The octopus: 11 freaky facts

Easily the most bizarre creature in the sea, the humble octopus is a cephalopod of many talents, with DNA like that of no other animal (described by one scientist as looking as though it had been rearranged in a blender). An octopus also holds the record for longest brood period of any creature, with one octo-mum tending her eggs for 4.5 years! Facts suggest there to be 289 recognised species of octopus, and all species have distinct characteristics, from the giant octopus, which can grow up to 9 metres across, to the Wolfi, the world’s smallest octopus, which measures only 1.5 centimetres and weighs less than a gram.
Here are 11 reasons why they are one of the ocean’s weirdest:

1. Octopuses have 3 hearts
They have 2 small hearts located close to each of their gills that enrich the blood with oxygen before transferring it to 1 larger heart, which then pumps it around the rest of the body.

2. Octopus blood is blue
Unlike our red, iron-based blood, octopus’ blood is blue because it is copper based, and more efficient at transferring oxygen around the body in the cold.

3. They have no skeleton
Meaning octopods are able to slip in and out of tiny holes no bigger than the neck of a beer bottle.

4. Octopuses love their gardens
Some octopuses will collect attractive things, and build their own unique garden around their lairs. It could be a fortress to defend, a way of attracting mates or pray, or just because it looks good.

5. They are quite the performers
To attract a female, the male will flash intricate skin displays. Males will normally die soon after mating while female octopuses will selflessly tend their eggs, and succumb to an in-built self-destruct mechanism that kicks in once the young have hatched.

6. They have a toxic weapon
They disorientate predators with dark, toxic ink that reduces visibility, interferes with the sense of smell and taste, and irritates the eyes.

7. A short life-span
Octopuses typically only live from one to five years.

8. Freakishly intelligent

Octopuses have the largest brain of any invertebrate, and 2/3 of all their neurons are actually in their tentacles. As a result they are excellent problem solvers, can learn to navigate mazes, unscrew jars, and use “tools”.

9. They have been around for a long time
The oldest-known octopus fossil is 296 million years old!

10. They are stronger than they look
Pacific octopus suckers are so strong that each one can lift a weight of almost 16 kg! The average octopus has eight arms with 240 suckers per arm. That’s about 1,920 suckers in total.

11. Masters of disguise
In a fraction of a second, octopuses can change the colour and texture of their skin to blend perfectly with their surroundings.


Reposted from: /12/06/octopus-freaky-facts/

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e=mc2? Big Deal…. We Want to Know About His Report Card

Albert Einstein's 1879 report card
Albert Einstein’s 1896 report card

An often-repeated legend tells of Albert Einstein struggling so hard with math and physics that he failed his college entrance exams. In reality, Einstein excelled in both subjects. One possible reason for this urban legend is the fact that Einstein’s school changed its grading system part-way through his tenure as a student. Where a “1” had previously been considered the top score (the equivalent of an “A”), the new system reversed that, making “6” the new top mark.

While it is true that Einstein did poorly on his entrance exams to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, it was due to the fact that he was a 15-year-old dropout who did not have a high school diploma. Because of gaps in his formal education, he did not have knowledge of French language, chemistry, or biology. His exceptionally-high scores in mathematics and physics, however, caused the university to grant a waiver and admit him as a student, on the condition that he quickly take steps to address the deficiencies in the other subjects.


Take Some Mummy Powder, A Few Drops of Gladiator Blood, and Call Me in the Morning

snake oil

Mellified Man: Take one male volunteer aged 70 or 80, and bathe him and feed him with nothing but honey. Upon his death (usually within a month), seal him in a coffin filled with honey. Age for 100 years, then break the seals. The recipe for mellified man, a confection could allegedly treat broken and wounded limbs, appears in Chinese naturalist Li Shih-chen’s compendium, Chinese Materia Medica, published in 1597. Although Li heard rumors of mellified men being prepared in Arabia, he was not able to confirm the veracity of these reports, which is a shame since mellified man sounds like a much more palatable treat than plain old mummy powder.

Mummy Powder: From the 12th through the 17th century, any European apothecary worth his smelling salts kept a supply of mummy powder on hand. Mummy was the health food of the Middle Ages, guaranteed to cure everything from headaches to stomach ulcers, and plasters made from mummy powder were often slathered over tumors. Humans weren’t the only beings alleged to benefit from mummy; sick hawks were thought to benefit from their own grade of mummy powder. The demand for mummified far outweighed the supply; one couldn’t just walk up to a pyramid-shaped rock and start digging. One could, however, dig up some dead and desiccated bodies, grind them down, and sell them as “mummy powder.” It’s doubtful anyone ever noticed the difference.

The King’s Drops: This concoction, made from essence of powdered human skull, was made popular thanks to a royal endorsement. Charles II of England, who became very interested in chemistry during his exile in France, purchased the rights to the remedy for £6,000 from Jonathan Goddard, a famous surgeon and professor at London’s Gresham College. Formerly “Goddard’s Drops,” this panacea became known as the “King’s Drops,” and Charles II manufactured and sold it himself. While skull was a key ingredient in this draught supposed to promote health and vigor, the presence of opium probably helped its heady effects along. Plenty of other physicians developed skull-based medications, including Sir Kenelm Digby, who treated epileptics with the skull of a man who had died a violent death, and Thomas Willis, who thought a little chocolate mixed with human skull was the best cure for apoplexy.

