Friday, 28 April 2017


Lemons are plentiful, but these little yellow fruits are often underused. In the following infographic by On Stride Financial, you'll see how you can get the most out of this citrus fruit!

Infographic Sources:
How to remove limescale
2. Getting Rid of Ants
3. How To Make an All-Purpose Kitchen Cleaner Using Citrus Peels
4. How To Clean Wooden Cutting Board with Lemon and Salt
5. How to Clean Copper Naturally With Just Lemon & Salt
6. How to Remove Rust & Rust Stains
7. Natural Weed Killer
8. How to Whiten Laundry Without Chlorine Bleach
9. Cat Repellent Recipes You Can Make Yourself
10. How to Keep Avocados Fresh For Days
11. Spoilage Science
12. 5 Ways To Get Rid Of Bad Refrigerator Odors
13. Soup Too Salty? 5 Tips for Fixing It & Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Again
14. 15 Foods You Should Freeze in an Ice Cube Tray
15. About The Buzz: Use Lemons Instead Of Salt?
16. How To Clean Your Microwave Naturally with Just a Lemon
17. 11 Beauty Uses for Lemons
18. 21 Things You Can Do With Lemons and Lemon Juice (That Don’t Involve Food)
19. Garlic breath? Eat an apple or drink lemon juice
20. Natural Wart Removal
21. Relieving A Cough
22. How-To: Make A Lemon Juice Foot Soak
23. How to Make Your Own Shoe Polish
24. How To Make Invisible Ink With Lemon Juice
25. Forget Kindling: Start Fires With Orange Peels
26. The Things You Can Do with Lemon Peels and Juice

Top image credit: Comfreak/Pixabay.

[Source: On Stride Financial.]

Thursday, 27 April 2017


Underwater Mailboxes Around The World
By Kaushik,
Amusing Planet, 25 April 2017.

Remember the last time you were diving underwater and you suddenly remembered an important letter you had to post that very instant? Yup, it has happened to all of us. Fortunately, these five places has us covered.

1. Hideaway Island, Vanuatu


The underwater post office off the coast of Hideaway Island in the island nation of Vanuatu is one of the most famous in the world. It was established in 2003 and is located in 3 meters of water. The post office provides special waterproof postcards that tourists can drop into the submerged post box with their own hands, or ask the staff to do so.

At a designated time, a scuba-donning postal worker dives down to the postbox, retrieves the postcards from the postbox, stamps them while still underwater and sends them on their way. Instead of ink, which would wash away in water, the postcards are stamped with a special emboss device.

2. Susami Bay, Japan


The small fishing town of Susami, in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, has the distinction of creating the world’s first underwater mailbox. Until the creation of another underwater mailbox in Malaysia, the Susami mailbox was the deepest underwater postbox in the world, at a depth of 10 meters.

The postbox was created as part of a fair in 1999 to promote the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail and surrounding areas in the southern part of Wakayama’s Kii Peninsula. Before the mailbox, Susami had no special attraction. Toshihiko Matsumoto, the then-postmaster of the town, put forth the idea of an undersea postbox.

Divers buy water-resistant postcards from a local store, write messages on them with an oil-based paint marker and drops them on to an old, red postbox situated underwater. Once every few days, an employee of the shop collects the mails from the postbox and takes them to the local post office.

Every year, the mailbox receives between 1,000 to 1,500 pieces of mail, and 32,000 pieces of mail have been posted in the underwater mailbox since its creation.

3. Pulau Layang-Layang, Malaysia


The Malaysia postal department broke records in 2015 when it launched an underwater post box at Layang-Layang at a depth of 40 meters below sea level.

Postcards sent from the underwater mailbox are sealed in waterproof plastic bags, have a special postmark, and are stamped with the Malaysia Book of Records logo.

4. Risor, Norway


The underwater post office in the town of Risor, on the southern Norwegian coast, is made out of a diving bell and is the only dry underwater post office in the world. The post office is located at a depth of 4 meters next to a pier. Visitors post their mail in a post box by the pier, which are then emptied, sealed in a watertight bag and taken down to the underwater post office. Inside the office's dry environment, the mail is stamped and returned back to the surface, where it enters into normal post circulation.

5. Bahamas


The “Sea Floor” post office, in Bahamas, no longer exist, but it was the world’s first underwater post office created in 1939.

The undersea post office was created by US photographer John Ernest Williamson (1881-1966), who is recognized as one of the pioneers of undersea photography. In 1912, Williamson designed a chamber with a thick glass window which could be lowered to the sea floor. From inside this apparatus, which he called the “Williamson Photosphere,” the photographer was able to observe the undersea creatures and to take photographs.

