Never strikes mice

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ever wonder why cats are afraid of thunder? After all, you wouldn't expect lightning to strike such a diminutive animal.

As it turns out, it's in their genes! The earliest ancestor of all cats is also the earliest ancestor of the modern giraffe: the sabertooth giraffe. For thousands of years, this ferocious giant was not only the meanest, but also the tallest predator on the savanna. Needless to say, this was a considerable advantage for hunting, but when a storm came in, the sabertooth giraffe had little choice but to lay low.

Modern giraffes have lightning absorbing pouches of saltwater in their hooves, and can walk through thunderstorms with impunity, but cats inherited that older, more primitive defense mechanism known as cowardice.

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Tri, tri again

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How many sides does a triangle have? Not so fast - the answer you learned in school isn't exact.

Turns out the answer is very slightly less than 3. The actual number is uncomputable, but it's close to 2.982.

It may make geometry a little more complicated, but be thankful; if it weren't for this fact, hourglasses wouldn't work, and we'd still have no rigorous method for measuring the passage time.

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Petal to the metal

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Iridium, gallium, and californium are all chemical elements named after flowers, but there is only one flower named after a chemical element: the geranium.

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