10 Weird Science Facts you didn't know

11/8/2006
Weird Science
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Tags: amazing science facts
     
Did you know animals can rain from the sky? Meet ten amazing science facts you probably didn't know!

1
Animals can rain from the sky

Amazing science fact: raining animals is a relatively common meteorological phenomenon, with occurrences reported from many countries throughout history. The animals most likely to drop from the sky in a rainfall are fish and frogs, with birds coming third. Sometimes the animals survive the fall, especially fish, suggesting a small time gap between the extraction and the actual drop. Several witnesses of raining frogs describe the animals as startled, though healthy, and exhibiting relatively normal behavior shortly after the event. In some incidents, however, the animals are frozen to death or even completely enclosed in blocks of ice. These occurrences may be evidence for the transport of the victims to high altitudes, where the temperature is below zero, and they show how powerful meteorological forces can be. Most recent occurrences include the rain of frogs and toads in Serbia (2005) and London (1998), and rains of fish in India (2006) and Wales (2004).

In Honduras, the Lluvia de Peces (Rain of Fishes) is a unique phenomenon that has been occurring for more than a century on a yearly basis in the country of Honduras. It occurs in the Departamento de Yoro, between the months of May and July. Witnesses of this phenomenon state that it begins with is a dark cloud in the sky followed by lightning, thunder, strong winds and heavy rain for 2 to 3 hours. Once the rain has stopped, hundreds of living fish are found on the ground. People take the fish home to cook and eat them. Although some experts have tried to explain the Rain of Fishes as a natural meteorological phenomenon, the fish are not sea water fish, but fresh water fish; they are not dead, but alive; they are not blind, they have eyes; they are not big fish, but small; and the type of fish is not found elsewhere in the area. There is no valid scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Many people believe this phenomenon occurs because of Father José Manuel Subirana, a Spanish catholic missionary and considered by many to be a Saint. He visited Honduras from 1856-1864, and upon encountering so many poor people, prayed for 3 days and 3 nights asking God for a miracle to help the poor people by providing food. The Rain of Fishes has occurred ever since.


2
The universe is beige

Cosmic Latte is the color of the universe, according to a team of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University. In 2001, Karl Glazebrook and Ivan Baldry determined that the color of the universe was a greenish white, but they soon corrected their analysis in "The 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey: constraints on cosmic star-formation history from the cosmic spectrum", published in 2002. In this paper, they reported that their survey of the color of all light in the universe added up to a slightly beige white. The survey included more than 200,000 galaxies, and measured the spectral range of the light from a large volume of the universe. The hexadecimal RGB value for Cosmic Latte is #FFF8E7.

In a Washington Post article, the color was displayed. Glazebrook jokingly said that he was looking for suggestions for a name for the new color. Several people who read the article sent in suggestions. "Cosmic Latte" was selected.


3
Poisoning can make masses to dance hysterically

Dancing mania is the name given to a phenomenon that occurred mainly in mainland Europe from the 14th century through to the 17th century, in which groups of people would dance through the streets of towns or cities, sometimes foaming at the mouth or speaking in tongues, until they collapsed from exhaustion. The first major outbreak of the mania was in Aachen, Germany, in July 1374. The dancers went through the streets screaming of wild visions, and even continued to writhe and twist after they collapsed from exhaustion. The dancing quickly caught on, and spread rapidly throughout France and the Low Countries. The mania reached its peak in 1418 in Strasbourg. At at least one point, so many people had either been afflicted with the dancing mania, or caught up in the dancing, or were trying to give assistance, or simply watching the events unfold, that the town was brought to a complete halt.

Although no real consensus exists as to what caused the mania, some cases, especially the one in Aix-la-Chapelle, may have had an explainable physical cause. The symptoms of the sufferers can be attributed to ergot poisoning, or ergotism, known in the Middle Ages as "St. Anthony's Fire". It is caused by eating rye infected with Claviceps purpurea, a small fungus that contains toxic and psychoactive chemicals (alkaloids), including lysergic acid (used in modern times to synthesize LSD). Symptoms of ergot poisoning include nervous spasms, psychotic delusions, spontaneous abortion, convulsions and gangrene; some dancers claimed to have experienced visions of a religious nature.


4
The Moon is moving away from the Earth

The Moon's orbit (its circular path around the Earth) is indeed getting larger, at a rate of about 3.8 centimeters per year. (The Moon's orbit has a radius of 384,000 km.) The reason for the increase is that the Moon raises tides on the Earth. Because the side of the Earth that faces the Moon is closer, it feels a stronger pull of gravity than the center of the Earth. Similarly, the part of the Earth facing away from the Moon feels less gravity than the center of the Earth. This effect stretches the Earth a bit, making it a little bit oblong.

It is expected that in 15 billion years, the orbit will stabilize at 1.6 times its present size, and the Earth day will be 55 days long equal to the time it will take the Moon to orbit the Earth.