In 1939, the Bahamas-Williamson Undersea Expedition to film underwater was started. To gather publicity about this expedition, the Sea Floor post office was created. The post office was short-lived; it closed in 1941.

In 1965, the Bahamas Postal department issued a set of stamps commemorating the Sea Floor post office.

Top image: Pulau Layang-Layang underwater post box, via Free Malaysia Today.

[Source: Amusing Planet. Edited. Top image and links added.]

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


Comma is perhaps the most abused and misused punctuation mark in English. It may be just a tiny mark on a page, but a lot can depend on it. It makes a big difference in what you convey. Used wrongly, it may even cause dire misunderstanding. This video by Arika Okrent, which is produced for Mental Floss, presents five types of comma that can make or break a sentence.

Top image credit: brett jordan/Flickr.

[Source: Arika Okrent via YouTube.]


All manner of weird and wonderful items get sold at auction. Bullion Vault has put together an infographic that includes some of the most expensive items ever sold at auction. From the UK’s gold reserves to Picasso artwork to a rare Ferrari, this list contains some amazing historic items...with some seriously high price tags.

[Source: Bullion Vault.]

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


Top 10 Times We Tried Controlling The Rain
By Oliver Taylor,
Listverse, 25 April 2017.

The ability to control rain has fascinated us from time immemorial. While we achieve this today by spraying clouds with chemicals, in the past we used some downright bizarre methods that might or might not have worked. In Kursk, Russia, women threw strangers into rivers or drenched them in water. In Armenia, it was the wife of the local priest that got drenched in water, and in North Africa, religious people were thrown into springs against their will. But throwing people into rivers and springs or drenching them in water are just two of the many ways we have tried controlling rainfall. Here are ten others.

10. Hail Cannons


Hail cannons are bizarre-looking contraptions that supposedly stop the formation of hail. They were first proposed by an Italian professor in 1880 and were first built by Austrian M. Albert Stiger between 1895 and 1896. Stiger’s cannon resembled a giant megaphone, and it fired smoke rings that caused an upward moving wind that supposedly prevented hail from forming in the clouds.

Stiger’s hail cannon became a hit after the region he tested it in suffered no hail for two consecutive years. It - along with several other designs - prominently featured on European farms but their reliability was questioned after hail fell in regions they were employed. Whenever this happened, die-hard supporters of the cannons claimed the hail was caused by poor usage and positioning of the cannon.

To clear the air on whether or not hail cannons worked, the Italian government tested over two hundred cannons at different locations over a two-year period. The test locations suffered severe hail during the tests, and the hail cannon was termed a failure. Nevertheless, some farmers stuck to them and they are still used on some farms today. Rather than firing smoke, they fire a mixture of oxygen and acetylene gas, which, like smoke, supposedly disrupt hail formation. While their reliability remains in doubt, there is no doubt over their loudness, which makes neighbors consider them a nuisance.

9. Moisture Accelerator


The moisture accelerator was an invention of rainmaker, Charles Mallory Hatfield. It was a mixture of twenty-three secret chemicals that Hatfield set on fire to attract rain-producing clouds. Hatfield got his break in December 1904, when he promised some Los Angeles businessmen eighteen inches (45 cm) of rain in five months for a thousand dollars. They took the deal, and he delivered as promised. This earned him instant fame and his service was widely sought after. He never disappointed and charged up to US$4,000 for rainfall.

In December 1915, he extended his services to San Diego - which was facing a terrible drought - where he promised rainfall that would overfill the Lower Otay reservoir dam, in exchange for a payment of US$10,000. San Diego took the deal, and Hatfield got down to work. First, he constructed a 20-foot (6 m) tower on which he set his moisture accelerator on fire. The city experienced light showers for a few weeks until January 15, 1916, when it began raining heavily.

The rain lasted for five days during which the San Diego river overflowed its bank, mountainous regions experienced landslides, and heavy flooding washed away houses, roads, rail, and telephone lines. Despite the catastrophe, Hatfield called the city and promised heavier rains. The rain got heavier, as he promised, and the Lower Otay reservoir dam overfilled and broke, sending forty feet (12 m) of water into the city.

By the time the disastrous rain, which was dubbed “Hatfield Flood,” was over, the town had experienced almost thirty inches (76 cm) of rainfall, large-scale destruction, and fifty deaths. Meanwhile, Hatfield calmly walked into the city to demand his pay. The city was already facing several lawsuits over the rain and only agreed to pay him on the condition he accepted responsibility for the damages. Hatfield never accepted responsibility and was never paid.

