The coco de mer tree, a palm that only grows today on two islands in the Seychelles, produces both the largest seed (each weighs about 44 pounds [20 kilograms]) and the largest nut in the world. The nut, which takes six to seven years to mature and another two years to germinate, is sometimes called the sea coconut or Seychelles nut. When early explorers first discovered the nut, they thought it came from a mythical tree at the bottom of the sea.
Sixteenth-century European nobles decorated the nut with jewels as collectibles for their private galleries. Today, the coco de mer is a rare protected species.
Quickly gobbling up cold ice cream may result in “brain freeze,” also know as an ice cream headache. When the cold object touches the roof of your mouth, the blood vessels contract in order to prevent loss of body heat. As the coldness stops, the blood vessels relax again, quickly increasing blood flow to the brain.
This sudden release is What causes the intense headache sensation. You can relieve brain freeze by quickly warming the roof of your mouth: Touch your tongue to the top of your mouth or, if you can roll your tongue in a ball, press the underside of your tongue (which is warmer) to the roof of your mouth. Slowly sipping room-temperature water or pressing a warm thumb against the roof of the mouth also works for some people.
In 1960, astronomers discovered some mysterious space objects and called them quasars because they were discovered to be a strong source of radio waves. In fact, the term “quasar” comes from the words “quasi-stellar radio source.” Quasars are sources of light or radio waves, just like galaxies, that emit enormous amounts of energy.
They are the most distant objects scientists have discovered. They are very bright (as bright as hundreds of galaxies, burning with the energy of 1 trillion Suns) and much smaller than most galaxies. Today, many astronomers refer to these objects as quasi-stellar objects, or QSOs.
The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space when he made a full orbit of Earth in Vostok I on April 12, 1961. Although he was in space less than two hours, he became an international hero.
The United States launched the first American into orbit on February 20, 1962: Astronaut John Glenn completed three orbits of Earth in Friendship 7, traveling about 81,000 miles (130,329 kilometers).
Living species of sequoias are some of the biggest and widest trees in the world. The tallest trees are the coastal redwoods of California, while the widest ones are the giant sequoias, which have much larger trunks and branches. These trees grow in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Central California at elevations of about 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). The trees have survived for 2,000 or 3,000 years. Some of the largest sequoia trees measure 35 feet (10.6 meters) in diameter and up to 300 feet (91 meters) in height.
Their bark can be 4 feet (1.2 meters) thick! Many are found in California’s Sequoia National Park. The General Sherman, for example, is one of the tallest giant sequoias in the world, with a height of about 275 feet (85 meters).
About one-tenth of Earth’s surface is always under the cover of ice. And almost 90 percent of that ice is found in the continent of Antarctica. The remaining 10 percent is found on the mountains in the form of glaciers.
The ice sheet that covers Antarctica is almost one-and-a-half times the size of the United States.
The Soviet satellite Sputnik 1, which was launched into space on October 4, 1957, was the first spacecraft to go into orbit around Earth. It had no crew members or animals aboard, but instead contained machines that sent information back to Earth via radio.
The former Soviet Union’s (now Russia) launch of Sputnik prompted the United States to get its first satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit quickly, igniting the so-called space race. This was the two countries’ rivalry over being the “first” in many areas of space exploration. Explorer 1’s test run in December 1957 burned on the ground, but the satellite was successfully launched into orbit around Earth on January 31, 1958.
The brain is the body’s command center; everything we do—eating, talking, walking, thinking, remembering, sleeping—is controlled and processed by the brain. As the most complex organ in the human body, the brain tells us what’s going on outside our bodies (whether we are cold or hot, for instance, or whether the person we see coming toward us is a friend or a stranger) as well as what’s going on inside our bodies (whether we have an infection or a broken bone, or whether we feel happy or sad).
The key to the body’s nervous system, the brain contains between 10 billion and 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons. Neurons combine to form the body’s nerves, thin cords that spread from head to toe and all parts in between. Neurons take in and send out electrical signals, called impulses, that control or respond to everything your body does and feels. The brain is like a very busy, high-speed post office, constantly receiving messages and sending them out all the time; it handles millions of nerve impulses every second.
In 1943 and 1944, the British government developed two Colossus computers. These huge machines were electronic computing devices used by British code breakers to read encrypted German messages during World War II. Dubbed “Colossus Mark 1” and “Colossus Mark 2” these devises were the world’s first programmable, digital, electronic, computing machines.
Based on concepts of the British mathematician Alan M. Turing, the mathematician Max Newman and engineer Tommy Flowers designed and built the machines, which used vacuum tubes (thermionic valves) to perform the calculations. The Colossus hardware and blueprints were destroyed as part of an effort to keep the project secret. However, based on notes in engineers’ logs and other information, in 2007 a functional replica of a Colossus computer was completed. The computer is on display at the Bletchley Park Museum in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England.
The largest muscle is the buttock muscle (gluteus maximus), which moves the thighbone away from the body and straightens out the hip joint. It is also one of the stronger muscles in the body. The smallest muscle is the stapedius, in the middle ear.
It is thinner than a thread and 0.05 inches (0.127 centimeters) in length. It activates the stirrup that sends vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. The longest muscle is the sartorius, which runs from the waist to the knee. Its purpose is to flex the hip and knee.