Will be adding URLs later

What's the world's most important food crop?

For more than sixty percent of the world's population, rice is the
main food. Although the production of wheat is greater in absolute
tonnage, rice directly supports more of the world's people than any
other crop. In China, the most populous country in the world, each
person eats about a pound of rice, on average, every day.

Rice is the source of a wide variety of products, including beer,
wine, straw, and paper, as well as edible grain. It is a tropical
grass which originated in Southeast Asia, and was first cultivated at
least ten thousand years ago. Today, it is grown in every tropical
area of the world.

Young rice seedlings must be planted in standing water, in fields
called paddies. The water remains until the seed heads emerge, then
the paddies are drained while the crop ripens.

What kind of creature traps ants in a pit of sand?

The antlion is a flying insect whose wingless larva (called a
doodlebug) digs a conical pit in dry sand. The pit is usually less
than an inch (2.5 cm) across. It waits, buried at the bottom of the
pit, motionless.

When an ant or another small insect comes along and falls into the
pit, the doodlebug tosses small scoops of sand to trap the unlucky
creature. When the prey reaches the bottom of the pit, the antlion
larva grabs it with a pair of pincers and eats it.

Antlion adults are delicate, winged insects that look like
damselflies. They belong to the Neuroptera (nerve-winged insects),
the most primitive order of insects with complete metamorphosis (egg,
larva, pupa, and adult).

What unusual mission will NASA's Stardust spacecraft have?

If all goes well, the next extraterrestrial sample-return mission will
be NASA's Stardust, which will launch in February, 1999. It is the
first mission that is solely devoted to exploring a comet.

Comets are objects made mostly of ice that fall out of deep space,
looping around the sun before being flung back out beyond the planets.
While they are here, they spew evaporating gases and dust, forming a
visible tail that can be millions of miles long.

When comet Wild 2 swings through the inner solar system in January,
2004, Stardust will be there, sweeping up dust particles in the
comet's tail and taking samples of its gases. In January of 2006,
Stardust is expected to return to Earth, bringing back what it has

How do scientists detect tiny amounts of DNA?

Thanks to a powerful biochemical tool called polymerase chain reaction
(PCR), it is possible to detect incredibly tiny amounts of particular
DNA molecules. Even one single molecule can be enough!

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the central molecule of life. It
contains sequences of information coded along its length. The
information tells cells how to build protein molecules.

PCR uses proteins called enzymes, combined with small pieces of DNA
called primers. The primers match the sequence of the target molecule
(the one being looked for) and the enzymes make lots more of any
matching molecules. The result is that one matching molecule is
multiplied into billions!

What spacecraft uses ionized atoms for propellant?

NASA's Deep Space 1 probe is propelled by a new kind of rocket, a
solar-powered ion engine. It works by expelling ionized xenon atoms
at 30 kilometers (19 miles) per second!

The ion engine is extremely efficient because of the high speed at
which the xenon ions (atoms that have been stripped of an electron)
are ejected from the engine. This makes it possible to carry far less
fuel than a traditional chemical rocket, and the spacecraft can reach
higher speeds.

The ion engine is not good for quick changes of speed, because its
total thrust is very small, about the same as the weight of a sheet of
paper. However, it runs for a very long time, and the small
continuing thrust eventually results in a large change of speed.

The Deep Space 1 mission's first target is an asteroid called 1992 KD,
after which it may visit several comets.

Who invented peanut butter?

Peanut butter was invented twice! It was invented by George
Washington Carver, an agricultural scientist and chemist, and it was
also invented independently by John Harvey Kellogg, a physician and
dietician. Both men lived in the United States during the last
decades of the nineteenth century.

Carver was an incredibly prolific and creative agricultural scientist.
In addition to peanut butter, he came up with more than three hundred
other new ways to use peanuts, and hundreds of ways to use sweet
potatoes, soybeans, and other crops. His work revitalized southern
agriculture at a time when fields were over-farmed and soils were
becoming depleted from continuous single-cropping.

Kellogg's 1897 patent was for "nutmeal." He was a passionate believer
in healthy diet and exercise, devoting his entire life to medicine and
his ideas about healthy living. Today, of course, his name lives on,
on cereal boxes around the world.