8. The Storm King’s Massive Bush Fire


Prior to the nineteenth century - and for much of it - people believed rain could be caused and stopped by noise. This was why bell-ringers rang church bells before storms. People also believed there was some relationship between rainfall, cannons, and guns, as rain had been observed to fall after great battles.

James Pollard Espy (aka the “Storm King”), the first official weather forecaster of the United States, belonged to this school of thought. However, he believed rainfall was not caused by the battles themselves, but by the warmth released from the weapons used during these battles. So, he proposed that heat and fire could cause rain.

To experiment his theory, he wrote to the US Congress and requested for a 600-mile (966 km) stretch of forest that extended from the Great Lakes at the border with Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. His plan was to set the forest on fire to see if it would produce rain. The US Congress refused his requests over fears the wildfires could spiral out of control, and the rains might not come to put them out. Also, they did not want Espy or the government to have power over the rain.

7. The Battle of Dryhenceforth


Edward Powers was another person who linked rainfall with war. Specifically, he believed rainfall was caused by artillery used in battle. Like Espy, he requested that the US Congress provide funds to experiment his theory. Unlike Espy, Congress accepted his request and, in 1891, sent General R.G. Dyrenforth (who was actually not a general) to oversee the experiment in Texas.

Dyrenforth arrived in Texas with several men and cargoes of explosives, gunpowder, cannons, balloons, and kites. At the front of the “battle line” in his war against the skies were sixty mortars, all aimed at the sky. Close to the mortars were dynamites that were affixed to the ground, and behind the mortars were large kites and 10-20 foot (3-6 m) tall balloons that would be used to deliver explosives into the skies.

Even with his large cache of explosives and artillery, Dyrenforth’s assault against the skies was a total failure. According to unimpressed reporters on the ground, the men manning the explosives looked confused, and the bombs were fond of detonating in the wrong places. Dyrensforth’s only achievement included destroying a tree, window, and starting random fires. There was no rain, and angry Texas citizens renamed him “Dryhenceforth.”

6. Cloudbusters


The cloudbuster was a supposed rainmaking and rain-destroying machine invented by Austrian psychiatrist William Reich. According to him, the machine created or destroyed rain by exploiting the “Orgone Energy” that supposedly holds the elements of a cloud together. Whether the machine worked remains a mystery, but in 1953, Maine farmers paid Reich to make rain, which fell the day after Reich operated his machine.

Reich had specific rules for operating the cloudbuster, as improper operation supposedly led to flood, tornadoes, forest fires, and death of the operator. Firstly, the operator should never try to impress anyone when operating the machine. He should also cover his hands with insulating gloves and ensure there was no electrical or radioactive equipment nearby. The cloudbuster should also be parked in moving water that covered all its metal parts.

5. Operation Popeye


Operation Popeye was a top secret cloud seeding operation executed by the United States during the Vietnam war. It was intended to overwhelm North Vietnam and Laos with excess rainfall that would turn their roads into marshes and hinder North Vietnamese supplies going into South Vietnam via Laos. It was launched in 1967, although, experimental operations that caused rain in 82 percent of the seeded clouds had begun a year earlier.

The operation was supposed to be top secret for several reasons including the fact that other countries might blame the United States for similar unfavorable weather conditions. However, if the plan leaked, the US was expected to tag the operation as a humanitarian operation. The plan leaked, as expected, and the operation was canceled in 1972.

However, top defense officials including the defense secretary, Melvin R. Laird, initially denied its existence and only admitted it happened two years later. Then, defense officials claimed it was a success as it increased rain by 30 percent and slowed down North Vietnam’s movement, especially through the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail.

4. The Fraudulent Rain King


Frank Melbourne was an Australian rainmaker known as the “Rain King” or the “Rain Wizard.” His methods looked similar to Hatfield’s, and he claimed he could cause rainfall by mixing and burning some secret chemicals that produced rainmaking clouds.

Melbourne always locked himself in a house, railroad car, or barn when burning his chemicals, and the smoke only rose into the skies through its openings. His rainmaking activities became a source of income for his brother who placed bets against people who claimed Melbourne could not produce rain.

Melbourne went out of business when the public realized he was not a rainmaker but a fraud, who targeted his services at towns where rainfall had already been forecast.

