When were the first oil wells drilled?
The first known oil wells were drilled around 347 AD in China. These wells, drilled with rotating bits attached to bamboo poles, were as deep as 800 feet (244 meters). Western science did not catch up until the mid-1800s, when several wells were drilled in Asia, Europe, and Canada. The first successful commercial oil well was drilled in 1859 by a retired railroad conductor named Edwin Drake. His well near Titusville, Pennsylvania tapped a layer of oil only 69.5 feet (21.1 meters) below the surface. Another well nearby still pumps oil today. After the first success, Drake's designs were used by others in nearby oil-rich zones. In May, 1865, a boom-town named Pithole City sprang up after the Frazier Well came in with 250 barrels of oil per day. By September, there were 15,000 people in Pithole. But the town's life was short, as fires burned several wells and other wells opened up nearby. Visit the Drake Well Museum  http://www.usachoice.net/drakewell/
The history of the oil industry

What metal melts in your hand?
The silvery metal gallium melts at 29.8 degrees C (85.6 degrees F), so if you hold it in your hand it will melt. Gallium is element number 31 on the Periodic Table. It is similar to aluminum, but heavier. There are a few other metals that would melt in your hand, some with which you would not want to try the experiment. Cesium is element number 55, an alkali metal that would not only melt, but would also react violently with your skin and possibly catch fire. Another metal that is liquid at room temperature is mercury, element number 80. Mercury is much heavier, but it looks very similar to liquid gallium. It is a poison easily absorbed through the skin, and therefore should not be touched. More about gallium http://www.mcp-group.com/HTML/gallium.html Gallium's low melting point gives it interesting uses. Here's a technical report about one of them http://www.spie.org/web/oer/february/feb99/ltconstr.html Gallium can mix with other metals to form amalgam,
a Word
A Fact about mercury

Why do we use alternating electric current?
Household electricity alternates in polarity sixty times per second (fifty in some countries). Thirty times per second, the positive pole changes to the negative pole, then changes back. Why? The first commercial electricity was supplied as direct current (DC), in which each electrical pole is constant. This worked fine for short distances at low power, but it was impractical to send DC power very far from the generating station. Efficient long-line transmission requires high voltage, because less energy is lost that way. Transforming DC power (changing its voltage) is difficult. Since alternating current is easy to convert to different voltages using simple coil transformers, it was chosen for its flexibility.
Alternating current was invented by Nikola Tesla
More Facts about electricity

How was the Statue Of Liberty shipped to New York?
France's gift to the United States for the US Centennial was the colossal Statue Of Liberty, designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartholde. Upon the completion of this 151 foot (46.5 meter) metal structure, it was taken apart into 350 pieces and packed into 214 crates. The disassembled statue was shipped across the Atlantic on the French frigate, "Isere," arriving in New York in June, 1885. The huge task of reassembling the statue was not easy. The arm and torch structure were not properly joined to the main body, and when the statue was renovated for the 1986 bicentennial, extensive repairs were required. The torch has also been redesigned, and the original torch is on display in the museum under the statue. The giant statue, which now stands in New York Harbor, contains 31 tons of copper and 125 tons of steel. Its design required significant innovations, including an outer shell of freely moving copper plates that hangs on a sturdy steel frame. Statue Of Liberty National Monument  http://www.nps.gov/stli/prod02.htm
Take a virtual tour of the Statue Of Liberty

What was the first written language in Ireland?
In fifth century Ireland, a 25-letter alphabet called Ogham [AWG-um or OH-yum] was used by Celtic Druids to carve inscriptions on wooden or stone objects such as gravestones. Some of these objects, called standing stones, are still in existence today. Ogham was a phonetic system quite similar to our own alphabet. Letters were marked vertically from bottom to top, usually along a straight edge. They were mostly simple notches designed to be easy to carve. The Ogham system is thought to have been inspired by Ogma, god of eloquence. Twenty of its letters share the same names as trees important to the Druids. Ogham was used until the Christian era, when it was banned by the church.
More about Ogham and the Druids
More Facts about ancient writing

