Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why does February have 29 days in a leap year?

About 2000 years ago Julius Caesar reorganized the calendar by adding an extra day every fourth year, following the advice of the Greek astronomer Sosigenes. This was necessary because the Earth takes 365, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds to travel around the sun. The Romans had found that, with a year being only 365 days, festivals did not keep in line with the seasons.

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII made the system more accurate by ruling that the century years (e.g. 1700, 1800,1900 ) should not be treated as leap years unless they were divisible by 400. So there was not a 29th February in 1900 but there was one in the 2000.

Monday, February 23, 2009

World's smallest fish

The Paedocypris progenetica is now the world's smallest fish on record. It has been discovered by scientists in forest swamps of Indonesian Island of Sumatra that is only 7.9mm long. It is considered as the world's smallest vertebrate or backboned animal and is a member of a carp family. Paedocypris feed on plankton on pools of extremely acidic water in tropical forest swamps.

Before, the world's smallest fish which is Pandaka pygmaea was found in the Philippines in Malabon river but now, it is no longer considered to be one.

Do you know that...?

Lithium, an alkali metal used in batteries, is also used to treat mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder.

Lithium was already being used to treat mania as early as 1870. For some reason, people stopped using as medicine until it was rediscovered in 1949 and used as a tranquilizer for people with certain types of mental illness.

Many soft drink companies used lithium salts or lithia waters (mineral water with high amounts of lithium) in their products before. A company called the West Bend Lithia Company even produced Lithia light beer. These companies stopped producing lithium-based drinks after a ban was declared in 1948.

Wine trivia

  • The first wines produced were credited to the Mesopotamians in 6,000 B.C.
  • There are over 10,000 varieties of wine grapes that exist in the word today.
  • To make a bottle of wine, you need about 1.13 kilograms of grapes.
  • Of all commercially produced wine in the world, about 98 percent is consumed within a week of purchase.
  • Wine is 86 percent water, 11.2 percent alcohol, and 2.8 percent other substances. Experts say that over 250 compounds have been identified within that 2.8 percent.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Smallest snake on earth ever

A snake which is our inches long has been discovered as the world's smallest serpent. The non-venomous creature, which resembles a shiny earth worm was discovered in a forest of the Caribbean island of Barbados. Scientists recognized it as a new species of thread snake, a family of unusual burrowing of snakes found in America, Africa and Asia.

US evolutionary biologists Dr. Blair Hedges who made the find, determined that it was the smallest of the 3,100 known snake species.

Given the name Leptotyphlops carlae, the snake is believed to be at or near the minimum size possible for snakes. This diminutive reptile might easily be mistaken for an earthworm.

These species of thread snakes are also known as slender snakes or worm snakes. Short and slender, thread snakes burrow in the soil and live on a diet of insect larvae.

What is the largest crab on earth?

The largest water arthropod is the Japanese Spider Crab. If fully grown, it can reach a leg span of almost 13 feet, a body size of up to 15 inches and a weight of up to 20 kg. It's natural habitat is on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, some 300 to 400 m deep, around Japan. It feeds on deed animals and shellfish. It is believed to have a life expectancy of up to 100 years.

On the other hand, the largest land-living arthropod in the world is the Coconut Crab, also known as the Birgus latro.The coconut crab derives its name from ability to crack coconuts with help of its strong pincers.Reports about the size of this crab vary, but most references give a body length of up to 16 in, a weight of up to 4.1 kg, and a leg span of of more than 3 ft, with males generally being larger than females. It is believed that this is near the theoretical limit for a terrestrial arthropod. They can live more than 30 years. This crab is eaten by the pacific islanders, and is considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac, with a taste similar to lobster and crab meat.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What is rocket candy?

Rocket candy is basically rocket fuel made from sugar and a binder. An oxidizer, potassium nitrate, or potassium perchlorate is then added to the sugar/binder mixture to liberate the energy from the molten sugar.

Among amateur rocketry hobbyists, this formulation is very popular as the ingredients are easy to obtain and safe enough to work with. A typical rocket candy usually consists of 35 percent sugar and 65 percent oxidizer. Additive, like metal flakes, red iron oxide, carbon black, etc., are sometimes added for sparks or to change the ballistic characteristics of the rocket fuel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fresh pineapple chunks mixed with gelatin, is it possible?

Gelatin can be mixed with almost everything- whipped cream, vegetables, and fruits. But adding raw pineapple (or a few other tasty fruits) to it will be a kitchen disaster. Here's why.

Pineapples produce an enzyme powerful enough to tenderize meat. Known as bromelin, this pineapple enzyme stops stops the jelly from setting properly, because it breaks down the jelly's protein chains. The alternative is canned pineapples, since much of the enzymes have been processed already, rendering them inoperative. Any sort of cooking also denatures bromelin. So remember to cook the pineapple chunks first, before you mix them with your gelatin dessert.

Aside from pineapple, there are other fruits (fresh or frozen) that you can't add to gelatin. The list incudes kiwi, figs, mangoes, guava and papaya. These fruits have their unique set of enzymes, in the same way bromelin does, to keep gelatin from setting properly.