Janice Boekhoff
 

Fun Science Fact

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Crop circles are one hoax that the general public seems predisposed to believe. Think about it. A hoax that even when proven fake still retains its air of mystery and the supernatural. It makes me wonder why we desperately want to believe in beings from another planet. As if we’re somehow alone if the four billion people on our planet is the sole population of the universe.

But I digress. Back to crop circles. Before the modern and elaborate circles started, there were a few reports of smashed crops that were claimed to be “saucer nests.”

In 1976 in England, two buddies were talking over drinks about the saucer nests. These men, Doug Brower and Dave Chorley, thought it would be funny to make it look like a flying saucer had landed in a nearby field. They had no idea how far the idea would go. Although they never claimed to create all the crops circles—many were done by copycat pranksters—they did admit the fraud in 1991.

Most crop circles today are concentrated in southern England. Every year, anonymous circle-makers create elaborate works of art. Maybe some are just expressing their artistic side. Some are probably trying to draw in “croppies,” those who believe the crop circles are supernatural, to boost tourism.

But why do people continue to believe in crop circles despite the evidence they are fake? Maybe it’s the longing in our souls for the mysterious. We seem to have a God-given bent toward the supernatural. In fact, Doug Brower now says he wishes he would have kept quiet and not exposed this hoax at all. Perhaps he too would like to dwell at little longer in the mystery.

 

Reference: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/crop-circles-the-art-of-the-hoax-2524283/?no-ist=&page=1

Photo Credit: ID 41660173 © Wesley Abrams | Dreamstime.com

Fun Science Fact

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Alien Autopsy

Yes, it’s still October so it’s still hoax month on my blog! This one is one of the most elaborate hoaxes of the twentieth century. In 1995, Ray Santilli, a British music and video producer, released footage of an autopsy on an alien that he claimed crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1945. Supposedly, he bought the film–contained on 22 film reels–from a retired military cameraman.

In 2006, Ray Santilli confessed to the hoax (the same time that he released a comedy movie based on the hoax called Alien Autopsy). The alien body was created by sculptor, John Humphreys, who also played the part of a surgeon in the film. The innards of the alien consisted of sheep brains, raspberry jam and chicken entrails.

Although autopsy experts weren’t fooled by this hoax, many UFO believers were. This film propelled the notion of aliens at Roswell into popular culture.

References: http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/alien_autopsy, http://www.livescience.com/742-story-alien-autopsy-hoax.html

 

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/536728722/”>jurvetson</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

Fun Science Fact

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The Nacirema Tribe

In June of 1956, Horace Miner, an anthropologist, published a paper in the journal American Anthropologist about a North American tribe with strange rituals. This tribe, called the Nacirema, used horse hair brushes in their mouths, scraped their faces with sharp ritualized instruments, and visited holy mouth-men in the hopes of drawing people to them. The Nacirema believe the body is ugly and through these daily rituals they can bring satisfaction and beauty.

Shortly, after writing the essay, Miner exposed it as a satire on the American culture (Nacirema is American spelled backward). The examples given in his essay above are of brushing teeth, shaving and visiting the dentist. While most of these rituals are not considered obsessive in our culture, merely hygienic, his point was to make us examine our relationship with our bodies.

Miner’s essay seems even more relevant today. Our obsession with beauty and perfection (at least perfection as we see it) often leads to a lifetime of self-hate. Perhaps we should heed Miner’s warning and not take ourselves/our looks/our status too seriously.

Although this might stretch the limit of a hoax because he did it just to make a point and not for money, I thought his ideas were so fun I had to include this here. Why not make up a North American Tribe just for fun? Sounds like something a crazy author like me might do. But seriously, what do we have if we can’t look at ourselves and the strange things we do with humor?

 

References: http://www.academia.edu/5378614/Body_Ritual_Among_the_Nacirema_Summary, http://prezi.com/wthiqnj5jqty/copy-of-the-nacirema/

Photo Credit: ID 23605419 © John Roman | Dreamstime.com

Fun Science Fact

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The giant red spot on Jupiter has always fascinated me. It’s a humongous storm that is twice the size of Earth and turns at  310 miles per hour (500 km/hr). That’s twice the speed of a category 5 hurricane! It has enough power to level cities here on Earth. Praise the Lord that He didn’t put anything like this on our planet.

