Monday, 5 April 2010

Blood is three times thicker than water...

Background: there is an expression that says "blood is thicker than water" - I wondered if it was true in a literal sense.
Main Source:
Topic: Biology/Sayings

Details: It's pretty obvious that blood is indeed thicker than water...but by how much? One thing to look at is the density of blood. This can be done by taking a sample, of known volume, and weighing it. I don't have any I can spare so I looked it up.

"Blood is a liquid tissue composed of roughly 55% fluid plasma and 45% cells. The three main types of cells in blood are red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. 92% of blood plasma is composed of water and the other 8% is composed of proteins, metabolites and ions. The density of blood plasma is approximately 1025 kg/m3 and the density of blood cells circulating in the blood is approximately 1125 kg/m3. Blood plasma and its contents is known as whole blood. The average density of whole blood for a human is about 1060 kg per cubic meter."

So a density of 1.06 g/cubic centimeter, compared with water's 1 g/cubic centimeter, means it's only a little denser.

But to get an idea of it's thickness, I think we should also look at its runny/sticky it is.

According to Nicole Davis, a grad student (Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School) it is about 3 times greater than that of water:

So blood really is thicker than water, about 3 times in fact.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Sand can also be pink...

How I Heard About This: I was lucky enough to visit this island
Main Source:
Topic: Travel/Geography

Details: Habour Island in the Bahamas is well known for its pink sand beaches that run more than three miles and are between 50 to 100 feet wide. Sand is a composition of bits of coral, tiny rocks, broken up shells and calcium carbonate from minute marine invertebrates. The sand is pink due to tiny microscopic shelled animals called Foraminifera, which has a bright pinky-red shell full of holes (that allow it to extend grip onto things and feed).

One 5-star hotel on the island is called "Pink Sands" and is situated right by the beach.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Why our stomaches growl when we're hungry...

How I Heard About This: I once went to see almost completely silent art-house film whilst studying directing at university. Halfway through I had to leave as my stomach was being so noisy, and almost everyone in the cinema couldn't stop laughing (including me). I ate something and was able to sneak back to watch the end. A friend of mine reminded me of this story today and I decided to try and find out how it happened.
Main Source:
Backup Source:
Topic: Biology

This is actually called "borborygmi". This is the process where by the walls of your intestines squeeze together to mix and digest food as well as move food down the digestive tubes. The brain switches on and off the digestive processes throughout the day, so you may hear these sounds even when you're not hungry. We hear these sounds more clearly when we are hungry as there is no food in there to muffle the sounds.

Borborygmi - great word!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Spaghetti Tree Hoax

How I Heard About This: Since today is April Fools Day, I thought I would look up some high profile hoaxes.
Main Source:
Topic: Hoaxes/Tricks

Details: In 1957 the BBC aired an episode of their well known Panorama program which documented the Swiss spaghetti harvest beside Lake Lugano.

Wikipedia says this: The report was first produced as an April Fools' Day joke in 1957, reporting on the bumper spaghetti harvest in Switzerland, resulting from the mild winter and "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil." Footage of the traditional "Harvest Festival" was aired as well as discussion of the breeding necessary for the development of a strain that produced the perfect length.

The report was given additional plausibility by the voiceover by respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby. Pasta was not an everyday food in 1950s Britain, and was known mainly from tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce. It was considered by many to be an exotic delicacy. Parts of the documentary were filmed at the (now closed) Pasta Foods factory on London Road, St Albans in Hertfordshire, and other parts at a hotel in Castiglione, Switzerland.

Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger dreamed up the report after remembering how teachers at his school in Austria used to tease his classmates for being so stupid that they would believe it if they were told spaghetti grew on trees.

An estimated 8 million people watched the programme on April 1, and hundreds phoned in the following day to question the authenticity of the story, or ask for more information about spaghetti cultivation and how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC reportedly told them to "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best".

At the time of the broadcast there were 7 million homes in Britain with television sets, out of a total of 15.8 million homes.
The story has been labeled by CNN "undoubtedly the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled".

In the obituary for de Jaeger, who died in London on 19 May 2000, which was published in The Independent Newspaper, Ian Jacob, the then-Director-General of the BBC, is quoted as having said to Leonard Miall, Head of Television Talks 1954-61:
"When I saw that item, I said to my wife, 'I don't think spaghetti grows on trees', so we'd looked it up in Encyclopædia Britannica. Do you know, Miall, Encyclopædia Britannica doesn't even mention spaghetti."