Here are a few of my favorite facts:
The Scoville Heat Index (SHI) measures the amount of saicin in a particular pepper. The average jalapeno is rated at 5000 SCI, while the hottest pepper is the habanero – rated at 577 000.
Why do we use the number 60 for navigation, time and geometry? It was chosen for the ease with which it can be divided. 60 is the lowest number with a dozen factors, being divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30.
Make a pin-hole camera: twist your fingers to create a tiny opening in your cupped hands – by doing this you can project the sun’s image onto any white surface. You can also create upside-down ‘zoomed’ images of far-away objects with a bit of practice.
Combustion engine cars were initially marketed as saviors of the environment (doing away with the stench and flies caused by a crowded population of horses and carts).
In the early years of the space programme, NASA spent millions of dollars developing an ‘anti-gravity pen’. The Russians used a pencil.
A 10-gallon cowboy hat only holds 0.9 of a gallon.
The bulletproof vest was invented by a woman.
Bats were trained to drop bombs in World War II.
Murders are more likely to happen in temperatures above 33°c.
25% of all the world’s prisoners are in the USA.
Liquid helium flows uphill.
You could walk around the equator in less than a year.
No-one was born in Antarctica until 1978.
Greenland has one person for every 37 square kilometers.
Every hour, 9700 people are born on Earth.
There are 25 million kilometers of roads on Earth.
The Sargasso Sea is surrounded by water.
The world’s largest bell (in Russia) has never been rung.
The Strahov stadium in Prague holds 240 000 people.
1.5 millions tons of rice is harvested each year.
As you take your next breath, you also inhale at least one atom exhaled by every person who ever lived and who is alive now and over the age of six (it takes about six years for the atoms in your exhaled breath to mix in the atmosphere and be inhaled by every other person on the planet).
When dolphins communicate to one another by radar, they literally see what they hear.
You actually grow a memory – a dendrite grows on your brain for every long term memory you make.
22% of the world’s forests are in Russia.
Herds of Canadian caribou generate their own weather.
Every person has a unique tongue print.
An albatross can live for eighty years.
Starfish don’t have brains.
The Earth travels 940 million kilometers a year.
Of the 6500 languages spoken around the world, only 100 or so are recognised.
The human brain has over 100 billion nerve cells.
Each cubic millimeter of brain tissue has over 1 kilometer of fibre strands… the entire brain has about a million kilometers
One cell in the human body has 100 million million molecules (a thousand times more than there are stars in the galaxy) – The human body has about 100 trillion cells.
If you put all the DNA in a single human body end to end, it would make a continuous string about 20 million kilometers long (and be about 2 millionths of a millimeter thick).
Lions can mate up to fifty times a day.
The average human being produces over 28000 litres of spit in a life-time.
We are born with 305 bones in our bodies and die with 206.
A cockroach can live for a week without a head.
Your skeleton is worth about $5 000.
Mosquitoes have caused half of all human fatalities ever.
Your heart beats about 100 000 times a day.
Your brains consumes one quarter of your body’s energy.
A hippo can run faster than a man.
The human brain has an information storage capacity of about 116 gigabytes.
An upset octopus may eat itself.
The dot on an ‘i’ is called a tittle.
Blue whales have blood vessels you could swim down.
Ostriches can outrun racehorses.
Saturn would float if you could put it in water.
The sun makes up 99.8% of the mass of the solar system.
The fluvial channels on Mars are astonishing not only because they reveal that the Red Planet must have once had running water, but also because they must have had a thicker atmosphere (since water cannot exist in liquid form under very thin atmospheres).
There is still no satisfactory theory that completely explains gravity.
If you were in a space ship and you got caught by the sun’s gravity, you would hit the surface at 617 kilometers per second!
Every second you are in the sun, you are bombarded by a million trillion photons of UV light. One third of this comes at you from the side (having been scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere).
