Bright Guy

Cool facts on just about everything

Physical Sciences

  1. After 100 years, Einstein's prediction of gravitation waves has been proven to be correct!  Ripples in space-time caused by the collision of two black holes (about 30x the mass of our sun) have been picked up by the Laser Interferometer Gravitation-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Washington and Louisiana.  They detected waves incredibly small.  If the entire earth were used as a model, it expanded and contracted by a mere 1/100,000 of a nanometer (about the width of an atomic nucleus).  These two 'L' shaped tubes that are 4 km in length are like rulers measuring the distance of each arm with ultra-precision.  When their length changed in the same fashion it suggested that something such as gravitational waves were influencing the readings.  Scientists indicate this is a fundamental shift in the way we look at the universe.  No longer only using the electromagnetic spectrum (e.g. visual light, infrared, etc.) gravity provides an entirely new medium to study the cosmos.  Converted into sound the signals they received sound like this:

  2. Quaternions were first described in 1843.  They're used to describe the 3D objects.  They were considered useless until 1985 when computer scientists started using them when rendering a digital animation.
  3. An experiment has teleported encrypted information on a photon six kilometres in Calgary, Canada.  Both particles contained the same encoded information demonstrating that remote connections could be used for quantum computing in the future.  This relies on the phenomenon of quantum entanglement.

  4. Physicists have created an atomic gas colder than absolute zero!  In theory, at absolute zero (-273.15 C or 0 K) particles stop moving.  The hotter something is, the more particles move (ice versus boiling water). In this case, using lasers and magnets, the researchers could manipulate the particles putting a few slightly below absolute zero.  Unlike particles above absolute zero, which attract, these cold particles seem to repel which could explain the current observations of dark energy!
  5. Azidoazide azide is the most explosive compound ever created.  While nitrogen prefers being in a triple bond with itself (as in air), this compound contains many unstable double bonds.  Practical uses are limited because it's been reported to explode by: moving it, touching it, dispersing it in solution, leaving it undisturbed on a glass plate, exposing it to bright light or x-rays, among many others.

  6. Structurally, glass is an amorphous solid (making it similar to liquid).  An urban legend suggested glass is a liquid that "flows very slowly".  This is incorrect and was likely perpetuated by improperly translating an influential paper by Gustav Tammann.
  7. Jadeite is the world's rarest (and most expensive) gem.
  8. Dimethylcadmium is gram for gram, the most toxic chemical in the world.  A few millions of a gram per meter square of air is enough to cause devastating organ failure (and if you survive that) then cancer. It reacts with water exothermically and produces hydrogen gas.  If it "dries", it makes a substance that can ignite with friction.

  9. A large swath of Canada (Hudson Bay lowlands) is "missing" gravity, about 1/10 of an ounce per 150 lbs.  2/3 of the effect is believed to be due to downward mantle convection while 1/3 is post-glacial rebound following the melting of the Laurentide ice sheet.  The crust hasn't quite "bounced" back (recoiling about 1/2 inch per year) meaning the gravity hasn't had a chance to recover either.
  10. Thanks to Einstein's famous mass-energy equivalence equation, calculations can be made that estimate the mass of energy.  This means that if you completely charge your cellphone, it actually gains weight (about as much as one red blood cell).  If you charge something larger, like an electric car, with a 65 kWh battery, it gains the same weight as a grain of sand.
  11. Depending on the atmospheric pressure (101.3 kPa at sea level) water boils at different temperatures.  So water boils at 100 C at sea level.  As pressure decreases, boiling temperature decreases.  Mountaineers could boil water on Mt. Everest at 69 C!

  12. Research has demonstrated that when anaesthetic gasses are used to put patients to sleep during surgeries, they average about 22 kg CO2 per procedure!  This means the average global emissions of inhaled anesthetics equates about 1 million cars on the road!
  13. Scientists have revealed that reactive phosphorus, essential to life, came to Earth as meteorites!  Once hitting the water, the minerals corroded, releasing phosphorus.  There are very few natural ways of doing this (e.g. lightning strikes), but not in any amounts that could generate the life we have today.
  14. The Magnetic North Pole moves by about 40 km/year (upwards of 85 km/day)!  This movement is due to charged particles from the Sun (which generate aurora borealis).  Occasionally the poles reverse (about 400 times int he past 330 million years).  Research suggests the Earth is in need of a pole reversal.

  15. Ice cubes left in the freezer for a long time get smaller because of sublimation.  The molecules are still moving because freezers are not absolute zero (-273.15 C).  Even though it's not warm enough to melt, water vapor is still being created.
  16. Fluoroantimonic acid is created by reacting hydrogen fluoride to antimony pentafluoride.  This superacid is 10,000,000,000,000,000 times stronger than sulfuric acid.  It reacts violently with just about everything and can only be stored in Teflon containers.

  17. Ice, by definition, is a mineral.
  18. Francium (Fr) is one of the most reactive elements on the periodic table.  It is also the second rarest element with less than 30 grams (1 ounce) on the Earth at one time.  In 1997, scientists were able to gather 10,000 atoms in one place at one time, the most ever.  Astatine (a decayed form of Francium) is the rarest element with only 25 grams available at one time.
  19. The Mpemba effect suggests hot water cools faster than cold water!  This phenomenon has been described throughout history by Aristotle and Descartes but was rediscovered by Mpemba (left), a Tanzanian high school student.  He was making ice cream in school placed his hot milk and sugar in the freezer alongside his classmates' room-temperature bowls and noted his cooled faster.  He questioned a visiting physicist (Dr. Osborne, right) who tested the observation.  They published a paper together in 1969.  While various theories exist including evaporation reducing the volume, fewer dissolved gasses, convection current influence, or the surrounding environment, none alone explains the observation.

  20. Liquid oxygen is blue.

  21. According to the theory of relativity, objects further from the Earth's surface experience weaker gravity and move more slowly through time.  Scientists placed 2 atomic clocks 30 cm apart (vertically).  They found a person 180 cm tall living 79 years of age would live 0.000 000 09 seconds longer than a person who is 100 cm tall.
  22. Thioacetone is the world's smelliest chemical.  Thiols are used by skunks for their smell (also what's created when meat rots).  A small vial can be noted hundreds of meters away.

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