What bird drinks the blood of other birds?
The sharp-beaked finch of the Galapagos Islands (Geospiza difficilis) engages in an unusual form of parasitism. It lands on the backs of larger birds and pecks at them until they bleed, then it drinks the blood. Scientists think this behavior may have started with the removal of parasites from the larger birds. The robin-size bird, also known as the vampire finch, also has another nasty habit. It rolls the eggs of other birds down hills, to break them open and get at the contents. The sharp-beaked finch is one of 13 species of finches of the Galapagos Islands. Scientists are fascinated by the Galapagos finches because although they all appear to have evolved from a common ancestor within the last million years or so, they show tremendous variety of forms and lifestyles. More about the finches of Galapagos http://www.terraquest.com/galapagos/wildlife/island/finch.html
More Facts about the Galapagos Islands  http://www.cool-fact.com/archive/1997/08/22.html

What town is almost completely underground?
The town of Coober Pedy, in Australia's hot, dry outback, is almost entirely built inside holes in the ground. The town was originally an opal mining settlement, and many of the holes are left over from opal mines. The holes are quite cozy, with a year-round temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees C). Visitors are welcome to stay (underground, of course) at the Desert Cave Hotel, have a brew at the Underground Bar, and try a hand of poker on the underground gaming machines. Coober Pedy got its name from the Aboriginal phrase "kupa piti" (white man's burrow). The town, which produces an estimated 70-90% of the world's opals, has about 3500 residents.
More about Coober Pedy

How do solar cells turn light into electricity?
Solar cells (also called photovoltaic cells) are able to capture some of the energy in sunlight and turn it into a voltage difference that can drive an electric circuit. When a photon (particle of light) strikes one of the atoms in the surface of a solar cell, it may knock an electron off of the atom, leaving the atom with a positive charge. The freed electron flies away, carrying the photon's energy. Because of the pattern of impurities in the solar cell, electrons move much more easily in one direction than in the opposite direction. The electrons freed by the light collect on one side of the cell, developing a negative charge there while the other side develops a positive charge. More detailed explanations of solar cells
Today's Word is electric

What happens when galaxies collide?
The collision of two galaxies takes hundreds of millions of years. Galaxies do not actually crash into each other, because they are mostly empty space. Instead, they pass through each other, becoming distorted by gravitational interactions. Even though colliding galaxies may contain hundreds of billions of stars, very few stars collide with each other or even come close, because the stars are so far apart relative to their size. But planets orbiting those stars might be tossed into new orbits by the gravity of passing stars. As galaxies pass through each other, the gases they contain can heat up and collapse, forming "starburst" areas rich with bright new star systems. Colliding galaxies may merge into one larger galaxy, or pass completely through each other. More about galactic collisions http://astrowww.phys.uvic.ca/~patton/openhouse/collisions.html
Computer simulation of colliding galaxies
More Facts about galaxies

Why do golf balls have dimples?
Golf balls are covered with dimples for the same reason that tennis balls are covered with fuzz -- it helps them fly farther. When a ball travels rapidly through air, the air is pushed apart by the ball. The air joins back together behind the ball, but the joining is full of eddies and turbulence. The turbulent wake reduces the pressure behind the ball, pulling it back and slowing it down. The dimples on a golf ball (and the fuzz on a tennis ball) trap a thin layer of turbulent air all around the ball, even wrapping it around the trailing half. Because the turbulent layer is very thin, the air joins together more smoothly behind the ball, creating a smaller wake. The ball feels less backward drag, and it flies farther.
More about golf ball aerodynamics  http://wings.ucdavis.edu/Book/Sports/instructor/golf-01.html
More Facts about sports

How can divers stay in deep water for many hours?
Normally, when a SCUBA diver swims very deep, he or she can only stay at that depth for a short time before it is necessary to return to the surface. The deeper the dive, the less time is available at the bottom, where the high pressure causes nitrogen gas to dissolve in the diver's blood. On the way back up, the diver must rise slowly to decompress, avoiding the dangerous "bends" that result from bubbles forming in the blood as the nitrogen comes out of solution. But divers who live in an undersea habitat can swim around at depth for many hours without needing a lengthy decompression period before coming out of the water. Because the habitat's air is at the same pressure as the water at the dive depth, there is no danger of nitrogen bubbling out of their blood when they end the dive.
The Aquarius 2000 underwater habitat
"Saturation diving" can extend the time spent at the bottom

