what i learned last week

1. it takes 50,000 pounds of raw materials to make a 3,000 pound car.

2. the number of the beast might be 616 and not 666.

3. in 1896, a large garbage heap was excavated at oxyrhynchus, egypt by two archeologists from oxford university. apart from finding the usual things you’d find in the trash, they found lots and lots of papyrus fragments with writing on them. these fragments were collected, boxed up, and shipped off to oxford where they still sit today, some 100 years later. so far, about 1% of these fragments have been cleaned and read (through various means) however, some of the stuff that’s been found has made for interesting reading. for example, see point #2, above… in addition, a version of the seige of troy was found that is a little different from homer’s (and therefore brad pitt’s) version. in the oxyrhynchus the greeks don’t win – they chicken out and run away… oh, they also found some porn in there as well. link and look for the “detective stories” podcast at this radiolab

4. in order to maintain a population, every couple should have 2.1 children in rich countries and a little more than 3.0 children in poor ones. globally, the average is 2.33. link

5. genghis khan probably had a lot of kids. actually, not just a lot – a whole lot! in fact, he had so many kids that, if you are a male living on planet earth, you have a 0.5% chance of being his descendant. link

6. denmark isn’t as friendly as most danes that i know seem to be. link

7. spain receives about the same amount of money from the european union as the united kingdom pays into it.

8. you can buy authentic olympic torches (slightly used…) on ebay. (when i wrote this sentence, torches from the 2010 vancouver, 1988 seoul and the 1936 berlin (!) olympics were available for bidding.) olympic medals are also available for about $20…

9. voyager 1 spacecraft is travelling at 13 km per second. one if its missions is to make contact with an extraterrestrial life, should they find it. however, even if it were heading in the direction of our nearest star, it would take about 98,000 years to get there. this makes it unlikely that anyone will find voyager, unless they’re right in the neighbourhood.

10. the universe is expanding, however, it is not expanding into a pre-existing space (like a balloon taking up a larger volume in a room). it is expanding in all directions uniformly, which means that the space that the universe occupies after it has expanded didn’t exist before the expansion happened. to put it another way, the larger space that space inhabits after it expanded didn’t exist before it did.

11. pelicans in malgas, south africa, have taken to eating gannet chicks, likely as a result of dwindling fish stocks. link

12. if you build a box that has the same footprint as the base of the eiffel tower, and then melt the eiffel tower and fill up the box, it will be 6 cm deep.

13. the eiffel tower was supposed to be taken apart only 20 years after it was built (for the universal exposition in 1899), but it was saved because it became a radio tower.

14. it takes 60 tons of paint to cover the eiffel tower, it’s painted every 7 years by 25 people who take 12-18 months to complete the job. link

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