This storm on Jupiter has lasted for over 300 years. Why? We don’t know. Scientists can only study the cloud cover of the storm to try to find out why it has such longevity. Jupiter’s atmospheric pressure would crush any probe sent to investigate the center of the storm. In lieu of studying the storm itself, some scientists have taken to studying the next best thing here on Earth–ocean eddies. These can last up to 8 years and they have mathematical similarities to the storms on Jupiter.

Reference: http://natgeotv.com/uk/storm-worlds/videos/wildest-weather

Photo Credit: ID 25709958 © Mila Gligoric | Dreamstime.com

Fun Science Fact

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I’m back from Mount Rainier in Washington State and it was an incredible trip! I’ve been to Seattle three times, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen “the mountain” (as the locals call it). The other times it’s been draped with heavy clouds, so thick that I’ve driven on the road next to it and not seen it at all.

Why? Because Mt. Rainier creates its own weather. Yes, this monster mountain forces air up its slopes, which then condenses into clouds as the air cools.

I’ve fallen completely in love with this place. I loved the forested slopes, the lava drenched ridges, and the glacier encrusted peak. How could you not?

But this was not just a pleasure trip. The book I have recently finished is set on Mt. Rainier and so it was research time. I needed to check my facts.

I stalked several park rangers and even one park geologist. I drove around the mountain several times, stopping about every 50 feet to take a picture. Then, it was time to hike (and oh my goodness did we hike).

My brother and I hiked to the top of Emerald Ridge, up to almost 6,000 feet elevation, which is about a third of the way up. Columbia Crest is the highest peak on Mt. Rainier at 14,410 feet. Hiking to Emerald Ridge and back took us on a round trip of 13 miles and right at 9 hours to complete. My muscles have never been so sore in my entire life. Even my toes hurt.

After all that, here are some cool things I learned about Mt. Rainier, not just during our hike or my ranger stalking, but also through lots of research (meaning I read the displays at the visitors center):

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Explosive Lava

Mt. Rainier is not as explosive as Mt. St. Helens because the lava from Mt. Rainier is andesite (a lava with less silica). On Mt. St. Helens the lava has more silica (mostly dacite) which makes it thicker and more likely to trap gases, hence its explosive nature (yes, I said it, Mt. St. Helens has explosive gas).

Steam Caves

At the top of Mt. Rainier, under the ice pack, are steam caves, formed when heat from the volcano melts the glacial ice. Most of the steam caves lead to a glacial lake under the ice. How cool is that?

Glacial Thickness

Most of the glaciers on Mt. Rainier are around 200-300 feet thick, but the Carbon Glacier is 700 feet thick in some places.

Tree Islands

The slopes of Mt. Rainier are dotted with islands of trees because the growing season is only two months long (that’s how long the lower half of the mountain is free of ice). Trees can only grow in spots where the ice melts the fastest—on ridges, or in areas where shrubbery is already established, which keeps the ground warmer.

Snowfall

The average snowfall at the Henry Jackson Visitors Center (6,000 feet elevation) is about 650 inches (over 54 feet). The record snowfall is approximately 1,100 inches (over 90 feet). This explains why the park goes into lock down all winter long.

Photo Credit: Me

Fun Science Fact

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I had a cat for fourteen years, but then she died and since my husband is allergic I won’t ever get another one. It’s sad because I love cats. Thankfully, we have two cats next door who give me my kitty fix whenever I need it (minus the litter).

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog as well and in some ways she’s easier, but she’s a Labrador retriever. Any of you who have a Lab know they are a sweet, loyal, and loving shadow, following you everywhere. They come with only one drawback—their drinking. I swear if that dog gets one molecule of water in her mouth, she leaves a million on the floor. Then, she walks away from the bowl with water/spit dripping in a ten foot trail across the kitchen. A definite slipping hazard for my race-around-the-house kids.

Sometimes I wish my dog could be more like a cat. Watching a cat drink is an exercise in God designed physics. The cat touches the surface of the water with a curled tongue, causing water to stick to it. As the water rises out of the bowl, the cat shuts its mouth at the perfect time to keep the water from falling back into the bowl, thus eliminating the mess found all around my dog.

Cats know the exact frequency needed to keep the balance between gravity and inertia. For house cats, it’s about four laps per second (slightly slower for bigger cats). Any more frequent and the water would splash around, any less and the cat won’t quench its thirst.

This leaves me wondering, if I bring the cats from next door over here, would they give my dog lessons on how to drink?

Reference: “Kitty Physics,” Answers, Oct-Dec 2013, 8(4), p. 26.

Photo Credit: ID 25501359 © Borzywoj | Dreamstime.com

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