Undeniable Update

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sorry I haven't posted any facts lately folks, but I just awakened from a coma this morning caused (apparently) by too much Thanksgiving food. I'll elaborate:

You may already know of the chemical called "tryptophan" - best known for causing Thanksgiving Day drowsiness - which turkeys naturally produce as a defensive poison. Also fairly common knowledge is the mild sedative nature of the fruit of the heroin poppy, the cranberry. What may come as a surprise to you is that if mixed and in large quantities, these two chemicals greatly magnify each other's effects, producing potentially dangerous results.

The best advice I can give is that if you're really going to pig out on Thanksgiving, it's safest to choose either turkey or cranberries, but not both.

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Undeniable Fact: Rat race

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Using little more than their wits and materials scavenged from decommissioned trains, the rats of New York's subway system have built an elaborate communications infrastructure. Ironically, none of the rats appear to know how to use this network or even understand its purpose.

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Undeniable Fact: If I had a nickel...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pumpernickel - whose name comes from the archaic British slang "pumper", meaning fool - was for many years considered little more than a nuisance to nickelsmiths in search of quality materials. Then, in 1634, Alexander Cromwell, an eccentric and experimental baker, included it in a new kind of bread. Pumpernickel is one of very few edible metals, and Cromwell's bread was an instant hit, succeeding where his previous attempts - such as tin loaf, mercury cake, and lead muffins - had failed.

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Undeniable Fact: The itsiest-bitsiest spider

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The smallest known spider is the virus. Its web is what makes us sick.

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Undeniable Friday: Instant Cat

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's Undeniable Friday! Every Friday, in addition to an odd little factoid, UndeniableFacts.com gives you a fun puzzle, illusion, or activity to enjoy and share.

Today: The Instant Cat

This experiment demonstrates a little known behavior in cats called "anhydrous hibernation". This hibernation state is used in the wild to survive the cold winter months when food is scarce. If you have an outdoor cat, you may have noticed it eating grass occasionally. In fact, your cat is searching for the fallen leaves of the pussy willow. These leaves contain a chemical which triggers the anhydrous hibernation response. In the spring, when the first rain comes, wild cats are rehydrated automatically.

In order to persuade your cat to exhibit this amazing behavior, you'll need to obtain approximately twelve pussy willow leaves and place them near your cat. There's really no way to force this. Your cat will either be willing to hibernate or not.
Important: Do not try to trick your cat into eating the leaves (for example by putting them in the cat's food). This will greatly anger your cat, and your cat may go into a violent rage.

You will need to make a secluded area available to your cat. Cats will not enter or leave the hibernation state if they are being watched (and they know if you are watching).

You will know if your cat has completed the transition if it shrinks to about one fifth its size and becomes more or less featureless. To revive your cat, place it in a box (so it can't see you), and pour some water on it. The rehydration process is nearly instant.

I know some readers may be tempted to get their cats to hibernate before they go on a long trip or for storage at night. This is not a good idea. In some cases cats can awaken from their hibernation without a water source. In addition, it is possible that some water may accidentally awaken your cat, leaving it scared and alone. Be considerate of your furry pal!

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Undeniable Fact: Heads Up!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Much like their ancestors, the brontosaurs, giraffes are able to cross large bodies of water by holding their heads above the surface. This explains why giraffes are found on virtually every continent.

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Undeniable Update: Banana Safety Gallery

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I have received quite a few photos of microwaves with appropriate safety labeling from the heroic Safety Rangers who read this site. As promised, I have created a gallery of the images received so far. But there's still much work to be done.

I would especially like to draw your attention to the submission of Matthew S, which is particularly illuminating. Indeed, the guys at RAUDFound were a little puzzled that knowledge about orthogonal waves existed outside of their research.

And regarding the coffee: it is a little known fact that coffee is often packed in dried banana peels when shipping from South America. This is because banana peels are an abundant byproduct of the thriving banana industry in this region, and because they are one of natures finest desiccants.

Keep sending 'em in guys. If we work together, we can beat this thing.

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Undeniable Fact: A leg to stand on

In the wild, donkeys are bipedal. When approached by humans - among their few natural predators - they stand on all four legs as a defensive tactic. But once left to their own devices, it's back to standing upright.

But here's the ironic thing: donkeys can actually run faster on two legs than on four!

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Undeniable Fact: Ferocious Halitosis

Although flightless due to its diminutive wingspan, the Komodo dragon can spray fire up to 25 feet.

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Undeniable Sunday Comics

Sunday, November 12, 2006

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Undeniable Fact: Quack of all trades

Of all the waterfowl, only the mallard duck is able to breathe underwater. Woven into the webs of the regal mallard's feet are the last working vestiges of gills inherited from its amphibian ancestors. While these gills do not provide sufficient oxygen for normal mallard activity, the ducks can enter a hibernation state in which they consume little energy. At this low metabolic level, a mallard can survive indefinitely in well oxygenated water.

But this advantage comes at a cost: because of the delicate gills in their feet, mallards cannot walk on land.

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Undeniable Friday: The Floating Apple Trick

Friday, November 10, 2006

It's Undeniable Friday! Every Friday, in addition to an odd little factoid, UndeniableFacts.com gives you a fun puzzle, illusion, or activity to enjoy and share.

Today: The Floating Apple Trick

Once again, we're looking at some excellent party-trick potential. The effect is impressive and the setup is just too easy.

flash version

The key to this trick is the liquid in the measuring cup. With some basic chemistry using household items and a little heat, we can turn ordinary tap-water into a crude "mass fluid" - a vapor which is far heavier than many solids, but which behaves much like a gas.