3. Rain Dance


Rain dances are elaborate ceremonies that Native American tribes use to summon rains during droughts. It was (and is still) common among Southwestern Native American tribes like the Mojave, Pueblos, Navajos, and Hopi, who are more susceptible to drought.

Dancers dress in elaborate and colorful costumes, complete with artifacts that symbolize natural conditions. For instance, male dancers add feathers to their masks to represent the wind, and turquoise to their clothing to represent the rain. When dancing, males and females maintain separate lines, four feet apart, and take mastered steps and movements in unison. Drums are not used, and dancers depend on the sound of their synchronized steps to make up for it.

2. Rain Battles


Charles William Post was another follower of the rainfall-war theory. Like Edward Powers, he believed artillery caused rains, and he tested his theory in a series of self-sponsored experiments remembered today as the “rain battles.” In 1910, he launched the first of his thirteen rain battles in Garza County, Texas, when he released a kite fitted with dynamite into the skies.

The kite exploded as expected, but Post thought it was too dangerous, so, he switched to arranging dynamites - in fourteen-pound (6 kg) stacks - on highlands, and detonating them at ten-minute intervals. During another battle, he expended 24,000 pounds (11,000 kg) of dynamite, which reportedly started a rain. Post spent over US$50,000 on his rain battles, and according to him, seven of his attempts caused rainfall. However, observers noted that the experiments were held during the rainy season when rain was already expected.

1. Rain Stones


Rain stones have been used in elaborate rainmaking rituals in Africa, North America, Britain, Japan, Australia, and Ancient Rome since at least A.D. 1600. And for all we know, they might still be in use today. They were used to either summon the rains or communicate with a supposed god of rain.

In Australia, the stone was placed on a heap of sand, and the rainmaker danced around it while singing or reciting incantations. In Ancient Rome, the stone was called “lapis manalis,” which means “pouring stone.” It was kept in the Temple of Mars, from where it was taken to the Temple of Jupiter (the Roman god of Storms) inside the city whenever rain was needed. The labis manalis is believed to have had a hollowed middle that was filled with water that trickled over its top and down its sides to resemble rain.

Top image: Storm clouds gathering. Credit: Zooey/Flickr.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]


The world’s five deadliest volcanoes…and why they’re so dangerous
By Matthew Blackett,
The Conversation, 19 April 2017.

An eruption of Mount Etna recently caught out some BBC journalists who were filming there. The footage was extraordinary and highlighted the hazards volcanoes pose to humans and society.

Since 1600, 278,880 people have been killed by volcanic activity, with many of these deaths attributed to secondary hazards associated with the main eruption. Starvation killed 92,000 following the 1815 Tambora eruption in Indonesia, for example, and a volcanic tsunami killed 36,000 following the 1883 Krakatoa eruption.

Since the 1980s, deaths related to volcanic eruptions have been rather limited, but this is not entirely a result of increased preparedness or investment in hazard management - it is significantly a matter of chance.

Research shows that volcanic activity has shown no let up since the turn of the 21st century - it just hasn’t been around population centres. Indeed, there remain a number of volcanoes poised to blow which pose a major threat to life and livelihood.

1. Vesuvius, Italy

Credit: Kris de Curtis/Wikimedia Commons

Known for its 79 AD eruption, which destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, Vesuvius is still a significant hazard given that it overshadows the city of Naples and its surrounds, which are home to over 3m people.

It is also known for a particularly intense form of eruption. Plinian (after Pliny the Younger who was the first to describe the 79 AD event) eruptions are characterised by the ejection of a vast column of gas and ash which extends into the stratosphere, far higher than commercial airliners fly.

Were such an eruption to occur at Vesuvius today, it is likely that much of the population would already have been evacuated as a precursory swarm of earthquakes would likely herald its imminent approach. But those who remained would initially be showered with huge pumice rocks too large to be kept aloft by the column of gas.

Then, as the volcano began to run out of energy, the column itself would collapse, causing smaller particles of rock (from fine ash to small boulders) to fall from the sky and back to Earth at high velocity. Asphyxiating clouds of gas and pulverised rock - pyroclastic density currents - would then flood down the slopes of the volcano, annihilating anything in their path. Such gas-ash features have been known to travel tens of kilometres and at terrifying speeds, potentially turning modern Naples into a new Pompeii.

2. Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo

Credit: Ajith Kumar/Flickr

This central African volcano has erupted several times over the last few decades and while its eruptions aren’t particularly explosive, it produces a particularly runny - and dangerous - form of lava. Once effused, this lava can rapidly move down the flanks of the volcano and inundate areas with little or no warning.