How big are the parts of an atom?

If a helium atom could be magnified to be as far across as 30 football
fields, its nucleus would only be the size of a ping-pong ball. The
two electrons orbiting this nucleus are all that exists in the rest of
the atom.

The nucleus is made of protons and neutrons, which are in turn made of
particles called "quarks". There are two kinds of quarks found there:
"up" quarks that have an electric charge of +2/3, and "down" quarks
that have a charge of -1/3. Each proton contains two up quarks and a
down quark, and each neutron contains one up quark and two down

Scientists suspect that quarks and electrons are the elementary
particles of an atom; if they're made of anything smaller, it has not
yet been discovered.

Where can you find robots that fight fires?

At Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut, there is a contest to
invent the best in-home fire-fighting robot!

The robot's challenge is to detect and extinguish a candle flame
within an eight foot square "house." The robot must be fully self
-contained, not radio controlled, and it must actually put out the
flame, in the shortest possible time.

The 1998 event brought together dozens of competitors in Junior and
Senior divisions, and 28 robots were actually able to complete the
task. The robots were constructed by people from all over the world,
and one of them was even built by fifth graders!

How do fig trees get pollinated?

The only insects that pollinate fig trees are fig wasps, in the family
Torymidae, and the subfamily Agaoninae. Without these wasps, no fig
seeds would ever be produced!

The female wasps lay their eggs inside the unripe fig, which is
actually an inverted mass of highly modified flowers. On the way in,
the wasps lose their wings and antennae! The larvae develop inside
the fig.

When the adults emerge, they become coated with pollen, which they
deposit in other flowers. Only females emerge. The males mate with
females inside the fig and then die without ever emerging.

Why do balloons stick to hair after being rubbed on it?

When two surfaces touch, chemical bonds form between them. When they
are pulled apart, the bonds break. If the two surfaces are different,
one of them may pull more strongly on the electrons in the bonds,
taking away extra electrons when the bonds break. The resulting
imbalance of positive and negative charges is called "static

When you rub a balloon against your hair, it takes on a negative
electric charge because the rubber steals electrons from the hair.
The hair is left with a slight positive charge and, since opposite
charges attract each other, the balloon sticks to the hair.

Static electricity is also responsible for the electricity of storm
clouds and shoes on a carpet.

What's the smallest chemical or biological reaction vessel?

Empty virus shells, or capsids, make great "cooking pots" for
chemistry and biology! The spherical or rod-shaped capsids, which
normally hold the virus's genetic material, are around one billionth
of a meter across.

Capsids are cages of protein molecules, held together by electric
forces. They have lids that can be opened and closed. They are
useful because their sizes are precisely known, and they can be
made in vast quantities.

Some kinds of virus shells might be useful as extremely specific
drug delivery agents, able to target certain kinds of cells while
ignoring others, and to deliver their contents directly into the cell.

Why do Wint-O-Green Lifesavers glow when they are crushed?

Crunch on a Wint-O-Green Lifesaver in the dark, while looking in the
mirror. Do you see the lights in your mouth? The glow is the result
of a process called triboluminescence.

The light is produced by a two-stage process that begins when sugar
crystals break apart. The crystals break along molecular planes in
such a way that one side has a positive charge, and the other side has
a negative charge. Extremely tiny sparks jump across the gap,
emitting ultraviolet light, which is invisible.

The second stage is what's special about Wint-O-Green Lifesavers: the
ultraviolet light from the sparks strikes molecules of methyl
salicylate (the wintergreen flavor molecule), causing them to glow by
fluorescence, emitting visible light.

When did flowering plants first appear?

The first flowering plants didn't look much like the flowers we have
today. A recent discovery has revealed the most ancient known flowers,
a pair of straight stems with leaflike seed pods.

The fossils are 142 million years old. This major find has pushed
back the known beginning of the flowering plants by twelve million
years. They came into being about the same time as the first feathered
dinosaurs, the forerunners of modern birds.

True flowering plants diversified quickly and spread all over the
planet. However, researchers believe that the beautiful flowers we
see today were not to appear for another 70 million years.