To create the mass fluid, you'll need the following ingredients:
1 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp alum
3 tbsp brewer's yeast
1/2 cup high fructose corn syrup
3 cups water

Mix these ingredients together about two hours before you want to perform the trick and place them in the refrigerator. A little before your guests arrive, take the fluid out and begin warming it up on the stove.

Once you have everybody gathered in your kitchen, turn the heat up on the stove. Once the fluid is boiling, carefully place an apple in the container, and let science do the rest.

How it works:
This mixture is a slight variation on the first mass fluid, discovered in 1867 by Russian physician Vladamir Kalinknikov who was searching for a cure for malaria. According to legend, when Kalinknikov placed the final ingredient - an apple - into the concoction he had been mixing, the apple rocketed up and killed him. Since no modern recreation of Kalinknikov's experiments has resulted in the apple traveling at faster than 20 mph, historians consider this legend unlikely. More probably, Kalinknikov finally fell victim to the disease he was trying to fight - along with millions of his compatriots.

The Kalinknikov fluid works because of enzymes which yeasts release when they consume salt. The alum is broken down by the enzymes, forming tiny clusters of sulfur and aluminum bound together by waste proteins left by the yeast. These clusters are incredibly heavy but interact exactly like water molecules. When boiled, the vapor released contains billions of these clusters, making it extremely heavy. Anything less dense than this heavy "gas" will float.

So why do we have to use an apple? All fruits contain a substance called pectin which is concentrated in their skins. When heated, this pectin changes into a form which, chemically, is almost identical to helium. Unfortunately, most fruits have extremely porous skins, so this "fool's helium" immediately dissipates into the air. An apple's peel, on the other hand, completely traps the heated pectin, making it extremely light. Without this little extra push, a primitive mass fluid like Kalinknikov's would be unable to lift the apple.

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Undeniable Fact: A Diamond in the Rough

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You may already know that tremendous heat and pressure can convert a lump of coal into a diamond. But consider this: because of the conservation of energy, all of that heat and pressure is still stored within that diamond. If scientists could figure out how to reverse the process, all of our energy problems would be solved.

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Undeniable Fact: A Close Shave

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, American men will have used over 700 tons of shaving cream, yet they will have removed only 500 tons of hair from their faces.

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Undeniable Fact: It's a shoe-in!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ever wonder why all U.S. voter registration forms ask for your shoe size? As it turns out, because of a little-known law passed in the 1920's everyone who votes is entered in a secret "shoe lottery". Approximately 7% of all voters receive a free pair of shoes in the mail two weeks after each election. This was originally intended to increase voter turnout, but due to constitutional restrictions on incentives to vote, the shoe lottery cannot be directly connected to the election process. As a result, there is a tiny box at the bottom of voter registration forms which allows voters to opt out of the lottery.

If you win the shoe lottery it is a felony to tell anyone about it. According to the law, if asked about your new shoes you are required to respond "I bought them at the shoe store." Giving any additional information can land you in jail for up to three years or more, and will result in you losing your right to vote (I've never won myself, so I'm free to talk about it).

In truth, the secret shoe lottery law would have been repealed long ago, but because it was passed in secret, House and Senate rules do not allow the law to even be discussed, especially because 7% of representatives and senators can be assumed to have won the lottery.

If you're trying to decide whether or not to vote today, maybe this will help you make up your mind.

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Undeniable Fact: A Loose Cannon

Monday, November 06, 2006

You may be surprised to learn that the cannon and cannonball were invented independently by two different people, both of whom were seen as insane during their time. The inventions were commonly assumed to be useless for many years, until King Charles III of Spain had the idea of using the two in conjunction with one another. Although he is commonly credited with the invention of the modern cannon, Charles III merely put together two pieces which had existed long before he was born. But credit where credit's due: he did invent the ramrod.

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Undeniable Sunday Comic: Bananas

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Undeniable Friday: The Glowing Egg Trick

Friday, November 03, 2006

It's Undeniable Friday! Every Friday, in addition to an odd little factoid, UndeniableFacts.com gives you a fun puzzle, illusion, or activity to enjoy and share.

Today: The Glowing Egg Trick

The effect:
You shine a laser pointer on some eggs, and one begins to glow. You crack open the egg, and, to the amazement of your friends, a glowing yolk flows out.

How it works:
One out of every eleven eggs produces an inordinate amount of omega-3 radiation. This radiation is completely harmless to humans and is in fact an important component in sparking the creation of life. Eggs with excessive omega-3 radiation normally look and taste just like ordinary eggs, but if activated properly, the egg will emit a ghostly glow. And that's where our laser pointer comes in. Omega-3 radiation is generally at a much lower frequency than visible light, but demonstrates a unique property which scientists term "coaxing". When a body which emits omega-3 radiation is exposed to electromagnetic radiation in another frequency, the two waves form a new wave at the sum of their frequencies. Exposure to this wave causes a chain reaction which causes the omega-3 emissive body to emit more radiation at the same frequency. By shining the laser pointer on the eggs, you cause the egg to emit radiation at the sum of the omega-3 frequency and the frequency of the red light from the laser pointer. This frequency usually appears as bright green. After about five minutes, the egg will gradually stop glowing, but you can reactivate it by shining the laser pointer on it again. You can usually repeat this three times before the egg will no longer glow.

Note: just because 1/11 of eggs will glow doesn't mean there's one in every dozen. If you don't get lucky the first time, keep trying. Who knows, you may even find a whole dozen of glowing eggs.

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Undeniable Fact: He was a poet and didn't know it!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Although it wasn't published until after his death, Calvin Coolidge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner when he was only six years old.

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Undeniable Fact: Doggone it

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A recent study shows that 12% of dog owners incorrectly identify themselves as cat owners.

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