Category Archives: Fun Facts

Update — Dihydrogen Monoxide

Earlier I had written about the dangerous chemical dihydrogen monoxide, which is actually a hoax to embarrass people about their ignorance of science — dihydrogen monoxide is  the chemical name for water.  (Do you remember from high school chemistry that di is two and mono is one?  Thus two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom

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Pitfalls of Contemporary Collectibles

I used to work for a publishing company, Tomart Corporation (www.tomart.com), that specialized in books and magazines on  “contemporary collectibles”  — items from the past 50 or so years.  If that sounds different to you, you’re not alone.  When most people think of collectibles, they think of antiques, coins, stamps, and other traditional categories.  But

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Do You Want a Telescope?

I have always been fascinated by astronomy.  I had a modest telescope in high school, but all I could find in it was the Moon. As an adult, I tried again, buying a simple instrument for about $100.  I think I saw Venus this time.  I’ve investigated the more expensive telescopes that find celestial bodies

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Buying Manhattan

It’s a common story in history —  how the Indians sold Manhattan island for a few dollars worth of trinkets. As a history nerd who has done some traveling, I know that history is never as simple as recounted in standard history books.  Therefore, a segment of the May 24, 2015 edition of The Writer’s

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Who Was James Smithson?

You have heard of the Smithsonian Institution?  The man who provided the money for this famous organization was one James Smithson. He is described on page 4 of the June 2014 issue of Smithsonian magazine —   He studied coffeemaking, human tears and snake venom, and published 27 scientific papers.  His brain, a friend said, was “fruitful

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Are You More Attentive Than a Goldfish?

Time magazine is reporting that according to a recent Microsoft study, our average attention spans are now down to about eight seconds.  This actually puts us as less attentive than goldfish, whose attention spans average about nine seconds. Time reports that Canadian researchers surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using

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What is Agritopia?

I ran across an interesting article in the May 2015 issue of Smithsonian magazine.  Entitled “Welcome to Farmtopia”, it describes an agricultural movement that calls itself agritopia. Several of these developments have popped up across the country. The website agritopia.com describes one such community in the Phoenix area as “…something of a modern day village

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A Simple Test For Eye Cancer

I found out about this by accident. Another teacher happened to mention today that there is a YouTube video with some important information about eye cancer.  A mother took a flash picture of her toddler.  One eye had the familiar red reflection in the pupil (“redeye”), but the other eye reflected white.  Shortly thereafter, she

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Happy Birthday to the Postage Stamp!

From the May 1st edition of The Writer’s Almanac  — “On this date [May 1st] in 1840, the first official adhesive postage stamp was issued in Great Britain. Up until the late 1830s, the recipient of the letter was supposed to pay upon delivery. Rates were inconsistent: postage was calculated based on number of sheets of paper, and the distance

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The Lighter Side of Science

I know there are some people who simply don’t trust science.  And there are times when mistrust is warranted.  Remember cold fusion?  Of course, there have also been outlandish-sounding theories that have turned out to be correct, like continental drift.  That’s why there is the scientific method and research needs to be replicated multiple times

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