What creature experiences the greatest acceleration?

According to a recent study, click beetles can experience an
acceleration of as much as 400 gees (one gee is Earth's normal
gravitational acceleration) when they jump suddenly. Such jumps are
accompanied by the "click" from which the beetle get its name. Their
brain tissues may experience an even higher acceleration, as much as
2300 gees.

The click happens when the beetle needs to escape from a predator.
It hooks two of its body segments together and applies pressure.
Special flanges on the segments snap past each other, and the beetle
is suddenly flung into the air, hopefully landing far away.

The highest known acceleration in a vertebrate is experienced by
woodpeckers. When they peck at the hardest wood, their brains might
experience as much as ten gees of acceleration.

What mechanical clock is designed to run for 10,000 years?

The Millennium Clock is a unique machine being designed to keep
accurate time for ten thousand years! To do this without wearing out
or breaking down, it will make use of completely mechanical parts,
combined in ingenious ways.

The Clock is part of the work of the Long Now Foundation, a non-profit
organization dedicated to helping people become aware of "deep time,"
which is time on a scale of thousands of years, rather than yesterday,
today, and tomorrow.

Ten thousand years ago, the last Ice Age was coming to an end and
humans were just learning how to grow food. Ten thousand years from
now, if the Long Now Foundation's quest is successful, the Millennium
Clock will still be displaying accurate time.

What's the last metric constant defined by a physical object?

The standard kilogram mass, a platinum-iridium cylinder in Sevres,
France, is the last unit of measurement in the metric system that is
defined by a physical object. The metric system of measurement,
adopted by France in the 1790's, has since become the international
scientific standard.

The meter (the metric system's unit of length) was first defined as
one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the Equator,
then in 1889 it was redefined using two marks on a platinum-iridium
bar. Today, a meter is the distance light travels through space in
1/299,792,458 of a second.

As of 1998, all metric constants except the kilogram have been
redefined using fundamental measurements rather than physical objects.
But that may change soon. Researchers are working on describing the
kilogram in terms of the mass of carbon atoms, or some other
measurable universal constant.

What's the most fragile large life form?

Deep under the ocean, where the currents are slow, the water is cold,
and the pressures would instantly crush creatures from the surface,
drift the most delicate known, large, free-living creatures. They are
siphonophores, giant jelly-polyps, some of them hundreds of feet

Siphonophores are colonial cnidarians, part of a group that includes
the Portuguese man-of-war. They are made of many individual polyps,
joined by thin bridges of living tissue, enclosed in a gelatinous
sheath. Long tentacles drift down, capturing plankton and small
swimming creatures.

These flimsy, mysterious creatures are almost entirely water. They
are so delicate that it is impossible to collect them in one piece,
and they cannot be kept alive in tanks. They live only in the dark

What is the oldest document written in English?

The oldest known English document was written during the reign of
Aethelberht of Kent, an Anglo-Saxon king in sixth-century England. It
is a list of payments owing to people who had been the victims of
offenses, written in an archaic form of English.

Available evidence suggests that Aethelberht's reign was probably a
peaceful time. The Roman Empire had crumbled, Anglo-Saxon people were
settling throughout England, and the Vikings had not yet started their
raids from the east. Great Britain in those days was a lush, mostly
wild island.

Other very old English documents include Beowulf, an heroic epic poem
from before the tenth century, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a
detailed accounting of local events beginning in the seventh century.

Which robot has flown across the Atlantic Ocean?

On August 21, 1998, a self-guiding robot named Laima became the first
unmanned aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Laima was the only one
of four such aircraft to complete the journey from Newfoundland to
Scotland. The crossing required 26 hours, and used up only two gallons
of fuel.

Laima was launched from the top of a moving car, then tracked for
about 40 kilometers before it flew out of range. It continued on its
way, guided by a navigation system that used the Global Positioning
System (GPS), a satellite based navigation tool.

Robot aircraft like Laima could become useful for a variety of
purposes, including weather forecasting, military intelligence,
and communications.

What are the "primary colors" of taste?

Like vision, the sensation of taste is composed of a small number of
primary sensations. While vision has three (red, green, and blue,
corresponding to the three kinds of visual color receptors), taste has
five known primary sensations.

