Funny and bizarre
facts, Science and History
I am not the font of all
knowledge but I will do the best I can
This page and included subject
matter are Copyright
© 2000 S Zervos
"I think I've
just lost an
Yes. I'm positive."
Great space views
The great wall of
China, the Panama canal and the Pyramids of Egypt are all man-made
objects that can easily be seen by astronauts in their space
stations orbiting the earth.
But the most mind-boggling sight must
surely be an 8000 sq meter
colour image of the smug face of Colonel Harland (finger-lickin'
good) Sanders, drawn with 65,000 coloured tiles laid down
on the Nevada desert, near Rachel, and visible up to 1000 kilometers
Great promotional concept, but one wonders how do the hungry
astronauts get their chicken pieces delivered up there, and will
they still be warm when they arrive?
Cleopatra, Egyptian or
Egypt's most famous female, the sexually
alluring Queen Cleopatra VII, was actually of Greek ancestry.
Cleopatra's mother, sister, both brothers and many other relatives
were all named Cleopatra or Ptolemy and many of them were themselves
rulers at one time or another. This confusion of names has
understandably led to much disagreement amongst historians as to who
was who and where did they fit in the family thread, so I decided to search
a little deeper.
Although Cleopatra VII was born in Alexandria (in 69 BC), she was
Greek by tradition and culture. Her family originally came from the
Macedonian area of Greece. Her father was the Pharaoh Ptolemy XII,
also known as Auletes the flute player (and not a very good one at
that). Ptolemy was an unpopular ruler. The fed-up Egyptians finally
threw him out in 58 BC. The last straw was either his incompetence
or his lousy flute playing.
In 51 BC Cleo' became queen at the age of 17. Although she married
her 11 year old brother Ptolemy XIV, she ruled jointly with her 12
year old brother Ptolemy XIII. She was sent into exile 3 years later
by her brother and her own generals.
A capricious (and devious) girl, she had several powerful lovers
including Julius Caesar who returned her to the throne a few years
later. She also had quite a few kinks. She had herself first
presented to a stupefied, but bemused, Julius Caesar as an offering
rolled up in a carpet.
When she first went to meet Mark Antony, a later lover, she floated
down the Nile on an elaborately decked out barge that transcended
anything yet seen at a Rio Carnival. It was sailed by girls dressed
while she herself sprawled invitingly on a gilded couch,
feather-fanned by young boys dressed as cupids.
She walked off the barge and presented herself to Antony sparsely
dressed as Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of love (and lust). The guy must
have been completely gob-smacked. She certainly pushed all his right buttons
because they became lovers almost immediately after their first
meeting (Mata Hari was a rank amateur compared to this chick).
The Greek Pharaohs of Egypt were a close knit-family. They ate,
drank, and literally slept with each other.
Cleopatra's mother was Cleopatra Tryphaina, and she was in fact her
father's sister (naughty naughty Ptolemy).
In all fairness though, I should point out that Ptolemy was a
hopeless drunkard and his eyesight wasn't that good at the best of
(Note that Cleopatra's stepmother's name is almost identical to that
of her mother's, spelt differently by only one letter, Cleopatra
Tryphaena. Who wouldn't be confused?)
much is a person worth?
Actually not much at all. 60% of the human body is composed of water
and the rest is made up of compounds that can be purchased for about
$30 from any cheap chemical supplier.
Of course a person of considerable bulk would be worth a little
extra. (Would GST or VAT apply ?).
spheroid or an ellipsoid?
Neither. It's an ovoid. That is, very slightly egg-shaped.
Let me explain.
Thousands of years ago the ancient Persians thought
the Earth was a stone tablet held in the beak of an eagle perched on
the shoulders of a giant kneeling on the back of an elephant
standing on a turtle swimming through the sea of eternity. Wow!
Heavy stuff! The egg-heads later decided it must be an egg
because all life came from it.
Then some free-thinker dared to suggest that it must be
flat because no one had slid off the egg's curved surface yet (well,
it made sense).
It wasn't long before those pesky Greeks came along
and stuck their noses in by declaring that the Earth
was a sphere. No one believed them. Then around 240 BC Eratosthenes,
a Greek working in Alexandria, went to the bottom of a well,
probably after a heavy night on the grapes. The next day he noticed
that the sun was directly overhead at noon when it should have been
7° from the zenith. Being a maths freak he made some quick
calculations and found to his horror that his results did not agree
with what Euclid had been telling people many years earlier. He
concluded that the Earth was indeed a sphere and proceeded to
calculate its diameter and circumference. He came quite close, much closer than that
Columbus guy who got lost somewhere between east and west.
Eratosthenes must have seen a few stars as well when
he fell into the hole but we have no record of him making any other
By the 16th century people were convinced that the
Greeks were nuts and the Earth was actually an oblate spheroid, or
an ellipsoid. The French didn't agree. They went one better. They
suspected the earth was an egg (again?) and in 1736 the French
Academy of Sciences sent two expeditions, one to Lapland and one to
Ecuador, to settle the question of the Earth's shape once and for
all. Their findings were close, but not exactly conclusive.
We now know from the latest scientific evidence and
NASA's satellite data that the Earth is indeed an ovoid, give or
take a few bumps. So back to the egg. After all those years and a
few billion dollars down the gurgler we have discovered what the
ancients already knew 6000 years ago.
