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Fun facts to get you interested in the importance of science literacy

Posted by mandyf on April 25, 2012

Science literacy is, and has been, of great importance to me for a number of years. It’s not just because I’m a scientist (as odd as that still sounds to me after 24 years) or that I bemoan the state of science in many public schools as being marginalized to the point of actually being almost pointless. I advocate for science literacy because it arms people with the tools they need to function at a higher level in the world we live in. As Dr. Tyson might say, it also arms people with the necessary knowledge to fend off those who would take advantage of us due to our science illiteracy. Dr. Mandy concurs, and you know she does because she never uses the title Dr. unless she really means it. Otherwise she thinks it’s kinda pompous. Just saying….

The best thing to fight science illiteracy, in my mind, is providing people with really cool bits of information that create a desire to question and explore. Science, regardless of the field, is about just that. With that in mind, here are some great treats from the world of science that will hopefully get your inquisitive nature piqued and start you on an exploration into a new world of discovery. Or at least give you something really cool to drop into a conversation now and then.

5 fast facts lightning round

It takes 8 minutes 17 seconds for light to travel from the Sun’s surface to the Earth.

In space, astronauts can’t burp because there is no gravity to separate liquid from gas in their stomachs.

The maximum speed of a falling raindrop is 18mph.

Just a single thimbleful of a neutron star would weigh over 100 million tons!!!!!

Black Holes aren’t actually black at all. They give off a glow called “Hawking Radiation” (Named for Stephen Hawking).

Free floating in space - still can't burp

5 weird science facts

The only wood on Earth known to NOT float is Black Ironwood (Olea Laurifolia) which is so dense it sinks.

Lightning bolts are 3 times hotter than our sun, which is a yellow dwarf.

99% of an atom is empty space.

A 100 mile x 100 mile solar panel placed in the dead center of the Mojave desert would generate the same amount of energy produced by burning all of the coal the US consumes in 1 year. Of course the conditions have to remain in a constant optimum state and a 100 mile x 100 mile solar panel is a big ass solar panel to construct, but theoretically and mathematically it is possible – just impractical with potential repercussions to the ecosystem that are still unknown.

If you want to feel skinny, weigh yourself when the moon is directly overhead because you will weigh less. It wouldn’t be significantly less, but due to the way a generic scale measures fractions of lbs or Kgs, you may be up to 1/5 of a pound lighter.

The deeper stuff

Under the special theory of relativity, time is relative to the speed you are traveling. Basically, if everyone is moving the same speed they all share the same timeline. When two people or objects are traveling at different speeds, they have different timelines.

So what?

We see this in our everyday life, but how?

Take the example of a satellite orbiting the Earth. It is farther from the Earth’s center of gravity than a person on their sofa, so it is traveling at a slightly accelerated rate. Communications satellites, in particular, have an internal clock. Because the speed between the satellite and and a clock on Earth set to the same exact time at the point of manufacture are traveling at different speeds, they display a different time – and neither is wrong. We automatically have programs that adjust satellite time, like on your cellphone, to compensate for this special theory of relativity.

If you look up into the night sky and find the constellation Centaurus, you will notice one star appears more brilliant than the others. That star is named “Lucy”, and Lucy isn’t technically a star by the strictest of definitions according to some astrophysicists and most definitely is according to others. Technicalities and semantics aside, it’s a star. Lucy is in fact a cosmic diamond – which just means it is a big ol’ diamond in the sky. Literally – it is seriously a huge diamond! How huge? Try on this for size – Lucy is 10 billion trillion trillion trillion carats big. That’s a big ass diamond anywhere you go.

Did you ever wish upon a star? The odds are that you haven’t – even if you think you did. More than likely, you wished upon a meteorite. Meteorites streaking through the sky are extremely common. An actual shooting star, on the other hand, is extraordinarily rare. About 1 star in 100 million will ever become what we consider a shooting star. We don’t yet know exactly what it takes to make the conditions necessary for a shooting star to appear (First authenticated as even possible in 2005), but the theories that make the most sense right now are that it could be the result of a supernova exploding or possibly some reaction to an action from a massive black hole.

This is just a teaser of cool things that science is really all about. Science isn’t boring, unless you choose for it to be so. The world is full of wonder, and as humans we should be too. However, we should expand on that wonder and explore the origins of it rather than being satisfied saying “That’s just the way it is” or “Cool” and moving on. Science is the core of progress and being science literate is being poised to help understand and define the future rather than watching it pass by.

I leave you with a few words from Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson


3 Responses to “Fun facts to get you interested in the importance of science literacy”

  1. I take my science with the same pleasure as the mystery religions and the weird stuff that is out there. At the end of the day they should be separate and at best complementary. I wish I knew where a lot of the ‘anti science’ because it is ungodly movements sprang from. Especially when you consider some of the earliest and most prominent proto-modern scientists were all either members of or heavilly tapped by the clergy. I know not a direct connection to your statement, but All I gotta say.

  2. Libby Keane said

    Love this post. I love all things science. Especially space science. I don’t often get to meet other woman who think this stuff is cool. I’ve got DeGrasse Tyson, Kaku, Greene & Hawking among others on my book shelves. Your right about science being marginalized in school. It’s a shame. That’s the time to light the fire of imagination.

  3. mandyf said

    Thanks! I think it is important for us to make science a mainstream thing and especially to get more women interested in science as a career. Science is the cornerstone of everything and it is actually very fun. People that are science literate tend to also be very well rounded which never hurts either.

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