60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories

I have tried to collect the most amazing science facts, questions and stories.

I also added the links to credible sources if you want to learn more about a particular fact.

Inventions and discoveries

1. Dynamite

In 1867, Alfred Nobel discovered that mixing nitroglycerin with diatomaceous earth created a stable paste that could be sculpted into short sticks. [1]

The product was named dynamite after the Greek word dynamis which means “power”.

It was used by mining companies to blast through rock, cutting canals, and building railways and roads.

Alfred Nobel died in 1896.

His will stated that most of his fortune ($265 million in today’ money) should fund prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature or peace to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.”

2. Gunpowder was invented in China, 850 A.D, by accident.

The chemists wanted to create a substance that could prolong life.

It was a mix of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate.[2]

But, it exploded to an open flame.

Consequently, the hands and faces of the chemists and the whole house were burnt.

3. Phonograph

Edison is responsible for many great inventions but this was his favourite. [3]

The phonograph was a machine for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound.

The first words recorded were “Mary had a little lamb”.

Edison suggested many uses for this product- as a dictation machine, an aid for the blind, a music box, recording the voice of family members (family record)…

But there is a particular use of the phonograph which Edison hadn’t predicted.

During World War 1, a special phonograph was created for the U.S army. And it was used to bring music to the soldiers and raise their spirits.

So, that’s how the recording industry was born.

4. In 1886, Karl Benz patented the first gasoline-powered automobile.

5. In 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays.

6. On September 3, 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, when he noticed a strange mould killing the bacteria in a Petri dish.

7. The first computers were big and slow. But, in 1959, Jack Kilby’s invention of the integrated circuit allowed the development of smaller and faster computers.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics- the year 2000.

8. Modern sneakers use technology that was first invented for space suits.

Space

9. The light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Nothing in the universe can travel faster.

10. A black hole is a very dense object in space. It has such strong gravity it pulls everything around it, even light from stars.

11. The explosion of the star that formed the Crab Nebula in 1054 CE was so bright that it was visible from Earth, 6,500 light years away. [4]

It was noted by Chinese astronomers.

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories
Image Source

12. While watching January’s total eclipse of the moon, observers saw a rare event. A short-lived meteorite hit the moon’s surface at 61,000 Km/h. [5]

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories
Image: © J. M. Madiedo/MIDAS

13. Two cosmochemists at Arizona State University have the first ever measurements of water in the samples taken from the surface of Itokawa asteroid. [6]

The findings suggest that impacts early in Earth’s history by similar asteroids could have delivered as much as half of our planet’s ocean water.

14. Martian Cave Dwellings

On 2007, analysis of photographs from NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter showed what appear to be cave entrances. [7]

According to Scientific American, there are 7 football sized caves which can range from 330-825 feet wide and 425 feet deep.

It can have primitive life forms (microbial life) and where water could exist in liquid form.

15. The worst wardrobe malfunction in the NASA history

It was July 2013, and there was a small problem at the Space Station. [8]

Two Astronauts Luca Parmitano (his first EVA) and Chriss Cassidy (four EVAs), were assigned to that spacewalk and fix the problem.

Because of the extreme heat created by solar radiation, spacesuits are kept cool with a system of water lines.

Parmitano was in the middle of the reach test when something went wrong in the suit, and the water started flowing into the helmet.

Due to microgravity, the water formed a huge bubble that rolled off his eyes, ears, and nostrils.

Barely without being able to see or hear, had to feel his way back to the safety of the airlock.

He made it just before the water in his helmet reached his mouth.

NASA suspended spacewalks until the issue was resolved.

16. Arecibo was used to transmit this coded message into space in 1974. So far, we haven’t had a reply.

Arecibo message
Image from the book, “Space-A visual Encyclopedia”

17. Aurora

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

If you live in the extreme northern region of the world you might see an Aurora. A dazzling display of coloured lights that flicker in the sky at night.

But what causes this phenomenon?

When large eruptions happen in the sun, high-speed particles arrive at the Earth and go crash into the air molecules.

Auroras can also occur in other planets in our solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) and probably in exoplanets as well.

Psychology

18. Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that alcohol exposure in early life can increase the risk of psychological problems in adulthood. [9]

19. Flynn Effect

Twenty-eight years ago James Flynn, a researcher at the University of Otago in New Zealand, discovered an interesting phenomenon.

IQ scores have been increasing steadily since the beginning of the 20th century. Younger generations are performing better than older generations.

Flynn went on to examine intelligence test data from more than two dozen countries and found that scores were rising by 0.3 points a year. [10]

What’s causing this increase in IQ?

