touching the compound, it had made its way through the fibers of his safety gloves and was absorbed into his fingertips. Within a few minutes, he began to reportedly feel restless and dizzy. He decided to lay down and close his eyes.

When he did so, he began to see harsh, bright colors and shapes, as if looking through a kaleidoscope. A few days later, Hofman purposely ingested the Lysergic Acid Diethylamide or LSD and rode his bicycle home. Hofman had the first intentional acid trip recorded and this day is now known as "Bicycle Day".


There's a type of mould that can form networks remarkably similar to major railway systems!

When you think of mold you probably don’t associate it with intelligence, but some molds can work in pretty complex ways. Professor John Tyler Bonner, who has spent a lifetime studying slime molds, says that he's seen the mold act with behavior similar to animals, as if they have “simple brains.”

It’s no secret that Mother Nature often creates things so complex that we can only marvel at them. Humans get some of our best technologies by studying the way nature has done things, such as creating transportation systems. Millions of years of evolution have gone into developing these systems, from our own nervous systems to ant colonies. A group of scientists in Tokyo decided to recruit slime mold to help them find ways of improving on our own transportation networks.

Atsushi Tero of Hokkaido University used the slime mold Physarum polycephalum to do this. It was done by placing the mold in a central location that represented Tokyo, then placing oat flakes around it where other major cities around Tokyo would be located. Since the mold uses the flakes as food, it would grow towards these “cities.” The last step was to represent real obstacles such as mountains and bodies of water. Tero achieved this by shining bright light on those places, as the mold avoids light.

This whole experiment was done in a dish about 20cm or 7.8 inches in diameter. This was all to scale, of course. The result was actually strikingly similar to the rail system that was already in place in Tokyo.

It’s amazing how a simple mold can be so efficient. On top of mimicking rail systems, the mold can find the most effective way of linking together scattered sources of food, and it can even find the shortest path through a maze, as well as other impressive feats.

Score one for Mother Nature.



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