What are your top 5 Science facts?

21 December 2008



What are your top 5 Science facts?


Lee E: E=MC^2

Helen - My first one is that in the dot of a 12pt letter 'i' there are more protons than there are seconds in half a million years. That was quite mind-boggling. If we made a scale-model of the universe and we made planet Earth the size of a pea the nearest star, Proximus Centauri would be 16,000km away.

I love the fact that when caterpillars munch on plants the plants have evolved to emit a smell that attracts other bugs that come and eat the caterpillars.

If you were to take Mt Everest and plonk it in the deepest part of the ocean you'd have to dive down 2km to reach the top of Mt Everest.

There's all sorts of statistics associated with blue whales. I think the nicest one is that their hearts weigh half a tonne and that's the same weight as a mini car.

Kevin, A12: A Pico second is to a second what a second is to 30,000 years. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun but the sun is 400 times further away. So we get a perfect eclipse. What a fantastic fact.

Chris - The human heart will beat 40,000,000 times every year of your life. If you work out the weight of blood that it pumps around your body it's lifting about 7 tonnes of blood a day and if you tot that up over a lifetime that's about 2 very large aircraft carriers that your heart has lifted in terms of the weight of blood it's pumped in a lifetime; which is pretty fantastic when you think of the work that nature's polymers are doing. Evolution has given us a heart that can do something that can work for so long and so faultlessly in the vast majority of people.

The age of the universe. The universe we live in is about 13.7 billion years old. We can date that and know that was the moment when our universe popped into existence, begging the question what went before? What's this universe is expanding into?

Scientists reckon conservatively there are about 10^22 stars in the known universe. That means there are 10^22 stars possibly a bit like our sun, many of them a bit different, of course. That means the prospect of finding another system like the system we're in with our Earth, at the right distance from the sun, with liquid water and the right recipe for life doesn't seem so unlikely when you think there are 1 followed by 22 0s after it opportunities for that to happen.

I share and everyone in this room shares 60% of your genes with a banana. Not because we're particularly vegetable-prone but because of the ubiquity of the genetic code - it doesn't matter whether you're an E. coli bacterium or human, you have the same genetic code running in you. In other words you can take a gene out of a jellyfish, put it into E. coli and the E. coli bacterium will glow green like the jellyfish did because the genes that work in us work in bacteria. What this shows is that we all came from a common ancestor somewhere, probably about 3.9 billion years ago.

Can you guess what the fastest living creature on Earth is? Guinness book of records for the world's fastest creature is a bacterium. Its name is Bdellovibrio. It moves at 60 body lengths a second. It does it with a little propeller called a flagellum - tiny proteins that whip along and force the bacterium along. They're actually predatory and eat other bacteria.

Dave - Light travels at 299,792km every second. Stuff which is hitting your eye is going ridiculously fast. Light from the Andromeda galaxy has been travelling for 2.5 million years. Some of the static the TV picks up - some of it is cosmic microwave radiation which has been travelling since 400,000 years after the big bang. For 13.7 billion years it hasn't hit anything and then it hits your radio!

A typical hurricane uses the same energy as 8 billion tonnes of TNT.

A modern processor has got 580 million transistors. 35 years ago the first processor has just 2500!


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