How do clownfish avoid the stings of anemones?
Colorful clownfish live among the deadly tentacles of sea anemones. Unlike other fish, which are quickly stung to death and eaten by the anemones, the clownfish are not harmed even when they snuggle deep into the tentacles. From their very first minutes of life, the clownfish cover themselves with a special mucus coating made of a combination of their own secretions and the secretions of the anemone's tentacles. Because they are covered with this coating, they are protected, just as the tentacles are protected from their own stings. Clownfish live in a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with the anemones. The clownfish are protected from predators, while the anemones are kept clean and protected from fish that eat their tentacles.
More about clownfish

A field guide to anemone fishes and their hosts
Today's Word is symbiosis

Who first used the freeze-drying process?
The process of freeze-drying was first used by the Incas of Peru who stored their vegetables near the peaks of high mountains. There, they froze solid. Over time, the frozen water sublimated into the thin mountain air (converted directly to vapor without passing through the liquid state), leaving behind the perfectly preserved, dessicated vegetables. Modern freeze-drying started during World War II to preserve blood plasma for use at the front lines. Today, freeze-drying is done using flash-freezing and vacuum dehydration. Freeze-drying preserves almost all the nutrients of foods, as well as the important flavor elements.
More about freeze-drying
How to freeze-dry foods in your own freezer  http://forums.cosmoaccess.net/forum/survival/prep/freeze.htm
Today's Word is sublimate

What's the oldest known Egyptian papyrus?
It has been called "the oldest book in the world." The Prisse Papyrus, written before 2000 BC, is the oldest papyrus document ever discovered. It contains portions of two even older works, one of which is from the third dynasty (3800 BC). The Prisse Papyrus is named after Prisse d'Avennes, the French Egyptologist who discovered it. It is a copy of a work written by Ptah-Hotep, Grand Vizier under the Pharaoh Isesi, who titled it "The Instructions of Ptah-Hotep." It appears to be a book of advice for young Egyptian men. Ptahhotep encouraged honesty, gentleness, and directness. He offered advice for dealing with supervisors ("Let thy mind be deep and thy speech scanty") and wives ("Be silent, for it is a better gift than flowers"). His work influenced later writings for thousands of years, and echoes of it appear in the Christian Bible. "The Instructions of Ptah-Hotep" (two different translations)  http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/ptahhotep.html
More Facts about Egypt and Egyptians

What kind of ocean waves travel fastest?
The fastest ocean waves are also the rarest and the most dangerous. They are tsunamis, very long waves that move across the open sea at speeds approaching 500 miles per hour (800 kph). A tsunami (sometimes incorrectly called a "tidal wave") is caused by a geological event like an earthquake, underwater landslide, or volcanic eruption. As it moves across the open sea it is only a few feet high, although it may be more than 100 miles long (160 kilometers). Ships do not notice its passage. But when it reaches the shore, interaction with the bottom slows the wave down and all its energy is concentrated at the surface. A wall of water quickly builds up that can be as high as a multi-story building. More about tsunamis http://www.pbs.org/wnet/savageseas/neptune-side-tsunamis.html
More Facts about the ocean

What's the fastest that humans have ever traveled?
Relative to the planet Earth, the fastest speed humans have achieved was 24,791 miles per hour (39,914 km/hr), by the Apollo 10 astronauts, on their return trip from the moon in 1969. But the universe is much bigger than the Earth-Moon system, and everything moves. If the Sun is taken as a fixed point, then all the humans on Earth are moving at about 66,660 miles per hour (107,320 km/hr) as the Earth follows its orbit. If the center of the Milky Way galaxy is a fixed point, then the solar system is moving at about 500,000 miles per hour (800,000 km/hr) in its orbit around the galaxy. From an even broader reference frame, our entire local group of galaxies is moving at about one million miles per hour toward another galaxy group called Virgo Cluster. Apollo 10 did not include a moon landing, but it did include the first live color-TV from space  http://www.nasm.edu/APOLLO/AS10/
Virgo Cluster contains about 2,000 galaxies
A Fact about the fastest human-made object  http://www.cool-fact.com/archive/1997/09/01.html
A Fact about Earth's orbit around the Galaxy  http://www.cool-fact.com/archive/1999/01/12.html