In 2002, the lava lake at the volcano’s summit was breached, resulting in streams of lava hurtling towards the nearby city of Goma at 60km/h, engulfing parts of it to a depth of two metres.

Fortunately, warnings had been issued as the volcano’s unrest has made it the focus of intense research - and over 300,000 people were evacuated in time. Should such an event occur again, we have to hope that the authorities are equally prepared, but this is a politically unstable area and it remains seriously vulnerable.

3. Popocatepetl, Mexico

“Popo”, as the locals call it, is just 70km south-west of the one of the largest cities in the world: Mexico City, home to 20m people. Popo is regularly active and its most recent bout of activity in 2016 sent a plume of ash to an altitude of five kilometres.

In recent times, and indeed throughout much of its history, eruptive events at Popo have consisted of similarly isolated ash plumes. But these plumes coat the mountain in a thick blanket of ash which, when mixed with water, can form a dense muddy mixture which has the potential to flow for many kilometres and at relatively high speeds.

Credit: Carlos Valenzuela/Wikimedia Commons

Such phenomena, known as “lahars”, can be extremely deadly, as exemplified by the Nevado del Ruiz disaster of 1985 when around 26,000 people were killed in the town of Armero, Colombia, by a lahar with a volcanic source that was 60km away.

The Nevado del Ruiz tragedy was the direct result of volcanic activity melting ice at the volcano’s summit, but a large volume of rainfall or snowmelt could feasibly generate a similar lahar on Popo. This could flow down-slope towards nearby settlements with little or no warning.

4. Krakatoa, Indonesia

Credit: Thomas.Schiet/Wikimedia Commons

Otherwise named Krakatau, Krakatoa’s name is infamous; 36,000 people were killed by the tsunami triggered by its 1886 eruption, which released more energy than 13,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. The eruption destroyed the volcanic island completely, but within 50 years, a new island had appeared in its place.

The new island is named Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa) and since the 1920s, it has been growing in episodic phases, reaching about 300 metres in height today. New and significant activity commenced in 2007 and since this time, further episodes of activity were noted at the volcano, most recently in March 2017.

No one knows for sure whether or not the spectacular growth of Anak Krakatau means it may one day repeat the catastrophe its “father” unleashed, but its location between Indonesia’s two most populated islands, Java and Sumatra, means it poses a grave threat to life.

5. Changbaishan, China

Credit: Bdpmax/Wikimedia Commons

Few have heard of this volcano in a remote part of Asia - and its last eruption was in 1903. However, its history tells a rather scarier story. In around 969 AD, the volcano produced one of the largest eruptions of the last 10,000 years, releasing three times more material than Krakatoa did in 1886.

One of the chief hazards is posed by the massive crater lake at its peak (with a volume of about nine cubic kilometres). If breached, this lake could generate lahars that would pose a significant threat to the 100,000 people that live in the vicinity.

Credit: NASA Johnson/Flickr

In the early 2000s, scientists began monitoring the hitherto under-monitored volcano, and determined that its activity was increasing, that its magma chamber dormancy was coming to an end, and that it could pose a hazard in the following decades.

Further complicating things is the fact that Changbaishan straddles the border of China and North Korea. Given such a geo-politically sensitive location, the effects of any volcanic activity here would likely be very hard to manage.

Top image: Mount Etna eruption in 2011. Credit: Cirimbillo/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: The Conversation. Some images added.]

Monday, 24 April 2017


You may have managed to solve a Rubik’s cube, but what if there's a way to show you how to do that in no time at all - in fact in just five steps? The following infographic by Reddit shows how it's done.

[Click on image to enlarge]

Top image credit: DomenicBlair/Pixabay.

[Source: Reddit.]

Sunday, 23 April 2017


Numerous maps, like the one by Piri Reis, have been discovered throughout history that even today remain as an enigma to scholars and skeptics. These maps, some of which are thousands of years old, have been validated by scholars who remain baffled and cannot explain their precision and level of detail. Some of them were created as if somehow, someone was able to see the land from the air before drawing the charts. How were these maps made? How is it possible that they display features that were unknown to man according to mainstream history? Learn more from the following video by nemesis maturity.

More information at Ancient Code.

Top image: Screenshot of the Piri Reis Map from the video.

[Source: nemesis maturity via YouTube.]