If you travel really fast, time slows down fractionally. The same if you move into an area of stronger gravity. Astronauts on the moon had the opposite effect – they grew old fractionally faster because the moon has less gravity.
Objects with very strong gravitational fields can warp space and time.
When it rains and you’re in car, the rain seems to come from a single spot just in front of you. This is known as ‘aberration’ and is due in part to your motion. The same thing appears to happen to starlight reaching the spinning Earth. All the stars in the sky therefore appear displaced slightly from their true position.
When the moon is overhead, the whole of the Earth’s surface (not just the water masses) is pulled towards it by as much as 30 centimeters. The atmosphere also has tides – explaining why it is usually rainier during a full moon.
The ‘dark side of the moon’ is not dark at all. It also experiences lunar days and nights.
The moon only appears to be bright white because it is contrasted against a black background. In reality it is grey.
The equations of general relativity – used to understand how objects distort space-time as they move through it – are too complicated for even NASA to use when they calculate a spacecraft’s trajectory.
The light that comes from the Crab Nebula in the constellation of Taurus is not starlight or sunlight or even reflected light – it gets its light from what is called ‘forbidden radiation’ which is caused by intensely strong magnetic fields.
Neutron stars contain the mass of a million Earths squashed into the diameter of a small island. A teaspoon full of neutron star material would weigh as much as all the cars in America put together. (You also have the same density present in each and every atomic nucleus in your body.)
Most years, an extra second is added onto December’s final minute. (58 – 59 – 60 – 00 – 01) The reason is that the atomic clocks used to set the standard time do not quite match the Earth’s rotation.
The sun and the moon appear the same size because one is almost 400 times larger than the other, but also about 400 times further away.
The moon moves about 2.5 cm further away from the Earth every year. (It would be more if it were not for the fact that Mount Everest grows moon-wards by about half a centimeter each year.)
The word disaster comes from the Latin words for ‘falling star’.
Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, had his urine bag burst inside his boot as he made contact with the lunar surface. His walk was ‘one small squish for man’.
The crew of Apollo 13 reached a speed of close to 40 000 km/h.
In a mirage over a hot road, the speed of light in the warm air is faster than the cooler air above. This makes light bend or refract creating imaginary reflective zones that look like puddles.
In unpolluted areas, the horizon does not appear paler than the sky overhead. Pale or white horizons are signs of pollution (or sometimes humidity).
The largest recorded snowflake was 38cm wide and 20cm thick.
The sky outside the arc of a rainbow is always darker than the sky inside. (This is called Alexander’s Dark Band.)
The colours you see at sunset are not created by the atmosphere – they are coloured photons produced in the centre of the sun that meet the surface at a different angle to the angle that produces blue skies.
The sky is blue because that colour is scattered from the spectrum by air molecules in the sky. This is also why the sun appears yellow to us. (The sun is really white, as astronauts tell us.)
In 1979, snow fell in the Sahara.
Snow covers 33% of the Earth.
Every person sees a different rainbow – even if they think they are looking at the same one. The reason is that the reflection and refraction that causes a rainbow comes from a different set of raindrops for each observer.
The Earth casts a shadow called the ‘twilight wedge’ into space that you can see for about fifteen minutes after sunset.
In the polar regions during certain seasons, the sun can appear to move backward in the sky – rising in the west and setting in the east (as it does on Venus)
Shuttle astronauts do not float because they have escaped the Earth’s gravity. There is nearly as much gravity 400 kilometers up as there is on the surface. Orbiting cosmonauts feel weightless for the same reason sky-divers do—because they are free falling around the ‘side’ of the Earth.
Some lesser known atmospheric phenomena: ‘the glory’ (a series of colourful concentric rings seen on top of clouds on the spot directly opposite the sun), ‘the Heiligenschein’ (a bright glow surrounding the shadow of your head on a dewy lawn) – and the Brocken bow (similar to the glory but seen from mountain tops.)
Almost all meteor showers happen in a single twenty week period.
