weird facts and strange but true statistics about the world around us

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Strange but True Facts and Statistics You have no Business Knowing

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  • This gubblick compilation of slango gibberish contains many nonsklarkish English flutzpahs, but the overall pluggandisp consensus can be glorked [sic] from context. Seeking fun but true facts on sex? here ya go!
  • Facts in isolation or improper contexts, are often VERY misleading.  For example: Fact:  About 1000 Ha of old growth forest is clear-cut on the island of Tazmania per year.  What those who think this is completely unacceptable usually neglect to tell you is that there are almost 1.5 million Ha of old growth forest on this little chunk of Primaeval Paridise, with at least 70% of that total in National parks or other completely protected reserves.   (so, it would take 500 years to cut down the 30% not protected!!)  Context nearly ALWAYS makes a big difference in how we view or undestand almost anything and everything: if the context is omitted, distorted, obscured, substituted, or otherwise bent, folded, spindled or mutilated, any fact, statement or statistic can be made to seem to mean pretty well anything at all!!  (This is especially true when applied to sacred texts, politics and economics......)
  • About 85% of the mass of the universe is a mysterious form of "dark" matter: it can be detected only through its gravitational force, and does not form stars.  It may, however, play a major role in galaxy formation - especially of galaxies that are also "dark": clouds of hydrogen and other gases that do not coalesce into stars we can see.  For example, there are 35 visible galaxies in our "local cluster" - but taking into account all the dark matter, there should be up to 500 galaxies!! Astronomers are now coming to suspect that many of the "missing" galaxies may be dwarfs with no stars, hence difficult for us to detect. Now that planets are being discovered almost weekly orbiting distant stars, most scientists and astronomers now agree that life must exsist in abundance throughout the cosmos. Of course, since most rely on funding from government programs, they never go public with these types of conclusions. Funny how world religions consume blind faith believers without a shred of evidence to back up the claims. Aliens must get a kick out of observing our silly little planet.
  • The density of a Neutron Star, which is formed by the gravitational collapse of stars 1.5 to 3 times the sun's mass, is a mind-twisting 100 million tons per cubic centimeter (about the size of a sugar cube).  They are about 100 km in diameter (estimates range from 20 to 300 km), which means you'd have to be traveling at half the speed of light (300,000 km/second (186,000 miles/sec)) in order to escape their gravitational force of 100 billion times that of the earth.  They are over 150 times as hot as the sun, and can rotate 1000 times per second!  For a great summary of these weird denizens of our universe, see: http://www-astronomy.mps.ohio-state.edu/~ryden/ast162_5/notes21.html
  • The average major league career of a baseball is 5 to 7 pitches.
  •  About 22% of the earth's original forest coverage remains. Western Europe has lost 98% or so of its primary forests; Asia 94%; Africa 92%; Oceania 78%;   North America 66%, and South America 54%.  Approximately 45% of the world's tropical forests, originally covering 1.4 billion hectares, have disappeared in the last few decades. (taken from a Greenpeace website, but the figures are accurate to the best of our knowledge)
  • In 1950, rain forests covered about 14% of the earth's land surface.  By 2001, this had diminished to 6%.  Approximately half of the world's estimated 10 million species of life are believed to be found only in rain forests.  The Amazon constitutes about 40% of the remaining rain forests, but it is disappearing at the rate of 7 football fields per minute - that's 20,000 km2  (7700 mi2) per year and increasing.  From 1970 to 2000, an area the size of France or Texas was deforested by ranchers, farmers, loggers (mostly illegal), miners and developments of various kinds. The population of the Amazon is now over 20 million and rapidly increasing, since there is great poverty in Brazil, and the forest is seen as a vast area of land to be cleared and occupied.
  • In the famous Beatles song "Paper Back Writer", the French folk song "Frere Jaques" can be heard in the background several times - the Beatles took great pleasure in putting little "surprises" in their work - such as the inclusion of a Bach fugue in the tangle of tunes which follows Strawberry fields, and the deliscious double meanings in songs such as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and A Day in the Life.
  • If anyone doubts the power and wealth of "Big Business" (trans-national giant companies which are more or less a law unto themselves these days), the raw figures speak for themselves.  Of the 100 largest "economies" in the world, 53 are giant corporations.  The other 47 are nation states (ie, countries.)
  • Wal-Mart, the colossal retail chain, is the world's largest corporation. Last year its total income was $246.5 billion, a sum larger than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Sweden, Austria or Norway. It is the 19th largest economy in the world.
  • The combined sales of the largest 200 companies constitute 29 percent of the world's economic activity, but they only employ 0.9 percent of the world's work force.  This means that the other 28.1% of the world's economic activity that this handful of companies rake in, goes towards the enrichment of the owners (well, at least the net profit does - lest anyone accuse me of being simplistic here ;=)).
  • The post-WWII policies and actions of Joseph Stalin (or "uncle Joe", as one famous president liked to refer to him) resulted in the death of an estimated 30 million people in the Soviet Union, over an 8 year period to 1953.
  •   In the final days of WWII, before Japan became the first country in the world to be "nuked", the country's leaders  repeatedly offered to surrender.  Their requests were nixed because they wished to keep their emperor as their head of government.
  • During the infamous McCarthy-Era communist "witch hunts" in the early days of the so-called Cold War, over 6.5 million people in many walks of life, from movie stars to file clerks, were investigated to see if they were communist spies or otherwise "threats to national security".  None (nada) were found to be guilty as charged or suspected.
  • Over 25 distinct methods of altering seashells to make them look better and hence bring higher prices, are known.  These include lip alterations ("smoothing", filing..), various kinds of repairs, glueing tips (protoconchs) on, polishing, painting, baking (which changes the color of the pigments),  and bleaching to produce artificial "albino" specimens.
  • Casual dating can be dangerous. A study of spiders shows female wolf  spiders will eat strange-looking males that try to mate with them, but spare and even hook  up with familiar-looking males.   The findings provide not just an interesting insight into spider behavior, but may help explain actions by "higher" animals, said arachnologist Eileen Hebets of Cornell University in New  York.    "The female is using earlier experience that is going to affect her mate choice later," Hebets  said in a telephone interview. "It is reasonable to expect that is a common thing in other animals."   Hebets worked with Schizocosa uetzi spiders, commonly known as wolf spiders. The  female, which is slightly larger, can choose a) to mate, b) to run away or c) to eat her suitor.   Apparently, running away is not a very frequently used option.....
  • Since there is a low conversion rate between stored carbon in ancient plants and the oil we extract today, it takes ninety eight tons (88,000 kg) of prehistoric buried plant material to produce each U.S. gallon (3.9 liters) of gasoline, according to a new study.  It finds that the total amount of fossil fuel burned in 1997 totaled 97 million billion pounds (4.36 x 10E16 kg) of carbon; a figure that is equivalent to more than 400 times all the  plant matter that grows in the world in a  year, including microscopic plant life in the world's oceans. //   "Every day, people are using the fossil fuel equivalent of all the plant matter that grows on land and in the oceans over the course of a whole year," says study author Jeff Dukes, an ecologist at the University of Utah.
  • A group of flightless Papua New Guinea birds known as "cassowaries" communicate through the dense foliage of the jungle by means of extra-low frequency sound waves - partly below the range of hearing of humans.  People near a cassowarie calling in their lowest register, would feel, rather than hear the sound - much like the low-frequency calls of elephants, which can be heard up to 50 miles (80 km) away.   Cassowaries are among the world's most dangerous birds: weighing up to 125 pounds (56 kg), they kick when fighting, and have a "spike" on their feet which can rip a person open, with sometimes fatal results.  They are also nearly extinct, due to poaching and hunting by loggers and increasing populations of some native peoples in the region.
  • "Reefer madness" apparently strikes both sides of the debate in the American War on Pot:  in a recent (summer, 2003) investigation and raid on a factory producing glass pipes often used by marjuiana smokers, 1200 (that's twelve hundred)  local, state and national  law enforcement officers were used in a massive campaign to shut down the operation, which was not a secret nor was its location difficult to discover.   (Note: i do not condone smoking of anything at all, but it just seems to me that sometimes law enforcemtent ideologies related to certain activities are just a *tad* paranoid - not to mention a rather poor excuse to waste massive amounts of taxpayers' money......)
  • Before the arrival of Columbus and the boyz, the population of the Americas was an estimated 100,000,000 native people.   Only a few million of these remain today.  The biggest contributor to their near-extinction was the arrival of European diseases such as smallpox, which killed (often intentionally, it should be noted) many more natives than all the slavery initiatives and "Indian Wars" combined.  One of the most dramatic and least known tragedies related to disease introduction, was the eradication of a well-ordered and splendid civilization in the upper Amazon region, chronicled by an explorer whose name i can't remember (any takers? He was leading a gang of dissenters from the army of Pizzaro, which was invading the Inca civiliation in Peru.).  It vanished almost literally "without a trace", due almost entirely to the effect of European diseases.
  • Since 1978, populations of American, Asian and European eels have declined almost 99%, probably due to pollution and overfishing.  Eels, like sharks, are an under-studied and under-appreciated part of our aquatic ecosystems.  They spawn only once, in the Sargasso Sea and similar places in the Pacific, and the young then migrate to fresh water streams and estuaries where they live for the next 10 to 50 years, accumulating toxic chemicals in their gonads, which may be making successful reproduction increasingly difficult.
  • Sharks are the "ultimate predator" of the ocean, but they can't outrun or outwit humans, who kill an estimated 100 million of the slowly-reproducing (hence vulnerable to population depletion) animals.  Most of these are taken just for their fins, which are used to make an expensive soup in many countries, but most especially Asia.  In some Japanese resturaunts, a bowl of shark fin soup can set you back $100 USD.  "Finning" is a particularly shocking form of killing: the animal is caught, its fins sliced off, and while it is still alive it is dumped overboard to sink to the bottom where it dies of suffocation (most sharks must be moving or holding still in a current, in order to breathe).
  • Neutrons are not stable outside of the nucleus of an atom.  On their own, neutrons have a half-life of just over 14 minutes - i.e., after 14 minutes, half of a given sample of neutrons will have "decayed" (split up) into protons and other particles, and after 28 minutes only a quarter of free neutrons (neutrons not connected with a nuleus) will remain.
  • The life of a professional soccer player may seem glamorous, but there is a price to pay: nearly half of them will develop osteoarthritis at a young age, averaging around 40 years old.
  • "Jiffy" is an interesting word.  Here is a comprehensive exploration of the concept as found in The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing

  • n. 1. The duration of one tick of the system clock on your computer .   Often one AC cycle time (1/60 second in the U.S. and Canada, 1/50 most other places), but more recently  1/100 sec has become common. "The swapper runs every 6 jiffies" means that the virtual memory management routine is executed once for every 6 ticks of the clock, or about ten times a second. 2.  Confusingly, the term is sometimes also used for a 1-millisecond wall time interval. 3. Even more confusingly, physicists semi-jokingly use `jiffy' to mean the time required for light to travel one foot in a vacuum, which turns out to be close to a  nanosecond .   4. Indeterminate time from a few seconds to forever.  "I'll do it in a jiffy" means certainly not now and possibly never.

