The World’s First Farmers

antsThese are Leafcutter Ants, a name given to over 47 species of ant which are native to the tropical rainforests of South America.

They cut up leaves and carry bits of them back to their nest, the obvious reason for this might be that they eat the leaves, but what actually happens is a bit more interesting.

Continue reading

You Would Not Sink in Lava

Golum in LavaContrary to what you might have seen in movies, if you jumped into lava you would not sink. Lava is nothing like water. Lava is a term used for molten rock on the surface of the earth and is incredibly dense, over 3 times the density of water.

Water has a density of 1000 kg/m3 and Lava has a density of 3100 kg/m3

Humans have a density of around 1010 kg/m3 which is very similar to water and this is the reason that we can float and not sink in water. However lava has a density much higher than our own so we would not sink or float, we would be stuck on the surface.

Continue reading

The Misinformed Mongoose Invasion of Hawaii

145359In Hawaii in the 1800’s the sugar industry was facing problems from the growing rat population which was eating through their sugar plantations and costing them a lot of money. In order to try and control the rat population, a predator was introduced to the islands, in 1833 Mongooses, which are originally native to India, were let loose in the fields of Hawaii to end the rat threat to the agriculture.

However this decision seemed to be incredibly misinformed, rats are a nocturnal animal which means they are only active at night and spend the days hidden away in nests, however the Mongoose is diurnal, which means they only hunt in the daytime and nest at night so the two animals would never encounter each other!

Continue reading

The Smouldering Ghost Town of Centralia

centralia-45Founded in 1862 the mining town of Centralia in Pennsylvania was created due to the demand for coal as a primary fuel source, throughout the 19th and 20th Century a mass web of mines, tunnels and underground gangways were constructed to get at the coal resources deep under ground. It is estimated that 95% of Anthracite coal (a very high energy form of coal) is located underneath Pennsylvania and there was an estimated 25 million tons of it under the town of Centralia.

However during the mid 20th century the demand for coal reduced in favour of other fuels such as gas and oil and the vast web of mines underneath the town of Centralia were eventually abandoned.

On the 27th May 1962 the mine shafts under Centralia caught fire, it is still debated how the fire initially caught ablaze but the main assumption is that a fire was purposely ignited in an attempt to clear up a rubbish tip, beneath this rubbish tip was a hidden mineshaft entrance where the fire began to slowly wind its way through the labyrinth of underground mines beneath the town.

Continue reading

A man has Documented the Pain Caused by Various Insects by Stinging Himself

Angry-HornetIt is called the Schmidt Pain Index and is the work of Justin O. Schmidt, who has been stung by 78 types of venomous insect and documented his experiences.

The stings are ranked from 0, which is quite harmless, to a 4 which is excruciatingly painful. Alongside the numerical rating of the stings, Schmidt also writes a sentence or two about his experience, for example the Bullet Ant, rated the highest on the scale, features the following sentence: “Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel.”

The Bullet Ant is rated highest on the pain index, as it is not only excruciatingly painful but the pain can remain just as intense for up to 5 hours after being stung and can remain for up to 24 hours.

Continue reading

Some Plants Use Wasps as Their Own Personal Bodyguards

venus-fly-trapWe don’t often allocate intelligence to plant life, and the majority believe that they just sit in one spot and get on with growing and they have no methods to defend themselves against anything that might want to eat them. However this isn’t true, many different plants have various methods of self-defence and interesting techniques to stop being devoured, with some of them being rather clever.

Many plants have direct defences to combat insects and animals that might want to eat them, for example some plants, such as roses, grow thorns or prickles. These thorns are very sharp and act as the “teeth” of the plant to ward off predators. A hungry herbivore won’t want to eat them if they are going to get hurt in the process!

Continue reading

The Surface of the Moon is so Abrasive it can cut Through Kevlar

moondust1On Earth we have we have winds that blow particles around and water that erodes and breaks down rock and other hard materials. These two elements work in conjunction to wear down particles over millions of years into an almost spherical shape. For example if you were to look at sand from a beach on Earth under a microscope you would find the grains to be predominantly smooth and round. This process is called erosion.

The Moon, however, has no atmosphere, as such it has no wind and no oceans, rivers or rain. It has none of the tools that Earth uses to grind away at the rough edges of particles to make them smooth like our sand and soil. As a result of this, the dust that covers the surface of the Moon is razor-sharp, made up of microscopic stone and powered glass from millions of years of meteorites slamming into the surface at high velocities. The particles that form from the shards that break off from these impacts are far from spherical, they have jagged sharp angles, with microscopic hooks that jut out in all directions and with nothing to change them they remain this way forever…or until a man in a spacesuit decides to step on the surface and disturb them.

Continue reading

There is More Water in the Earth’s Mantle Than on the Surface

parts-of-the-earth-diagramThe planet Earth is huge. It is so large that we could not even fathom it’s size, the Earth has been estimated to weigh around 6 million, billion, billion kg (that’s 24 noughts!), we consider our planet to be the “blue planet” due to the amount of water but in reality water makes up less than  0.1 % of the entire planet’s mass.

The Earth’s surface contains 70% water, the vast oceans of Earth span for tens of thousands of kilometres, however in comparison to the size of the planet, the Earth’s surface is a tiny portion of the world. For example, in the Earth’s crust, the first layer of the Earth, which is around 35km below earth (which is around the length of the city of London) the mass of the land is 40 times greater than that of the oceans due to the sheer size of the bedrock.

Continue reading

Antarctica is the Worlds Largest Desert

West_Antarctic_ice_sheetWhen you think of a desert you probably think of sand, camels and searing hot sun. However a desert is defined by having lower than 25 centimetres of precipitation (either through rainfall or snow/ice) per year, there are many deserts in the world that are polar deserts, places that are so cold that they receive very little rainfall each year. The largest of these is the continent of Antarctica.

Antarctica receives on average 50 mm of precipitation per year, mainly in the form of snow and spans the near 14,000,000 kilometres of the continent, nearly as large as the USA. In comparison the second largest desert in the world, The Sahara Desert in northern Africa is 9,400,000 km. The Sahara is the more commonly known desert as it fits the stereotypical characteristics that we would think of when considering a desert, but is nowhere near as large as Antarctica.

Continue reading

The Golden Temple, the Holiest Site in Sikhism Provides Free Meals for over 100,000 Visitors a Day

Golden-Temple-7-480x307The majority of Sikh temples in the world provide community kitchens where people can come and receive free food, however the Golden Temple in India, the holiest site in all of the Sikh religion provides free food for up to 100,000 visitors every day regardless of their religion, race, gender or social standing.

Using an average of 12,000kg of flour, 1,200kg of rice, 1,300kg of lentils and 500kg of ghee (clarified butter) the Golden Temple has the capacity to seat over 5000 guests at any time, serving them a traditional meal of rice, vegetables, lentils and bread. The temple is open to guests 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Continue reading