The five primary tastes are sour, salty, bitter, sweet, and umami
(oo-MOM-ee). Umami? That's the taste of monosodium glutamate, which
is found naturally in most foods and is also used as an additive.
The taste has been described as "meaty".

The sense of smell is far more complex. Some estimates
place the number of distinct smell receptors in the hundreds!

What kind of plant attracts and traps protozoa?

The only plants known to attract and trap protozoa are species of
Genlisea, tiny flowering plants that live in wet sand in tropical
areas. They do it under the sand, with special modified leaves.

In addition to a rosette of small leaves above the surface, Genlisea
has a long bundle of root-like underground leaves. Each of these
special leaves bears dozens of tiny traps, with special one-way

The traps emit substances that attract various kinds of protozoa,
which enter the openings and become stuck inside. The plant
digests the trapped protozoa, which provide it with important
nutrients that are not easy to obtain in the sandy environment.

Which is the most spoken language?

Almost 900 million people speak Mandarin Chinese, making it the most
spoken language on Earth. The next most spoken tongue is English,
with more than 322 million speakers, followed by Spanish, Bengali, and

Mandarin is spoken across most of China, as well as in Taiwan,
Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, and many other countries.
There are four main dialects and many regional variants.

Mandarin Chinese is part of a large family of Asian languages called
Sino-Tibetan, which includes about a dozen related forms of Chinese,
plus many other languages.

Why do Siamese cats have dark ears, paws, and tail?

The ears, paws, and tails of Siamese cats are darker than the rest of
their bodies, but the animals are not born that way. They are usually
born pure white, then later they get the dark tips. Why?

When they are born, the kittens come from an environment (the mother
cat's uterus) which is the same temperature everywhere. But once they
are out in the world, the tips of their ears, paws, and tail become

Since the enzymes (catalytic proteins) that make hair pigment in
Siamese cats work better at a cooler temperature, their extremities
turn dark while the rest of the body stays light. In a cold climate,
the whole cat may become dark.

How do cells stick together?

The trillions of cells in your body are literally glued together.

Special "cell adhesion proteins" called adherins, cadherins, catenins,
and integrins connect each cell with other cells, and with an outside
matrix that connects to the bones. Some of the connections are like
Velcro, rivets, or the teeth of a zipper!

The places where the protein molecules stick together are called
adherence junctions. Some of them are outside of the cells, and
others are inside. Some of the structural proteins cross the cell
membranes, connecting protein frameworks on the insides of cells
to the supports on the outside.

Who flies right into the centers of hurricanes?

The US Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is a
special force whose assignment is to fly their planes directly into
tropical storms and hurricanes!

Using ten WC-130 aircraft, each of which has a six-person crew, the
"Hurricane Hunters" fly into the storms at a low altitude, taking
weather readings as they go. They fly right through the thick of the
storm, at 1,000 to 10,000 feet altitude, always heading into the wind.

Eventually, the plane reaches the center of the storm, and passes
through the vertical wall of clouds that surrounds the storm's calm,
clear "eye." It is important to weather forecasters to know the exact
location and conditions within the eye of a hurricane, and the
Hurricane Hunters provide that information.

It sounds like dangerous work, but so far, the Hurricane Hunters have
flown more than 100,000 hours without an accident!

What's the longest known cyclic period in the universe?

The longest-known cyclic period (repeating cycle) is the galactic
year, which is the time it takes the solar system to orbit once around
the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Each galactic year takes about
230 million Earth-years, and the solar system is about 20 galactic
years old.

The galactic center is in the direction of the constellation
Sagittarius, where vast swarms of distant stars are visible on clear
summer nights. The Sun and all the nearby stars orbit around the
galactic center.

Research suggests that one galactic year ago, there were dinosaurs all
over the planet and flowering plants and birds had not yet appeared.
What kind of place will Earth be one galactic year from now?

What kind of caterpillars march single-file?

In the pine forests of Europe there are colonies of caterpillars that
form into long lines and march along single-file. The lines can
contain as many as fifty individuals. Each caterpillar lays down a
strand of silk, so its followers do not get lost.

