An 8-inch stalk of celery contains approximately 6 calories, but just digesting it will burn more than 6 calories, resulting in a negative caloric intake. Contrary to popular belief, chewing and swallowing the celery doesn't burn the calories, it's digesting the tough cellulose that expends the energy.
You can end up with negative calorie intake from cold diet drinks too. Your body burns calories warming the liquid up to body temperature--usually more than the few calories the drink contains. "Anybody for a cold one?" could be a dieter's rallying cry, but it won't work with beer.
Properly prepared cauliflower, cucumbers, spinach, and other veggies can cause your body to burn more calories than you ingest too. But celery with peanut butter or ranch dressing does not count as a negative-calorie food!
A cup of black coffee has essentially no food calories and adds only 5.5 heat calories if it's at 140ºF. But your body uses 1.5 calories a minute just to keep itself up to temperature and functioning. This means that a cup of hot coffee would only supply enough energy to run things for about 4 minutes. Not much left over to heat your body!
But here's the really surprising part. When you're cold your peripheral blood vessels constrict to keep your skin from acting like a radiator--that's why your fingers and ears turn blue. But caffeine is a vasodilator--it makes the smooth muscle in the vessel walls relax so they become wider and carry more blood.
When you drink coffee more blood flows to your skin where additional heat is lost through conduction, convection and evaporation so you'll end up colder than when you started! Try hot chocolate. An average sized cup of ground roasted coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine, and cocoa or hot chocolate only has 4 mg...and about 450 food calories.
Unlike dinosaurs who died out hundreds of millions of years ago, pygmy elephants lived well into recorded history. They're thought to be pictured below on an Egyptian tomb dating from about 1,500 B.C. The pygmy elephant is the little figure on the left. It's an adult with full tusks and yet it's waist high and being led by a leash!
These puny pachyderms probably descended from normal-size elephants who made their way from Africa to Sicily, Crete, Malta and other islands during the Ice Age when water levels were lower than now. Then, as the Ice Age faded, water levels rose and the creatures found themselves marooned.
Why did they shrink? Probably through a process termed insular dwarfism. As the normal sized elephants used up the island's limited resources natural selection favored the smaller individuals who needed less food to survive. These smaller animals tended to live and reproduce at a better rate than their larger brothers. This evolution toward "small" continued until, as their remaining skeletons show, adults grew to only about four feet tall.
These tiny tuskers might well have lived until modern times if the last of them hadn't died out, possibly hunted to extinction, during the Bronze Age.
Too bad they're gone. Think how cool it would be to have one as a pet--as long as they could be housebroken.
By the end of next year over 3 billion subscribers, about 45% of the world's population, are expected to be yakking in their car, next you at restaurants, and elsewhere.
One billion cell phones are expected to be sold next year alone, including a new iPhone from Apple, widely rumored to be announced in January. Those rumors suggest the phone will have iPod music capability, a camera, and built-in wi-fi so you can save phone minutes when you're near a hotspot.
In biblical days the sky was referred to as the "firmament," and firm they thought it was--a smooth curved object made of a thin solid material.
The word firmamentum is Latin and a translation from the Greek stereoma, meaning solid dome. That in turn is a translation from the Hebrew rakia, meaning a thin metallic sheet. The sky, they thought, was a close-by, semi-spherical solid dome made from a thin sheet of metal that covered the flat earth, coming down to meet it all around at the horizon.
So when the Book of Revelations in the Bible speaks of the destruction of the Earth and sky, it says--reflecting the then current cosmological ideas and language--"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth...And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together" (Revelation 6:13-14).
In other words, about 2000 years ago people thought the world would end when the thin metal sheet that the sky was made from rolled up (spro-o-o-ing), and all the glittery little lights that stuck to it fell off. Now we know that the Sun, one of those little lights that just happens to be realtively close, will eventually burn most of its hydrogen into helium, become a red giant, and simply envelop the Earth.
We've brought moon rocks to Earth, but so far we haven't been able to bring any material back from Mars. But, never mind, nature has found a way to provide it!
Scientists know that over eons space-rocks ranging from the size of a car to that of a city have plowed through Mar's relatively thin atmosphere blasting chunks of the planet into space. After a journey of millions of miles, and millions of years, some of these outcasts are captured by Earth's gravity and fall to the surface.