The researchers don’t have a definitive answer. But, some factors are improvements in education and nutrition.

In addition, people are reading more because of the new technology (computers, internet).

20. Your pain is my gain

If someone in the workplace is mistreated then other employees might feel empathy or malicious joy. [11]

The second emotion often occurs in highly competitive workplaces and when his/her misfortune facilitates another’s goals.

21. People diagnosed with depression prefer listening to both low energy and sad music. [12]

And they are not seeking to maintain their negative feelings, but they find sad music calming and even uplifting.

22. We become more optimistic as we grow older. [13]

23. Research showed that children with religious parents have a reduced risk of suicidal behaviour. [14]

24. We make more than 200 food decisions every day. Most of them the result of manipulation we don’t even notice. [15]

25. Many studies have shown that playing video games regularly can stimulate neuronal growth and connectivity in certain regions of the brain. [16]

Health

26. Ferid Murad, an Albanian-American physician was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1998) for discovery that nitric oxide (NO) acts as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system. [17]

Since then, nitric oxide has shown to play a crucial role in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and impotence.

27. The Patient Scientist

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories

Ralph M. Steinman graduated from Harvard Medical school in 1968. [18]

Two years later, he joined the Rockefeller University in the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology.

In 1973 Steinman and Zanvil Cohn (the head of the laboratory), discovered dendritic cells. And this discovery changed the field of immunology.

In 2007, Ralph M. Steinman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. An unforgiving disease that kills four out of five patients within a year.

That discovery and with the help of his friends extended his life long enough to win the Nobel Prize.

He died in September 2011, three days before he got the news that he had won.

28. In 2009 scientists discovered that a drug called rapamycin could significantly extend lifespan in mice, doing so by interfering with the activity of a protein called mammalian TOR, or mTOR. [19]

It is the most compelling evidence to date that mammalian ageing can be slowed pharmaceutically.

29. A study from US Agricultural Research showed that feeding orange peels to cattle, sheep, and pigs help reduce gastric populations of Salmonella and E. Coli. [20]

The Hidden Dangers of Obesity

30– Heartburn. A 2005 study of 453 individuals found that obese adults are 2.5 times more likely to experience heartburn compared with people of normal weight. [21]

31– Breathing. Visceral fat which surrounds internal organs presses the diaphragm from below, which limits breathing by making it harder for the lungs.

32– Depression can be a cause and result from obesity. [22]

33- Obesity might cause sexual dysfunction by 30-90% compared to individuals with normal weight. [23]

Animals

34. Octopuses have three hearts- two to pump blood to their gills and one to pump blood around the body.

35. The fastest animal is the peregrine falcon, which reaches speeds of 389 km/h when it dives on its prey.

36. The longest-lived animal is the clam. It can live for more than 400 years.

37. Sharks have a sixth sense that can help them to prey in complete darkness. [24]

They can sense the extremely weak electric fields emitted by animals in the surrounding water, an ability few other organisms possess.

38. Bugs in the ice sheet

The gigantic ice sheet in Antarctica and Greenland it’s also a reservoir of ancient microbial life. [25]

When that ice melting at an alarming rate, the earth could soon see masses of bacteria which it hasn’t seen since 750,000 years ago.

Do they pose a threat to human health? Scientist says, not likely. Most of what has been identified appear related to common soil and marine bacteria.

Extinct giants

39- The tallest bird ever was giant moa, 3.6 m tall.

It lived in New Zealand and became extinct about 500 years ago due to hunting by humans.

40- The South American short-faced bear, lived about 1 million years ago and weighed 907 kg on average. [26]

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories
Image from Dantheman9758/Wikimedia Commons.

41- The Steppe Mammoth stood 4-5m high at the shoulder. And It lived across Euroasia 500,000 years ago. [27]

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories

42- Argentinosaurus was one of the largest dinosaurs, measuring 30 m from head to tail and weighing more than 77 tons. [28]

It laid eggs the size of soccer balls.

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories

43- Glyptodon. It was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle that became extinct around 10,000 years ago.

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories
Credit: Pavel Riha/Wikimedia Commons

44- Megalodon is considered the largest fish that ever lived.

It would reach lengths up to 20 m and weight over 60 tons. It was extinct to 2.6 million years ago.

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories
Image source

45- Titanoboa cerrejonensis lived around 60 million years ago. It was 14.6m long and weighed more than one tonne.

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories

More Amazing Facts

46. Wind speeds in a tornado can reach more than 318 mph, strong enough to tear down trees and send cars flying through the air.