Pine processionary caterpillars, which are the larvae of moths, carry
aposematic (warning) coloration, indicating that they are not good to
eat. They are covered with irritating hairs, and they taste bad to
most birds.

By forming into large, obvious groups, these insect larvae enhance the
effect of their bright warning colors. No hungry bird would mistake a
line of pine processionaries for anything else!

What's the greatest source of pollution in the arctic and antarctic?

You might think that the extreme northern and southern parts of the
world must be the cleanest places on Earth. But there is a form of
pollution that happens only there, and at the tops of snow-covered

It's called global distillation. Gases produced by human activities
in the warmer parts of the world circulate freely. When they enter
the extremely cold Arctic or Antarctic regions, some of these gases
begin to condense out of the air.

The gases include various hydrocarbons, aerosol propellants, solvents,
and many other compounds, including deadly pesticides. They can
condense directly onto fallen snow, or they can become incorporated
into snow as it forms in clouds.

Global distillation is a major source of toxins in polar ecosystems.
These toxins are found in ever greater concentrations in the polar
waters and in the bodies of humans and animals living in these

Who is building submarines out of concrete?

Russian submarine designers are building military submarines out of
concrete. They say the new designs will save money and solve several
problems with conventional steel-hulled subs.

Because concrete becomes stronger under high pressure, such submarines
(C-subs) could settle down to the bottom in very deep water and wait
for enemy ships to pass overhead. Concrete would not show up on sonar
displays (it looks just like sand or rocks), so the passing ships
would not see the sub lurking below.

US and British military experts are concerned that poor countries may
build C-subs and use them to blockade shipping routes or threaten
military vessels.

Why do small water droplets form into tight spheres?

Drops of water form into spheres because of the "surface tension" in
the tight layer of molecules at the surface of the liquid. Water's
surface tension is so strong that some insects can stand on ponds and
streams without falling in! Why does this layer form?

Water molecules in the center of the liquid are attracted equally in
all directions by their neighbors. But molecules near the surface
are only attracted inward and along the surface, so they form a
tight layer, pulling inward.

Do creatures evolve more quickly under stress?

A recent study revealed that fruit flies can turn on a kind of
internal mutation generator when they reproduce.

If the flies are exposed to a highly stressful environment, their
offspring begin to show many genetic changes. The fruit flies' cells
are shuffling around various emergency variations, already present in
the creature's DNA. These variations seem to be a kind of genetic
spare parts kit, activated when the environment gets too tough.

Some of the young flies grow differently shaped or placed hairs, some
get limbs with new shapes, or different behavioral traits. Is the
species trying to mutate into a new form that is more adapted to the
difficult environment?

An older study showed that bacteria can do something very similar.
When conditions are tough, they get more mutations, giving evolution
more diversity to work with and perhaps saving the ever-changing

What is the most numerous matter particle?

The universe contains a vast number of particles, but according to
recent research, the most numerous matter particle is the neutrino, by
a huge margin. There are 600 million times as many neutrinos as all
the electrons, protons, and neutrons combined!

Every second, trillions of neutrinos whiz through your body at nearly
the speed of light. They are so light and unreactive that they can
pass through the entire Earth without even slowing down.

One of the current scientific mysteries is why the Sun emits fewer
neutrinos than scientists expect. The Sun's neutrinos are produced by
reactions deep inside it, where hydrogen nuclei combine to form helium,
releasing energy that fuels the sun's radiation.

What is the smallest hollow cube ever constructed?

The smallest hollow cubes are single molecules made of atoms of four
different elements: cobalt, rhodium, carbon, and nitrogen. The new
box-molecules add to the existing collection of molecular containers
that includes carbon buckyballs and virus capsids (previous Cool
Facts, see the links below).

The cobalt and rhodium atoms form the corners of each box, with carbon
and nitrogen forming the edges. The tiny boxes are only five
angstroms on a side (5 ten-billionths of a meter).

The tiny molecular boxes might make good containers for some kinds of
chemical reactions. They might also be useful for very sensitive
chemical detectors, taking advantage of an effect called host-guest
chemistry. In host-guest chemistry, a container molecule's properties
change, depending on what kind of molecule is stored inside.