  • Dolphins are turning up these days with up to 2,000 (two thousand) parts per million of PCBs (a class of about 100 toxic chemicals formed by many industrial processes - they are very rare in nature) - 40 times the amount needed to classify their flesh as toxic waste, and 400 times the level deemed "safe" in humans.  PCBs and other oil-soluble chemicals build up in the fat of living animals (including us!!) over a lifetime of exposure, and cause health problems such as cancer and toxic effects to a variety of organs including the brain and liver.  Inuit who live a "traditional" lifestyle, eating large quantities of fat from marine mammals, have PCB concentrations in their bodies of 10 to 15 parts per million, while most people in North America and Europe have levels of less than 2 parts per million.  People living beside toxic waste dumps can have over 30 ppm of the stuff cruising around in their blood.
  • Those who believe in "smokers' rights" would be well advised to consider the case of Helena, Montana, a city of about 70,000 that banned indoor smoking in public places in June 2002.  The heart attack rate immediately began to decline, and by 6 month's time there were 58% fewer heart attacks for people living inside the city limits - but NO decrease for people living in the same area, but in places without a similar ban!!  When the Big Tobacco lobby succeeded in "persuading" the state legislature to make such bans illegal, the number of heart attacks in the city immediately began to climb again, and within a few months had returned to normal. // Exposure to smoke, whether first or second hand, causes platelets (the blood cells that cause clotting) to become stickier, which leads to more frequent clotting in a matter of 30 minutes, and hence an increase in blockage of blood vessels leading to the heart - heart attack!!
  • Although good ol' Saddam of Iraq does not appear to have stored away much in the way of those scary "unconventional" weapons, they were most certainly not running short on the conventional variety.  It is estimated that they left over a million tons of explosives and other weapons lying about Iraq in the wake of the most recent war with the USA.  These are stockpiled in huge "weapons dumps" up to 25 km2 in size.  For some reason that nobody can give the answer to, plans were not made to quickly secure and destroy this huge amount of weaponry after the invasion - so now they are being carted off by the truckfull by terrorists of all kinds, proving once again that war is often a way to create more violence and chaos, rather than diminishing the threat from ruthless men who will take whatever advantage they can, to further their warped objectives.  Consider that  dandy suicide bomb can be made from only a few kilos of explosives - if only 10% of Saddam's largely unguarded weapons caches are diverted into the terrorist "underworld", that is still enough to make a LOT of bombs which could be transported to almost anywhere in the world - probably not what Mr. Bush had in mind when he set out to bring peace and democracy to one third of the "Axis of Evil"......
  • The Yellowstone buffalo herd is descended from the only members of their species to survive in the continental USA: 23 individuals who somehow escaped the slaughter of between 40 and 70 million of their kind in the 1860s and 70s.  Those that stray from the protection of the park in search of winter fodder, are still harassed and killed by government officials intent on protecting cattle from bovine tuberculosis, which still occurs in the herd - despite the fact that there is no known case of cross-species transmission of the disease.
  • The record-breaking heat wave in Europe in the summer of 2003, killed an estimated 35,000 people.  Temperatures reached 40 C (104 F) in many countries, and were far above normal for weeks.
  • An analysis of more than 7 million recent discharge records from hospitals in 28 states reveals that a group of 18 medical injuries that occur during hospitalization may account for 2.4 million extra hospital days, $9.3 billion in excess charges, and almost 32,600 attributable deaths in the United States annually.   The most serious offender is sepsis, a severe infection that sometimes develops after surgery.  Sepsis occurs in approximately 11 per 1000 cases and is associated with the greatest increases in length of stay (11 days),  charges ($57,727), and in-hospital mortality (22 percent of all sepsis cases are fatal.).
  • As women all over the world gain more control over their lives, as well as access to birth control technology, birth rates are declining in almost all countries.  If current trends continue, it is now predicted that instead of the population "explosion" predicted for the 21st century, global population should peak at about 9 billion by the year 2050, and decline after that.  This century could actually end with fewer people alive than when it began - something that hasn't happened since the Black Plague in the 14th century.  However, lest everyone jump for joy thinking that this automatically means a lessening of the human population's "ecological footprint", as standards of living rise for many countries, so does their consumption of goods and services, and correspondingly their appetite for more land, more water, more lumber, more metals..... we can never relax efforts to increase conservation measures and decrease the impact of each individual on the health of the biosphere in general.
  • The world's first moving picture film was shot in "early October", 1888, by Louis Aimé Augustin (Edmée Auguste) Le Prince, of his father in law's garden.  The world's First commercial movie was La Sortie des Usines Lumiere (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory), which aired in 1895.  The tools necessary for this feat were developed a decade earlier by the physiologist Etienne Jules Marey, who wished to study human movement scientifically.  The first movie with an actual plot is considered to be "The Great Train Robbery" filmed in 1903 by Thomas Alva Edison.
  • The first film with spoken dialogue (a "talkie") first aired on Oct. 6, 1927 in New York.  It was The Jazz Singer, staring the irrepressible Al Jolson.
  • Psychologists from the University of Toronto and Harvard University have identified one of the biological bases of creativity.  The study in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people's brains might shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition" - defined as an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition. //   "This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment," says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities." //    Revealingly enough, the inability to properly "filter" incoming or internal stimuli and information sources has been linked to psychosis.    It may be that when linked to a reasonably stable personality, high intelligence and a flexible approach to problem solving, the same processes that lead to madness in some, may result in extraordinary creativity and inventiveness in others.
  • The U.S. spends an estimated $422 billion a year as a result of youth delinquency, binge drinking, dropping out of school, high-risk sexual behaviour, and other problems.   Research shows that parents and others can make a difference by:
                                   - Using praise and rewards to build children's good habits.
                                   - Monitoring their child's activities.
                                   - Setting clear rules and consequences, and consistently enforcing them.
                                   - Sharing ideas, values, and concerns, and listening.
                                   - Getting involved in their children's lives.
  • To enable the efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide from the blood to the atmosphere, the lungs contain the largest surface area of any part of the body - in a normal adult, about the same area as a tennis court if stretched out fully!
  • Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as "staph") is a very common bacteria that normally lives harmlessly on your skin.  However, under the right conditions, it can cause a surprising array of diseases and conditions, including food poisoning (which can occur when the concentration of S. aureus in food reaches 100,000 bacteria per gram or more), boils (caused by infection at the root of hair follicles), follicilitis (shallow hair follicle infections), sties, impetigo, abcesses of various kinds, "toxic shock syndrome", blood poisoning, pneumonia, bone infections such as osteomyellitis (try the dictionary for a definition of this one!), mastitis in nursing mothers, and infections inside the heart.  In normal, healthy people, S. aureus rarely leads to anything serious, but in people with weakened immune systems (for any of a wide variety of  reasons), it can cause serious, life-threatening illnesses.  In hospitals, strains of this nasty critter often become immune to virtually all antibiotics, even the powerful, last-chance methicillin.  These are the so-called "super bugs" which make the news every now and then - never in a good way!!
  • Of the 530,000 or so soldiers killed during the American Civil War, an estimated 315,000 died of disease.  The most common fatal maladies included dysentery, diarrhoea, typhoid, chicken pox and malaria.  Another 500,000 soldiers were badly wounded, yet somehow managed to survive the shocking sanitary conditions which prevailed, and the primitive medical services - doctors did not yet know about antiseptics, medicines were largely ineffective, and the usual response to a bad fracture was to amputate the limb: a procedure which usually took about 7 minutes.  In field hospitals (barns, houses, churches...), the chopped off limbs were often just thrown out the nearest window.
  • Each weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns, using 800 million gallons of gas per year.
  • Contrary to popular mythology, the American Civil War was not fought over the issue of slavery: the main bone of contention was "states' rights" - the nature and extent of the rights individual states would have, and whether or not individual states or groups of states had the right to leave the union if they wished to.  Slavery was indeed a major flashpoint, but it was only "the tallest tree" in a forest of unresolved matters.
  • Commercial airlines (as opposed to small, privately owned planes!) are an extraordinarily safe method of travel.  Each year, over a billion passengers fly on almost 20 million flights, with about 20 fatal crashes: literally one in a million! So, if you went on 1,000,000 commercial flights, you would have a 50/50 or "even money" chance of being involved in a fatal accident.  Fewer people have died in commercial airplane accidents in the USA over the past 60 years than are killed in U.S. auto accidents in a typical three-month period.  In fact, donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes.
  • The average human produces 25,000 quarts of saliva in a lifetime, enough to fill two swimming pools.
  • Studies with high-speed cameras show that most lightning flashes are multiple  events, consisting of as many as 42 main "strokes," each of which is preceded by a "leader" stroke coming from the ground. Each stroke is a powerful stream of electricity which follows the ionized path created by the leader. (Ions are atoms stripped of their electrons - this happens when they get caught in a powerful electrical current.) The average interval between these strokes is 0.02 sec and the average flash lasts 0.25 sec (one quarter of a second).  The duration of each powerful stroke is no more than 0.0002 sec (i.e., 2 ten thousandths of a second!), so the intervals between strokes account for most of the duration of a lightning "flash."  Thus, we see that each stroke of lightning is mostly "empty" time, much the same way that "solid" matter is mostly empty space!!
  • The world's most popular cartoon just might be something called "Dragonball".  There are nearly 2 million pages on the internet that mention things pertaining to this anime creation (Anime is a style of Japanese animation whose eerily similar characters all bear sharp, angular features) and it's myriad spin-offs - movies, comic books, merchandise, fan-fiction (including at least one novelette that's several orders of quality above the level of the original, i might add!!) and general chatter and admiration.  By  comparison, Spiderman gets 841,000 hits and poor old Superman, a mere 327,000.
  • Ever wonder what the words "15 amps" mean on those fuses in your fuse box?  An ampere is defined as one coulomb of electricity moving past a point in one second.  Enlightened now?  A coulomb is defined as 6.242 x 1018 electrons - a VERY large number - 6 1/4   billion billion in fact!  So, a 15 amp fuse will permit about 100 billion billion electrons to pass into your lights and household appliances every second.
  • Survival rates for cases of cardiac arrest (where the heart stops beating suddenly) can be dramatically improved by chilling the patient's core body temperature to 33 C (91.5 F)  for several hours, beginning soon after the event, according to research carried out in 2002 and 2003 at the department of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.  Even more surprising, brain damage normally associated with cardiac arrest is severely limited and often even reversed by this unorthodox treatment.
  • Just as the orbit of our planet around the sun is not a circle but an ellipse (a "flattened" circle), the earth is not completely round:  the distance from the earth's surface to its center is 40 km more at the equator than at the poles.  This is because it is spinning, so that it flattens out around the middle - not because it is middle-aged!!   On consequence of this 0.3% difference in diameter is that a 150 lb (70 kg) person would weigh almost a half pound more at the equator than at the north or south pole.  So, the easiest way for a person at the equator to lose a half pound, would be to hop on a plane and fly to the north pole.
  • The city Halifax, Nova Scotia has more bars per capita then any other city in North America.   Canada beat Denmark 47-0 at the 1949 world hockey championships.  These factoids are not known to be connected.  (Hey, it's past 5:30 in the a.m. - and no i didn't get up early!)
