Tag Archives: water

165. The Pitch Drop Experiment

Pitch is a very tough substance, used to waterproof boats and traditional burning torches. At room temperature you can shatter it with a hammer. The black substance, so dark that it is the source of the term ‘pitch-black’, seemed to be a solid at room temperature; Professor Thomas Parnell disagreed, and set up one of the longest science experiments ever, to prove his point. This became known a the ‘Pitch Drop Experiment.’

The preparation itself took years, in 1927 he prepared a sample in a sealed funnel, then heated it. Three years later it had cooled and settled down. In 1930 the bottom of the funnel was cut, giving the pitch free sway to plummet downwards under the effects of gravity. So began one of the slowest drips the world has ever witnessed. Each drop takes between eight and nine years to form, but form and fall they did. Professor Thomas Parnell only ever lived past two drops of pitch before his death in 1948. The experiment continued without him.

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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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155. AC/DC Sharks

RRROOOOOOCCKKK!!What is the best way to lure a great white shark? The typical response was ‘chum’ – essentially chopped up fish. It turns out the answer may be hard rock classics, such as those from AC/DC. The most effective song is the aptly named – ‘If You Want Blood’.

The use of sound is not totally new, it has been known for a long time that certain sounds can drive off sharks and other animals: in fact sonar from ships is so painful for animals that it is a big factor in causing the beaching of whales. What wasn’t known extensively until now was which sounds were liked by animals.It turns out that, after extensive trial and error, lower frequencies preferred by great white sharks. In particular AC/DC is their favourite, fitting in with their aggressive reputations.

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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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153. Holes in the Ocean

In the shallow blue waters of the Bahamas, Belize and others people often remark upon the brightness of the water; lit by the light reflecting off of the white sand beneath. However one can find deviations from the shallow norm, underwater pits where the land drops away. Circular anomalies which suddenly drill deep down, these deeper spaces filled with darker, and decidedly chillier water. This is a ‘Blue Hole.’

Their entrances can be anything from 25 metres to 300 metres across; their darkness is a result of the depths absorbing the light. These peculiarities of the ocean reach up to, or rather down 202 metres, a lengthy vertical cave. The depth and narrowness of these vertical caves also limits their flow. At the base of the blue holes the water has lost all oxygen, making it inhospitable to anything more complex than bacteria.

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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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142. Sealand, The Unofficial Prinicipality

The Principality of Sealand is an odd case, it is an old World War II floating fort 10km off the coast of Suffolk, England. In 1956 the fort was abandoned, then in 1967 Major Paddy Roy Bates, along with his family and some associates occupied the fort, claiming it to be a new and separate principality. The Principality Of Sealand. Originally it was set up for the British Mr Bates to broadcast his pirate radio station. However it soon became more.

He crowned himself king. In 1968 some British workmen came to service a navigational buoy nearby. Paddy Bates claimed the waters to be part of his territory and his son Michal Bates, shot a rifle to scare them off. Then they went to court on firearms charges. The case could not proceed. A that time anything within 5km of the shore was part of the United Kingdom, and the fort fell just outside of that jurisdiction. It was in international waters and exempt from the rules. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on June 11, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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127. Can You Drown In The Dead Sea?

‘It is impossible to drown in the Dead Sea’, ‘No-one has ever drowned in the Dead Sea’ These are the words spoken by tens of thousands of people. Even ABC News, a fairly large news network in American, has published an article talking about the salty bowl of water. How cool, the perfect bathing spot. Well it would be, were it not for that they are all wrong. At best they not thinking about every type of drowning. Although that still makes them wrong.

This misconception arises from the fact that the Dead Sea is one of the most bizarre lakes (yes, LAKE) in the world. It is also the deepest hypersaline (salty) lake in the world. 420m below sea level. As well as being low, lying on the Jordan-Israel border it is also salty to a near excessive degree. Around 9 times as salty as the oceans of the world. The whole lake is 33.7% salt. This does of course, have side-effect.

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124. Power of The Storm

Hulking storms which dwarf countries. Humongous towering low pressure systems which regularly cause billions of dollars of damage. Hurricanes, how do they do it. The answer is energy. They produce energy on scales barely conceivable.

These structures are greater in size than many countries and are powered by the largest accessible energy reserve on the planet. The warm oceans over which they swirl, siphoning up every last bit of energy. The energy makes them fest, the gorge themselves on it and swell with every moment. However nothing can hold such energy.

So they emit it. In terms of heat and kinetic energy.

Hurricanes emit between 50 and 200 exajoules a day, or 1 Petawatt of power. That is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 Joules of power. To provide some scale, it is 200 times the electricity generating capacity of the world, and 70 times the rate at which all humans combined on earth use energy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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121. George Merryweather’s Tempest Prognosticator

The 19th Century was the true birth of weather in Europe. People now were acknowledging the importance of knowing what might happen with the weather, so devices were designed. One of the most effective and bizarre was the grandly named ‘Tempest Prognosticator’ designed and tested by George Merryweather during 1850.

It was a grand construction, consisting of twelve pint bottles arranged in a circle around the centrepiece, like some bizarre Merry-Go-Round. Out of their tops came a small chain, which fed up through a pulley and each continued towards its own respective, miniature hammer. Between all the hammers was a bell. This bizarre contraption was powered by a not common source of weather knowledge, the Leech. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 21, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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