Who is building submarines out of concrete?

Russian submarine designers are building military submarines out of
concrete. They say the new designs will save money and solve several
problems with conventional steel-hulled subs.

Because concrete becomes stronger under high pressure, such submarines
(C-subs) could settle down to the bottom in very deep water and wait
for enemy ships to pass overhead. Concrete would not show up on sonar
displays (it looks just like sand or rocks), so the passing ships
would not see the sub lurking below.

US and British military experts are concerned that poor countries may
build C-subs and use them to blockade shipping routes or threaten
military vessels.

How many bacteria are there on Earth?

According to a recent study, researchers estimate that there are about
five million trillion trillion bacteria on, under, and above the
surface of our planet! That's this many:


There are bacteria seven miles below the ground and 40 miles high in
the atmosphere. The vast majority of the bacteria, more than 90%, are
in the soil, where they perform a huge variety of important chemical
functions, making nutrients available to higher plants (and the
animals that eat them, including humans).

Who drew the first map of the world?

The first map of all the known lands was probably drawn by the Greek
philosopher Anaximander of Miletus (610 - ca.546 BC). He may have
been the first person to attempt such a map, although in several
places there were people who could draw local maps.

Anaximander collected information from voyagers stopping at Miletus,
and tried to construct a full picture of the entire world, as it was
known at the time. He drew the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by land,
with a larger ocean around the land.

He conceived of the Earth as a cylinder, suspended in empty space,
with the sphere of the heavens rotating around it once each day. He
said that the curvature of the cylinder explained the variation in the
angle of the sun with latitude.

What kind of fish looks like seaweed?

In the waters off southern Australia lives the sea dragon, a delicate
fish that looks just like a torn piece of floating seaweed. Sea
dragons have many elaborate, leafy extensions on their bodies, colored
and shaped very much like the algae in which they lurk. They can
grow up to 45 centimeters (18 inches) long.

The sea dragon is a predator. It waits patiently among the weeds
without moving. When a tiny shrimp or other swimming creature comes
close, it suddenly sucks it into its snout.

Sea dragons are related to sea horses and pipe fish. Like them,
they practice reverse brooding: the female leaves the eggs she lays
on the body of the male, who then cares for them until the young

When was the greatest mass-extinction?

Researchers believe that the greatest mass extinction in Earth's
history was at the end of the Permian Period, about 251 million years
ago. It appears that during this event, 90% of ocean species and 70%
of land species became extinct.

Evidence suggests that the Permian extinction was not a sudden,
cataclysmic event, like the giant asteroid strike that is thought to
have been the cause of the death of the dinosaurs. It was more drawn-
out, taking about ten million years to unfold.

Why did so many species die out? According to one theory, there was a
rapid change in climate patterns, during which fairly stagnant oceans
began circulating again, due to changes in the shapes of the
continents. This change in ocean circulation could have caused
massive shifts in the atmosphere's carbon dioxide content, plunging
the planet into a prolonged ice age.

How can energy be generated from warm and cold seawater?

One of the most promising new technologies for renewable energy is
"Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion" (OTEC), which takes advantage of the
ocean's ability to absorb solar energy.

The sun warms up the top layers of the ocean, leaving much cooler
water below. In tropical waters, the temperature difference can be
very large, as much as 25 degrees centigrade (45 degrees Fahrenheit)
between the surface and the water 1000 meters (3300 feet) down.

An OTEC plant floats on the ocean or rests on the bottom, with long
pipes extending out of it and passing through regions at differing
temperatures. The warm water evaporates a liquid in the pipes,
turning turbines and generating electricity, while the cold water re-
condenses the same liquid in another part of the system.

What is the oldest system of standard weights and measures?

The first standardized system of measurement was created around 2700
BC in Mesopotamia. The units included the cubit, or kush, a unit of
length, and the shekel, a unit of weight.

The new system's most powerful feature was the invention of units for
multiples of other units, such as the nindan (12 cubits). The
Mesopotamian system was complex and cumbersome by today's standards,
but it was a vast improvement over the old Sumerian system, in which
there were no units for multiple quantities.