Gladiator Blood and Liver: Between the first and the sixth century a single theological and several medical authors reported on the consumption of gladiator’s blood or liver to cure epileptics. The origins of the sacred properties of blood of a slain gladiator likely lie in Etruscan funeral rites. Although the influence of this religious background faded during the Roman Republic, the magical use of gladiators’ blood continued for centuries. After the prohibition of gladiatorial combat in about 400 AD, an executed individual (particularly beheaded ones) became the “legitimate” successor to the gladiator. Occasional indications in early modern textbooks on medicine as well as reports in the popular literature of the 19th and early 20th century document the existence of this ancient magical practice until modern times. Spontaneous recovery of some forms of epilepsy may be responsible for the illusion of therapeutic effectiveness and for the confirming statements by physicians who have commented on this cure.

Human Fat Ointments: For sufferers of joint and bone pain, muscle cramps, and nerve damage, salves of extruded human fat, often mixed with animal fat, blood, marrow, and beer, were recommended. In some regions of Europe, executed criminals and slain enemies combatants would be brought to processing labs, where their corpses would be boiled and their fat rendered. Hangmen in the Netherlands sometimes held the job of surgeon-executioner, tightening a man’s noose one day and selling ointments made from his corpse the next. An article in the October 1922 issue of the American Journal of Pharmacy claimed that “Hangman’s Salve,” also known as “Poor Sinner’s Fat,” was still in vogue among the Dutch to treat dislocations and lameness. However, given that the Netherlands had outlawed capital punishment 70 years earlier, it was unlikely that these “human salves” were the genuine article.

First Make People Laugh; Then Make Them Think

Ig Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention (a brassiere that can quickly convert into a pair of protective face masks) assisted by Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right). Photo credit: Alexey Eliseev, 2009 Ig Nobel Ceremony
Ig Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention (a brassiere that can quickly convert into a pair of protective face masks) assisted by Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right). Photo credit: Alexey Eliseev, 2009 Ig Nobel Ceremony

The “Ig Nobel Prizes” are a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year for achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think”. They are presented by a group that includes genuine Nobel Laureates. Those who receive the award get the opportunity in a ceremony to explain their achievements. If the explanation goes too long or becomes too complicated, the voice of a little girl named Miss Sweety Poo will cry out, “Please stop! I’m bored” in a high pitched voice.

Recent Ig Nobel Laureates include:

  • In Public Health: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
  • In Physics: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, of Japan, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.
  • In Medicine: Brian Witcombe from Gloucester, for his research on “Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects” and his findings that side effects include “sore throats”;
  • In Neuroscience: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, from China and Canada, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.
  • In Linguistics: Juan Manuel Toro, Josp B Tobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles of the University of Barcelona, for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards;
  • In Nutrition: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga, of Spain, for their study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.”
  • In Peace: Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, for its research on a gay bomb which could cause enemy soldiers to become irresistible to one another and lose the will to fight. The Laboratory spent $7.5 million in the U.S. for this research.


Making Every Second Count


For those who endeavor to be as precise as possible, it should be noted that if you are referring to the unit of time known as a second, you are talking about “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom,” according to the General Conference on Weights and Measurements.


Genetics to Blame for a Famous Feud?

The Hatfield Clan in 1897
The Hatfield Clan in 1897

A rare medical condition may be partly to blame for the violent feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

The feud is the most-celebrated rivalry between two families. Between the years 1863 and 1891 violence between the two families resulted in at least a dozen deaths and many judicial proceedings, including a ruling by the US Supreme Court.

In a 2007 study, a team of doctors and geneticists who had studied dozens of McCoy descendants noted an unusually high rate of Von Hippel-Lindau disease. This rare, genetic condition triggers an increase in the “fight or flight” hormones, resulting in marked increase in aggressive tendencies. Researchers speculate that the disease may be partly responsible for the longevity of the feud and its persistent escalations.


Singular Facts About Singularities

The regions around supermassive black holes shine brightly in X-rays. Some of this radiation comes from a surrounding disk, and most comes from the corona, pictured here as the white light at the base of a jet. This is one possible configuration for a corona -- its actual shape is unclear.
The regions around supermassive black holes shine brightly in X-rays. Some of this radiation comes from a surrounding disk, and most comes from the corona, pictured here as the white light at the base of a jet. This is one possible configuration for a corona — its actual shape is unclear.

Black holes — also known as “singularities” — can be big or small. Scientists think the smallest black holes are as small as just one atom. These black holes are very tiny but have the mass of a large mountain. Mass is the amount of matter, or “stuff,” in an object.

Another kind of black hole is called “stellar.” Its mass can be up to 20 times more than the mass of the sun. There may be many, many stellar mass black holes in Earth’s galaxy. Earth’s galaxy is called the Milky Way.

The largest black holes are called “supermassive.” These black holes have masses that are more than 1 million suns together. Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center. The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy is called Sagittarius A. It has a mass equal to about 4 million suns and would fit inside a very large ball that could hold a few million Earths.