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Did the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs really hit the moon as well?

24 Feb

Jurassic Fight Club. Just the name alone was enough to draw me in. But this turned out not to be the documentary I expected.

The name, of course, suggested a program of celebrity death matches such as raptor versus T-Rex and allosaurus versus triceratops.

But it actually featured scientists, historians and other related experts recreating the last day on Earth before a meteor wiped out the dinosaurs (and pretty much all other life as well) some 65 million years ago.

Much of it I already knew. But what I did learn – having never really given it much thought before – was the origin of this Baptistina meteor. And turns out it tracks back to a collision between two massive rocks in the asteroid belt nearly 100 million years ago. It sent one of them towards Earth, where it struck Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and wiped out life on earth as we knew it.

But that wasn’t the only victim. Turns out other fragments also struck the Moon, Venus and Mars, leaving them with massive craters. A fascinating glimpse into the history of the skies above. And you can read more here.

What is the world’s biggest ocean? And more geographic facts . . .

18 Feb

After spending much of the afternoon helping a friend prepare stock for her new boutique, the last thing I felt like doing was embarking on a massive knowledge quest through the internet.

Plus, I had a new copy of the Horrible Bosses DVD to watch.

So I decided to go easy on myself and find out the answers to what I thought would be five pretty simple geography questions concerning the planet we call home. As predicted they took no time at all to investigate, but that doesn’t mean they’re not handy to know. So here goes . . .

Question: What is the world’s biggest ocean?
Answer: Pacific.

Question: What tectonic plate is Australia on?
Answer: The Indo-Australian plate.

Question: What is the world’s most active volcano?
Answer: Kilauea in Hawaii.

Question: What is the deepest point on the planet?
Answer: The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

Question: How long is the equator?
Answer: 44075.16km.

So there you go, don’t say I never teach you anything!

What are mountaineering’s 7 summits?

6 Feb

Some of my work colleagues have decorated my desk surrounds with what they call a wall of spunks. And they mean it entirely ironically since the largest image is of an Identikit composite.

For the most part I let them go, but every so often one of them takes pity on me and adds someone who does not boast man boobs, excessive chest/face hair or some combination of the two. Which is how Bear Grylls got a guernsey.

Now, I’ve been a fan of Man vs Wild for a long time, even knowing “he and the crew receive support when they are in potentially life-threatening solutions, as required by health and safety regulations”.

I won’t hear a word against him. And to the detractors who call him a fake and a fraud, I simply point out he has some serious adventuring credentials. I mean the man climbed to the summit of Mt Everest when he was only 23, becoming the then youngest Briton to do so.

It was an incredible feat. One I could certainly never hope to emulate. But why stop there?

After all, it’s just one of the famous 7 Summits, otherwise known as the seven highest mountains on the seven continents. But where are the others? I set out to find out. And here they are…

* Kilimanjaro, Africa, 5895m
* Denali, North America, 6194m
* Elbrus, Europe, 5642m
* Aconcagua, South America, 6962m
* Vinson, Antarctica, 4897m
* Everest, Asia, 8850m

Then we get to the final and somewhat controversial summit. The Bass list includes Mt Kosciuszko in Australia (2228m) while the Messner list broadens the continental definition to Oceania or Australasia and slots in Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia (4884m).

Either way, getting the set is an impressive feat!

How many deadly snakes does Australia have?

4 Feb

Walking down the stairs at work after my colleagues (and daylight) had disappeared for the day, my mind was consumed with thoughts of dinner.

Would I cook or would I buy in? Would I have meat or would I have seafood? Would I have room for dessert? You know, the big questions of our time.

Suddenly, as I hit the third bottom step, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye – an oval head and a forked tongue. Snake! It was a snake! And my body reacted accordingly, sending me back up those steps faster than Usain Bolt.

Fortunately, the animal didn’t follow. But it did leave me with a slight pickle. There was only one exit and the snake was in the way. Seemed like it was going to be a long night, but eventually it slithered away and I was free to go.

Naturally, my first use of this freedom was to post the incident on Facebook, if only to reinforce for my American friends that Australia really is teeming with deadly creatures. But it did make me wonder if we deserved this reputation, especially when it came to snakes. I headed to the Australian Venom Research Unit to find out.  And the answer, in a nutshell, is yes.

Now, I would have guessed we would have three or four of the world’s most venomous snakes, but the real figure is 11. That’s right, 11. And when you count out to the top 25, we can account for 20 entries. Scary stuff, and that’s before you even look at the fatality factor.

While I don’t want to get into the science of it, venom danger is  measured by something called LD50. And basically, the lower this number, the less venom is needed to cause death. So when you see our inland taipan returning a figure of 0.025 you can understand why it’s best left alone.

Here is the complete top 25.

Entries are listed by – species, LD50 and distribution

1.  Inland taipan 0.025 Australia
2.  Eastern brown snake 0.053 Australia
3.  Coastal taipan 0.099 Australia
4.  Tiger snake 0.118 Australia
5.  Black tiger snake 0.131 Australia
6.  Beaked sea snake 0.164 Australia
7.  Black tiger snake (Chappell Island ssp.) 0.194-0.338 Australia
8.  Death adder 0.400 Australia
9.  Gwardar 0.473 Australia
10. Spotted brown snake 0.360 (in bovine serum albumin) Australia
11.  Australian copperhead 0.560 Australia
12.  Cobra 0.565 Asia
13.  Dugite 0.660 Australia
14.  Papuan black snake 1.09 New Guinea
15.  Stephens’ banded snake 1.36 Australia
16.  Rough scaled snake 1.36 Australia
17.  King cobra 1.80 Asia
18. Blue-bellied black snake 2.13 Australia
19.  Collett’s snake 2.38 Australia
20.  Mulga snake 2.38 Australia
21. Red-bellied black snake 2.52 Australia
22.  Small eyed snake 2.67 Australia
23.  Eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake 11.4 North America
24.  Black whipsnake >14.2 Australia
25.  Fer-de-lance >27.8 South America

Strangely enough, there’s no sign of the trouser snake, which some women would argue is the most dangerous of them all.

BTW according to the unit’s figures more people were killed by bees between 1979 and 1998 than spiders, marine creatures or ticks. Now why haven’t we seen that reflected in a horror movie??

Is there really a crab named after David Hasselhoff?

31 Jan

I am a massive fan of David Hasselhoff. And you know why? Because he knows he is B grade and he owns it.

He knows he’ll never be recognised with a Grammy award and still he continues to release inflict us with his music. He knows he’ll never co-star with Meryl Streep but gave his all to Anaconda 4.  And when he was filmed trying to eat a hamburger while intoxicated, he didn’t try to blame it on ‘exhaustion’.

In short, he gets the joke, he knows it’s on him and he still signs up to play the German dodgeball coach. And more power to him. I mean have you ever had a German No. 1 single?  Have you performed on the Berlin Wall? Did you make a rumoured $100 million from Baywatch? Thought not. Me neither.

Anyway, the hirsute one came to my attention today via a rumour he had had a crab named after him. And to be honest, I initially called BS. I mean the jokes about crabs and Pamela Anderson would just be too easy.

But it’s true. And there’s good logic to the science.

The crab under the spotlight is a new species boffins found on the Southern Ocean floor of the Antarctic, where it apparently lives about 2500m below the surface. But what really caught their fancy was that it had an unusually hairy chest – a bit like The Hoff himself – and thus the nickname was born.

You can read more about the discovery here.

But in the meantime, let’s all enjoy the best video clip of all time.