Misc Musings Planet Earth

You Would Not Sink in Lava

Golum in LavaContrary to what you might have seen in movies, if you jumped into lava you would not sink. Lava is nothing like water. Lava is a term used for molten rock on the surface of the earth and is incredibly dense, over 3 times the density of water.

Water has a density of 1000 kg/m3 and Lava has a density of 3100 kg/m3

Humans have a density of around 1010 kg/m3 which is very similar to water and this is the reason that we can float and not sink in water. However lava has a density much higher than our own so we would not sink or float, we would be stuck on the surface.

Continue Reading
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.

Continue Reading


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!

Continue Reading
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.

Continue Reading
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.

Continue Reading
Animals

There is a Species of Ant that has a Door for a Head

Door Head AntAnts are one of the oldest species of insect on Earth and inhabit almost every landmass today. It is an interesting fact that the total biomass of all the ants on the earth is roughly equal to the biomass of all the humans, how can this be when they are so tiny? Simple, there are around 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human and over 12,000 different species, for every single acre of land in the rainforest there are estimated to be 3.5 million ants.

One of the more interesting species of ant are the Cephalotes ants, more fondly known as the door-headed ants. These ants make their nests in holes in trees formed by wood boring beetles, however there are other ants and insects that also want to live inside these nests or even eat the ants, that’s why they need a door to keep other nosy insects out. The ants don’t use a block of wood like we do, they use their own heads.

Continue Reading
Animals

There is a Species of Jellyfish that is Biologically Immortal

JellyfishJellyfish are very bizarre, they have no eyes, no heart, no brain and are very simple organisms. They are similar to bacteria in that they do not “think” but more react to stimuli in order to escape or feed. In nature, there is one Jellyfish that is weirder than all the rest and that is called  Turritopsis Dohrnii or more commonly dubbed “The Immortal Jellyfish”.

Whilst the Jellyfish itself may be quite a simple organism, its life cycle is not. In the development of a full adult jellyfish, the organism goes through several very distinct and different phases in its life. The Jellyfish life starts, as with ours, with a sperm and an egg, once the egg has been fertilized and has developed, the jellyfish hatch as Planula Larva and swim out on their own. These are tiny oval shaped organisms with small hairs called cilia which help propel them through the water. This stage of life is fairly short-lived and after a few days the Planula Larva drops to the bottom of the ocean floor and attaches itself to the rock and transforms
into what is called a Polyp.

Continue Reading
Planet Earth

Some Plants Use Wasps as Their Own Personal Bodyguards

venus-fly-trapWe don’t often allocate intelligence to plant life, and the majority believe that they just sit in one spot and get on with growing and they have no methods to defend themselves against anything that might want to eat them. However this isn’t true, many different plants have various methods of self-defence and interesting techniques to stop being devoured, with some of them being rather clever.

Many plants have direct defences to combat insects and animals that might want to eat them, for example some plants, such as roses, grow thorns or prickles. These thorns are very sharp and act as the “teeth” of the plant to ward off predators. A hungry herbivore won’t want to eat them if they are going to get hurt in the process!

Continue Reading
Animals History

The Canary Islands Were Not Named After Birds

Canary (Serinus canaria)The Spanish name Islas Canarias (Canary Islands) is derived from the Latin Canariae Insulae which translates to “Isle of Dogs”. The Romans sent an expedition to the islands in 40 BC under the command of King Juba II of Mauritania in Western Africa and upon arriving at the first island (which is now known as Gran Canaria) they discovered the land to be overrun by packs of large wild dogs. These dogs were presented to King Juba and he decided to name the islands “The Islands of Dogs”, a name which has been kept to this day.

Canaries, the small, yellow birds are actually named after the islands as they were indigenous to the region and not the other way around. They were eventually brought to the rest of the world by the Spanish in the 17th Century. The Canary Islands national flag still features Dogs that the islands were named after.

Continue Reading