  • Pregnant women tend to eat more if they are carrying a baby boy, according to US research.  Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health suggest that a male foetus may secrete a  chemical from its developing testicles that stimulates its mother to step up her energy intake. Lead  researcher Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos says, "For [various] reasons ? such as having to  compete among themselves to gain the favours of women ? males have to be bigger than females  and this phenomenon has its origins in the womb."  (BBC News Online 06/06/03)
  • The 32 richest nations will spend over a trillion ($1,000,000,000,000.00 - 1000 billion) US dollars on "defense" (it's interesting to note that no country these days will admit to having an offensive military force.... I personally find tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, unbelievably powerful sonar arrays capable of blasting marine mammals to kingdom come with 235 decibels of sound,  monstrous stockpiles of landmines, cluster bombs and uranium-tipped missiles to be VERY offensive!!) in 2003, with one particular country accounting (when the Iraq war is included) for about 40% of the world total.   By comparison, less than $500 million is required to finish the job of eradicating Polio from the entire planet - but it can't be found for some strange reason....... just like the $10 billion (1% of military expenses) that would be required to protect about three quarters of the world's biological diversity, is still just a pipe dream.  It would seem that just as Thomas Jefferson was  prophetically correct in his assesment of the dangers of "monied corporations",  Eisenhower was absolutely right about the "military-industrial complex"! (ok ok this might not be a legitimate fact...... but this is MY list and i get to be both commentator AND compiler!)
  • Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky.   However, it is a dwarf star and not particularly luminous in  absolute terms - it appears brilliant because it is less than nine light years away. By comparison, the star Deneb in Cygnus appears much fainter than Sirius in the sky, but actually a supergiant thousands of times more luminous than Sirius - it appears fainter because it is more than three thousand light years away.
  • Head lice are harmless and there is little evidence that cleaning clothing and bedding with insecticide  is a useful enterprise, a US report says today (06/06/03).  Research clearly shows that lice seen on pillows, hats or  furniture are "dead, sick or elderly" and can extremely seldom infect another person. Treatment should not be  started for nits unless live lice are found on the head, the specialists say. The report also found that  itching only occurs in a minority of cases and most children have no symptoms.  (The Daily Telegraph 06/06/03; p.5)
  •  Anne Boleyn had six fingernails on one hand , but only five fingers on that hand. She had a small extra nail on the side of her finger that she kept hidden with long sleeves.
  • King Hezikiah of Israel built a tunnel to bring water into the city of Jerusalem which helped Judah fend off the siege of the city by the Assyrians in 701 B.C.  It is now called the Siloam Tunnel, and is one of the oldest human structures still in use today.  In Sept. 2003, it became the first structure mentioned in the Bible (II Chronicles 32: 3, 4 and II Kings 20:20) to be confirmed conclusively by archaeologists.  The tunnel has been dated by the carbon-14 method to 700 B. C., using organic material in the plaster used to construct it (which is holding up rather well after nearly 3000 years, it should be noted!!).
  • Babies are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood we have only 206 in our bodies.
  • Each square inch (6.5 cm squared) of human skin consists of 19 million cells, 60 hairs, 90 oil glands, 19 feet of blood vessels, 625 sweat glands, 19,000 sensory cells - and is normally inhabited by about anywhere from 10,000 (on the forearm) to a million bacteria (the vast majority of which are beneficial or harmless), depending upon how moist it is: the moister the more thickly inhabited!
  • Most mosquito repellents don't repel. They hide you. They block the mosquito's sensors so they don't know you're there.
  • Some hairy facts: There are between 100,000 and 150,000 hairs on the average person's head, and nearly 400,000 on your complete body.  Babies have about 1,100 hair per square inch (6.5 cm2 ), but by age 50, this drops to around 250 per square inch.  Each hair follicle will grow an average of 20 new hairs in a lifetime, at an average rate of a centimetre (there are 2.54 cm per inch) per month - so if you lived to be 100 years old and had just one hair that never fell out, it would be 12 meters (about 40 feet) long.  Although humans may appear "naked" by the standards of other primates, we have more hair follicles per square inch than most other mammals.
  • While Edinburgh, Scotland, may boast about its 300+ pubs, Singapore may hold the record for places of eating and refreshment:  there are over 6,500 restaurants and 11,500 street-side food stands within its city limits.
  • The largest organ of the body is the skin, which in a normal adult weighs around 4 kg (10 lb.) and covers an area of 2 square meters (6,241 square inches  - meaning it consists of about 120 billion cells!!).  Healthy skin regenerates itself about once every month.
  • The gene responsible for determining sex in bees, is called the complementary sex determiner (csd). Csd has in  19 alternative versions, called alleles. Female bees have two copies of csd which are always different alleles.  Males have only one copy.   About one-fifth of animal species including all ants, bees, and wasps, use a similar system  of sex determination, but the actual genes and mechanisms involved are not well understood.
  • Toe and fingernails are made of the same stuff that hair is - a hard yet flexible protein called keratin.  This is the same material that a deer's antlers, a horse's hoofs and a bird's feathers are made of!!  Fingernails grow four times as fast as toe nails, and the nail of the middle finger grows fastest of all.  A toenail takes about 6 months to grow back completely.  Finger and toenails can tell a lot about what a person has eaten, or what kind of metals and chemicals they have been exposed to - including drugs and heavy metals such as mercury or lead - they are like a "history" of a person's exposure for the past 6 months.
  • Male bees have an easy life in some respects:  they do no work at all and just hang out around the hive being fed by the many worker bees, which are all female.  On the other hand, they have no father, since they are "half clones" of the queen bee, and are killed at the end of the season, since they serve no useful purpose except to mate with queens in their epic mating flight: the queen flies higher than all but one of the aspiring mates that wish to satisfy her needs, then gives in to this strongest flier.  It should be noted that a male bee cannot compromise the honour of its mother: once a queen bee has acquired a supply of sperm, she uses it to fertilize all of her eggs at the same time, so she has enough to last for the rest of her life.
  • In the days of British rule, tigers were so numerous in Burma they were shot as pests - 1,382 of them from 1928-32, according to historical records.  Today,   A landmark report by the New York based Wildlife Conservation Society has calculated there could be fewer than 150 left in this country, although jungles still cover one-third of its surface.  The culprits are depressingly familiar to naturalists everywhere:  illegal wildlife traders and  their gangs of hired poachers. Tiger parts are highly prized in China and Thailand by makers of traditional medicines, and Myanmar sits on the border of both countries.
  • Toilet seats are usually one of the cleanest surfaces around the home or office, probably because they are frequently cleaned. Phones, computer keyboards, desktops, sink faucets and doorknobs are commonly inhabited by 10,000 to up to 100,000 bacteria per square inch.
  • A new class of lightning has been discovered, consisting of at least three types of lightning associated with severe thunderstorms. All three confirmed types occur far above the  loud layer, jumping from the tops of the clouds into the stratosphere and lower ionosphere, and are much rarer than normal lightning. The first type, called a red sprite, is a dim, reddish-colored burst that lasts only a few thousandths of a second and can be many kilometres wide. Red sprites appear suddenly, usually in clusters of two or more, and rise to heights of about 50 to 100 km (30 to 50 mi) above the cloud layer.   They travel at up to a tenth of the speed of light  - 67 million miles (107 million km) per hour!  The second type, a blue jet, is a cone-shaped burst, brighter and far more powerful than a red sprite.  Blue jets erupt from the center of a thunderstorm at up to 6000 km/h (3300 mph), rising to heights of about 20 to 50 km (10 to 30 mi) above the cloud layer. Red sprites and blue jets were first photographed in 1989 in Minnesota by American physicist John R. Wincklyer, and continue to be intensely studied. A third type of cloud-to-stratosphere lightning, called Elves, was announced in 1995. Elves are saucer - or doughnut- shaped bursts of light about 400 km (about 250 mi) wide that occur about 100 km (about 60 mi) above the cloud tops. They are thought to be greenish, but they last such a short time (less than a thousandth of a second) that scientists have not yet determined their color.  A forth variety, not surprisingly called "trolls", is still poorly understood.
  • By analysing crater patterns on Venus, as found by the interplanetary probe Magellen in 1990, scientists have decided that the entire surface of the planet is the same age - about 500 million years old.  It seems that, instead of giant crustal plates being pushed around on the surface of the planet, as found on Earth, the crust of Venus is very quiet for long periods of time, after which pressures built up by its mantle (the semi-fluid layer of rock between the crust and the core) completely destroy and re-create the entire surface of the planet all at the same time.
  • August 25, 2003: At 09:51 universal time (UT) on August 27th, Earth makes its closest approach to Mars in nearly 60,000 years. The two worlds, center-to-center, will be just 56 million kilometres  apart--a short distance on the scale of the solar system. The last people to come so close to Mars were Neanderthals.  The Islands of French Polynesia (Tahiti and the gang) were closest to Mars at the moment of conjunction, while the Nubian Desert of Sudan was farthest away.
  • Fiber optics - strands of pure silica (glass) the thickness of a human hair, permit the transmission of large amounts of information - in the form of digital pulses of light - over long distances with much greater efficiency than copper wires.  The man-made versions, however, are not nearly as suitable for this task as the silica skeleton of the "Venus  flower basket" sponge (Euplectella spp), which creates a glassy  "cage" where tiny shrimp can breed in safety (i don't know what the sponge gets out of this commensal relationship - perhaps leftovers from the shrimp's meals?).  The sponge's glassy fibers are a) more flexible and stronger than their man-made counterparts, having internal braces which greatly enhance their structural properties, and b) clearer, hence better able to transmit light with minimal losses over long distances.  Once again, nature did it first and better!!!
  • Simple dental treatment may reduce a woman's risk of giving birth prematurely, research suggests. A recent study showed treating severe gum disease with scaling and root care cut premature births by 84 per cent. Professor Marjorie Jeffcoat, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham school of dentistry, who led the research, said, "I recommend that all women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or who are pregnant receive a full periodontal exam and diagnosis." Doctors have already established that severe gum infections cause an increase in the production of prostaglandin and tumour necrosis factor, chemicals which induce labour.
  • The hottest temperature life is known to exist at, is 120 to 130 C (about 250 F: at normal atmospheric pressure, water boils at 100 C or 212 F).  The new record holder is a tiny bacteria-like creature known so far only as "Strain 121",  after the temperature it was discovered at.   It is a member of the kingdom Archaea (Latin for "ancient"), which many biologists believe are the most primitive forms of life on earth.  Today, many species of Archaea live in the super-heated waters of hydrothermal vents, which can reach temperatures of 400 C (750 F) at their source.  They use iron instead of oxygen to obtain the energy needed to sustain life:  essentially, they reduce a higher-energy form of iron (ferrous) to a lower-energy form (ferric) via controlled electron transfer, then deposit it as magnetite around the vents (called "black smokers") which continuously spew forth iron and sulphur-rich streams of water at depths of around 2 km (1.5 miles).   Archaea usually live today under conditions of  extreme heat, cold, pressure, salinity, alkalinity, and/or acidity.
