Category Archives: Fun Facts

How Do Birds Synchronize Their Movements?

Something else you might have wondered about in your spare time — how do large flocks of birds seem to move in perfect synchronization? Are they following a leader?  No, the reaction time would simply be too short.  The best explanation is what scientists call a “maneuver wave.”  Wayne Potts, a zoologist who published in

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R.I.P. — Spider Number 16

Something I heard on the radio today — the world’s oldest spider’s death has been announced.  The exact date is unknown, but it was sometime in 2016.  Known to science as Number 16, this female trapdoor tarantula somehow lived an incredible 43 years.  Its home was in Western Australia’s Central Wheatbelt region and it should’ve

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The Secret History of Play-Doh

If you grew up with Play-Doh, you might be surprised to learn about its original purpose — it was invented as a wallpaper cleaner. In an earlier time, coal was the preferred home-heating method.  But burning coal produces soot, which sticks to wallpaper.  So Kroger was looking for a product that would clean wallpaper.   In

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Happy Birthday — Traffic Lights

Can you imagine a time when there were no traffic lights?  They really weren’t needed until the appearance of automobiles.  Roads were crammed with horse-drawn carriages, trolleys, bicycles, and pedestrians, and suddenly you had a vehicle that could go 40 miles an hour. According to an article in the May 2018 issue of Smithsonian magazine,

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Our Surprising Solar System

What do you really know about our galactic neighborhood?  An article entitled “10 surprises about our solar system” by Larry Sessions on the EarthSky website lists some thing you probably haven’t realized.  For instance, The hottest planet isn’t the closest one to the sun.  Mercury is closest, of course.  But the hottest planet is actually

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How Much of You is Human?

This was a surprise to me — in an article entitled “More than half your body is not human,”  James Gallagher writes that there is a “hidden half” to all of us.  It’s our microbiome, and it makes up 57% of our total cell count.  In other words, only 43% of our body’s cells are

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Communicating From The Other Side

How would you like to wish your grandchild a happy 50th birthday?  Not in person, of course, but by email? There is a way.  Go to the website FutureMe: Write a Letter to the Future and start composing (https://www.futureme.org/).  You can send a letter to yourself, to be delivered in one, three, or five years,

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Celebrating Failure

“Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure.” — William Saroyan Nobody likes failure.  Yet we learn so much more from our failures than our successes.  Failure is what shows the path forward.  I remember a Japanese businessman saying a failed part is a wonderful opportunity to make a product better. I

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Why Rainbows Are Curved

Something you may not have thought about recently — why are rainbows curved?  I’ve never considered this until I saw an explanation on the EarthSky website (http://earthsky.org/earth/what-gives-rainbows-their-curved-shape?). This explanation does get a bit into physics.  First, some basics — recall you can see rainbows when the sun is behind you and rain falls in front

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