A leading expert, James Head, says that impacts big enough to kick material free of Mar's gravity occur about once every 2 million years. "According to the celestial mechanics people, about 7.5 percent of this material is destined to land on the Earth," Head said. "More than half of that lands in the first 10 million years after the impact. On average fragments from several impacts are in transit all the time. This works out to about one Martian meteorite landing on Earth each month."
The rocks can land anywhere on Earth. Most, no doubt are lost to the oceans' depths. Those that are found are usually discovered in deserts or Antarctica -- places without plant cover and where a rock can lie undisturbed for many years.
If you're lucky and happen to find one, be very careful with it. A Mars rock brings over $1,000,000 per pound at auction.
The Earth from our vantage point seems pretty darn heavy, but it's puny by comparison to other planets such as Saturn and Jupiter. Indeed all the planets are only two cents out of ten dollars when it comes to mass.
Think of it this way, if you were the Sun your undershorts would weigh more than all the planets combined.
The Sun is mostly hydrogen that's slowly being converted into helium by nuclear fusion..."slowly" meaning that 700 million tons of hydrogen are converted into 695 million tons of helium every second. The "lost" 5 million tons is converted to pure energy as described by E=mc2.
If you'd like to know more about Mr. Sun ("You can call me Sol," he says) he was interviewed back in 1987. You find the transcript here.
The U.S. annually produces about 266 million gobblers weighing in at over 7 billion pounds! That's about 17 pounds for each American, after exports. Pass the Alka Seltzer please!
Turkey consumption has increased 106% since 1970. Back then half of all the turkey consumed was on holidays, but today it's only about 30%. Turkeyburger anyone?
Water weighs 64 pounds per cubic foot and there are 27 cubic feet in one cubic yard. So a cubic yard of seawater weighs 1728 pounds. The original VW Beetle weighed only 1650 pounds!
If that seems hard to believe, consider that 1 cubic foot is almost 7.5 gallons, and a cubic yard is more than 201 gallons. Kowabunga!
The Sun's huge boiling convection cells, in the outer visible layer, called the photosphere, have a temperature of 5,500°C.
The Earth's core temperature is about 6100ºC. The inner core, under huge pressure, is solid and may be a single immense iron crystal. The outer core is liquid, and probably acts as a dynamo creating our magnetic field.
But before you get the wrong impression, keep in mind that the core of the Sun is a broiling 15,000,000ºC. That's enough to vaporize rocks in a comet that gets too close, and enough to give you a nasty burn 93,000,000 million miles away after just a few minutes exposure when you're sun bathing.
The universe was thought to be unchanging, immutable, the "was," "is," and "will be," until Edwin Hubble showed in 1929 it was expanding. Since that time a major goal of astronomy has been to measure the rate of expansion and understand why.
During the late 1990s, observations by the Supernova Cosmology Project of a certain kind of exploding stars called "type one A supernovae" found that the universe was not only expanding, but--much to everyone's surprise--it was expanding at an accelerating rate. An example of a type Ia supernova is shown below on the outskirts of galaxy NGC 4526.
Recently, a team used the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys to measure the properties of 23 distant supernovae. The results of their study just published by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore shows that the force is a fundamental and unchanging property of space itself. Einstein added such a force as a fudge factor to his general theory of relativity and called it the 'cosmological constant', but later decided it was just too weird to be true. But he was right to include it.
There's growing evidence that the source of this repulsive vacuum force is something called dark energy. This poorly understood energy represents almost 3/4 of the mass of the universe (remember, from E=mc2, energy and mass are the same thing). It's probably created by a seething mass of virtual particles that have brief existence in vacuum fluctuations. Indeed, one such quantum fluctuation may have been the spark that set off the Big Bang.
They're everywhere. Bacteria are the huddled masses of the microbial world, performing tasks that include everything from causing disease to adding nitrogen to soil.
When people think of bacteria, they likely first consider the nasty ones that cause disease, but the bacteria inside all animals including humans makes up less than one percent of the total. Scientists have found bacteria 40 miles high in the atmosphere and beneath the ocean floor some seven miles deep. But by far the greatest numbers are in subsurface rocks, soil and oceans.