  • The average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper each year. Annual copy paper use in the U.S. consumes enough wood to build nearly 1 million average homes, and releases  pollution equal to over 2 million cars.  So much for the much-ballyhooed  "paperless office".......
  • The American Dietary Association has recently estimated that there is enough food grown in the world in an average year, to provide every human with a very substantial 2700 calories.  This conclusion has been supported by many who have analysed the problems of hunger and malnutrition over the past decade or so.  The reasons why a billion people go to bed hungry or malnourished most nights include wars and other political disputes and problems, corruption of various sorts, lack of access to land, and outright poverty - combined with poor food storage facilities and practices (and inadequate means of keeping food fresh during transportation) in many parts of the world, which result in the spoiling of up to a third of all food produced in some countries such as India.
  • You have probably heard someone say "He's not the man he used to be.".   This is literally true!!  Except for the minerals in the enamel of teeth, every molecule in the human body is, on the average, replaced once every 7 years.
  • The average human gut (everything between the mouth and the other end) is home to a vast community of perhaps 100 trillion bacteria of 500 to 1000 different species.  This "inner world" is extremely important in everything from digestion of complex carbohydrates, to the metabolism of drugs - and is very poorly studied or understood!!
  • The average human body is composed of between 10 and 100 trillion cells - depending upon which expert you ask.
  • An estimated 3 million Italians will pretend, for social reasons (such as "keeping up appearances"), to take an exotic vacation each year, when in fact they are staying with friends or family in a nearby town, or even hiding in their basement for two weeks, and getting artificial tans!!
  • All  of the 10s of thousands of proteins (these are the active molecules in living creatures - they perform all the duties of life, such as transporting oxygen and CO2 (haemoglobin), digesting food (amylase for carbohydrates, protease for proteins, lipase for fats and oils), and destroying toxic organic molecules so they don't damage cells (cytochromes))   are built using only 20 amino acids.  They are the "alphabet" that protein words are constructed from.  Interestingly enough, ALL amino acids found in living beings on our planet, are left-handed - right handed amino acids are never used to make proteins in any known species!!!
  • When i mentioned the increasing gap between the super-rich and the rest of us mere mortals, a conservative-leaning friend of mine flipped off the remark that this was to be expected - in a capitalistic system, the rich will tend to accumulate ever-larger pieces of the pie, so why worry about it?  This was not always the case, however, at least in the USA. From World War II up to 1979, incomes increased at about the same rate in all brackets. But from 1979 to 1997, the average annual income of the top 1% (after taxes) increased by 157%, or $414,000 in 1997 dollars. Over the same period, the average income of the  poorest 20% fell by $100.   To my mind, this is not a sustainable trend.....
  • Bacteria often coat themselves with right-handed amino acids.  Since living creatures on earth use only left-handed amino acids to make their proteins, this unusual covering allows bacteria to survive digestion by most things that eats them.  Right-handed amino acids are not used by other forms of life,  so they are not digested, and the bacteria are therefore safe!
  • Scientists have for the first time (July, 2003) harnessed the sun's energy to kill cancer cells, using little more than  a parabolic mirror and fibre-optic cable. In much the same way as lasers are relied upon to destroy certain tumours, "sunshine surgery" has been shown to destroy living tissue with pinpoint accuracy.  The scientists from Israel's Ben-Gurion University estimate that the equipment needed for performing  surgery by sunlight would be hundreds of times cheaper than a comparable laser device.  (The Independent 31/07/03; p.5)
  • South Africa has the most AIDS cases of any country in the world, at about 5 million, nearly all of whom will die in the next 10- 15 years.  However, some smaller African countries have up to 20% of their population infected by the HIV virus.  Oddly enough, most people in the "first" world have little idea of the magnitude of the problem - it is the largest pandemic since the Hong Kong flu epidemic of 1919.
  • Superman can jump over tall buildings.  It turns out he has a counterpart in the insect world!  The English spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius, can jump 700 mm (27.5 in.) straight into the air - considering its 6mm length, that's 117 times its body length, which would be the equivalent of a man jumping over a 70 story building!!  The bug accomplishes this feat by locking its rear legs under its thorax, and storing up energy in massive leg muscles that take up 11% of its total weight. When sufficient tension is generated (takes a small fraction of a second), it is released like a spring being sprung, and the little nimrod can escape almost any predator easily.
  • In the human species (us!),  the average male produces about 50,000 sperm per minute - 72 million per day.  These little swimmers take 84 days to mature, and live for a month or so.  There can be up to 800 million of them in a single ejaculation (average is 150 to 200 million, or two day's worth of production), and they normally motor along at a rate of  1 to 4 millimeters (6 mm is one quarter inch) per minute.  Inside females, they normally remain potent for 1 to 2 days.  Outside of the body they only last two minutes.
  • Brain injuries -- accidental (mainly from falls) and inflicted (i.e., from abuse) -- hospitalize or kill an estimated 150,000 children annually in the U.S.   Traumatic brain injury is the most common cause of death in childhood, and child  abuse is believed to be responsible for at least half of infant brain injuries.
  • Most jellyfish stings can be quickly taken care of with meat tenderizer (or in a pinch, urine - which is normally 100% sterile (no bacteria) by the way, contrary to popular opinion!!), which breaks down the protein that is injected.  Oddly enough, green papaya will also do the trick.
  • Music lessons, even for as little as a year, improve the verbal memory of children, according to

  •  psychologists in Hong Kong. They believe that learning music encourages the development of the
     left temporal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for remembering words. Visual memory, which  uses the right temporal lobe, shows no improvement.   (The Times 28/07/03; p.7)   This latest study backs up long-standing research that has found music education has benefits that carry over to mathematical skills - music is after all, a language that is mostly mathematical!
  • The ocean quahog Arctica islandica L. , can live to be 220 years old in sub-arctic waters.  Animals in colder water live the  longest, since their metabolism is slower.
  • Scientists don't know what 90% of the matter in the universe is made of.  All the stars in the universe (i.e., all the "luminous" mass) add up to only 0.5% of the total mass, and another 10% or so can be accounted for by adding up the estimated matter of known mass-containing material such as planets, cosmic dust, photons, neutrinos, neutron stars, brown dwarfs (burned out stars), and even black holes.  The most widely accepted cosmological models indicate that another 15% is most likely made of ordinary matter - neutrons, electrons, protons, etc. - in some form or the other.  The other composition of the remaining 75% is completely unknown, although many candidates have been proposed, from a variety of "WIMPs" (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) to whimsical chaps going by the name of neutralinos, photinos and gravitinos.  For more information on this mysterious 90% of the universe, go here for a good variety of articles on all levels of complexity.
  • One of the multitude of modern myths that clutter up the internet, is that the flag flying on top of the parliament buildings on the Canadian $2 and $10 bills is actually an American flag.  In fact, it is the Canadian Ensign - the old Canadian flag that was used until 1963 or 4.  At a glance, however, it does bear some resemblance to "Old Glory", so like most myths it does indeed have some basis and wasn't just made up out of thin air!!
  • Photons (what light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation (radio waves, x-rays, gamma rays, cosmic rays, microwave radiation....) are made of), are emitted whenever an electron changes its energy level.  They are indestructable, so they accumulate over time.  At present, there are about 2 billion photons for every proton or neutron in the  universe, and their "mass equivalent" (protons do not have mass, yet they interract gravitationally with other objects) is about one trillionth that of a proton, so the total mass equivalent of all of these photons is about 500 times less than that of the nuclei of all the atoms in the universe.
  • In strictly financial terms, the so-called "war on drugs" (ie, those nasty illegal ones, not the nice, friendly alchol that can be purchased at corner stores in many countries...) is surprisingly costly.  A conservative estimate of this activity in the US of A, is around $40 billion per year, when the costs of law enforcement (police, federal agents, legal aid, judges, prison systems, parole officers.....), coast guard, military operations directed against drugs, drug-control componants of foreign aid, and other factors are added up.  This doesn't include the estimated $5+ billion in goods stolen to pay for addictions, and all the costs associated with this side of the drug "scene".  When the dust settles, this "war" probably costs American governments over $50 billion per year.
  • While i can't seem to find completely up to date figures (2002/3), it seems likely that the total economic costs to society of alchohol and drug use and abuse in the USA are pushing $300 billion per year.  Alcohol accounts for about 60% of the total.
  • The world's fastest known computer is still the human brain, which has been estimated to be capable of about 10 quadrillion (10 million billion) calculations per second.  In the world of machines, the current champion is most likely the Japanese NEC corporation's "Earth Simulator", which was designed to create a realistic model of the earth's atmoshere in order to study climate and weather patterns.  It clips along at a brisk 40 trillion calculations per second - 40 "teraflops", in Geek Speak.  This speed is achieved by wiring 5,120 processing units similar to a fast desk top computer to work together.   Sometime in 2003 or 2004, it will likely be overtaken by IBM's "ASCI Purple" machine, which will have a top speed of 100 teraflops (100 trillion calculations per second - still about 100 times slower than the speed of the human brain.)
  • The world's smallest motor has recently been built at the Berkley camplus of the University of California.  It is all of 500 nm (millionths of a meter) across - 300 of them could line up on the stump left when you cut a hair.  The rotor (the part of the motor that rotates), is between 100 and 300 nm.  There are still smaller motor-like structures in nature, but we are catching up fast!!  (July, 2003)
  • The Martian atmosphere is thin--about 1% as dense as Earth's at sea level--only the smallest dust grains hang in theair. Airborne dust on Mars is about as fine as cigarette smoke.
  • Storms on Mars can be amazingly intense, developing winds approaching the speed of sound!!!   Since the 1870s, huge dust storms that circled the entire planet have been seen from earth about 10 times.  These "world storms" can easily be seen by back yard astronomers with small telescopes, since their ultra-fine dust particles reflect a lot more sunlight than the Martian soils and rocks.
  • THE FIRST SHOT OF WWII was fired from the German battleship 'Schleswig Holstein' which was on an official visit to Poland and berthed in Danzig harbour. At 4.30 am on September 1, 1939, the ship moved  slowly down the Port Canal and took up position opposite the WESTERPLATTE (area containing Polish troop barracks and workshops). At 4.47 am, the order to 'Fire' was given.  World War II had begun. Seven days later the Westerplatte Garrison surrendered.
  • THE INCIDENT which triggered the Second World War was the simulated attack by the Germans on their own radio station near Gleiwitz on the Polish border. To make it appear that the attacking force consisted of Poles, prisoners from a nearby concentration camp were dressed in Polish uniforms then shot and their bodies placed in strategic positions around the radio station. A Polish speaking German then did a broadcast from the station to make it appear that Poland had attacked first.  This was the excuse Hitler needed to invade Poland on September 1st. 1939.
  • In 2000, 46.5 percent of the 1,579,566 total arrests in the USA for drug abuse violations were for marijuana -- a total of 734,497. Of those, 646,042 people were arrested for possession alone.  Although over a third of the population of that country has tried cannabis and perhaps 10% are regular, frequent users, only about 1% of its inhabitants have permanant criminal records for it, mostly for what is called "simple possesion" of small amounts intended for personal mind-altering activities.
