Sildenafil (other uncommon names: 1-[4-ethoxy-3-(6,7-dihydro-1-methyl-7-oxo-3-propyl-1H-pyrazolo[4,3-d]pyrimidin-5-yl)phenylsulfonyl]-4-methylpiperazine, or C22H30N6O4S) is a common prescription drug originally synthesized by a group at the Pfizer’s facility in Sandwich, Kent, UK for use as a hypertension and heart disease drug, however, clinical trials found little impact on heart disease. It does however work well for treatment of a specific type of hypertension called pulmonary hypertension as well as altitude sickness, which may be experienced by mountain climbers and pilots, and another disorder. Some rare but serious side effects of sildenafil include stroke, heart attack, hypotension, and sudden hearing loss. Although illegal to use without a prescription, there is recreational use of sildenafil which is not diminished by the drug’s brand name and notoriety. Finally, the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize (not to be confused with the Nobel Prize) in Aviation went to an Argentinian team who discovered that sildenafil positively impacted how quickly hamsters recover from jet lag. Bonus points if you can guess the brand name of sildenafil (no cheating).
Yes, Tesla. The Serbian-American inventor who worked for Thomas Edison, who was obsessed with the number 3 and died broke trying to tend for an imaginary pigeon that shot lasers from its eyes (the term laser hadn’t been invented yet though). He has an SI unit named after him (the tesla, represented by the symbol T, is a measure of the strength of a magnetic field), and his inventions include no less than:
- Alternating Current (AC, still in use today)
- The light bulb (namely the fluorescent lamp, still in use today) and neon lighting
- Radio (Tesla let Marconi, the person credited with radio, use 17 of his, Tesla’s, patents)
- Radio (invented 18 years before the person credited with its invention)
- X-ray photography (Tesla x-rayed his own hand as a test, and he knew of the dangerous effects of x-rays)
- The remote control
- The electric motor
- Wireless communications
- Had the first hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls built
- Experimented in cryogenics
- Held patents for the predecessors of transistors (used in computers)
- Sent the first radio transmissions into space
- Determined the resonant frequency of the Earth
- Almost destroyed a New York suburb using a resonance machine (also known as an earthquake machine)
- Reproduced ball lightning in his laboratory (a feat not attained since)
Remember the Niagara Falls hydroelectric plant? Yeah, that was built to help provide cheap electricity to the Wardenclyffe Laboratory which would, get this, electrify the Earths atmosphere, providing free electricity to everyone. Unfortunately, the Wardenclyffe tower, from which electricity would be broadcasted, was destroyed in 1917. In October 2012 a crowd-funded project collected $1.37 million, plus a $850,000 grant from the state of New York, to build a museum to Nikola Tesla on the old Wardenclyffe grounds.
In memoriam of the first moonwalker, Neil Armstrong, today’s fun fact is about the moonwalkers:
Nine manned missions to the moon have taken place since 1968 when the Apollo 8 mission was launched, and all have been undertaken by the United
States. Of those missions (Apollo 8, 10-17), six (Apollo 11, 12, 14-17) landed on the moon. The following is the list of people who have been to the moon (meaning they have at least been in orbit around the moon), in order of date orbited, then rank for mission. Those marked with an asterisk (*) walked on the moon during the indicated mission, those marked with a caret (^) are appearing on the list for a second time.
Apollo 8: Commander Frank Borman II
Command Module Pilot James Lovell Jr.
Lunar Module Pilot William Anders
Apollo 9: Commander James McDivitt
Command Module Pilot David Scott
Lunar Module Pilot Russell “Rusty” Schweickart
Apollo 10: Commander Thomas Stafford
Command Module Pilot John Young
Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan
Apollo 11: Commander Neil Armstrong*
Command Module Pilot Michael Collins
Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.*
Apollo 12: Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr.*
Command Module Pilot Richard Gordon Jr.
Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean*
Apollo 13: Commander James Lovell Jr.^
Command Module Pilot Thomas Mattingly II
Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise Jr.
Apollo 14: Commander Alan Shepard Jr.*
Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa
Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell*
Apollo 15: Commander David Scott*
Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden
Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin*
Apollo 16: Commander John Young^*
Command Module Pilot Thomas Mattingly II
Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke Jr.*
Apollo 17: Commander Eugene Cernan^*
Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans
Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt*
I’m assuming many of you will know what a sonic boom is, if you travel fast enough through a medium sound waves will compress in front of you and produce a sonic boom. Of course, this only happens if you are traveling at greater than the speed of sound in a given medium. Cherenkov Radiation can be described as the light equivalent of the sonic boom. So here’s (a simplified version of) what happens. Nothing can travel at speeds greater than c, the speed of light in a vacuum, but light in a medium will travel slower than c and in that sense a particle could travel faster than light through that medium, and when a charged particle travels through a medium at a speed greater than light travels through that medium it excites nearby molecules, which in turn emit light. Doing this requires lots of energy, which is why it’s commonly seen in the cooling tanks of nuclear reactors.