47. The largest firework display ever was achieved by Iglesia Ni Christo (Philippines), at the countdown to 2016 New Year Celebrations. It consisted of 810,904 fireworks. [29]

48. The oldest tree in the world is located in the mountains of California. It is 5066 years old and the exact location is kept secret. [30]

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories

49. The great barrier reef is 1,600 miles long and is so large that it can be seen from space. [31]

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories
Credit: NASA/Kjell Lindren

50. The rarest element on Earth is Astatine. There are less than 30 grams of it in the Earth’s crust. [32]

51. The world’s strongest magnet is an electromagnet made by the scientists at Florida State University.

It is 300,000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field.

52. When an ultra-thin magnet is hit with a laser, it suddenly becomes demagnetized. [33]

53. Four elements account for 99% of the mass of the human body: Oxygen(65%), Carbon (18.5%), Hydrogen (9.5%), Nitrogen (3.2%). [34]

54. Your eyes are the same size forever. [35]

Your ears and nose grow your entire life because they are made of cartilage.

Interesting Questions

55. Can Plants die of Cancer?

Viruses, bacteria, and parasites can cause cancer in plants.

But it’s not a serous illness for two reasons:

1. Cancer can’t metastasize in plants because there is no blood-stream, and each cell is held firmly in place by its cell wall.

A tumour could develop but it would stay confined to a particular area and the rest of the organism would keep functioning normally.

2. The organs and tissues of a plant can be regenerated.

56. Who invented Dark Web?

By using Tor Browser, the anonymous areas of the internet became accessible to anyone.

It is often used by criminals for their illegal activities.

But, you may not know that it was invented by the U.S military as a secure online communication.

In the 1990s, the dark web was developed by the U.S Naval Research Laboratory. In early 2000, the open-source project was named Tor and was passed on to nonprofit organisations in 2007.

The US Government still pours millions of dollars every year into the project because the military and intelligence agencies still use Darknet.

57. How long do stars usually live?

It depends on how fast it uses up its nuclear fuel.

For example, our average sized sun has been around for nearly 5 billion years, and it will be for another 5 billion.

Almost all stars shine as a result of the nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium.

This takes place into their cores where the temperatures are as high as 20 million degrees.

Massive stars burn their fuel quickly, thus their life is shorter. Most of them live for a few million years.

58. Why do stars twinkle?

Have you ever noticed how a coin at the bottom of a swimming pool seems to wobble?

This occurs because the water in the pool bends the path of light reflected from the coin.

Similarly, stars twinkle because of the effects of our atmosphere.

When their light enters our atmosphere is affected by winds and by areas with different temperatures.

59. How can you calculate the mass of a planet?

The weight of a planet is determined by its gravitational effect on other bodies.

Newton’s Law of Gravitation states that every bit of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses.

So, if a planet has a moon then its easier to calculate the mass. The scientists observe the time it takes for the satellite to orbit and use Newton’s equations to infer the mass.

The more massive the planet, the stronger it attracts the moon and the faster the moon moves. [36]

60. Thomas Edison vs Nikola Tesla

This article wouldn’t be complete without including the story of competition between the science giants, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

It was August 6, 1890, when William Kemmler was the first person to be executed in an electric chair.

This happened in a time when America wanted to determine between using Direct Current (DC) or Alternative Current (AC).

The winner would be a major world player while the loser would simply lose.

DC, said Edison, the inventor and businessman who had been lighting America since the 1880s.

AC, says Nikola Tesla, a brilliant engineer and inventor.

In 1884, Tesla arrives in New York with only 4 cents in his pockets.

But, in the following year, he manages to sell his alternative current system to the entrepreneur George Westinghouse.

Edison’s DC current plant could not deliver electricity to costumers more than 1 mile away. And this made it difficult to serve high-density populations in cities.

On the other hand, AC electricity could be transmitted over distances at higher voltages and could be stepped down to near the point of consumption.

Edison used his reputation to damage Tesla.

He was against capital punishment but helps to produce the first electric chair, which of course runs on Teslas AC generator.

Although the technique was promoted as an alternative to hanging, in truth was just a cruel demonstration of the dangers of AC current.

In spite of the bad press, Tesla and Westinghouse won the bid for illuminating the Chicago World’s Fair- the first all-electric fair in history. [37]

It opened on May 1, 1893. In that evening, President Grover Cleveland pushed a button and 100,000 lamps illuminated the building.

That display convinced even the most die hard skeptics.

60 Amazing Science facts, questions and stories
Nikola Tesla in his magnificent laboratory in Colorado Springs (December 1899)
Image by Wikimedia

Sources:

Scientific American’s Ask the Experts

100 Inventions that changed the world by Matthew Elkin

Science Magazines

Image from Pexels, credit to Lee Taylor

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