How many are there? For the first time, a team of researchers from the University of Georgia has made a direct estimate of the total number of bacteria on Earth, and the number makes the globe's human population look downright puny. The group, led by microbiologist William B. Whitman, estimates the number to be five million trillion trillion - that's a five with 30 zeros after it.
The Earth weighs 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 5.9 x 1021 tons. As noted there are 5 x 1030 bacteria, and one grain of rice weighs .0006 ounces. Multiply the number of bacteria by 1/10 the weight of one grain of rice and you get 9.37500 × 1021 tons, much heavier than Earth.PB
Remember, temperature is a measure of motion. If something is hot its atoms are moving fast. Add more heat and they go faster. There's no upper limit. But there is a lower limit to cold because you can slow atoms only so far. Eventually they stop. At that point the motionless atoms are as cold as they can get. This is called absolute zero and occurs at -459 degrees Fahrenheit.
There's nothing in nature that cold. Even the likeliest candidates, objects in remote, dark corners of the universe, are warmed by heat left from the creation of the universe. This ambient energy pervades the cosmos insuring that temperatures in nature normally don't drop below 5 degrees above absolute zero.
There's only been one exception found so far. The temperature of the Boomerang Nebula, 5,000 light-years from Earth, is about 1 degree above absolute zero. It's that cold because it's in a "natural refrigerator" formed by gas outflowing from a star at its core. Expanding gas cools: it cools your freezer, and it cools this nebula.
But to get colder than about 1 degree above absolute zero we have to return to earth. Here, in labs, temperatures lower than 1/1000 degree above absolute zero have been created for over twenty years. But recently scientists took a big step when they cooled atoms down to only a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero, creating the coldest spot in the universe!
Why are they going to the trouble? Atoms that frigid have essentially no electrical resistance and can be packed together much more closely than normal. So, hoping to use these characteristics, scientists envision "cryogenic computers" with storage and processing speeds unheard of today.
Because we're terrestrial beasts, and rather self-centered, we focus on the world we're familiar with, the dry land. But the tiny Antarctic krill that whales eat, for example, are roughly twice the total biomass of humans. Phytoplankton may represent as much as 90% of the biomass in the ocean, and produce over 50% of the oxygen we need to live.
In fact, bacteria account for about 50% of Earth's biomass, while humans are only about 0.33% (less than 1 percent!), showing once again it's not all about us.
Since the electron cloud around the nucleus of an atom does not have a sharp edge, the size of an atom by itself is hard to define. But for atoms that can form solid crystal lattices, the distance between the centers of adjacent atoms can be easily determined by x-ray diffraction, which gives us an estimate of the atoms' size. Using this method we find that it would take almost 20 million hydrogen atoms to make a line as long as the dash in the word "x-ray".
Atoms of different elements vary a little in size, but not by much because heavy elements have larger positive charges on their nuclei, which more strongly attracts the electrons to the center of the atom. This contracts the size of the electron cloud, so more electrons fit into a smaller volume. Atoms of lead (atomic weight 207), for example, are about the same size as aluminum atoms (atomic weight about 27), but are about 8 times denser...which is why lead is much heavier than aluminum.
The temperature of a collection of atoms, by the way, is a measure of the motion of those atoms. As the temperature increases, the kinetic energy of the particles increases, and their speed increases. At room temperature, atoms in air move at an average speed of about 1100 mph, and undergo 5 collisions every nanosecond.
p.s. A neutron walks into a bar and asks the price of a drink. The bartender, a nucleus, replies, "For you, no charge." "Are you sure," says the electron? "I'm positive," replies the bartender.
Today, ordinary mass in the universe, the stuff we can see, is estimated to be only about 4% of everything that's out there! About 22% of the universe is apparently something called dark matter--matter that doesn't emit or reflect electromagnetic radiation. The remaining 74% is thought to be dark energy, an even stranger component of the universe.
Many lines of evidence point to so-called dark matter as the missing mass. How fast galaxies and clusters of galaxies rotate, gravitational lensing, and the temperature distribution of hot gas in galaxies and clusters of galaxies all show that the missing mass must be dark matter.
In August of 2006, dark matter was directly observed for the first time. Ordinary matter is shown in red in this landmark image of the Bullet cluster, the dark matter is shown in blue.