5
Belly button lint comes from your underwear

Many people find that, at the beginning and end of the day, a small lump of fluff has appeared in the navel cavity. The reasons for this have been the subject of idle speculation for many years but in 2001, Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki of the University of Sydney, Australia undertook a systematic survey to determine the ins and outs of navel lint. His primary findings were as follows:
  • Navel lint consists primarily of stray fibres from one's clothing, mixed with some dead skin cells and strands of body hair. The rotting cells can create unpleasant odors.
  • Contrary to expectations, navel lint appears to migrate upwards from underwear rather than downwards from shirts or tops. The migration process is the result of the frictional drag of body hair on underwear, which drags stray fibres up into the navel.
  • Women experience less navel lint because of their finer and shorter body hairs. Conversely, older men experience it more because of their coarser and more numerous hairs.
  • Navel lint's characteristic blue-gray tint is likely the averaging of the colors of fibres present in clothing; the same color as clothes dryer lint.
  • The existence of navel lint is entirely harmless, and requires no corrective action.



6
Fly larvae helps to heal wounds quicker

Long ago, some doctors noticed soldiers that had maggots on their wounds healed quicker than those without maggots. Maggots eat the dead skin cells and bacteria. Maggot Therapy (also known as Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT), larval therapy, larva therapy, or larvae therapy) is the intentional introduction of live, disinfected maggots or fly larvae into non-healing skin or soft tissue wounds of a human or other animal. This practice was widely used before the discovery of antibiotics, as it serves to clean the dead tissue within a wound in order to promote healing.


7
Animals can naturally explode

Natural animal explosions can occur for a variety of reasons. On 2004, a buildup of gas inside a decomposing sperm whale, measuring 17 meters (56 ft.) long and weighing 50 tons, caused it to burst in Taiwan. The explosion was reported to have splattered blood and whale entrails over surrounding shop-fronts, bystanders, and cars.

A significant population of toads in Germany and Denmark were exploding in April 2005 in an act described as a self-defence mechanism that failed, as it consisted of puffing up to look bigger while under attack by crows.


8
You can still have an erection once dead

A death erection (sometimes referred to as "angel lust") is a post-mortem erection which occurs when a male individual dies vertically or face-down with the cadaver remaining in this position. During life, the pumping of blood by the heart ensures a relatively even distribution around the blood vessels of the human body. Once this mechanism has ended, only the force of gravity acts upon the blood. As with any mass, the blood settles at the lowest point of the body and causes edema or swelling to occur; the discoloration caused by this is called lividity.

If an individual dies vertically such as in a hanging, the blood will settle in the legs and pool at the feet. The pressure will be greatest as the weight of the blood pushes down. This causes the blood vessels and tissues in the feet to engorge to their greatest elastic capacity and hold the greatest volume of blood possible. This effect occurs right up the legs although to a lesser extent than the feet and is also notable at the waist. The blood which remains in the torso attempts to move to a lower position due to gravity, and as the blood in the waist (which cannot move down due to the legs being full) causes the penis, consisting of erectile tissue, to fill with blood and expand. This is the death erection. As long as the body remains in this position the effect will continue.


9
Male seahorses can get pregnant

Seahorses reproduce in an unusual way: the male becomes pregnant. Pipefishes and seahorses are the only species in the animal kingdom to which the term "male pregnancy" has been applied.

The male seahorse has a brood pouch in which he carries eggs deposited by the female. The mating pair entwine their tails and the female aligns a long tube called an ovipositor with the male's pouch. The eggs move through the tube into the male's pouch where he then fertilizes them. The embryos develop in ten days to six weeks, depending on species and water conditions. When the male gives birth he pumps his tail until the baby seahorses emerge.

The male's pouch regulates salinity for the eggs, slowly increasing in the pouch to match the water outside as the eggs mature. Hatched offspring are independent of their parents. Some spend time developing among the ocean plankton. At times, the male seahorse may try to consume some of the previously released offspring. Other species (H. zosterae) immediately begin life as sea-floor inhabitants (benthos).


10
A fetus can get trapped inside of its twin

Fetus in fetu (or Foetus in foetu) describes an extremely rare abnormality that involves a fetus getting trapped inside of its twin. It continues to survive as a parasite even past birth by forming an umbilical cord-like structure that leeches its twin's blood supply until it grows so large that it starts to harm the host, at which point doctors usually intervene. Invariably the parasitic fetus is anencephalic (without a brain) and lacks internal organs, and as such is unable to survive on its own, though it may have almost human (albeit underdeveloped and bizarre) features such as limbs, digits, hair, nails and teeth. Fetus in fetu is such a rare condition that only some 91 cases worldwide have ever been reported. Fetus in fetu happens very early in a twin pregnancy, when one fetus wraps around and envelops the other. The dominant fetus grows, while the fetus that would have been its twin lives on throughout the pregnancy, feeding off its host twin like a kind of parasite. Usually, both twins die before birth from the strain of sharing a placenta. Sometimes, however, the host twin survives and is delivered.


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