For the Sumerians, twelve jars of oil would be noted as twelve
symbols, and five hundred jars would be laboriously noted (and
counted) as five hundred symbols. Even worse, different commodities
were measured in different systems, and written using different

The standardized Mesopotamian system made it possible to conveniently
trade much larger quantities of goods, which became ever more
important as the civilization grew.

What is unusual about Kismet the robot?

A robot named Kismet has the ability to show emotional responses.
Researchers are developing the machine by training it in social
interaction with human beings, something like the way a newborn infant
learns to communicate with its mother.

Kismet has a head, with round, blue eyes, and furry eyebrows that can
move two different ways. It has a mouth with red lips, which can show
many different shapes. Its head and face continue to evolve and
become more expressive as the designers add new features and improve
the software.

Kismet is an example of the new field of "altricial robotics" -
robots that "grow up," like living things, by learning how to behave
through interactions with others.

What is unusual about miner bees?

In the eastern United States there are bees that build burrows in
dried mud. These miner bees, or chimney bees, dig tunnels four or
five inches into hardened mud or clay, and build an extension
(chimney) that can reach three inches in length.

It is the female miner bees who build the tunnels. Once the tunnel is
built the bee goes out in search of pollen. She mixes it with
secretions and makes it into a ball, which she places at the end of
the tunnel. Eggs are laid on the pollen, then the bee caps the tunnel
with more mud and secretions.

Miner bees may become important to humans because of an ongoing
decline in natural populations of honey bees. They are useful
pollinators, and can be induced to nest in artificially-created mud

How many tails can a comet have?

A comet can have as many as three separate tails. All three can
extend millions of kilometers from the comet's head.

The most visible tail of a comet is usually the dust tail. The sun's
heat causes frozen material within the head of the comet to
evaporate, and the resulting gas molecules carry dust particles with
them as they stream off. The dust tail is white and curves gently
away from the sun and back along the comet's orbit.

The sun's energy also ionizes some of the gases (strips electrons from
the atoms), and a bluish ion tail forms, streaming directly away from
the sun. The third tail is invisible from Earth, because the light it
emits is absorbed by the atmosphere. It's made of hydrogen, formed in
chemical reactions at the comet's head. Its position is intermediate,
between the other two tails.

How can gravity create a magnified image?

The gravity of a galaxy can magnify and distort the image of a more
distant galaxy that is much farther away. This happens because the
gravity of the nearer galaxy bends the light from the more distant
galaxy, focusing it and sometimes even creating extra images.

If the distant galaxy is exactly behind the nearer one, its image can
be bent into an "Einstein ring," looping completely around into a
circular shape.

Astronomers can use this gravitational lensing effect to learn more
about the universe, especially the most distant objects. Distant
galaxy images that have been changed by gravitational lenses can show
oddly distorted shapes, but they can also be larger and much brighter,
so it becomes easier to see small features in them.

Are there people whose hair cannot be combed?

There is a rare condition called "uncombable hair syndrome" in which
young children develop hair that is quite literally impossible to
comb. The condition, also known as "pili trianguli et canaliculi" or
"cheveux incoiffables" usually begins at the age of about three months.

The hair of people with this syndrome grows in bundles in which the
individual strands point in many different directions, and the cross
section of the strands is shaped like a triangle, kidney, or heart.
It is a genetic condition, sometimes accompanied by other symptoms.

In some cases the hair becomes more or less normal later in life.
Scientists are studying the condition to learn more about it, and to
learn more about how hair normally develops.

[Toolbox] [Search] [Weather] [Horoscopes] [Weekly Horoscope] [AmateurRadio]
[Word] [Humor] [News] [LinkOpps] [LinkBuddies] [PetPeeves]
[Today in History] [Facts] [myths-facts] [Sounds] [Banners] [UFO's]
[Home] [Family] [Mom and Dad] [WhoamI]
[Reel] [OfficeMax] [Beyond] [RegisterIt] [WebsiteGarage]

Updated Mar 9th 2001



You are Lucky Number

Amateur Radio and Internet Resources
Copyright 1998-2003 NØFYT Ed Ferguson