Japan Attacks from 5,000 Miles

During World War II, the Japanese attempted to attack the US using unmanned hydrogen balloons loaded with explosives. Although mostly ineffectual (only six deaths were reported), the US feared that the Japanese would eventually replace the explosives in the balloons with biological weapons. The biggest mystery, however, was how the balloons were able to make the 5000 mile journey. At the time, the Americans believed that the balloons must have been launched from within the United States.

The reason why Japan was able to launch this long-distance attack was due to their knowledge of the jet stream – a narrow, fast flowing air current – that flowed across Japan at a height of 30,000 feet. Japan’s “fire balloons” were designed to travel in this air current and were able to make the journey to the US in just three days.


Wikipedia: Fire Balloon

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What Plane Lands Before it Takes Off?

If you travel by plane from the UK to the US, the time difference created by flying through several time zones can create the impression of a very short flight. Traveling by Concorde, however, created the impression of traveling backwards in time.

With a cruising speed of around 1350 miles per hour, Concorde flew at more than twice the speed of sound, far in excess of most other commercial passenger planes (typical cruising speeds are less than 600mph). This speed allowed it to make the flight from London to New York in approximately three and a half hours, but with a local time difference of five hours. For example, if Concorde left London at noon, when it arrived in New York the local time would be 10:30am on the same day.

The last commercial Concorde flight was on 24 October 2003. All seven Concordes owned by British Airways have now been retired to museums.


British Airways: About the Concorde

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Deadliest War in Human History?

World War II, which was waged between 1939 and 1945, resulted in between 50-70 million deaths, making it the deadliest conflict in history. Approximately 25-35% of deaths were military personnel, meaning that the vast majority of the fatalities were among the civilian population as a result of bombing, the Holocaust, war crimes, population transfers, famine, and disease. Over 100 countries were involved or affected by the conflict.

Only 25 years earlier, 15-20 million people were killed during World War I, a conflict that, at the time, was referred to as the “the war to end all wars.”


Wikipedia: World War II

Wikipedia: List of Wars by Death Toll

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Choosing the Most Effective Placebo

A placebo (sometimes called a “sugar pill”) is an inert pill that is used as a control substance for comparing and measuring the effectiveness of new drugs. It’s long been known that placebos can somehow have a therapeutic effect, but recent studies seem to suggest that the healing power of the placebo is on the increase.

Some doctors believe this is due to the brain’s natural healing mechanisms that are activated when a patient believes he is consuming an effective medication. Even the color of the pill can make a difference; yellow pills, for example, make effective anti-depressants, whereas green pill are good for reducing anxiety.


Wired: Placebos are Getting More Effective

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There is No Sound in Space

Because there is no atmosphere in space, sound waves cannot travel. Theoretically, if you were in an interstellar gas cloud, then some sound waves would travel, but because the density of the gas would be far less than Earth’s atmosphere, the sound would be too small for our eardrums to detect.

Virtually every sci-fi movie and TV series ignores this fact, reveling in noisy fly-bys, laser blasts, and explosions. Notable exceptions include the TV series, “Firefly,” and the movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”


Wikipedia: Firefly Series

Wikipedia: Sound

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Turning Unwanted Waste…Into Gold

Today’s must-have gadgets quickly become tomorrow’s garbage. However, few realize that among this mass disposal of equipment is a rich stream of gold.

Gold plating is often used in electronics because it is an excellent conductor that is resistant to erosion. Although very thin layers are used, the gold can be recovered from discarded electronic components. The slang term for this recovered material is “Digger Gold.” Although the cost of the process is high, by recovering other metals and elements at the same time, electronic recyclers have managed to build a thriving industry.

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A Spider Web is as Strong as Steel

Spider silk is well-known for its astonishing strength relative to its size, but the more this substance is studied, the more it impresses.

The strength of spider silk is comparable to high-grade steel, and about half that of Kevlar (best-known for its use in modern armor). But spider silk can also stretch up to four times its natural length without breaking. Toughness – defined as the energy that a substance can absorb without rupturing – is a combination of strength and ductility, meaning that, from this perspective, spider silk is tougher than both steel AND Kevlar.

Source: Wikipedia: Spider Silk

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You’re Blushing!

When you’re embarrassed or overcome with self-consciousness, your body produces adrenaline. One of the side-effects is a dilation of the blood vessels, allowing more blood to travel through your veins, resulting in more blood flow through your cheeks. In other words . . . you blush.

Some people are more susceptible to blushing than others, and in extreme cases this can develop into Erythrophobia – a fear of blushing. So serious is this problem that some have gone to extreme lengths to spare their blushes, electing to undergo a surgery called Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy. This procedure involves cutting the nerves in the spine that control blushing. Although effective, the risk of detrimental side-effects has led to some countries banning the operation.


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More Than 50 Percent of Youths Bullied Online

Although we often equate bullying with physical violence, verbal bullying can be just as harmful. Cyberbullying, defined as using technology to bully or harass, has risen in prevalence and may include spreading rumors, posting cruel or threatening messages, or impersonating others by hijacking their accounts. Such actions may be viewed as lighthearted fun by the perpetrators, but for the victims, the result can be anxiety, depression, and even suicide.

A recent study found that over 50% of teenagers have been the victim of cyberbullying and, perhaps even more worryingly, over 50% of teenagers have engaged in cyberbullying. The blame for the rise of this unsavory behavior has been placed on the anonymous nature of the Internet. In light of this, the best defense against the practice is often considered to be open communication between the victims and their families.

Source: BullyingStatistics.org

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Most “Social” Nation?

Facebook and Twitter are so popular that they have become deeply engrained in popular culture.  Although the English-speaking world may appear to make up the majority of the users, other nations and cultures are far more “socially” engaged.  A study in 2010 found that, in Russia, social network users spent an average of 9.8 hours per day on the sites – more than double the worldwide average.

Facebook is the fastest growing social network in Russia, but it still only ranks fifth overall.  Vkontakte.ru is the most popular social networking site, followed by Odnoklassniki.ru in second place.

Source: ComScore: Russia Has Most Engaged Social…

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