First we thought Earth was the center of the Universe, then we discovered the Sun is just the center of our solar system. Now we know the Milky Way galaxy is teaming with planetary systems, the Universe is comprised of hundreds of billions of galaxies, and that everything we can see is only a minuscule part of what's out there thanks to dark matter and dark energy. What's more, recent research suggests that our Universe is just one of perhaps an infinite number of Universes populating a multiverse that has existed forever and will go on forever.
The human species, like individual human beings, is slowly growing up. No longer do we have an naive self-centered view of the world. If we can let go of childish fantasies, and if we survive our adolescent behavior, we might find go on to really understand the real wonders of the universe.
Matter and energy warp the geometric fabric of space and time. What we perceive as gravity is the space-time distortion produced by energy or mass. Gravity provides a negative contribution to the energy of any pair of objects, and it becomes more negative as they get closer.
If you take a rock and carry it to the top of a cliff you expended energy when you lifted it, you gave the rock energy. When you throw the rock off the cliff gravity makes the rock fall, it looses the energy you gave it. Gravitation has a negative effect on the energy level of the rock. But you have to fall for someone for that to be true.
Because of E=mc2, negative energy is equivalent to negative mass, so the gravitation attraction between two people just standing close together reduces their mass. They weigh less than they would if they were weighed separately far apart.
Lucky for us it's on Saturn! Revealed by NASA's Cassini probe, the storm is raging at the planet's south pole. It's the first hurricane-like storm detected on another planet. The image shows that it has a hurricane's characteristic eye and wall-cloud structure; and its winds are certainly strong enough! Howling at 350 mph they exceed the winds of the strongest hurricane ever recorded by 150 mph.
Not only bigger and stronger than any Earth-based storm ever seen, it's much higher too. With a ring of clouds towering 20-45 miles above the well-developed eye, it's five times higher than the most powerful storms on Earth.
One NASA scientist said it looks like water swirling out of a bathtub, only on a colossal scale. "We've never seen anything like this before. It's a spectacular storm."
Good thing it's not on Earth or we all might be going down the drain!
Projections indicate that the Gulf of California will expand while Baja California and the California coast (including San Diego and Los Angeles) will continue northwestward toward the Aleutian Trench. As the area slides past San Francisco, it will become an island.
A study by Yuri Fialko, an associate professor at the Scripps Institute near San Diego, shows that the San Andreas fault has been stressed to a level sufficient for the next "big one", an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 or greater. It could be tomorrow or it could be 10 years or more from now. Click the image below to see a computer generated model of how it might happen.
Fialko calculated the rate at which the fault is moving and found that it's accumulated approximately six to eight meters of slip "deficit," which eventually will be released as earthquakes. If all the deficit is released in a single event, it would result in a magnitude eight earthquake, roughly the size of the 1906 earthquake that destroyed much of San Francisco.
The eruptions create huge clouds of energetic particles that can trigger magnetic storms, disrupting power grids, and satellite communications.
Much of the time, these outbursts are directed away from the Earth, but some inevitably come our way. When they do, the particles, and the magnetic fields they carry, can have highly undesirable effects. When a big storm hits and the conditions are just right, power grids and spacecraft are affected.
The particles in a CME are hazardous to astronauts; and even airline companies that fly polar routes are concerned about this because CMEs can black-out aircraft communications and irradiate crew members or passengers.
Dr Chris Davis from the UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory underlined the power of CMEs.
"The energy in a CME is typically about 10-to-the-power-of-24 joules. That is the same as a bus hitting a wall at 25mph a billion, billion times. It's 100 times the energy stored in the world's nuclear arsenal," he said.
However, this bulge at the Earth's midsection isn't constant; it shrinks and grows. Standing on Earth's surface, we can’t see the Earth's shape, much less changes in it. But using satellites researchers watched the equator grow smaller over the past 20 years or so. They believed this had been happening at least since the last ice age 18,000 years ago. Since then, as temperatures warmed and glaciers at the poles melted slowly, little by little the poles became less squashed under heavy ice. Responding to this change, molten rock moved under the Earth's crust from the equator to the poles to fill in the new space and the equator grew smaller.