  •  It takes strong flight muscles and a keen sense of direction for birds to migrate long distances to and from  their breeding grounds. It also takes guts, according to recent research by University of Rhode Island researcher and physiological ecologist Scott McWilliams.   He found that the gut of migratory birds expands tremendously in the days before the big flight, permitting them to eat enough to see them through the long haul.  Then, in order to save on in-flight energy, they  re-absorb much of their gut tissues, since the digestive system is one of the most dynamically active parts of the body and requires a tremendous amount of energy simply to maintain.  It has long been known that migratory birds do not immediately start to gain weight when the stop at a resting place along the way, and the reason why, is now apparent: they must regrow their gut first, before they can start digesting food and packing on the ounces again!!  Another consequence of this state of affairs is that they require protein at their stopovers, not just fruit or other protein-poor foods, in order to re-build their digestive tract.
  • The chilliest corners of intergalactic space are surprisingly warm: about 3 C (4.5 F) above absolute zero (i.e. 3 Kelvin - on the Kelvin scale, zero is absolute: the coldest temperature possible).  This is though by cosmologists to be residual energy in the microwave range, left over from the "Big Bang" which they believe to have been the birth of the universe.
  • Those ads that are always telling us about the perils of "second hand smoke"  have now been found to be only half-right.  Ciggie smoke is still regarded as the root of a multitude of evils, but recent besearch by Britain's Department of Health reveals that 85 per cent of air pollution in a room comes from the burning tip of a cigarette, rather than the amount actually exhaled by smokers.  (The Birmingham Post 07/07/03; p.5)
  • Like the news of Mark Twain's death, the danger to humans that sharks represent, is ***greatly*** exaggerated.  Worldwide, an average of 50 to 70 "unprovoked" shark attacks (If you grab a shark by the tail, as some divers/idiots have actually attempted, no matter what happens afterwards, it is not considered to be "unprovoked".) are reported each year, with a half dozen or so fatalities.  By comparison, more people are killed by dogs in just the USA each year, than all the known shark fatalities in the world for the past 100 years.  In 2002, the International Shark Attack File investigated 86 interractions between sharks and humans, and found 60 of them to be unprovoked.  There were 3 fatalities.   Relatively speaking, the most dangerous place was Florida, with 29 attacks, and a total of 47 were reported from the USA in general.  On average, only 10% of shark attacks are fatal, and most involve relatively minor injuries.  Contrary to popular opinion, sharks almost never eat people - apparently we are not considered very tasty by that category of Big Fish!!  When one considers that worldwide, an estimated 2 million people are killed by alcohol in 2002,  an innocent-looking glass of wine or beer should be considered far more dangerous than a 30 tonne great white shark - especially when combined with automobile keys :--).
  • The most abundant source of hydrocarbon fuel on earth is a frozen form of methane found in the deep, cold water of the world's oceans, and under the vast tundra plains of the far north.  Methane hydrate is a crystal structure of methane gas surrounded by water molecules, held together by freezing temperature and crushing pressure. Separating the two yields the methane, or common natural gas. Knowledge of the substance dates to the 1890s. But it never caught on as an energy source because it is found in hard-to-access Arctic permafrost and deep ocean sediments.  Worldwide resources are massive: an estimated 25,000 trillion cubic meters (a third of the total is found in the waters of the USA) (875,000 trillion cubic feet), according to current estimates. That contains about twice the energy as the Earth's coal, oil, and gas resources combined.  There are many difficulties in mining it, however, and since methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, if it is ever used as a major energy source, any presently concievable extraction methods, and the occasional large-scale release of large amounts of methane would REALLY turn up the heat on the global warming scene!!
  • The United States dropped three times the quantity of explosives on Cambodia between 1970 and 1973 than it had dropped on Japan for the duration of World War II. Between 1969 and 1973,   539,129 tons of high explosives rained down on Cambodia -  more than one billion pounds (about 400 million kg). This is equivalent to some 15,400 pounds (6,063 kg) of explosives for every square mile of Cambodian territory. Considering that probably less than 25 percent of the total area of Cambodia was bombed at one time or another, the actual explosive force per area would be at least four times this level.  Source: "The Rise and Demise of Democractic Kampuchea",  by Craig Etcheson.  The CIA officially estimated that 600,000 Cambodians were killed directly by the bombing campaigns.  Not to suggest that history books have been "sanitized" in any way (heaven forbid!!! What society would ever lie to its children like that??), but it would be very difficult to find a grade-school textbook anywhere in the Western World, let along the USA, that gives accurate accounts of the Cambodian branch of the war in SE Asia.
  • Couples who abstain from sex to "save" sperm until the woman is most fertile are wasting their time, a  new study suggests. The research provides the strongest evidence yet that not only is abstaining of  no benefit to couples with normal fertility, it can *damage* the chance of successful conception among  couples seeking fertility treatment. A team at Soroka University Medical Centre in Israel found that if men had low sperm counts, their sperm steadily became less mobile after an average of one day's abstinence. But the sperm of men with normal sperm count showed little change in mobility.  (The Guardian 30/06/03; p.7)
  • The average North American teenager drinks an average of 6+ glasses or cans of carbonated beverages ("soft drinks") each day, over half of them of the caffinated cola variety.
  • Researchers believe the Chinese need both sides of the brain to grapple with challenges of  Mandarin, but English speakers listen with only half their minds on the job. Sophie Scott, a  psychologist at the Wellcome Trust, and colleagues performed brain scans on volunteers as they  listened to their native languages. When English speakers heard their language, their left temporal  lobes lit up on screen. With Mandarin Chinese speakers, both temporal lobes showed activity. The left  temporal lobe is normally associated with piecing sounds together into words; the right with processing melody and intonation. (The Guardian 30/06/03; p.5)
  • Worldwide, an estimated 7 million people (a rate of 110 per 100,000, vs a murder rate of about 8 per 100,000) are killed each year by substance abuse.  The top killer is of course tobacco, accounting for almost 5,000,000 people meeting their Maker prematurely.  Second place and rising, especially in Asian countries where rising incomes make it easier to afford, is alcohol, with nearly 2 million.  Ilegal drug use (prescription drug abuse mostly, with a dash of "controlled" substance consumption thrown in for good measure) accounts for about 220,000 fatalities - about 3% of all drug-related deaths.
  • Once a squirrel abandons a nut storage depository, it does not return to it to when foraging for further supplies.  For example, the furry critter that visits my house often, gathered up all the nuts he or she could find lying around and carried them to several spots such as a new pair of shoes i had to empty out one Sabbath morning in my preparation for church.  It also used a large gym bag hanging on my bathroom wall.  One day, for reasons i have yet to discover, it switched its main nut storage locality to a pile of boxes in a corner of the living room (my abode is squirrel heaven!!), and never again retrieved any of its former treasure, which i re-offer as an encore treat from time to time, when i desire to view some fluffy-tailed rodent antics during supper - as a "floor show".
  • Oil is BIG business, representing in one way or another, over a trillion dollars of business worldwide each year.  The world's largest oil consumer, the USA (surprise!!),  annually consumes 7.3 billion barrels (1.16 trillion litres or 306 billion gallons) of oil, over half of it for transportation.  Domestic production peaked in 1970 at 10.5 million barrels per day, and has declined at about 2% per year, despite an astonishing $750 billion of exploration and development expenditure since then.  The US has about 3% of the world's proven and probable oil reserves, and uses 25% of the world's production.  Considering the fact that oil exploration and production industry in that country is the oldest and the most vigorously exploited in the world, there is almost no chance that major petrocarbon reserves could be added even by the most ruthless methods conceivable.  This means that by 2020, the year that many people expect worlwide oil production to peak, American oil imports will comprise over 70% of consumption - a geopolitical nightmare considering that much of the world's reserves reside in Islamic countries, and when production DOES peak, a whole series of nasty consequences are likely to follow!!    The case for sensible, clean, sustainable energy production (wind, solar, geothermal, "low head" hydro,  innovative forms of tidal and wave power, offshore temperature gradient power stations, and sooner or later fusion power) combined with common-sense conservation measures, is becoming more compelling by the day.
  • NOT that i  in ANY way shape or form condone or seek to encourage their use, (only to mimimize the damage associated with them) but contrary to the opinions of many people with lots of guns and "the Law" on their side, illegal drugs kill relatively fewer people, and represent a rather minor public health problem by comparison with legal addictive substances.  In the USA, less than 20,000 fatalities were attributed to "controlled" substances in 2002, mostly related to heroin and to adulterants in the drugs used (such as the  addition of strychnine  to LSD, to increase the percieved "high").  By comparison, about 400,000 deaths per year can be attributed to tobacco abuse.  In second place, alcohol killed about 120,000 Americans in 2002, while abuse of prescription drugs took an estimated 106,000 lives.//  It may be argued that "controlled" substances contribute to a lot of crime and gang-related problems.  This is, however, largely a function of the prohibition-based approach to substances not deemed to be "appropriate" for the general populace to consume - recall alcohol prohibition and Al Capone and the boyz!!  In general, prohibition has, in Western countries at least, never been an effective or efficient method for limiting the consumption of any particular substance. (ok, this may not look like a "fact", but i invite rebuttal on this point.  Also, consider that the use of marjuana is over 50% less in the Netherlands than in North America or Britain - see http://www.drugwarfacts.org/thenethe.htm.)
  • In school you probably learned that matter comes in three states: liquid, solid and gas. Think again: plasma, the fourth-discovered state of matter has been known for many years: it is a state where all the atoms have their electrons torn off by extremely high temperatures, and the result is a high-energy mixture of electically charged particles  - nuclei of atoms, and the electrons stripped from them.  There is also a fifth state of matter called a Boise-Einstein condensate, which is at the opposite end of the scale: when you cool matter down to a couple of millionths of a degree (Centigrade or Farenheight make little difference at this temperature!!), all the atoms fall to the lowest energy state possible, and they act as a "super-molecule":  all the atoms in a single-element Boise-Einstein condensate are indistinguishable from each other, which means they will act in an identical manner to any external stimuli. (a sixth state of matter would be "neutronium", which is the most compact form of matter possible and is found in neurtron stars - covered in other articles so i won't repeat here).
  • Worldwide energy consumption is currently mostly satisfied by fossil feuls: petroleum 40%, natural gas 22%, and coal 25% (nulear fission comes next at 6%), and is growing at a fair clip:  it has doubled since 1970, and is expected to increase by another 60% in the next two decades.
  • On an average day, American drivers eat up nearly 7 billion miles of pavement - roughly the distance  to Pluto and back - getting where they want to be. In the process, they consume enough oil to fill more than 150 supertankers.
  • The key to giving up smoking may be more a question of genetics than willpower, according to  scientists is Japan. They say the gene also appears to protect against emphysema, a smoking-related illness. Researchers at Keio University in Tokyo, have found that a gene named "CYP2A6del" hinders the breaking down of nicotine in the body.  The prolonged presence of nicotine in the circulation may inhibit people with this defective allele [gene variant] from withdrawing their dependence on nicotine when they try to quit smoking.  (The Independent Online 01/07/03)
  • Despite their reputation for liking nuts, squirrels (ok, at least the one that lives at my place!) also love soft fruit such as grapes and apples - but they don't eat the skin!  If my little guy could talk, he'd probably be saying "Hey human, peel me a grape!!".
