Archive for September, 2008

Where Does The Term “Mark Twain” Originate?

September 30th, 2008 No comments

To be honest, I thought Mark Twain was just the name that Samuel Clemens used for his books. I had no idea it actually meant somethig else!

“Mark twain” is a riverboat term meaning two fathoms (a depth of 12 feet or 3.6 meters). A hand lead is used for determining the depth of water where there is less than 20 fathoms. The lead consists of a lead weight of 7 – 14 pounds (3 – 6 kg) and a line of hemp or braided cotton, 25 fathoms (150 feet, 46m) in length. The line is marked at 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 17 and 20 fathoms. The soundings are taken by a leadsman who calls out the depths while standing on a platform projecting from the side of the ship, called “the chains.” The number of fathoms always forms the last part of the call. When the depth corresponds to any mark on the lead line, it is reported as “By the mark, 7,” for example. If bottom is not reached, the call is “No bottom at 20 fathoms.”

“Mark Twain” was also the pseudonym chosen by American humorist Samuel Clemens, supposedly because of its suggestive meaning, since it was a riverman’s term for water that was just barely safe for navigation. One implication is that “barely safe water” usually made people nervous, or at least uncomfortable.

[Source : The Handy Science Answer Book]

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Which Is Heavier – A Pound Of Gold Or A Pound Of Feathers?

September 29th, 2008 No comments

Most people would assume that a pound of gold is heavier…after all, it’s a metal, and feathers are inherently light. The trick here, though, is that the system for measuing weight is different for the two objects. Gold is measured using troy pounds, while feathers are measured using avoirdupois pounds. A troy pound has 12 ounces; avoirdupois pounds have 16 ounces. A troy pound contains 372 grams in the metric system; an avoirdupois pound contains 454 grams. Each troy ounce is heavier than an avoirdupois ounce. Thus, a pound of feathers weighs more than a pound of gold!

[Source : The Handy Science Answer Book]

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Why Are Eye Transplants Not Available?

September 28th, 2008 No comments

The eye’s retina is part of the brain, and the retina’s cells are derived from brain tissue. Retinal cells and the cells that connect them to the brain are the least amenable to being manipulated outside the body. That is why we cannot currently do eye transplants.

[Source : The Handy Science Answer Book]

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How Long Does It Take For Food To Digest?

September 27th, 2008 No comments

The stomach holds a little under two quarts (1.9 liters) of semi-digested food that stays in the stomach three to five hours. The stomach slowly releases food to the rest of the digestive tract. Fifteen hours or more after the first bite started down the alimentary canal, the final residue of the food is passed along to the rectum and is excreted through the anus as feces.

[Source : The Handy Science Answer Book]

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How Is “Absolute Zero” Defined?

September 26th, 2008 No comments

In tribute to the Large Hadron Collider, we learn today that absolute zero is the theoretical temperature at which all substances have zero thermal energy. Absolute zero is equivalent to 0 degrees Kelvin, -459.67 degrees F, or -273.15 degrees C.

Originally conceived as the temperature at which an ideal gas at constant pressure would contract to zero volume, absolute zero is of great significance in thermodynamics and is used as the fixed point for absolute temperature scales.

The Large Hadron Collider supercools the magnets it uses to 1.9 degrees K. That’s pretty darn cold!

[Source : Wikipedia and The Handy Science Answer Book]

Global Distribution of World’s Water

September 25th, 2008 1 comment

I found this image to be pretty amazing…I bet you do too!

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New Posts Coming

September 25th, 2008 No comments

In the next few days, you’ll start to see a steady stream of new posts. They will deal with common scientific questions…information that you just have to have at your fingertips!

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