In the ancient world a talent was a unit of weight used to value gold and silver. Today’s use of the word comes from the Book of Matthew, Wherein three servants are given equal amounts of money, or talent, by their master. Two invest wisely and profit while the third buries his and doesn’t.
That parable is how talent came to refer to the natural gifts we are all born with. The moral of the tale is that we must use our talents wisely or we will fail.
A cow, like all mammals, produces milk to feed its young. If its calf nurses regularly, the mother cow’s mammary glands will produce enough milk to give the baby animal all the food it needs. Gradually a calf will nurse less as grass and other feed makes up more of its diet. A mother cow, in turn, will produce less milk until it is no longer needed. But by milking the cows regularly—two or three times a day—dairy farmers can cause the cows to continue producing milk. Certain breeds of cows are particularly good at milk-making, producing 18–27 pints (around 2–3 gallons, or 10–15 liters) each day.
A cow’s large, round udder, located on its underside, has four nipples, or teats, that are squeezed to release stored milk. While once done by hand, milking is done on modern dairy farms by machines with suction hoses, which do the job more quickly and cheaply. Tank trucks collect milk from farms daily and take it to processing plants where it is pasteurized (made germ-free) and used to make dairy products like cheese, butter, and ice cream.
Yes. Yet unlike a few centuries ago, gold panning today is primarily a recreational activity. Gold nuggets are found in areas where lode deposits and erosion have occurred—for example, in streams, rivers, ravines, and lake areas. All you need is a gold pan, a shovel, and a lot of patience. Both gold mines and gold prospecting sites exist in national parks from near Montgomery, Alabama to Washington, D.C. In addition, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama have many gold mines and prospecting sites.
These states were America’s main source of gold for 45 years before the California Gold Rush of 1838, when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. Its news spread like wildfire, resulting in some 300,000 people coming to California to pan for gold. In California, the five counties of Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador, and El Dorado—nicknamed the “Mother Lode”—still have gold for discovery. In 1837, the U.S. government established gold coin mints in Georgia and North Carolina to avoid transporting the raw gold to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, where coins are made.
Unlike the fragrant blossoms that attract bees, carrion flowers simulate the odor of a rotting animal carcass and attract carrion beetles and different types of flies, including blowflies, flesh flies, and midges. The stapelia flower, which is shaped like a starfish and grows in Africa, has fine hairs around its petals, perhaps to imitate the appearance of a small dead animal. When the bloom opens it gives off a rotting smell, imitating dead animal meat.
The smell attracts flies, which collect pollen before they fly away. Some carrion flowers, such as the European and Brazilian Dutchman’s pipe, lure insects into dark openings that lead to the foul-smelling interior where they become trapped. When the flower “releases” the insect, it is coated with fresh pollen to be taken to a different plant. The lantern stinkhorn, a fungus that releases a feces-like odor, attracts green bottle flies to spread its spores.
The blue whale, who swims all of the world’s oceans, in the largest mammal. The largest blue whale cited was at least 110 feet (33.5 meters) long and weighed 209 tons (189,604 kilograms). The average length is about 82 feet (25 meters) for the males, and 85 feet (26 meters) for the females. A newborn blue whale can weigh anywhere from 2.5 to 4 tons (2,268 to 3,628 kilograms), and can reach 100 to 120 tons in adulthood. Whale calves drink 50 to 150 gallons of its mother’s milk per day, adding about 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) of weight per hour, or 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms) per day.
At about eight months of age, when the calf is weaned, it measures close to 50 feet (15.2 meters) long and weighs about 25 tons (22,679 kilograms). Blue whales do not have teeth. Instead, in their upper jaw they have rows of hundreds of baleen plates—flat, flexible plates with frayed edges, arranged in two parallel rows that look like combs of thick hair. The blue whale feeds on a small shrimp-like animal called krill. Scientists believe that large marine mammals, like whales and dolphins, have brains much like those of humans. They are able to communicate, follow instructions, and adapt to new environments. Throughout history, these gentle giants have been hunted for their baleen and blubber (fat), and are today considered an endangered species. Scientists believe there are about 4,000 or so of them left in the world.
Along with space exploration came new expressions that are now everyday language. Astronauts said “affirmative” for yes, “check” to confirm a completed task, and “copy” to indicate that an instruction was understood. “Glitch,” an unexplained computer malfunction, was first used to describe the Mercury space capsule’s frustrating tendency to signal an emergency when none existed.
Early bicycle tires were made out of solid rubber. (Before that, iron covered the edges of wooden bicycle wheels.) Solid rubber tires made bicycling a bumpy experience because they were unable to provide any cushioning on rough roads. When the airfilled rubber bicycle tire was invented, it made riding a lot more comfortable. But along with the comfort of air-filled tires came the frequent task of filling them up. The rubber that is used to make bicycle tires is thin and porous, which means that it has tiny microscopic pores, or holes, through which air can escape over time.
Air that is pumped into bicycle tires is pressurized, meaning it is compressed into a much smaller space than it would ordinarily occupy. Without pressurized air inside, a bicycle tire would not have its firm shape. Air under high pressure, like all gases, moves or migrates to surrounding areas that have lower pressure, traveling even through fairly solid materials. Air in a bicycle tire naturally tries to escape through the valve stem that is used to fill it and the inner tube that holds it. So even bicycles that don’t undergo the wear-and-tear of frequent use eventually end up with flat tires.
Ferdania, in Saudi Arabia, is probably the world’s smallest city: it has one police station, one school, one market, one gas station, one health center, and about 10 houses. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Hum, Croatia, is the smallest town in the world, with a population of only 23 citizens.
The tiny town, which rose during the Middle Ages, is closed off on one side by high towers and a system of walls; the other side is closed off by the outer walls of houses. The smallest city in the United States is Maza, located in Towner County, North Dakota. Established in 1893, the city had a population of 5 when the 2000 Census was taken.
The deepest hole ever made by humans is in Kola Peninsula in Russia, where in 1989 geologists dug a hole 7.6 miles (12.2 kilometers) deep. The Kola Superdeep Borehole began in the 1970s.
Russian teams used special drilling techniques to dig into the Baltic continental crust, presumed to be about 22 miles (35 kilometers) thick, exposing rocks 2.7 billion years old at the bottom.
On Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, it is possible to ice skate, as long as you wore a space suit. A little smaller than Earth’s moon, Europa is covered in smooth ice. Its gravity is only about one-eighth of planet Earth’s, which makes for great leaps. However, Europa temperatures reach about –328 degrees Fahrenheit (–200 degrees Celsius), which means you would be frozen stiff in a nanosecond.
The only colder object in the solar system is Neptune’s moon, Triton, which has unique “ice volcanoes” and a surface temperature of –391 degrees Fahrenheit (–235 degrees Celsius).