  • Scientists have found convincing evidence of 8 major extinctions in the history of the world, at least 5 of them connected to sudden changes in climate.  Recent research has linked four of these "extinction events" to sudden releases of vast amounts of methane into the ocean and atmosphere.  The most likely source is from the vast frozen deposits of methane hydrates (also called clathrates) that form over millions of years, as rotting organic matter releases methane that then combines with water in the cold, deep parts of the ocean, and freezes.  It seems that periodically, conditions change in the world-ocean so that the gas hydrate deposits become unstable and melt, releasing huge amounts of methane, which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas as CO2, into the atmosphere.  The resulting sudden 5 to 8 degree C (9 to 14.5 F) in worldwide average temperature would lead to vast numbers of extinctions, such as the one at the end of the Permian period, some 250 million years ago, in which an estimated 95% of all life-forms on the earth were killed off.
  • Men: the next time you are having a bad day, consider that your lot is a LOT better than that of males of the yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) of eastern North America.  Researchers found that for the guys of this species, which are far smaller than the females,  completing copulation leads to certain death, and the deceased suitor's corpse is actually trapped in the female genitalia!!  This may be a strategy to prevent other males from subsequently mating with the female, say the scientists.    "I was stunned that his happened with every single male," says Matthias Foellmer, of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, who conducted the study with Daphne Fairbairn of the University of California, Riverside. "Spiders are known for their bizarre mating, but even so this was surprising."  Male spiders are often the losers of the dating game. The females of many species are cannibals, literally combining dinner and a date. Some males do their best to escape their mate's post coital appetite while others, like the red back spider, accept their fate by somersaulting into the female's fangs [the "total surrender" approach to marriage!!!].
  • About 400 quadrillion (4 followed by 17 zeros!) British Thermal Units (BTU) of energy were used in 2002 by the world's 6 billion people.  This is the equivalant of 117 trillion Kilowatt hours, or the amout of work that could be done by about 54 billion horses working 8 hour shifts each day.
  • An average United States inhabitant consumes about 180,000 calories' worth of energy per day - twice as much energy as the average European or Japanese, 155 times as much as someone who lives in Nepal, and approximately the same energy requirement as a 50 ton sperm whale. (i shouln't point fingers, though - Canada isn't far behind!!)
  • One of the most successful song composers of all time, was Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant to the USA who penned some 812 songs from about 1920 to 1953.   Over 450 of these made the hit parades of their day!!  His most successful creation was White Christmas, which has been recorded by hundreds of artists, and as sung by Bing Cosby sold over 100 million records, making it the undisputed #1 holiday song of the modern era.  Amazingly enough, Bing recorded it in only one take.
  • 56% of children aged 8 to 16 in the USA, have a television in their bedrooms - the old standby punishmenf of "Go to your room!" just isn't the same these days......
  • The average child in the UK or the US, spends more time in front of the TV than in school: 900 hours in school, and over 1000 of Idiot Box - and that's not even including computer games!!
  • The world's best telescopic arrays now have a resolving power of about 0.1 milliarcseconds - in other words, if 13 billion points of light were to form a continous circle around the earth,  they could see each point separately.   To put this into perspective, a telescope this powerful would be able to distinguish 2 lines only 1 mm apart (there are 25.4 mm to the inch), from 2600km (1600 miles) away.  They would be able to features on the moon as close together as 6 inches (150 mm)!!  Another way to think of this remarkable feat is this: if two stars with sufficient brightness at the same distance from each other as the sun and its closest neighbour (Proxima Centauri, at 4.2 light years away) were 9 billion light years away, or almost three quarters of the way to the edge of the universe, the world's best telescopic methods could view them as two separate points.
  • Many of the details we associate with Santa Claus were invented for a Coca Cola advertising campaign around 1890.  (sorry Virginia!)
  • Japan is the country most dependant upon energy imports in the world.  It imports 99.8% of its oil, mostly from the Middle East.  Overall, it imports 80% of its total energy consumption.
  • As early as the 1960s, urban legends have told us that spy satellites could read the headlines on a newspaper, or the numbers and letters on a license plate.  The truth is more prosaic: according to the most reliable non-military sources, the best space-based satellites - known in the spy trade as "Keyhole-class"  satellites - have a resolution of 5 to 6 inches, meaning they can distinguish an  object that small, but no smaller, on the ground. Therefore, while satellites cannot read license plates, they can tell if a car has one.  While they cannot tell a mullah by the length of his beard, they can enable analysts figure out how many people are chanting along with him at a street demonstration.   This is approaching the theoretical limit of satellite-based optical resolution, so don't expect these numbers to change much in the future.
  • Ever wonder why  the concept "military intelligence" is a complete oxymoron?   Here's a sample of the type of horrorshow that modern technology and the military mindset are combining to create these days:    A recently-developed "Low Frequency Active Sonar" (LFA sonar for short) system the US military are fighting hard to get approved, would subject 75% of the world's oceans to sound that is 235 decibels at its source - strong enough to kill any marine mammal with miles almost instantly, and to disrupt feeding and normal living for cetaceans, who depend upon hearing for almost all aspects of their lives - communication, feeding, navigation - at 40 to 50 miles (65 to 80 km).   235 decibels produces an almost unimaginable intensity of sound wave pressure: normal conversation is about 60 decibels.  A jet plane taking off, is about 130 db - 10 million times the volume of conversation.  The human eardrum bursts instantly at around 160 db - 1000 times the intensity of a jet take-off.  230 decibels is 7 orders of magnitude above this level - that's 10 million times louder than the intensity of sound required to literally pop your ears out, or 10,000 trillion times more intense than normal sound levels that we encounter in our daily lives. (Sound levels in the natural ocean are about 80 to 90 db, although a blue whale's full-strength mating call is 190 db - still 14,000 times weaker than the navy sonar that some "military genius" came up with as a device they claim would cause "minimal" damage to marine mammals.)
  • Children are at risk of severe allergic reactions when they eat kiwi fruit, according to UK research. The two-year survey at Southampton General Hospital showed that children under five were particularly at risk, prompting the Food Standards Agency to issue an alert urging caution to parents. Two thirds of children in the study became ill the first time they ate the fruit. Reactions included tingling and itching in the mouth or throat and swelling of the tongue, while some children under five suffered wheezing and collapse.  (The Times 18/06/03; p.1)
  • As of mid-2003, unsolicited email ("Spam") has reached epidemic proportions.  For example, of the 2.5 billion messages received daily by Hotmail users, over 80% are pure Spam.
  • Ironically enough, the cheapest seashells in the world today are two cowries that were once used as currency - Cypraea moneta  L. and Cypraea annulata  L.  In parts of Micronesia, you could cover the bride-payment of a wife for about 100 bags of the former - now you can buy a kg of them (that's LOTS, by the way!) for about $1.50 USD.   The most expensive shell-beast these days is probably a strange black and white Ovulid-type thingie (Chimaeria incomparabilis Briano, 1993) found in deep water off Ethiopia.  A nice one of these could probably sell for $40,000 USD - admittedly not in the range of a rare coin or stamp, but still a fair amount for a shell!!
  • Americans spend over 4.5 billion hours each year stuck in traffic that's going nowhere in any particular hurry.
  • Twenty percent of all road accidents in Sweden involve a moose.  By contrast, only 0.3% of Canada's motor accidents have anything to do with this particular beast. (except in Newfoundland, i.e...... (Canadian in-joke! :--0))
  • Common sense energy conservation measures such as walking to the corner store instead of driving, and turning the thermostat down a bit, can save about one third of your energy consumption  - and expenses!!!   There are zillions of good websites that you how to save energy.  One of the best is found here.
  • A normal person's height can change as much as 2.5 cm (1 inch) during the course of the day.  When we are sitting or standing, gravity causes the spinal column to be compressed - which means we all shrink as the morning becomes night, to a point beyond which the spine will not compact any further.  In the night, while the body is lying down, the spine rebounds to its natural length, so our height in the morning is greater than when we retired the night before.  As we grow older, the amplitude of the daily change becomes less - even before other changes in the spine cause a gradual loss of height due to calcium depletion and disk deterioration.  This combination of changes means that if a person is measured in the evening every time, they will appear to grow taller in the years prior to the date they start to shrink.  To use myself as an example, 5 years ago i measured an average of 73.25   inches (186.05 cm) in the morning, and 72.50 inches (184.15 cm)  in the evening. Now, i tally only 73.15" (185.8 cm) upon awakening, and 72.65" (184.5) before bed-time.  So, although my average height remains the same, if i had only measured in the evening i would appear to be growing taller -  at age 47!
  • It is widely reported that the first discovery of commercial quantities of petroleum in the USA, was in 1859 by the colorful Col. Drake. in Pennsylvania.   The truth is, however, that lesser known folks in Vermont wre producing oil a full 15 years earlier.  They sold their more interested in money than fame, and sold out for a tidy profit before the first oil glut and resulting price crash occurred in 1863.  In the early days of fossil oil, before electric power and the motor car ensured an almost insatiable demand, it was mostly used for illumination, competing in that market with whale and vegetable oils.  Petroleum proved cheaper than whale oil, and this probably helped save many whale species from extinction, since the oil from their body fat was the most valuable whale-related product.
  • Individual atoms of all but two elements can now be seen more or less directly: innovative microscopy methods have lowered the resolution of the best microscopes to 0.8 angstroms, which means that lithium atoms, with an average diameter of 1 angstrom, can be plainly seen.  Only hydrogen and helium currently remain hidden from our view!!
  • Canada has more donut shops per-capita than any other country in the world.  It is also the largest importer of American cars. It is not known if these two factoids are related.
  • The guillotine, a "humane" execution device which neatly slices off the heads of those deemed worthy of such treatment by the machine's owner, was most recently used in France on 10th of September, 1977, to punish a soul by the name of  Hamida Djandoubi.  Although the modern incarnation of this horror show was developed to forward the cause of the French Revolution (Its namesake was assemblyman Dr Guillotin,  who proposed that beheading, without any torture involved, was the best way to get rid of "enemies of the state" and all others the newly-formed Republic of France wished to bid a permanent farewell to.), similar devices can be found all the way back to at least 14th century Ireland:  the earliest known mechanical beheading by a guillotine-like device, was of one Murcod Ballagh , who lived near the town of Merton, in 1307.
  • There are two major pigments in humans:  eumelanin (black) and phaeomelanin  (yellow).  For that matter, the same two pigments are present in virtually  every mammal, from mice to tigers, and can be combined to produce any  color from white to red to yellow to brown to black.  I'm not sure how  baboons get blue muzzles, but I'm hard put to think of any other examples  of mammalian coloration outside the red-yellow-black-white spectrum.
  • Achernar, a blue dwarf star that's the 9th brightest in the sky at magnitude +0.5, has the distinction of being the flattest star ever measured.   It has a colossal bulge around its equator, where it is 50% wider than its pole-to-pole diameter (i.e., if it was 100 km from the north to the south pole, it would be 150 km wide at the equator).   This has scientists stumped - by the most "advanced" calculations, given its spin of 225 km (140 mi) per second, it should only be 20 to 30% fatter!