Shimmering streams of curving black lines ripple across any white surface sixty seconds before and after a total solar eclipse. These cannot be photographed.
Look closely at your shadow on a white surface. Shadows are blue – not grey or black. Shadows are sunless zones whose only illumination comes from the blue sky.
The centre of every rainbow is directly over your head.
High-flying jets cast no shadows.
The average river’s length, when compared with the straight line distance from source to mouth yields Pi. Thus, on average, a river’s actual course is 3.14 times longer than the straight line from start to finish!
Not everything is pulled equally by gravity (except in a vacuum). Heavier objects have more mass and are tugged with more force than lighter ones. Only, heavier objects take longer to speed up when dropped so that they appear to fall at the same speed as lighter objects.
The equator spins at about 1670 km/h while people at 60° latitude only spin at about 1200 km/h. To work out your speed, use this formula: the cosine of your latitude multiplied by 1670.
Nearly half of the Earth’s crust is made of oxygen. (And one quarter is silicon.)
Every element in your body was created in a star’s core. (Except for hydrogen, which began forming just after the Big Bang.)
It is impossible to make a warm cup of coffee above 7000m.
At very low pressures, water can freeze and boil at the same time.
On average, a building in North America is struck every fifteen months by small meteors.
South Africa’s Witwatersrand basin has yielded a third of all the gold ever produced on Earth.
Pure gold can be moulded with your hands.
You can only store 6 to 8 new facts in your short term memory at a time.
Most people can only concentrate for about 15 minutes at a time.
Water draining out of a sink or tub does not spiral differently in the different hemispheres. Corioli’s force – the force said to be responsible for this pattern is too weak to act over such small distances.
Most ‘neon’ lights aren’t Neon at all. They are actually filled with Argon and a little Mercury.
When light passes through water, water can slow it down to 75% of its customary speed. This is why fish sometimes appear in phantom positions.
Humid air is really lighter and thinner than dry air – which is why aeroplanes need faster speeds and longer runways to take off during humid conditions.
If you free fall for just two seconds, you will hit the ground at about 70 km/h
Most people think that steam is the white mist coming out of a kettle. In reality this is really condensed water vapour: a miniature cloud. Real steam is invisible – the clear spot a centimeter or so above the spout, that’s real steam.
When light passes through a window the photons that you see on the other side are not the same ones. They are copies of the original light. Actually, they are copies of copies of copies of copies…
Both the Hindenburg and the Challenger threw up huge plumes of white billowing ‘smoke’ when they exploded. This was not really smoke at all but water vapour – the result of the massive amount of hydrogen they were carrying leaking and mixing with atmospheric oxygen.
You feel cold when you step out of a shower because the air in the room is drier and so the water evaporates from you skin – making you feel cold. A fridge works the same way.
A falling stream of water creates a low pressure around it and can pull light objects towards it. This is why a shower curtain gets pulled into a shower. This is known as Bernoulli’s principle.
A jiffy is exactly one hundredth of a second.
Half of all bank robberies take place on a Friday.
The smallest particles of matter are called quarks. Quarks come in different ‘flavours’, ‘colours’ and can be up or down quarks. There are also quarks called ‘strange’ quarks and ‘gypsy’ quarks. There are even anti-quarks that come from another dimension. Scientists speculate that these small building blocks may be made of smaller ‘strings’. Strings have no mass at all but vibrate across eleven dimensions to set up different frequencies. So everything around you may be humming strings of nothing jumping in and out of dimensions we do not know!
Molecules can be left or right-handed
About 240 ultra-fast, ultra small particles travel right through your body everyday.
The two hydrogen atoms that hold the oxygen atom in a molecule of water are linked at an angle of 105°. This explains why water remains a fluid at room temperature and not a gas – unlike every single other molecule of the same size and mass.
Cell phones use wavelengths that are too weak to change atomic structures, and therefore cannot cause cancer.
Every atom in our body jiggles at about 1600 kilometers per hour (thanks to our 36.5°c body temperature).