Around the World in Eighty Days

When I was a child, one of my favorite books was (and still is) Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Published in 1873, the novel tells the story of Phileas Fogg, an English gentleman, and his newly employed French valet Passepartout. Fogg is a member of the Reform Club, a private members club on the south side of Pall Mall in central London. While the club members talking about the recent advances in technology, especially the new transportation methods including railway, Fogg sees an article in The Daily Telegraph stating that “with the opening of a new railway section in India, it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days”. Other club members are skeptical about this claim. But Fogg insists it is doable.

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If Earth’s life time was the distance from Los Angeles to New York City

Our old planet, the Earth is 4.54 billion years old. In fact, the human mind can no longer make any sense of large numbers like that. Numbers like 1, 2, 14, 20, 50 are all quantities that we encounter quite frequently in our daily lives. And our brain evolved to conceptualize numbers like that: our ancestors saw two lions; they hunted five deer in one hunting party, the population of their tribe was 20, etc… But when the numbers are getting big, i.e. 1,000; 10,000… the problem begins: these numbers become increasingly difficult to conceptualize. Now, what happens when we try to conceptualize quantities like billions, like the Earth’s age? We can’t actually rationalize the immensity of such a big number. Because we haven’t a model of 4.54 billion that’s been compressed into something recognizable to the human mind.

To put this number into a perspective, Alex Kuzoian of Business insider prepared a beautiful video: you can watch Earth’s lifespan as the distance from Los Angeles to New York City. Along the trip, we see the formation of our Moon, the beginning of the life, the evolving of the multi-cellular organisms, and the rise and fall of the dinosaurs. Probably the most interesting part is that modern humans only evolved 175 meters (570 feet) from the finishing line of this journey. And the big jump to the first multi-cellular organisms.

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Hybrid Big Cats

Four of the five species of the big cats (the Panthera genus – lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar and snow leopard), the exception being the snow leopard can hybridize with each other to produce numerous hybrids. In fact, breeding of two different pantheras to produce hybrid big cats has been banned in many zoos and animal sanctuaries due to no conservation value of the hybrid, and the risk it poses on the mother that gives birth to it.

For instance, the liger’s increased growth rate and enormous size can cause the tigress giving birth to have a difficult delivery, endangering both the mother and her liger cubs, which may be born prematurely or require a Caesarian. Common problems in cubs that survive are neurological disorders, obesity, genetic defects, and a shortened lifespan; though a few have reportedly made it to their twenties, many don’t survive past the age of seven.

Moreover, male ligers have lowered testosterone levels and sperm counts, rendering them infertile while females, though capable of reproducing with either a lion or a tiger, often give birth to sickly cubs that don’t survive.

However, hybrids do occur by accident in captivity.

Most hybrids would not survive in the wild due to the males being infertile, but a few (such as the Leopon – leopard father, lion mother) are fertile and have a chance of survival in the wild.

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Top 10 driest places on Earth

Earth, the blue planet: the oceans combined with the atmosphere makes the planet look blue. So its color mainly comes from water. About 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, in fact, Earth is still the only planet we know where water can exist in liquid form on the surface. Water is also vital for all known forms of life. But there are numerous places on Earth that receive rainfall less than even 0.76 mm annually. One place even receives absolutely no rainfall. Here are the top ten driest places on Earth.

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Are we the first?

In 1950, the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi was chatting with his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory(1). They talked about the recent rise in UFO reports, then the conversation shifted to other subjects. But during the lunch, Fermi suddenly asked: “Where is everybody?”. He was talking about the extraterrestrial life, especially intelligent life. He made some calculations on the probability of Earth-like planets, the beginning of life, the probability of intelligent life and high technology and concluded that we ought to have been visited long ago and many times over.

But, there is no reliable evidence aliens have visited Earth and we have observed no intelligent extraterrestrial life with current technology nor has SETI found any transmissions from other civilizations. The Universe, apart from the Earth, seems “dead”.

So, where is everybody?

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Timeless Dreams – the Earth in daytime and nighttime

You must watch this! An amazing video by the filmmakers led by Julian Tryba: in May 2015, over the span of three weeks, they traveled in the Southwest of the United States (3,000 miles through Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and filmed timelapses of several strikingly beautiful landscapes. Then they spliced the films together to create this wonderful video, a strange day-night world.

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Your Life On Earth (presented by BBC)

A nice interactive webpage by the BBC – The British Broadcasting Corporation: how you and the world have changed since you were born? You’re simply entering your birth date, gender, and height; selecting units (metric or imperial/US) and then watching how our planet (and you) has changed in your lifetime.

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Watch: Dolphins “rode” the heads of whales in the coast of Hawaii

In two different locations in the coast of Hawaii, scientists have observed unusual interactions between bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales as dolphins “rode” the heads of whales: the whales lifted the dolphins up and out of the water, and then the dolphins slid back down. In the video published by the American Museum of Natural History, the two species seemed to cooperate in the activity, and neither displayed signs of aggression or distress. Whales and dolphins in Hawaiian waters often interact, but playful social activity such as this is extremely rare between species.

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