More recently, however, researchers have found that the equator is again growing. Why? We haven't started a new Ice Age, squashing the poles again, so what is forcing material back to the equator? One hypothesis is that a small change in Earth's magnetic field might be responsible. Another idea is that, if glaciers are melting, they could be adding more water to the equator via ocean currents. This increased mass could bulge the equator a bit.
But these are only guesses. Whatever the reason, researches believe that the change in Earth's shape is natural and has nothing to do with human activity.
DNA is a fine, spirally coiled thread in the nucleus of every living cell that serves as a guidebook so the cells "know" what they're supposed to do. The strands are so fine you need a high power electron microscopes to see them.
The human genome, the genetic code in each human cell, contains 23 DNA molecules each containing from 500 thousand to 2.5 million nucleotide pairs. DNA molecules of this size are 1.7 to 8.5 cm long when uncoiled, or about 5 cm on average.
You have about 10 trillion cells in your body, so if you stretched the DNA in all the cells out, end to end, they'd stretch over 744 million miles. The moon is only about 250,000 miles away, so all your DNA would stretch to the moon and back alomst 1500 times. The sun is 93,000,000 miles away, so your DNA would reach there and back about 4 times!
Interestingly, no more than 1.5 percent of the human genome contains DNA that helps "build" us, that "maps for proteins" as it's called. The other 98.5 percent is junk accumulated through the evolutionary process. For example, 90 percent of yeast genes have counterparts in humans, and there are 223 genes in humans that match those in bacteria but aren't found in intermediate organisms! Apparently, these genes jumped directly from bacteria to humans, or vice versa.
The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789, but it doesn't guarantee you the right to vote. The earliest known code of justice, found in Iraq (Sumeria), dates back to about 2300 BC. Aristotle, in 350 BC, was the first to draw a distinction between law and constitutional law. But today state law is used to determine your qualification to vote, and your rights vary considerably depending on where you live.
Constitutional amendments have been made over the years to make sure certain voting rights are available to all citizens.
The 15th amendment provides that you cannot be denied the right to vote because of your race or gender. In 1960, citizens in Washington DC--which isn't a state, but at the time had a greater population than 13 of the 50 states--were allowed to vote for President. The 26th amendment gives 18-year-olds the right to vote. You can vote even if you can't afford to pay a poll tax thanks to the 24th amendment. But the Constitution never explicitly ensures your right to vote.
In fact, your right to vote can be withheld by state law as long as the law doesn't conflict with anything in the Constitution. For example, in Texas if you're mentally incompetent or a felon you can't vote.
On the other hand, states can allow persons younger than 18 to vote. In 2004 a bill that would have allowed anyone 14 or older to vote passed the California Senate Committee on Elections and Reappointment, but was never enacted.
So if you're 18 or older and not in a Texas jail, go vote today!
But you've always heard that Everest is the "King of the Mountains." So what's the deal? Here's the confusion. As you noticed when you were putting Everest down, the base of Mauna Kea is almost 4 miles under the Pacific Ocean's surface ... 19,678 feet below, to be precise.
Here's the payoff: if you add that submerged portion of Mauna Kea to the 13, 796 feet that towers above the waves Mauna Kea rises a total of 33,474 compared to Everest's 29,028 feet.
So, give Everest its due for having the peak which reaches highest above sea level, but give Mauna Kea its due for being the tallest mountain from base to summit.
Both ways of measuring mountains are legitimate. But, excuse me, if I'm 6 ft tall and standing knee-high in water I don't want people to say I'm only 4 ft tall. Let's extend Mauna Kea the same courtesy.
Cost to coast in just over an hour? Did it in 1 hour 7 minutes. New York to London in under two hours? How about 1 hour 54 minutes ... including a "stop" for air-refueling.
These performances are still remarkable today; no modern airplane can match them. What's really amazing is that they were accomplished by an airplane designed before the Vietnam War had even begun, the Beatles had just become popular and color TV was still a novelty.
The male elephant seal is best recognized by its odd trunk-like nose. Though truly a face only a mother could love, the flabby protrusion helps him to vocally assert his machismo to receptive females and challenger males. The female's big eyes and puppy-like faces are more pleasing to the eye (ours as well as those of the randy bulls), and female's are significantly smaller than males who can reach up to 16 feet in length and weigh in at over two and half tons.