Filed under Physics, Science
Race, a controversial topic, has been the reason for hate crime, genocide, discrimination, disenfranchisement and other atrocities. But what is race really? Race appears to be a human method for classifying other groups of humans, distinguishing “us” from “them”. Most determinants of race are outward physical traits, namely facial features, build and skin color. The last feature, skin color, is a prominent distinguishing feature of the races, which have been separated in color groups. Historically, the Caucasian peoples have been associated with white, East Asian peoples with yellow, North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian peoples with brown, Sub-Saharan and Australian Aboriginal peoples with black and Amerindian peoples with red. Still another racial definition is based on ancestral homelands. Caucasian people from Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Central and South Asia, Negroid people (these are historical terms, you can expect racism) from Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia, Mongoloid people from East, South East, North, and Central Asia, the Americas, the Arctic and some Pacific islands. Recent genetic research has uncovered some evidence of separate races, but based on adaptations to a homeland while retaining inter-race breeding capability (every different race is still part of the same species). A 1994 study set up 9 potential races: African, New Guinean & Australian, Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian, Amerindian, Arctic Northeast Asian, Northeast Asian, European Caucasoid and Non-European Caucasoid. Racial studies continue to be controversial, but perhaps through studying race we might learn it doesn’t exist.
Sharks are arguably the oldest family of large animals still alive, with the oldest accepted shark fossil being about 420 million years old, predating the dinosaurs, land animals, and even land plantlife. Sharks as a group have survived four major mass extinctions, each of which had killed at least 70% of all species then living on the planet. Sharks have a great sense of smell, able to detect blood in a concentration of one part per million (for every drop of blood, there are 1 million drops of water), and they have another sense called electroreception, which allows them to detect Earth’s magnetic field…and any movement of nearby prey. Only four shark species (great white, tiger, bull and oceanic whitetip) produce a significant number of fatal shark attacks. Sharks in general, and those four in particular, are the top predators of their environment, and like many other natural hunters, are curious of unfamiliar creatures (read: humans). However, they lack any means to explore the unknown other than their mouth, which can explain some shark attacks considering humans are generally not sufficient prey to warrant feeding as a reason to attack. On average, there is less than one death from a shark attack each year while there are, on average, forty deaths from lightning strike. Finally, the eggs of the grey nurse shark hatch inside the mother and when the first embryo develops, it eats its sibling’s embryos and any unhatched eggs. Talk about sibling rivalry.
Okay, so I’m assuming speeding on roadways is illegal in most countries, and that driving through a red light is also illegal. Okay? Okay. Let’s talk about blue shift. Blue shift is an application of the Doppler effect to light. Basically, if you travel in the direction opposite a wave, the apparent frequency of said wave increases, and the opposite is true if you travel in the same direction as the wave, the apparent frequency decreases. Since blue has a high frequency and red has a low frequency (as far as light goes) light is blue shifted when moving toward the light source. So now that that’s taken care of, how fast would you need to be going to see a red light at an intersecti0n as a green light. Using the speed of light, a frequency for red light (4.4*10^14 Hz), a frequency for green light (6*10^14 Hz), and Wolfram|Alpha, we get a speed of about 3/10 of the speed of light. That’s fast.
Filed under Physics, Science
Chromosomes. Everyone has them, every living thing with a nuclei in their cells has them. Every plant, every animal, every fungus and a selection of microbes has/have chromosomes. Basically, all of the genetic information of an organism with chromosomes is stored in the chromosomes (except mitochondrial DNA, but that’s weird stuff and is arguably not part of the organism’s genome) which, during cell division, bunch up and double up so they look like tiny, fat X’s. Many organisms have an even number of chromosomes, largely due to the nature of sexual reproduction, which requires an even number of chromosomes to form sex cells, but the range of the number of chromosomes any organism has varies widely based on species. For example, humans have 46 chromosomes, the same as the Reeves’s muntjac and Sable antelope. wolves, jackals, dogs and chickens all have 78 chromosomes, shrimp and two rat species have around 92, gypsy moths and giraffes both have 62, zebrafish and rice have the same number of chromosomes, 24. The organism with the most chromosomes is the Adders-tongue plant, with over 1,000 chromosomes (one Wikipedia page says 1440, another says 1262, so I’m just being vague), and the organism with the least chromosomes (not counting those without them) is the male Jack jumper ant, which has a single chromosome due to ant sexual behaviors (female jumper ants have a normal number of chromosomes for their species, 2).
Filed under Biology, Science