  • It used to be illegal to ride a street car on Sunday if have been eating garlic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (and you thought YOUR town's laws were insane.....)
  • The next time you're strolling down the beach, thank an emperor for your right to do so - unless you're in Maine or Massachusetts:  then blame the colonial authorities for giving away this gift of the emperor.  In 530 A.D., the Byzantinian (Eastern Roman Empire) Emperor Justinian gathered together his top legal scholars and ordered them to put in writing all of the laws of the Empire. Thus, the "Institutes of Justinian," the ultimate codification of Roman civil law, were written. Tucked away in these numerous volumes covering every aspect of Roman life and commerce, was the provision that "By the law of nature these things are common to all mankind; the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea." No one, therefore, was forbidden to approach the seashore. Over the next millennium, Rome fell and the western European countries rose. But the civil code of Rome, the "Institutes", formed the basis of law for many European countries. Most important from an North American perspective, the law of England adopted much Roman civil law, consequently recognizing the public nature of tidelands and waters, and giving them protection in the name of the King for the use of all English subjects. //  In Maine and parts of Massachusetts there are many tidal flats that required long wharves in order to provide access to the ocean at all times of the day.  But, the early colonial government could not afford to build them - so they gave property owners ownership of the shoreline down to the low water mark, so they - and not the state - would be responsible for building the wharves.  However, even here, the public has access to the shore for the purposes of "fishing, fowling and navigation".  So, as long as you carry a fishing pole, you can venture anwhere in North America below the high tide mark with perfect impunity.....
  • Mental illness in England (which is not any more prone to them as a nation than any others, so it may be considered a good representative of Western nations in general) costs more than £77 billion last year (2002), according to a study by the Sainsbury  Centre for Mental Health. Its full economic and social costs are thus greater than the annual  cost of crime, and this fact "should" put pressure on governments to allocate more resources to mental health services.  Matt Muijen, chief executive of the centre, says, "Discrimination and stigma, not an inability to work,  are often the causes of worklessness for those with mental health problems."  (Guardian Unlimited 04/06/03 - modifies slightly)
  • The leading sector for pollution in the developed world, is hard rock mining.   In 2000, mining operations in the USA emitted over 3 billion pounds (1.4 billion kilos) of toxins, including over 200 million pounds of cyanide, into the air and water of that country.   Agriculture would be a candidate for second place, although manufacturing and the military would also be in the running.  Toxic emissions from military sources are particularly difficult to find data about, for obvious reasons.
  • Epaulet sharks, which live in the shallows around coral reefs, can survive without oxygen, and even without water, for extended periods of time.  Researchers at Griffith University in Australia are studying the sharks to try to understand the mechanisms that allow them to do this. The

  • research may have many applications for treating medical conditions in humans.
  • 90% of all the oceans' large fish have already been removed from the seas, a comprehensive 10 year study by German and Canadian scientists has revealed.  The study - see Nature, May 15 -  shows that every time industrial fishing has moved into unfitted areas, the biomass of the larger marine predators has been rapidly reduced to less than one tenth its original size.  All available fisheries data  from around the world was examined: this is fact, not theory.   It compared the biomass and composition of large predatory fishes in four continental shelves and nine oceanic systems from the beginning of exploitation to the present.
  •  For anyone interested in astronomy, a fantastic site is the "electronic sky" (http://www.glyphweb.com/esky/default.htm)  - you can find information on everything from minor crators on the moon, to every named star in the sky, to entire galaxies.  A truly fabulous site.
  • The world's smallest known species of seahorse, mistaken in the past for the offspring of another species of seahorse, has now been identified as a unique species.  Adults of the new species, a pygmy seahorse known as Hippocampus denise, are typically just 16 millimeters (5/8 of an inch) long---smaller than most fingernails. There are already 32 other known species of seahorses. Marine biologist Sara Lourie, a member of the Project Seahorse marine conservation team based at the University of British Columbia, is the scientist responsible for finding the new species in the deep corals of the Flores Sea off the coast of Indonesia.  For more information, go to:

  •    http://ens-news.com/ens/may2003/2003-05-12-03.asp
       http://www.seahorse.mcgill.ca/news.htm
  • The most expensive item in most grocery stores is the delicate spice saffron, which often sells for $7 + tax for a jar containing a 1g pouch of the stuff.  That's $7000 (plus tax) per kg, or about half the price of pure gold.    Dried chives in similar jars come in a distant second place, at a mere pre-tax $1200 or so per kg (a kg is 2.54 lbs).
  • Strong negative emotions such as anxiety and depression depress the immune system: this is an established fact now.   This means that worrying about getting cancer or any other disease, can actually make it more likely that the worry-wort will catch the disease - or whatever else is going around at the time!!
  • Every day, an estimated 16,000 people worldwide become infected with HIV, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Approximately 50 percent of the 38.6 million adults living with HIV/AIDS worldwide are women, while 3.2 million are children younger than 15 years old.  More than two thirds of the cases are in Africa, where the disease is likely to remain a certain death sentence for the foreseeable future.
  • In the United States, an estimated 900,000 people are living with HIV. New infections occur at a rate of 40,000 a year.  Young people under the age of 25 account for half of all new HIV infections in the USA, and the rate of new infections is now nearly the same for women as for men.
  • Green tea - a less processed version of the ubiquitous black tea, with far less caffeine and more healthful properties - has long been known for its immune system benefits and anti-oxidant powers.  Now, US scientists say drinking green tea may also help to prevent tooth decay and bad breath. It appears that  chemicals in tea can destroy bacteria and viruses, and it is possible that adding tea extracts to  toothpaste and mouthwash could make them more effective. Microbiologist Milton Schiffenbauer, from  Pace University in New York, says, "Our research shows tea extracts can destroy the organism that  causes disease. If we can stimulate the immune system and at the same time destroy the organisms,  then it makes sense to drink more [green] tea."
  • Geckos can climb even the smoothest of surfaces, such as mirrors or polished steel.  Their secret is millions of minuscule hairs only a few tenths of a micrometer across,  which sprout of thousands of tiny hairs on their feet.  The micro-hairs (called setae) have broad, flexible tips, so they can conform to the microscopic irregularities in any natural and almost any man-made surface.  The stickiness comes about because of very weak intermolecular bonds called Van der Waals forces, which cumulatively add up to make geckos the Kings of Cling!
  • The first "modern" computer (i.e., general-purpose and program-controlled) was built in 1941 by Konrad Zuse.  Since there was a war going on, he applied to the German government for funding to build his machines for military use, but was turned down because the German government did not expect the war to last beyond Christmas.
  • Vikings, contrary to popular opinion and Wagenerian operatic caricatures, did not wear horns on their helmets: these would have been impractical in battle, since they would have made it much easier for opponents to knock the helmet off the wearer's head!!  They were indeed fierce warriors and engaged in most of the raping and pillaging they are accredited with, but many groups were also peaceful farmers and settlers, and some Viking tribes were noted for their savvy trading and diplomatic skills.
  • The Norsemen or Vikings were a northern offshoot of the Aryan invasion of Europe that took place in waves beginning around 5,000 B.C. .  Always superb mariners and aggressive warriors, they gained a huge advantage over most other European cultures around 750 A.D. when they added excellent sails to their already very ocean-worthy vessels.  This enabled them to easily and quickly travel to all parts of the post-Roman world, to engage in activities ranging from raping, pillaging and sacking, to trading and even outright invasions, as with the Danish take-over of England in 793.  For more information about these fascinating peoples that dramatically altered the course of European history and colonized North America for 300 years from c. 1000 to 1300 A.D., see http://www.geocities.com/~asanca/About-Blood.htm.
  • "Those that live by the sword, get shot."........  If you keep a gun in your home, you dramatically increase the odds that you will die of a gunshot wound, according to research published in the June issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.    "Keeping guns at home is dangerous for adults regardless of age, sex, or race," said Douglas J. Wiebe, PhD, Instructor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a fellow at Penn's Firearm Injury Center. Wiebe led the study by the Violence Prevention Research Group at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) before moving to Penn.  Wiebe's study found that people with a gun in their home were almost twice as likely to die in a gun-related homicide, and 16 times more likely to use a gun to commit suicide, than people without a gun in their home.
  • According to many scientists, some 20 percent of the meteorites landing on Earth today are remnants of a very large asteroid that planetary scientists refer to as the "L-chondrite parent body." This asteroid apparently broke apart around 500 million years ago in what is believed to be the largest collision that occurred in "more recent" solar system history.  Massively increased incidence of meteorite impact density  may have been a factor in the mass extinctions and subsequent explosion in speciation (ie, development of new species) which occurred around the Cambrian/Pre-Cambrian boundary.
  • The search engine Google, widely acknowledged to be one of the very best on the web, has nearly 4 billion web pages indexed in its database, which amounts to approximately 2 petabytes of memory - that's 2 million gigabytes, or about 100,000 times the memory capacity of the average PC.
  • Computer memory has come a LONG way in the past 20 years.  In 1983, the Commodore 64 (64 kilobytes of memory) was still a hot item.  By 2003, IBM had developed a palm-sized device that could store a terabyte (ie, 1,000 Gigabytes) of data in easily-accessible form.
  • Children of working mothers are as happy and emotionally stable as those of stay-at-home parents, a  long-term study has concluded. Researchers from Bristol University found that childcare could have  positive effects and rejected claims that children looked after by child minders would lag behind.  (The Independent 13/05/03; p.8)   A number of studies in the USA and Europe in the past decade also conclude that preschool children cared for by qualified and conscientious caregivers in various settings, are not at any disadvantage compared to children looked after by an at-home parent.  The quality of the relationship between children and parents seems to be far more important: a child who grows up in a caring, love-filled home, with age-appropriate discipline, boundaries and responsibilities are the most likely to develop well in all aspects of their lives -  social, interpersonal, emotional and intellectual (as well as spiritual, but this is a bit more subjective) - irrespective of whether they experienced daycare or other non-parental caretaking at an early age.
  • When mother cormorants feel their offspring are ready to leave the nest, they make sure that this is exactly what happens, by destroying the nest completely!!
  • Mother's Day began  in 1872 as a call by women to end war.  Following the tremendous losses of the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe sent out a proclamation, declaring: "Arise, then women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!  We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience."  It sounded like a good idea at the time, but never really caught on.....
  • Rabbits do not chew the cud, but most of their food is nonetheless digested twice: they produce two types of pellets - soft, moist ones that are eaten again, to extract more nutrients the second time through, and hard, dry ones that are left for people and other animals seeking "rabbit sign".
  • As of 2003, exactly 1,201 people from 63 countries are known to have climbed Mount Everest over 1600 times.  When Hillary and Norgay stepped on to the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, the two climbers did not think anybody would follow in their footsteps again.  "Both Tenzing and I thought once we'd climbed the mountain, it was  unlikely anyone would ever make another attempt," Hillary told National Geographic Adventure magazine.
  • Isaac Newton, one of the most brilliant intellects of all time, was also very strange person: he often forgot to eat while working on a challenging problem, had very few close friends, and often did things such as giving a lecture to an empty hall, if nobody showed up for class on a particular day (although how this is known, is unclear....).
