I love super slow-motion. The video above uses it to show nature's fastest tongue and fastest punch, and also the physics of a bursting water balloon. The range of speeds found in animals and even plants (what grows faster, your toenails or a cactus?) reminds me of the light spectrum: With the naked eye, you can't see what's happening at either extreme end of it.
Notebook friend John Krug inspired me to think about this topic by sending me a link to a brighten-your-day video (below, in orange type) that was posted by a website enticingly named Visual News: The Cure for Eyeball Boredom. The video is of a creative, slow-motion Japanese dance group made up of young men in business suits. Their performance is meant to be an inspirational statement in response to their country's earthquake and tsunami. You'll enjoy watching it, I think. And though the accompanying song on the video is only a pop tune, it is a catchy one. Here is the link to click on:
History note: Slow motion film projection was invented more than a century ago by August Musger, an Austrian priest and physicist. Sadly for Musger, he didn't pay all the patent fees for his 1904 invention, so a company swooped in and stole the idea. Two modern companies, ABC and Sony, are credited with inventing super slow motion, which debuted on ABC's broadcast of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.
Electricity from Play Dough?
I'm not going all video on you, but this four-minute TED talk will show you a remarkable property of Play Dough—and when was the last time you learned science through a piece of dough? Don't answer, just click:
CSI: New Jersey
The following animal mystery was sent in by Pamelia's brother, Scott, who lives in New Jersey. He's eager for any of you CSI nature investigators to offer a solution:
"One morning this winter we noticed two large areas of smashed down snow in the back yard. They were circles about 4 feet in diameter, as if something large had bedded down there. We thought maybe a deer had decided it was good place to spend the night. But we didn't see tracks leading to or from the area at all. There was about 20 feet of clear, untouched snow between the areas and the edge of the woods. Sometimes a mystery is a mystery, so we forgot about them as more snows fell.
"Eventually, when the snow melted we discovered parts of a skeleton of what I believe was a raccoon. It was mostly intact (not scattered), so I don't think it was the victim of violence or a late night snack for whatever eats raccoons on cold winter nights in NJ. At the same time, it seemed like a strange place for an animal to go to die since it was in the wide open."
Any ideas on who or what caused the big packed-down snow circles?
Answers to Last Puzzlers:
1) Alligators live in the wild only in the U.S. and China
2) Word Jumbles:
a) nuthatch (chathunt)
b) locust (scluto)
c) wolverine (viewnoler)
d) chestnut (schteunt)
1) What is the world's fastest two-legged animal (top speed: 40 mph)?
2) Match these animals to the speed at which they travel
a) three-toed sloth 1) 8 mph
b) giant tortoise 2) .03 mph
c) slug 3) .13 mph d) starfish 4) .15 mph
Samuel Cate Prescott, the New Hampshire-born MIT professor who made canned goods (among other products) safe to eat and helped create the field of food science, would have been 139 years old on Tuesday. Prescott worked with canned clams and lobster in developing higher-temperature processing, and launched the scientific journal Food Research.
Philip Gosse, the self-taught English naturalist who invented the home aquarium, would have been 201 on Wednesday. Though he long has been lampooned for a preposterous book he wrote trying to explain that the hundreds of millions of years of geological history of the Earth were an illusion (a hypothesis he linked to an explanation of why Adam in the Bible had a navel even though he wasn't born from a mother), he was a marine biologist and entomologist of some seriousness who collected samples in places from Newfoundland to Jamaica. (I say "some" seriousness; he was also fascinated by the genitalia of butterflies.) Gosse developed a formula for making artificial seawater and wrote a book on how to construct and maintain aquariums, which led to a popular boom in keeping and studying small ocean creatures.
Anthony Fokker—no, not the movie character played by Ben Stiller; that was Gaylord Focker—the Dutch airplane developer whose aircraft were made famous by the Germans (including the Red Baron) in World War I, would have been 121 on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Fokker also invented the device that allowed machine guns to shoot through a spinning propeller without hitting it.
I should add that 102 years ago today, Robert Peary and Matthew Hensen became the first people ever to reach the North Pole. And Peary was, for a good portion of his life, a Mainer—a graduate of Portland High and Bowdoin College. Bowdoin now has an Arctic Museum and Study Center named for him.