What moon has the closest orbit to its planet?
Of all the moons in the solar system, the one with the closest orbit is Phobos, the larger of the two satellites of Mars. The orbit of Phobos is less than 6000 kilometers above the surface of the planet (3700 miles). Phobos is an irregularly shaped chunk of rock and ice about 27 kilometers long (17 miles). Because its orbit is so low, it can only be seen from a limited strip of the planet near its orbital path. Seen from that strip, it crosses the sky quickly from west to east, twice a day. Phobos' orbit is so low that tidal forces are pulling it closer and closer to Mars. Scientists expect that in about 50 million years it will either crash into the planet or break up into a thin ring of orbiting debris. Phobos and Mars' other moon, Deimos, are thought to be captured asteroids  http://www.seds.org/nineplanets/nineplanets/phobos.html
More Facts about Mars

What's the smallest graffiti in the world?
If you have any electronic device that contains microchips, you may own some chip graffiti, the smallest form of public art. For many years, chip designers have placed tiny, embossed drawings in unused spots on integrated circuit chips. The drawings are made out of the same silicon and other materials that form the circuits. The art is dying out because most chip designs these days are created by automatic software, but many devices still contain older chips that hold the drawings. There is great variety among the designs, which include human figures, animals, buildings, vehicles, appliances, comic strip characters, and cultural icons like "Mr. T," the "happy face" and Pac Man. Two galleries of chip graffiti  http://www.chipworks.com/SiliconGallery/07main.htm

Super Puter wallpaper

Why do meteors sometimes come in showers?
Most meteors are tiny flecks of cosmic dust that strike the Earth's atmosphere in random directions. But there are also collections of dust and grains of rock (meteoroids) that orbit in streams around the Sun. When the Earth's orbit crosses one of these streams, we might have a sudden meteor shower. Meteoroid streams form along the orbits of comets, which release dust and debris as the Sun evaporates their ices. Some of them repeat every year at the same time. These are named according to the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate (the radiant of the swarm). We have the Leonids from Leo, the Orionids from Orion, and many others. The most intense meteor showers are spectacular meteor storms, where dozens or even hundreds of meteors flash across the sky every minute.
More about meteor showers and storms  http://www.tiac.net/users/lewkaren/meteorobs/storms.html

Where are the coldest volcanoes in the solar system?
Neptune's moon Triton is the coldest place in the solar system, with a surface temperature of -235 degrees Celsius (-390 degrees Fahrenheit). As cold as it is, there are active volcanoes on Triton in which the erupting liquid is frigidly cold liquid nitrogen. At Triton's surface, nitrogen normally exists as frozen ice. But under the surface, where Triton is heated by slow radioactive decay of its rocks, nitrogen melts into a liquid. When the liquid heats up still further, it boils and erupts through the surface, spewing evaporating liquid nitrogen high into space. Triton is one of the few moons in the solar system that has an atmosphere and clouds. The clouds, seen by Voyager 2, are evidence of Triton's volcanoes  http://www.letsfindout.com/subjects/space/tritncls.html
More Facts about planets and moons

What expensive seafood was once used as fertilizer?
During the 1700s and early 1800s, there were so many lobsters along the coast of New England that one could walk down the beach and pick them up off the sand. Lobsters were so abundant that native Americans used them as fertilizer, and colonists thought of them as food for poor people. Servants complained when they were forced to eat lobster more than three times in a week. Today, of course, lobsters are prized as an expensive delicacy. They are hunted intensely by humans, and they are no longer so abundant. Today's wild lobsters are puny runts compared to the huge forty- pound, three-foot specimens (18 kg, 1 meter) that were once common along the New England coast. Gulf Of Maine Aquarium's great lobster pages http://octopus.gma.org/lobsters/ Lobster recipes, cooking and cleaning advice, and interesting facts http://www.spruceharbor.com/lobster/lobrecip.html
More Facts about lobsters and their relatives  http://www.cool-fact.com/archive/1997/02/18.html

What living tissue contains no blood vessels?
The only living tissue in the human body that contains no blood vessels is the transparent cornea of the eye. It's the firm, smooth outer shell that arcs across in front of the iris and pupil. The cornea contains no blood vessels because it must be perfectly clear. Even one tiny capillary would cast the shadow of hundreds of streaming blood cells into the light coming through the pupil. Without blood to provide oxygen and nutrients, the cornea must get them from somewhere else. Nutrients come from the tears and from the liquid (aqueous humor) that fills the chamber behind the cornea. Oxygen is no problem, since the cornea is in direct contact with the air. More about the cornea
How did the cornea get its name? To find out, see today's Word http://www.cool-word.com/archive/1999/11/29.html
More Facts about eyes

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Updated Mar 9th 2001



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