The idea of the tractor beam first appeared in fiction in 1931. Since then, scientists have worked to make it a reality… and they’ve actually had some success.
We’ve all heard of the Dead Sea, so salty that people naturally float in it. But the Gaet’ale Pond in Ethiopia is saltier, and the Don Juan Pond in Antarctica is so salty that it doesn’t freeze, even at -50°C.
There is a point not more than 20km away from you right now where your normal body temperature is enough to boil the saliva off your tongue and the moisture out of your lungs.
Water freezes into ice. This is not new information to you (I hope). But which kind? Because there are eighteen different phases of ice, including electric viral space ice.
The universe is full of cosmic rays, blasted out from neighbouring galaxies, supernovae, and the like. In 2003, they nearly changed the outcome of a local Belgian election.
Through some tricks of the human eye, we can see colours outside of the normal visual range: Stygian, self-luminous, and hyperbolic colours, and perhaps even combinations like redgreen. These are the impossible colours.
Take water, mix with wood pulp, and freeze. Now it’s as strong and tough as concrete, as long as it stays frozen. So, in World War II, serious plans were afoot to use it to build battleships out of ice.
Remember that Simpsons episode where Bart went to France and witnessed antifreeze being added to wine? It had its basis in fact, although it got the country wrong.
Thomas Midgley Jr. was responsible for two of the most environmentally damaging inventions of the 20th century. An environmental historian said he “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history.”
In the 1950s, as part of the nuclear energy craze, gardeners exposed seeds or seedlings to gamma radiation in order to induce beneficial mutations. In the UK, seeds were mailed out to enthusiasts to grow. Many of the plants died, or got weird growths, as you would expect. Some, however, thrived.
A positron can be modelled like an electron that is travelling backwards in time. John Wheeler proposed that this could mean all electrons and positrons in the universe could in fact be the same particle, just bouncing back and forth across time.
Non-Newtonian fluids are usually liquid, but when force is applied they can change to be more solid or more liquid. Oobleck (a mixture of cornstarch and water) behaves like a liquid, but you can walk over it as if you were walking on water.