Misc Musings

You Can’t Smell Gas

gas_flame

Natural Gas is odorless. It is comprised mainly of methane which does not smell, however when you turn on the gas on your stove it gives off a very strong stench!

This is because of a chemical known as Mercaptan (also known as Thiol). This is added to Natural gas in order to make it smell! It is a harmless gas which is a waste product of normal metabolism and is found naturally in living organisms.

The chemical features very few useful qualities, bar one, it gives off an incredibly pungent smell. Even in the smallest quantities the human nose can still detect it. It is the world’s smelliest substance and is unbearable in its concentrated form.

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Animals

Why are Flamingos Pink?

FlamingosFlamingos are one of the most iconic creatures in the animal kingdom, easily identified by their bright pink plumage. However when Flamingos were first brought to zoos from the wild, the keepers were dismayed to find they lost their bright pink colour and turned a grey/white shade.

It turns out the secret to the flamingo’s pink feathers comes from their diet. In the wild flamingos eat algae and invertebrates that contain things called carotenoids. Carotenoids contain pigments which dissolve in the flamingos fats and are then deposited in the growing feathers of the flamingo giving them their colour. If this is removed from the diet of the flamingo then the colour will be lost and feathers come through as their natural grey colour.

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Animals Planet Earth

The Misinformed Mongoose Invasion of Hawaii

145359In Hawaii in the 1800’s the sugar industry was facing problems from the growing rat population which was eating through their sugar plantations and costing them a lot of money. In order to try and control the rat population, a predator was introduced to the islands, in 1833 Mongooses, which are originally native to India, were let loose in the fields of Hawaii to end the rat threat to the agriculture.

However this decision seemed to be incredibly misinformed, rats are a nocturnal animal which means they are only active at night and spend the days hidden away in nests, however the Mongoose is diurnal, which means they only hunt in the daytime and nest at night so the two animals would never encounter each other!

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Misc Musings Planet Earth

The Smouldering Ghost Town of Centralia

centralia-45Founded in 1862 the mining town of Centralia in Pennsylvania was created due to the demand for coal as a primary fuel source, throughout the 19th and 20th Century a mass web of mines, tunnels and underground gangways were constructed to get at the coal resources deep under ground. It is estimated that 95% of Anthracite coal (a very high energy form of coal) is located underneath Pennsylvania and there was an estimated 25 million tons of it under the town of Centralia.

However during the mid 20th century the demand for coal reduced in favour of other fuels such as gas and oil and the vast web of mines underneath the town of Centralia were eventually abandoned.

On the 27th May 1962 the mine shafts under Centralia caught fire, it is still debated how the fire initially caught ablaze but the main assumption is that a fire was purposely ignited in an attempt to clear up a rubbish tip, beneath this rubbish tip was a hidden mineshaft entrance where the fire began to slowly wind its way through the labyrinth of underground mines beneath the town.

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History

Why do we have Christmas trees?

treeresizedThe roots of why we put up trees in our living room and decorate them with trimmings stems from old pagan rituals and not from Christianity. German pagans used to decorate their houses with evergreen conifer tree branches during the winter solstice to remind them of the Spring to come.

The Ancient Romans also used to decorate their temples during the winter solstice at the festival of Saturnalia (the Roman predecessor to Christmas) with branches of fir trees. As they have green needles all year round, evergreen trees were used in multiple old religions around the world to symbolise eternal life including ancient Egyptians, the Chinese and Hebrews.

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Food

The Worlds Only Cornish Pasty Museum is in Mexico

Cornish-pasty-007In the Mexican mountain town of Real De Monte, over 4500 miles away from Cornwall and the home of the Cornish pasty, exists the worlds only museum dedicated to the savoury snack.

The Cornish pasty came to Mexico in in 1824 when miners and their families from Cornwall came across to assist with the local silver mining industry. When they moved across they not only brought their mining expertise and equipment but also brought their keen taste for pasties and the knowledge of how to make them, which caught on quickly with the local community. Cornish wives would teach their maids how to create the pasties who in turn made their own for their own family.

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Animals Planet Earth

What is The Schmidt Sting Pain Index?

Angry-HornetIt is called the Schmidt Pain Index and is the work of Justin O. Schmidt, who has been stung by 78 types of venomous insect and documented his experiences.

The stings are ranked from 0, which is quite harmless, to a 4 which is excruciatingly painful. Alongside the numerical rating of the stings, Schmidt also writes a sentence or two about his experience, for example the Bullet Ant, rated the highest on the scale, features the following sentence: “Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel.”

The Bullet Ant is rated highest on the pain index, as it is not only excruciatingly painful but the pain can remain just as intense for up to 5 hours after being stung and can remain for up to 24 hours.

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Misc Musings

China Have a National Song for Going Home

Kenny GChina has adopted a jazz song from 1989 as its national anthem for going home. “Going Home” by American saxophone star Kenny G is played all over China as the cue for the time to go home. The song is played in shopping malls, schools, train stations, gyms and library’s as well as many other places across the country.

However the composer of the song, Kenny G, doesn’t receive a penny for the widespread use of his song in China. He doesn’t understand or question the popularity of the song, when touring in China in the 1990’s he heard the song playing in Tiananmen Square, in Shanghai, on a golf course and “in a restroom in the middle of nowhere,”. He has since performed in China many times and always has to make sure he plays “Going Home” last in his set to make sure people don’t accidentally leave early.

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Misc Musings

Certain Skyscrapers have Massive Concrete Stones on the Top Floor to Stop them Swaying

Taipei 101 - Tuned Mass Damper
They are called tuned mass-dampers and are used in engineering all over the world. A mass-damper consists of a huge concrete block or steel body that is suspended on the top floor of very large skyscrapers which can weigh over 1000 tons depending on the size of the building. In the event of movement of the building the pendulum moves in the opposite direction, usually on hydraulics or springs which counteracts the initial movement so the building doesn’t sway from side to side, this prevents the people inside from receiving motion sickness and a crippling fear of skyscrapers.

The movement of the building can be caused by various effects, one of the major contributors is wind. Some of the larger skyscrapers in the world can reach over 2000 feet into the sky and up there the wind currents can be much stronger. The strong currents can push the building, the mass-damper comes into play here and pushes back against the wind causing the building to remain stable so no one inside will notice the change.

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Food History

The War between Margarine and Butter

Butter-SpreadMost houses today have a tub of margarine in the fridge, but what is margarine, where does it come from and how is it different to butter?

Butter is created from cream which rises to the top of milk when it sits for a period of time, this is usually gathered from cows. Through the process of churning the cream, a chemical reaction takes place which makes the cream begin to solidify and turn into butter. This process has been around for over 4000 years.

Margarine came along around 150 years ago, Napoleon III wanted a cheap butter substitute to supply to his troops and to provide to the poorer population in France. Hippolyte Mége Mouriès patented a lower priced form of butter in 1869, it was made primarily from from beef tallow (fat from cows). He named the new substance margarine from the Greek margarite meaning “pearl like” after its white, pearlescent look.

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