During breeding season the males remain on land, without feeding, for up to 14 weeks. Throughout that time they battle, sometimes brutally, to defend their harem from other suiters. By the time they return to the water, they've shed up to one third of their body weight.
Elephant seals more typically feed at 1,000 to 2,000 feet, but their unique deep-diving ability allows them to feed on the fat-rich fish that dwell in the lower ocean if they need to. When they're hungry they can spend 24 hours a day repeatedly diving to 5,000 feet, surfacing for only a few minutes, and diving again.
Scientists are just beginning to understand how elephant seals manage their deep excursions. As they descend, their lungs collapse and oxygen is transferred to the spleen for storage. From there it's routed to the animal's muscles, heart and brain. During their deep dives they dramatically reduce their metabolic rate, and are believed to even enter a sleep-like state.
Imagine waking from a nap and staring into the tentacles of a giant squid? Cause for second thoughts when a midnight snack beckons, no?
Not really, in the U.S. alone it averages once each second!
There’s a network of antennas that detects and counts each lightning flash in the U.S.. Over the years it's counted an annual average of 25,000,000 cloud to ground flashes. Because the average flash strikes the ground more than once, there are about 30,00,000 strikes a year, or about one per second.
There are regional differences with some regions experiencing much higher occurrence. Florida is the U.S. "Lightning Champ."
Worldwide, there are 16,000,000 thunderstorms a year, with about 1,800 going on at any moment. Lightning bolts reach 50,000 degrees and their normal length is five miles, but one monster was measured at over 100 miles. Be aware that when the "flash to bang" interval is five seconds the lightning is only one mile away and you are well withing range of a 100,000,000 volt "tickle", so it’s a good time to get indoors.
Really! Here's why.
First, Mercury's year, the time it takes to make one trip around the Sun, is short. As the great astronomer Johannes Kepler explained almost 500 years ago, the closer a planet is to the Sun the faster it revolves around it. So Mercury, the closest planet, has the shortest year, only 88 days compared to our 365 days.
The other part of the explanation is the surprising length of Mercury’s day. As you know, a planet's day is the time it takes to rotate once with respect to the Sun; the time between one noon and the next. The tidal pull of the nearby Sun is so strong it has slowed Mercury’s rotation to a snail’s pace--slow enough that a day on Mercury is 176 Earth-days long, twice as long as its year of 88 days! Doing a little arithmetic, we divide Mercury's day (176) by its year (88) and confirm that, voilà, during one of its leisurely days Mercury would zip around the Sun twice ... two years.
How far is a billion miles? Imagine you're traveling 1 mile a second (3600 MPH), faster than the speed of the fastest aircraft, the Lockheed SR-71. Now start counting off the miles. "One, two, three...." If you travel (and count) all day and all night it will take you about 14 days to reach Saturn 1,300,000 miles away in this image. Keep counting, keep traveling, and in 30 years you'll finally make it home to Earth, a billion miles from where this picture was taken.
Still, even today, some people think of the rays of sunlight in a sunset as "Gods' blessing." But if that's true, which of the 113 sun gods is making it happen?
Because I grew up in Guatemala I like the idea that the Quiché Indian's (Mayan) god Ahau-Kin ("lord of the sun face") is at work. Akin to the Christian 3-in-1 Trinity, he was four gods in one: the sun god, moon god, a jaguar god, and lord of the underworld (not hell, but the center of creation where you go when you die and are reborn).
I also lived in Japan, though, and Amaterasu is a sun goddess, and perhaps the most important Shinto deity. She became the ruler of the Higher Celestial Plane (Takamagahara) and is also considered to be directly linked in lineage to the Imperial Household of Japan and the Emperor, who were considered Descendants of the Kami themselves. The Pope of the Roman Catholic church claims a similar link to the Christian god through St. Peter and Jesus.
Before we had a clear understanding of the world around us, we explained things that seem to move in the sky and related phenomena by believing they were mystical gods. Now sunsets, in a very real way, are even more beautiful because we know what makes the sun shine, how sunlight is affected by moisture in clouds, and how the atmosphere absorbs sunlight to make the warm and beautiful colors we all enjoy.