Saturday, 22 April 2017


6 Creative Recycling Efforts From Around the Globe
By Kirstin Fawcett,
Mental Floss, 21 April 2017.

Recycling isn't - and shouldn’t be - limited to separating plastic cartons, junk mail, and tin cans for the garbage collector. This Earth Day, think outside the plastic bin, and brainstorm creative ways to convert or re-purpose old, discarded, or unexpected materials into something new and useful. Don't know where to start? Get inspired by one (or all) of the sustainable organizations and initiatives below.

1. The shopping center that sells recycled/upcycled items

The adage “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” rings true in Eskilstuna, Sweden. The metropolis is home to a shopping center, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, which only sells upcycled, recycled, or sustainable merchandise. (The name ReTuna Återbruksgalleria combines Tuna, which is a nickname for the city; återbruk, which means “reuse” in Swedish; and galleria, which means mall.)

Patrons can drop off objects they no longer want or need at a designated recycling depot. Items that can be repaired are fixed and re-sold in the mall’s nine shops, which offer customers everything from furniture to clothing items to sporting equipment. Goods that can’t be sold are donated to needy institutions or organizations, or recycled.

2. The mall that feeds its food waste to hogs

Image credit: René Sinn/Wikimedia Commons

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is the nation’s largest shopping center - and it’s also vying for the title of “greenest.” In addition to LED parking garage lighting, water-efficient toilets, and thousands of air-purifying plants and trees, the mall annually recycles more than 2400 tons of food waste by donating it to a local hog farm. (If you’re an entrepreneur who’s interested in emulating the MOA’s large-scale food waste strategy, you can check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for getting started here.)

3. The non-profit that transforms flip-flop flotsam into art

Around 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Soda bottles, grocery bags, and six-pack rings aren’t the only plastic items polluting the world’s waterways and harming fish, turtles, and other animals: In 1997, marine conservationist Julie Church came across a beach in Kenya that was strewn with discarded flip-flops.

Church noticed children making toys from the debris, and convinced local women to collect, wash, and process the flip-flops into colorful art objects. This initiative grew into Ocean Sole, a fair-trade business that today collects flip-flop flotsam from Kenya's beaches and waters and transforms them into plastic sculptures, accessories, and trinkets. Ocean Sole's goal is to recycle 400,000 flip-flops per year, and the organization also provides business opportunities to women living in city slums and remote coastal areas.

4. The company that turns used diapers into usable items

Founded in 1989, Knowaste is a Canadian company that recycles diapers and absorbent hygiene products (AHPs), such as baby diapers, feminine hygiene products, and incontinence pads. They've developed a way to strip them of their plastic and fiber, which they then use to make products like composite construction materials, pet litter, and cardboard industrial tubing.

5. The ecological non-profit that collects hair to clean up oil spills

Work at a beauty salon or own a furry pet? Instead of tossing shorn or shed hair into the trash, donate it to Matter of Trust. The San Francisco-based ecological charity’s Clean Wave program collects hair and fur, and uses it to make oil-absorbing mats and stuff containment booms. Hazmat teams use these all-natural tools to clean up after oil spills, and public works departments use them to keep motor oil drip spills out of waterways.

In addition to large-scale donations from beauty salons, barbershops, and groomers, Matter of Trust also accepts smaller contributions from private individuals. If you’re interested in helping out, visit Matter of Trust’s website, register to participate in the nonprofit’s Excess Access recycling program, and follow the instructions to donate. The program’s need for hair and fur ebbs and flows, depending on the volume of recent donations. But in the case of an emergency oil spill, all donations are welcome. (Cases in point: Matter of Trust’s hair mats and booms were used to help clean up after both the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill in the San Francisco Bay and the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.)

6. The non-profit that re-purposes old crayons into new ones

Crayola’s crayon-making factory in Easton, Pennsylvania, produces around 12 million crayons each day, making it all too easy and inexpensive to toss scuzzy, broken, and worn-down wax stubs into the trash and purchase new ones. Crayons are typically made from paraffin wax and aren’t biodegradable - so to keep old art tools from clogging landfills, a Northern California-based non-profit called The Crayon Initiative collects unwanted crayons from restaurants and schools and melts them down to make fresh ones. Then, they donate the re-purposed goods to children’s hospitals. Family restaurants and schools can find out how to organize crayon donation drives online.

Top image credit: 9355/Pixabay.

[Source: Mental Floss. Top image added.]

Friday, 21 April 2017


gravitational lensing
Top 10 Things Going On In Space That Will Melt Your Brain
By Hannah Janssen,
Listverse, 21 April 2017.

