Posted by: ktzefr | November 11, 2011

10 facts I know today that I didn’t know yesterday

Sun on the last dogwood leaves...

1)  The Arctic tern makes the longest migration of any animal in the world.  This four-ounce bird travels nearly pole to pole, averaging 44,000 miles in ten months.  For a bird that can live 30 years or more, that means 1.5 million miles in a lifetime, the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back.

2)  Orchids on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean are pollinated by nocturnal crickets.  This discovery is the first time an insect from the cricket order has been identified as a pollinator.  The raspy cricket’s head is just the right size to reach into the flower’s nectar spur.

3)  Cane toads in South America inflate their bodies to intimidate predators.  Female toads also do this when they don’t like the first male that tries to mate with them.  Popular females have to be concerned about the risk of drowning if too many males latch on at once.

4)  A tropical hurricane can release in twenty-four hours as much energy as a rich, medium-sized nation like Britain or France uses in a year.

5)  Nature — mostly through the belchings of volcanoes and the decay of plants — sends about 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, nearly thirty times as much as we do with our cars and factories.

6)  There is enough salt in the sea to bury every bit of land on the planet to a depth of about five hundred feet.

7)  Tropical rain forests cover only about 6 percent of Earth’s surface, but harbor more than half of its animal life and about two-thirds of its flowering plants.  Nearly a quarter of all prescribed medicines are derived from just forty plants, with another 16 percent coming from animals or microbes.  Still, at least 99 percent of flowering plants have never been tested for their medicinal properties.  With every acre of forest felled we lose medically vital possibilities.

8)  The pen-tailed tree shrew of Malaysia is the only animal, other than humans, known to regularly consume alcohol.  They love to imbibe the naturally fermented bertam palm flower nectar, which is up to 3.8 percent alcohol.  Researchers, however, have seen no signs of inebriation (motor incoordination, etc.) in the “drunken” animals.

9)  Before TV came on the scene, presidential candidates relied on songs for negative advertising, i.e. musical mudslinging.  Consider the 1889 tune in support of Benjamin Harrison: “Ben’s a man who bravely went for his native land to shoot/Whereas Grover Cleveland skulked behind the nearest substitute.”  And you thought dirty politics was new?

10)  Each strand of DNA is on average attacked or damaged once every 8.4 seconds — ten thousand times in a day — by chemicals and other agents that whack into or slice through it, and each of these wounds must be swiftly stitched up if the cell is not to perish.  (If you could blow up a cell so that an atom would be as big as a pea and then climb inside, what would it be like?  Millions upon millions of objects — some the size of basketballs, others the size of cars — would constantly whiz about like bullets and there would be no place to hide.)

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The above facts come from these sources:

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Smithsonian magazine, October 2008 and March 2010

Click here to listen to Musical Mudslinging (Presidential Campaign Songs) from Smithsonian Folkways

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