Janice Boekhoff
 

Fun Science Fact

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The Siberian salamander has the brown, scaly skin of an average salamander, but it’s not your average salamander. It has an amazing super power.

During hibernation the Siberian salamander is able to survive temperatures as low as -35 degrees Celsius by allowing its body tissues to freeze. It can survive in this state for long periods of time.

Unable to burrow through the permafrost in winter, this species is often trapped within the ice on the surface of the ground, although rotten trees and logs are also used for hibernation. Some have even been found more than 40 feet down into the ice, although there is debate about whether the salamanders are as old as the surrounding ice or whether they fell through cracks in the ice.

When temperatures begin to increase in spring, the ice thaws out, defrosting the salamander. The animal runs off as if nothing happened and maybe in its mind only a blink of an eye has passed. Scientists aren’t sure what chemicals give this salamander its super freezing power, but it’s clear that God gave the salamander a great gift to aid in its survival.

 

Reference: http://www.arkive.org/siberian-salamander/salamandrella-keyserlingii/,

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_hunter/14732935796/”>NicholasHunterGreen</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Fun Science Fact

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You’ve probably heard that hippos can be dangerous in submerged water. They are very territorial animals. In many rivers, they kill people by flipping over boats and drowning the occupants.

Recently though, I felt sorry for the hippos in Africa. A filmmaker captured footage of rowdy lions attacking local hippos at night just for sport. Lions rarely hunt hippos, but for fun these lions jumped onto the hippo’s back, dug in with their claws and hopped along with their back legs.

The poor hippos rushed back to the river in a panic. I don’t blame them. Big cats are some of my favorite animals, but I wouldn’t want to be nighttime play for a pack of lions either.

 

Reference: Prieme, Anders. “Africa by Night,” Science Illustrated, May/June 2012, 5(3), p. 56

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/mizerphotography/6275342569/”>rorymizen</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

Fun Science Fact

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The zombie apocalypse is upon us! Well, in ladybug form, that is.

Scientists at the University of Montreal studied a type of wasp larvae that turns ladybird beetles into the living dead. The larvae of this parasitic wasp colonizes the ladybug while it’s still alive, feasting on it as the egg grows in the interior of the ladybug.

After about 20 days, the larvae breaks out of the body and spins a cocoon around the ladybug’s legs. The poor ladybug can barely move and is forced to allow the larvae to keep feeding on its body. The larvae won’t let go of the ladybug until it takes its fill and no longer needs its host.

Even more disturbing or amazing, depending on how you look at it, is the fact that about 25% of the ladybugs actually live through the process. Although, I’m not sure what life would be like with half your insides gone.

What do you think? Is there a high quality of life for a ladybug zombie?

 

Reference: “Larvae Turns Ladybugs Into Zombies,” Science Illustrated, May/June 2012, 5(3), p. 14.

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathan_bliss/10596227316/”>Moonrhino</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

Fun Science Fact

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Ever wonder what lives in your belly button? Me, either. But apparently God gave the ecologists at North Carolina State University a double dose of curiosity.

In 2012, they sampled 60 belly buttons and analyzed the swabs for bacteria. They found over 2,368 species of bacteria—1,458 of which appear to be unknown to science.

They also discovered the average number of species harbored in a belly button was 67 species, although some individuals had as few as 29 and others had as many as 107 species.

Who knew we’d have so many bacterial hitchhikers hiding in our orifices? One individual had belly button bacteria found only in soil from Japan—a place he’d never been. Another person carried around extremophile bacteria that usually thrive in polar ice and thermal vents.

What will come out of this study? Researchers believe that microbes are involved in physical processes on the body, including immune function.

Could you someday take a pill filled with the bacteria from your neighbor’s belly button swab? Yikes. That kind of gives new meaning to the phrase love thy neighbor.

 

Reference: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/11/121114-belly-button-bacteria-science-health-dunn/

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/510676658/”>AJC1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

Fun Science Fact

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In case you missed it, the European Space Agency made history this week. On Wednesday, Philae, a robot probe launched by the satellite Rosetta, stuck a two-point landing after bouncing twice on the comet 67P, coming to rest about 1 km from its intended landing site.

Unfortunately, Philae should have made a three-point landing. The robot is resting on only two of its legs and scientists believe it’s tucked up against the wall of a cliff. This position means Philae’s power cells won’t get enough sunlight to completely charge its battery. It’s projected to run out of charge on Saturday, unless scientists can figure out a way to move it more into the open. What a sad thing for the robot to end its ten-year journey this way.

Researchers hope to find out more about the early history of our solar system by analyzing the data Philae sends back, but the data may be limited based on Philae’s position. Even so, I’m looking forward to their reports. I always love to learn more about how God made such a glorious universe. The earth and the heavens declare His name.

Reference: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30034060

Photo Credit: N02/14546108143/”>theglobalpanorama via photopin cc

Fun Science Fact

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Happy Halloween everybody! I’m a Christian, but I like Halloween (yes, I do know the origins of it). After all, what’s the harm in a little dress up and candy? As long as we’re not glorifying evil, then it’s all in good fun. Which is why my son gets mad at me every year when he wants to be the blood-dripping, sickle-wielding hooded murderer—no way, not gonna happen in my house. Thankfully, my girls still want to be princesses.

This is the last day of hoax month! So here it is—the most famous Halloween hoax of all time is War of the Worlds. Of course, I didn’t hear the original broadcast and neither did my parents, but I have heard about it because it has lived on in our popular culture for decades.

On the evening of October 30, 1938, in honor of Halloween, a radio station aired a supposed news broadcast during a musical program that was already in progress. In this broadcast, reporters claimed that a meteor travelled from Mars to Earth and fell on a farm outside of Grovers Mill, NJ. Then, they reported the meteor was actually a space ship out of which came a tentacle alien who killed people with a deadly heat-ray and a toxic black gas.

Although the producers put out a disclaimer at four separate points in the broadcast—saying it was a dramatic version of H.G. Wells’ story The War of the Worlds—it apparently wasn’t heard by all, because several areas saw widespread panic. This wasn’t meant to be a hoax, but the play was done in such a realistic way that even some people who heard the disclaimer believed that aliens had landed.

As a fiction writer, I spend most of my days presenting the unbelievable in a way that makes it believable. It fascinates me to see what our minds will accept as truth when it’s presented in the way we’re accustomed to learning about reality. In 1938, people were accustomed to having the news reports break into radio programs and many of them didn’t question the veracity of those reports.

What do you think? Do we do the same thing today with what we see on TV and read in books?

 

Reference: http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_war_of_the_worlds

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamie-uk/554260961/”>Jamie Durrant</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

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