Ancient cultures like the Chinese and the Greeks looked up at the sky in awe and racked their brains to figure out just what was going on up there. They made remarkable breakthroughs, but things really ramped up in the 20th and 21st centuries as technology advanced. Some of those discoveries might be unfathomable to the non-scientists out there, but they’re certainly real.

10. Curved Space

Photo credit: Lars H. Rohwedder

The idea that space can be flat or curved is strange and maybe not even believable, but alas, it is true.

Albert Einstein realized the space around gravitating objects is curved, which accounts for things like orbits (more on that next). One way to determine whether space is flat or curved is by testing Euclidean geometry in these spaces. This is geometry performed by Euclid, a mathematician from Ancient Greece that wrote up all the formulas you learned in high school geometry.

For example, in Euclidean geometry, a triangle’s angles add up to 180 degrees. Not in curved space. It’s because the curvature of the straight lines (what an oxymoron) causes the angles to be bigger. You could draw a triangle with three 90-degree angles.

Think about that for a minute.

9. The Not Force Of Gravity

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Remember in high school physics when you learned Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of Motion? And the force of gravity? Force is mass times acceleration, or 9.8 m/s2? Forget it. Almost.

Newton was not completely wrong with his laws about gravity; however, he wasn’t completely right. Turns out, in his formulas, you could theoretically get answers, like the potential for infinite gravity, that just don’t add up, and Albert Einstein saw that. He then came up with his own equations that answered questions about gravity that Newton’s equations couldn’t. This is how we get curved space, which causes the phenomenon of gravity.

Imagine space as a rubber sheet. Now stick a bowling ball, representing Earth, on it. You should be seeing a curve in the rubber around the Earth. Keeping this in mind, if you were to roll a smaller, lighter ball (the Moon) at the edge of that curved rubber, it would get caught in the curvature of the rubber (gravity) and go in circles, or orbit around the Earth. This is how gravity works according to Einstein.

The big takeaway here? Gravity is not a force, so forget high school physics. Only that part, anyway.

8. Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity

Photo credit: Ferdinand Schmutzer

Einstein’s theory of relativity is a complicated one, so hang on to your hats, boys and girls. This one plays in with curved space and gravity not being a force, but it is by far its own animal.

On larger scales, as an object moves from an observer, time slows down to that observer. For instance, if you hold a clock in front of you, the seconds will tick like normal. Move that clock farther away, and those seconds and minutes, to your perspective, will slow down. They don’t really slow down, but they look like it.

This goes for all kinds of things, like aging and light. If you hold a blue light in front of you, it will look blue, but as it moves farther and farther away, it will start to look red because red has a longer wavelength. This is also why the pitch of sound, like when you hear a train horn, changes. As it gets closer, the wavelengths shrink, so the frequency and the pitch go up. As it goes away, the wavelengths get longer, and the frequency and pitch drop.

On Earth, these relative differences are very subtle, almost negligible, which is why Newton’s laws are used and taught in school. They serve their purpose just fine on Earth, except in one respect: Global Positioning Systems.

GPS devices use Einstein’s Relativity to function properly. Time at the satellites above Earth pass slower, to us, than it really does, and for the satellites, time moves faster down here, due to Earth’s gravity. These time differences are great enough that they would completely throw off your travel time. To make sure we get to where we’re supposed to be, GPS devices rely on Einstein’s time.

7. Black Holes

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Black holes are still a great mystery. Their very nature is what makes them so difficult to understand. For one, you can’t see them. Their gravity is so strong, nothing can escape, including light. Matter would have to move faster than the speed of light to get out of the grip of gravity (called the escape velocity), which is impossible. This is how black holes got their name: no light comes out of it, so we can’t see it, therefore it’s black. Simple. Except they’re not so simple.

Black holes are a sort of stellar carcass. When a massive star (much bigger than our Sun) dies, it blows up into a supernova and will collapse into a neutron star or a black hole, the latter of which is completely unlike a star. Black holes have an extreme gravity that leads to a singularity where there is infinite density, where all of the mass is packed, and where time stops completely. The event horizon is the “point of no return” on the outer part of the black hole where the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light and space and time move in one direction: forward.

Once you cross into the event horizon, you’re not coming back. If you get to the singularity, you will die an ugly, but quick, death. Because the tidal forces are so strong, your body will be unnaturally elongated, and you will be crushed front to back and side to side. You’ll end up looking like string, which is another reason we don’t know much about black holes. It’s too risky.

6. Alternate Universes

Photo credit: Wikimedia

This one does sound like pure science fiction, but it is a legitimate concept that scientists have grappled with for a century.

