Archive for July, 2008

Space station in the spotlight

July 31, 2008

This is a cool photo:

It’s the International Space Station caught by chance passing in front of the Sun. The International Space Station has an altitude of about 350 km above the surface of the Earth, and travels at an average speed of 27,700 km per hour. Quite a lucky snap.

It’s melting

July 30, 2008

A chunk of ice about 18 kilometres square has broken off Canada’s largest remaining ice shelf. The piece had been a part of the shelf for 3000 years. Read more here.

Formed by accumulating snow and freezing meltwater, ice shelves are large platforms of thick, ancient sea ice that float on the ocean’s surface.

If you’re not sure why it happened, I’ll give you one clue.

Deflating a balloon … scientifically

July 30, 2008

Liquid nitrogen is very cold!

Liquid nitrogen boils and becomes a gas at −196 °C, and it freezes to become a solid at −210 °C. So nitrogen is liquid when the temperature is between −196 and −210 °C.

Also, when the particles of a gas are cooled down they take up less space. So if I put an inflated balloon somewhere very cold, the air particles would take up less space so the balloon would shrink. Then when I heated the balloon back to its original temperature it would go back to its original size. Don’t believe me? Check it out:

Dr. Orangutan

July 29, 2008

If you are ever sick or injured in the jungle an orangutan might be a good animal to approach for advice.

It sounds strange but wild orangutans have been spotted using naturally occurring anti-inflammatory drugs!

Four individuals have been seen rubbing a soothing balm onto their limbs, the first known examples of orangutans self medicating. Great apes have never before been seen using drugs in this way. Remarkably though, local people use the same balm, administering it in a similar way to treat aches and pains. Read more here.

Pretty smart! What a pity they are about to become extinct!

Pucker up!

July 28, 2008

There are some weird and wonderful animals on our planet, particularly sea dwelling ones. For example, check out this rosy-lipped batfish:

Weird isn’t it!

Batfish are poor swimmers, preferring to use their strangely adapted pectoral fins like legs to crawl about the seafloor.

If you would like to see more weird and wonderful see creatures here is a photo gallery of ‘Translucent Creatures’ and here is a gallery of ‘ Sea Creatures’.

Do you speak humpback?

July 28, 2008

Marine biologists have now deciphered more of the humpback whale language. It seems they often communicate with a combination of behaviours and sounds.

For example, breaching, and the following splash, is a signal meant to alert other groups that “I’m here”. A ‘wop’, seems to be a signal between a female and her calf and a similar sound, dubbed the ‘thwop’, was made most often by lone males looking for females. To listen to the humpback language go here or here, and to read more go here.

Auroras explained

July 27, 2008

Auroras (North or South Polar Lights) are natural colored light displays in the sky, usually observed at night, particularly in the polar zone.

Scientists have now discovered that auroras are caused by variations in the Earth’s magnetic field resulting in the collision of charged particles in the atmosphere. To learn more go here or here.

When physics and literature meet

July 27, 2008

If you are struggling to understand magnetism the Wikipedia page might be a bit complex. So you could try the Simple English Wikipedia site. If it is still a bit confusing maybe this poem will help:

I wish I could’ve turned athletic,
But just my luck… I’ve turned magnetic.
Paper clips fly up to greet me.
Nails, it seems, can’t wait to meet me.
I’m sticking to the baby’s stroller.
Look at me, I’m so bi-polar.
I make the TV super active.
At least the spoons find me attractive.
The phone’s for me? What’s that you say?
Why don’t I come out to play?
I think I’ll have to join you later…
I’m stuck on our refrigerator.


The universe is big

July 26, 2008

As a follow up to the post titled ‘Think you’re pretty big‘, here are two more amazing images.

The first one, titled ‘pale blue dot‘, is a picture of Earth taken from approximately 6.4 billion kilometers away by the Voyager spacecraft. It shows Earth to be a mere speck of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The second one is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. It is a picture of a tiny pinprick of the universe which shows thousands of galaxies, and of course each galaxy is made up of millions and millions of stars.

These two images really highlight to me how absolutely ENORMOUS the universe is, and how very small Earth is in the big picture.

Invisible water

July 25, 2008

Check this out:

How does that happen?

You have probably heard of the gas Helium which is lighter than air, well that glass container is filled with a gas called Sulfur hexafluoride. Sulfur hexafluoride is a colorless, odorless gas which is heavier than air. Because it is so dense you can float a light aluminium boat on top of it.

What’s even more interesting is that it has the opposite effect on your voice to the effect helium has. When you breathe in helium it makes your voice higher pitched, but when you breathe in Sulfur hexafluoride your voice become deeper, as this video illustrates. Don’t try that at home by the way!

Special thanks to Matt 😀