Fascinating Scientific Facts We Just Learned That Made Us Say ‘Really?’

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Vote up the coolest scientific facts you just learned today.

Obviously, science rules. New scientific facts in the realms of technology, medicine, and physics have helped us not only understand our world, but also survive its many challenges. And while few of us will get to make our living wearing fancy lab coats or taking the Large Hadron Collider for a spin, we can still appreciate interesting scientific facts.

The internet can be full of misleading or just plain wrong information, but there are many trusted sources reporting interesting science facts that nobody knows. Below is a list of verifiable items about the fascinating world we live in. Vote up the ones you never knew before.

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    1,305 VOTES

    Hooded Pitohui Birds Are Toxic To The Touch

    Papua New Guinea's hooded pitohui is one of the few poisonous bird species. Their toxicity was discovered by ornithologist Jack Dumbacher in 1989. Dumbacher caught some of the birds in a net; then, as Australian Geographic explains,

    As Jack struggled to free the pitohuis from his nets, they scratched his hands and the cuts hurt more than they should have. He put his fingers in his mouth to dull the pain, but that only made his tongue tingle and burn.

    After Dumbacher sent the birds' feathers away for study, they were found to contain batrachotoxins. These neurotoxic steroidal alkaloids can be fatal in high doses and are also found in the skin of poison dart frogs. The birds acquire this toxin from feeding on melyrid beetles. 

  • Metal From Sunken WWII Ships Is In High Demand Because It's Uncontaminated By Radiation
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    1,552 VOTES

    Metal From Sunken WWII Ships Is In High Demand Because It's Uncontaminated By Radiation

    If you want to make highly sensitive medical or physics equipment, a cost-effective method is to use the metal from sunken World War II ships. This is because they contain what is known as "low-background steel." 

    All steel produced after the 1945 atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki is contaminated with radionuclides, or radioactive isotopes. Air is required in the steel manufacturing process, and any steel made using atmospheric air has a high chance of containing radioactive particles (a side effect of the more than 1,900 nuclear tests conducted since WWII). 

    The steel used to make WWII ships was not only produced before atomic testing, but also remains insulated from atmospheric radiation by the ocean depths. In the modern era, it is possible to produce non-radioactive steel in a controlled environment, but this is a more expensive process than simply salvaging the metal from the sea.

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    955 VOTES

    The Blast Wave From Tsar Bomba, The Most Powerful Nuclear Device Ever Tested, Circled The Earth Three Times

    Tested by the Soviet Union in October 1961, Tsar Bomba created a fireball five miles in diameter and could be seen for 630 miles. As the BBC writes,

    Tsar Bomba unleashed almost unbelievable energy – now widely agreed to be in the order of 57 megatons, or 57 million tons of TNT. That is more than 1,500 times that of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined, and 10 times more powerful than all the munitions expended during World War Two. Sensors registered the bomb’s blast wave orbiting the Earth not once, not twice, but three times.

    The thing was meant to be more of a demonstration of strength than a practical weapon of war. It was 26 feet long, seven feet in diameter, and weighed more than 59,000 pounds.

  • China's Three Gorges Dam Is So Massive It Can Slow The Rotation Of The Earth
    Photo: Rehman / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
    1,246 VOTES

    China's Three Gorges Dam Is So Massive It Can Slow The Rotation Of The Earth

    Though not so much that you'd actually notice. According to Dr. Benjamin Fong Chao, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center:

    If filled, the [Three Gorges Dam] would hold 40 cubic kilometers (10 trillion gallons) of water. That shift of mass would increase the length of day by only 0.06 microseconds and make the Earth only very slightly more round in the middle and flat on the top. It would shift the pole position by about two centimeters (0.8 inch).

    Dr. Chao's comment comes from a 2005 NASA article that explains how many things affect the rotation and shape of the planet, including earthquakes, weather patterns, and even traffic.