During World War I, Karl Schwarzschild wrote up the first equation about black holes, like their radii, and even more fascinating, what’s inside. He wrote that at a single instant, the singularity (that point of death that crushes you) connects to an infinite parallel universe completely independent of but within our own universe.

Even crazier is what a man named Roy Kerr wrote. His equations apply to a rotating black hole. That makes a world - or worlds - of difference. His equations turn the singularity into a ring instead of a dot. This ring is almost like a portal that would lead to infinite universes. If you went through the singularity (without touching the ring because you’d die) you would go into another space somewhere else and could not go back through that same singularity to the space whence you originally came. The space that you would enter would be inside a white hole that, as the name suggests, is the total opposite of a black hole in that nothing can come into it but can only spew out. In theory, you could go out of that white hole and be in a universe just like ours but isn’t ours. If you wanted, you could find another black hole, go in, and come out of a white hole in a third universe. You could repeat this process forever, if you wanted to.

Of course, all of this is just in math, not reality. While it probably is not true, due to factors like adding mass, it is a concept that scientists have to take seriously and deal with today.

5. White Holes


A white hole is the complete opposite of a black hole because nothing can go in. It is structured just like a Kerr black hole, though, in that its singularity is ring shaped and acts as a gateway to other universes. It does have an event horizon as well that does not allow those who cross it to come back inside because the space and time are that strong.

There are no white holes in our universe. These are purely hypothetical and come with the math behind black holes. Even if hypothetical white holes existed in hypothetical universes in hyperspace, we would not be able to access them simply due to the nature of black holes.

4. Worm Holes

Photo credit: Wikimedia

These are also results of the equations behind black holes and white holes but don’t necessarily have to do with alternate universes and hyperspace. Instead, these deal with our own universe.

According to the equations, these wormholes could connect space-time as a shortcut. To visualize this shortcut concept, imagine a giant block of concrete in front of you. To get directly to the other side, you have to go around it. The straightest route you could possibly take is to walk directly to it and rub your shoulder along the edge as you walk around it. To make it shorter, you could just cut a hole in the concrete and go through it. Same place, same universe, but a different and a very difficult way.

Of course, there are many technical aspects wrong with this analogy, but it gets the point across. Wormholes could cut through some weird space-time to get from one part of the universe to another without having to travel through the space-time of the universe itself.

Wormholes start with a black hole and spew out of a white hole somewhere else in the universe. But, as with a lot of this, it is still purely hypothetical. The fact that it is under serious scrutiny is mind-blowing enough.

3. Dark Matter

Photo credit: NASA/ESA/Richard Massey

Less brain-melting but still puzzling and crazy is that there is so much stuff in the universe, but the catch? We can’t see it, we don’t know what it even is, and it’s everywhere.

That’s about all we know about dark matter, the substance that makes up 27 percent of the universe. And dark energy, something totally unrelated but just as mysterious as dark matter, makes up another 68 percent. Normal matter, like the protons and neutrons you’re made of, makes up only about 5 percent.

Dark matter was discovered by Vera Rubin when she realized the total mass of galaxies was more than the mass that the detectable objects in the galaxy should have added up to. That means that there’s something in these galaxies that can’t be seen or detected that has mass.

How can that be? What is this stuff? These are questions that mess with astronomer’s brains every day for the same reason they puzzle ours. This just doesn’t make sense.

2. Whatever It Is The Universe Is Expanding Into

Photo credit: ESO

Along cosmological lines is another big question: What is outside the universe?

Many know that the universe goes on forever. It has no edge and no center, but it is constantly expanding. That is, the space between galaxies is growing. This can be seen in the redshift of nearby galaxies. Red shift happens when an object is moving away from us, therefore its wavelengths of light are getting bigger, so the light is getting redder.

So, the universe is expanding, but what is it expanding into? What is on the other side of the universe? This concept is mind-boggling and certainly difficult to fathom, but this is real life.

1. Gravitational Lensing

Photo credit: Wikimedia

This last one is perhaps the least mind-blowing, but it still makes you scratch your head. Also, unlike the others on this list, it has soundly been proven, but that doesn’t make it any less crazy.

Gravitational lensing is when you observe an object to be in some position in space, but it isn’t there. This is because the light being emitted from its actual location is being refracted due to the gravity of an object that is in the way.

Gravity bends light. Chew on that one.

Top image: Animated simulation of gravitational lensing caused by a black hole going past a background galaxy. Credit: Alain r/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]