  • Sir Isaac Newton (1642 to 1733) was one of the most insightful and influential scientists of the past 2000 years.  He clarified and systematized many aspects of modern Physics and mathematics single-handedly, and firmly established the "scientific method" as the way the modern world looks at the Universe in general.  For all this, however, science occupied less than half of his productive life.  He published his pivotal 3-volume tome The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, or The Principia as it came to be commonly known, in 1687, and immediately afterwards turned his attentions to Biblical scholarship - specifically the systematic interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation from a Protestant viewpoint.  His 1,300,000 published words of Scriptural analyses helped shape the basis of most  Protestant prophetic interpretation for the next 200 years.
  • Parrots seem to be the longest-lived members of the Bird clan: reliable reports have them living to over 150 years, but the oldest currently-verified parrot is only 102 years old as of 2003.
  • More than 13,000 Russian villages are inhabited only by ghosts. Nobody lives in them any more, according to preliminary results of the 2002 census. Nearly 35,000 villages have no more than 10 inhabitants, according to the census results, which were posted on the State Statistics Committee's web site late last week. Between 1959 and 1989, Russia's population grew by 10 million people for every decade, from 117 million to 147 million, despite a migration of Russians to other Soviet republics. But in 1992, deaths began to outnumber births so dramatically that even an influx of 11 million immigrants could not prevent a population decline. The 2002 census, conducted in October, counted 145.2 million people, down 1.3 percent from the last census in 1989. Some of the causes of the unprecedented decline in rural population include: near-disintegration of rural health care systems,  deforestation, over-exploitaton of natural resources, severe economic declines in resource-based industries, collapse of the fur markets, depletion of many fish stocks, mechanization of forestry (which requires fewer workers), and the natural course of urbanization that is occurring in all corners of the globe. (The Moscow Times, April 30, 2003)
  • The Norsemen  ("Vikings") and their descendants formed or heavily influenced several European countries.  England, for instance, is large the product of three invasions of Northern tribes: the Angles, Saxons and Jutes displaced and absorbed much of the culture of the original Britons (despite the rear-guard actions of King Arthur and the boys....) in the 5th Century.  Then in 793, the Danes took over the joint, and finally in 1066, the Normans (see next entry, below) invaded and left an indelible influence upon English culture, language, blood-lines and laws.  They were also largely absorbed into the native Anglo-Saxon culture within a couple of centuries.
  • NORMANDY: Because Norse ships could easily travel rivers, places like Paris became easy targets. By 886, Vikings had besieged and plundered Paris to such an extent that a French king decided to buy them off with an enormous amount of treasure as well as a large, bountiful and breathtakingly beautiful territory in northern France. In droves, Danes settled its interior, and Norwegians its coast. These Northmen were called "Normans" and the territory "Normandy". Although they were politically, militarily and probably numerically dominant, they soon become "French." Two centuries later in 1066, these francophone Vikings conquered England at the Battle of Hastings. That would become history's last major Viking invasion.
  • A Manx shearwater captured on a little island off north Wales could be oldest bird in the wild ever recorded.  The venerable bird (Puffinus puffinus) was first captured and ringed  in May 1957, when it was between four and six years old.  But Steve Stansfield, warden of the Bardsey island Bird Observatory, caught the seabird again in mid-April, 2003.   Until now, the world's oldest ringed bird was a US albatross estimated to be over 50. But the shearwater's possible age of 52 years could make it the record holder.   Experts at the British Trust for Ornithology say the bird must have flown at least five million miles (eight million kilometres) during its long life. That is the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe 200 times.  The bird clocked up about half a million miles on annual migrations to and from its winter grounds in South America, says the BTO's Mark Grantham. Its frequent 600-mile flights out to sea to feed [sure makes a trip to the supermarket seem trivial!!!] make up the rest. The shearwater had been caught previously in 1961, 1978 and 2002.
  • Isaac Newton, famed scientist and Biblical scholar, was extremely reluctant to publish his epoch-defining works.  His main scientific theories and mathematical methodology were set forth in rigorous precision in his 3-volume Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), which he had to be coaxed into publishing by astronomer Edmund Halley (as in the comet), who financed the project.  His massive tomes on biblical prophecy were not published until after his death: he apparently had no plans at all to present them to the public at large!
  • One pound of fat equals about 4000 calories.  So, if you chose chewing gum as your means of exercise, at 11 calories per hour over resting metabolic output, it would take you 15 days to burn off an extra pound.  If you chose cycling at a brisk 18 miles (28 km) per hour, you could burn off the same amount in about 5 hours if you are an average-sized man.
  •  The tomato is the world's most popular fruit. And yes, just like eggplants and squash, botanically speaking it is a fruit, not a vegetable. More than 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced per year, 16 million tons more than the second most popular fruit, the banana. Apples are the third most popular (36 million tons), then oranges (34 million tons) and watermelons (22 million tons)
  • "Depleted" uranium has been used in the past decade by "western" military powers, as an anti-tank weapon, since it is much times denser than lead, and penetrates heavy armor like butter via oxidizing as it powers (and combusts!) its way through the lighter metal: in effect, it burns up as it penetrates into an armored vehicle, turning into a fine powder of extremely small particles of the radioactive material which is the residue from nuclear reactors: much of the more radioactive U238  isotope of natually-occuring uranium is consumed in the energy-producing fission reactions of nuclear power plants.  What remains is a mixture which contains much less of the heavier, more unstable form of uranium, and relatively more of the lighter, less radioactive U235 variety.  It is indeed less radioactive, but when inhaled into the lungs, the small but heavy particles stick there and it is absorbed into the blood stream - where its effects are still very poorly understood.  It also contains some of the more radioactive end-procucts of uranium fission, such as radioactive thorium.  To complicate matters, uranium itself is a toxic substance -   irrespective of how radioactive it is or isn't.  That said, military authorities have seemingly taken a "innocent until proven guilty" attitude towards this toxic substance, using an estimated 500 tons of it during the wars of the past decade or so.  The subsequent "fallout" (pun intended) may be more dangerous and long-lasting than anyone suspected when they unleashed it on a large scale, upon many millions of citizens of various and sundry "liberated" countries.
  • Tomatoes were first cultivated in 700 AD by Aztecs and Incas. Explorers returning from Mexico introduced the tomato into Europe, where it was first mentioned in 1556. The French called it "the apple of love," the Germans "the apple of paradise."  However, in much of English speaking North America, it was long considered to be quite poisonous!!  This notion was dispelled once and for all when a brave soul whose name completely escapes me and whom i am too lazy to look up, ate an entire basket full of them in public -  much to the horror or doctors present, who expected him to drop dead on the spot.  Fortunately, he didn't and we can now enjoy our salsa without fear!!
  • The CN Tower in Toronto is the world's tallest free standing structure: it stretches At a height of 113 stories, 553.33 metres (1,815 feet, 5 inches) above the skyline of Canada's largest city, and is visited by over 2 million tourists per year.  It contains 1776 steps (oddly familiar number that....) which cover a vertical height of 342 meters (1,122 feet). On October 29, 1989,  Brendan Keenoy set the world record for the fastest CN Tower climb with the time of seven minutes and 52 seconds.  That's what i call a REAL stair master!
  • Immunization has proven to be an extremely effective method of reducing deaths from communicable diseases.  For example, in southern Africa (Mozambique, S. Africa, Namibia, etc.), a thorough campaign of measles immunization has nearly eradicated this disease, while in sub-Saharan Africa, over 600,000 children still die every year from measles, due to inadequate immunization coverage.  Worldwide, an estimated 3 million deaths could be prevented by immunization.  Oddly enough, funds available for immunization programs are surprisingly minuscule, especially when compared to such laudable - ok, when compared to almost anything one can name.   This pattern is repeated  with virtually every major cause of death and disability in the developing world: to pick a problem out of the air, malaria affects 300 million people per year, yet its control is largely left to non-profit non-governmental organizations.  Strange world, no?
  • During a brief period in 2000, at the solar maximum (which occurs every 11 years), the sun's magnetic field completely re-organized itself and for a while the sun actually had 2 north magnetic poles!!!  This sounds impossible, but the sun's interior is far more complicated than previously thought. (The magnetic south pole never vanished during that period, it just shifted to the sun's equator).
  • This is a WEIRD fact indeed:  In Oregon it is against the law for bears to tear bark off of trees in tree plantations owned by lumber companies - something they do in the springtime to give them access to sap, for an energy boost after their winter's hibernation.  The penalty for violating this insane law (the amount of damage done is quite minor, and it is after all the bear's forest more than it is our's) is death.  Last year, 113 such violations were punished by this penalty, making Texas look like a birthday party for law-breakers  by comparison.
  • The origin of the "countdown" (the custom of counting down to a rocket launch or other important event) can be traced to the 1929 German silent film The Girl in the Moon ("Die Frau Im Monde"), directed by Fritz Lang. To add drama to a realistic launch to the moon, technical advisor Dr. Hermann Oberth (who later worked on the 1950 American classic, "Destination Moon") incorporated a reverse countdown, with the numbers being flashed on the screen, beginning with 10. Originally 156 minutes in length, the film was reduced to 97 minutes for its initial American release in 1931. Early rocket scientists, most of whom were German, were impressed with the film and the reverse countdown, and began to use it for true-to-life blastoffs!
  • Alzheimer's disease  - a form of dementia that kills many elderly people slowly, by causing their brain cells (neurons) to die, has proven a very difficult mystery to unravel, but has been the subject of intense research in recent decades (as the Baby Boomers slowly grow older....)  Recently, researchers at the university of Pennsylvania (see http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-04/uop-apj040803.php) have unraveled a key component: a protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP) is sometimes misdirected toward neural cells' energy producing centers, which are called mitochondria.  In attempting to enter the mitochondria, APP gets jammed in their protein entry pathways because of either improper folding of this complex protein, or because of a negatively charged portion which cannot pass through normal mitochondrial protein pathways.  When most of any specific neuron's mitochondria have their pores all jammed up, the neuron runs out of energy and dies.  Further, this jamming process produces a toxic by-product called A-beta amygdaloid: this protein fragment breaks off of the portion of APP that sticks out of the end of the protein pathways they are jammed in and it accumulates in the cells, apparently assisting in killing them - and forming the amygdaloid plaques typically associated with Alzheimer's.  Many questions remain still, but now that the basic process of cellular death in this excessively nasty condition is known, a cure or at least a way to prevent further death of neurons after the disease is diagnosed, may be much closer than many people thought until a couple of months ago.
  • The longest recorded flight of a domestic chicken is 13 seconds.
  • 63.7182 % of all statistics used on this type of list are made up on the spot.
    • The male seahorse is the only husband in the world that carries the babies until they are ready to be born.  In an interesting reversal of roles, the female deposits her eggs into the male's body and then retires from the family scene.  After giving birth to live sea-horse babies, a male is ready to start all over again the very same day.
    • Bacteria weigh about one trillionth of a gram ( about 400 trillion bacteria per pound). Viruses are typically 1000 times lighter still!!



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