The Earth is slightly flattened at the poles.
equatorial diameter is 45 km (28 miles) longer than its polar
diameter. But wait, that's not all. As well as being generally ovoid, the Earth
also has a vertical pear-shaped asymmetry, the north pole being 48 m
(148 ft) further from the equatorial plane than the south
The "pointy end of the egg ", so to speak, is at
about 37° west longitude (400 km off the eastern tip of Brazil)
where the equator's longer axis is 159 m (522 ft) greater than its
short axis. The "fat" end is just north of east Papua New Guinea.
These variations may seem trivial but they are
significant enough to be considered a necessary part of precise
calculations in cartography and new-fangled position finding electronics.
Many scientists still disagree about the true shape
of the Earth but recent evidence and the perturbations of satellite
orbits prove beyond a doubt that the Earth is indeed an ovoid.
However, the earth's shape is being continually
evaluated and the figures I have given above may already be
obsolete. Perhaps in a few hundred years some deeper thinker will
come up with proof
that the Earth is actually a peanut.
Our atoms from
Atoms do not naturally destruct. They continuously
recycle through time and the universe. Our bodies (and all other
things) are made up of atoms or sub-atomic particles that have
existed for billions of years and will continue to exist for
billions more. They are continuously assembling and disassembling to
form the molecules of which everything in the universe is made. When
a molecule disintegrates its atoms go on to make something else.
Many billions of atoms pass through our bodies every
6 months or so. In fact as many as 90% of our atomically structured
molecules are replaced during this period.
Our bodies are made up of indestructible atoms that
were once part of other persons and objects. There are atoms in our
bodies that have probably passed through Caligula, Macbeth,
Shakespeare, and Napoleon, to name a few.
We mustn't get too excited though; it's still a bit
early for us to have inherited anything from Marilyn Monroe.
Back yard navigation
If you are an amateur astronomer or a navigator,
have you ever needed to make celestial observations using a sextant,
from your own back yard or any other location where a reference
horizon is not visible?
Not a problem. Do what I do. Ask the wife for her
largest oven tray. No! No! Don't tell her why you want it. Lay it on
a flat surface and pour in some dark viscous fluid. Engine sump oil
will do fine. The angular altitude of the celestial object you are
observing will be half the angle between the object and its
reflection in the fluid.
How smooth (or rugged)
is the Earth?
If the Earth were to be
reduced to the size of a billiard ball it would be smoother than the
billiard ball itself. The Earth's diameter is 12,756 km and Mt
Everest, the Earth's highest point, has an elevation of 8,850 meters
or a mere .00069 part of the Earth's diameter. But let's suppose the
Earth is reduced to the size of a one meter diameter ball. Mt
Everest would rise no higher than a pimply .69 millimeters on this
scale (note --- point 69).
Clouds rarely rise over Mt Everest, and the average
depth of the ocean's is 4000 meters, except for a few trenches (the
Mariana's trench being the only one where the depth in meters
exceeds Mt Everest's height).
Therefore the height of Mt Everest, the depth of the
oceans and the clouds would all appear no deeper or higher than the
thickness of two .35mm playing cards on our one meter "Earth ball".
As Sammy Davis jr would have said, "Hey man! That's smoooooth!
Einstein and gravity
Is gravity a force? I am sure the malcontent would
insist "There is no gravity. The Earth SUCKS". Most people
would say that gravity is a force of attraction. With apologies to
Newton this is not strictly correct either. Einstein gave him a bit
of a nudge with his General Theory of Relativity.
According to the theory, gravity is not a force. It is the geometric
consequence of the curvature of space-time warped by mass and energy
in its vicinity.
Space and time are joined together in an
interdependent combination in which time becomes the "fourth
dimension". We refer to this union as a space-time, ie a
four-dimensional non-Euclidean continuum that is warped by the
presence of large masses. Moving objects in this continuum follow
geodesic orbits that are paths curved toward the mass causing the
greatest distortion. This apparent attraction toward the mass is
what we call 'gravity', still simply referred to as a "force".
(Come to think of it, no one has worked out yet why the objects
begin to move in the first place.)
The American physicist John Wheeler put it very
succinctly when he said, "Matter tells space how to curve, and space
tells matter how to move" (I believe space-time would have
been a more suitable expression).
There is a lot more to it than that, of course. This
is a complex subject not easy to explain properly in a few short
sentences and without resorting to some horrendous mathematics.
Einstein moved in the most complex areas of physics, indeed all
science. To even begin to understand his theories requires a total
suspension of disbelief and an acceptance of some bizarre and often
There are many theories attempting to explain the
nature of gravity but most of them eventually come back to
different interpretations of the universe, time, multi-dimensions
and the continuum.
Many questions remain unanswered, for instance why are atoms
mostly empty space and what causes the strange behaviors observed
in quantum mechanics.
This site is for entertainment and social interest
and it is not an appropriate place to get into a heavy discussion of
Einstein's or anyone else's theories. I hope to launch a site in the
near future dealing wholly with the General Theory of Relativity.
I am currently writing
a book titled "The nature of the Cosmos" in which I will be discussing in
detail the make-up of the universe, relativity, gravity, and space-time continuum.
Meanwhile, site visitors wanting to know more about
these topics might find interest in the following related subjects:
general relativity, string theory, quantum theory, Lorenz
transformations, Minkowski space and Reimannian geometry. More
information can be found at http://people.hofstra.edu/faculty/Stefan_Waner/diff_geom/tc.html