This Week I Learned #1

We deal with a great variety of scientific disciplines on a daily basis here at Life Science, so I think a more multifaceted approach is required with this blog than just random bites of ‘news’… and who doesn’t love a good litany of weird and wonderful facts? I’ve always had a thing for factoids, Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the like, and I’m always writing down those that I stumble across. I figure, why not make a thing out of it? OK, they may not always be ‘mind-blowers’ per se and some of you may already know some of them -congratulations if that is the case. But I guarantee they will all have you AT LEAST stroking your chin and nodding at the screen with that ‘not bad’ look on your face – if not at the wonderfulness then more than likely at the weirdness. And yes, I’ll be providing the sources for all you skeptics (whom I welcome with open arms.)

Ore trains in Sweden traveling down to the coast generate five times the amount of electricity they use, powering nearby towns and the return trip for other trains. (1)

Its pretty basic science that an electric motor can be used as a generator. Regenerative braking uses this principal to both slow electric motors and recharge them. This is used as a braking system in hybrid vehicles. The rail cars of the Kiruna to Narvik railway in Sweden and Norway are full of tonnes of ore and use regenerative braking to generate 5 times more electricity than trains themselves need. This electricity is used to power homes and businesses in the region. How very decent of them.

The molecules which produce the smell of lemons and oranges are mirror images of each other, But somehow our brain can tell the difference. (2)

Molecules in nature can be structurally identical, yet exist in two different forms if they are asymmetric. These are called chiral molecules. An example of chiral molecules are (R) – Limonene and (S) Limonene, the compounds which make up the smells of oranges and lemons, respectively. Structurally they are identical, but the human brain can tell the difference.

It is possible to be pregnant while pregnant. (3)

Superfetation is a word that gets bandied about all to commonly these days… Not really, I just learned it, but it does refer to getting pregnant… while already pregnant. The article below namechecks a case report published in 1999 in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology which presented a twin pregnancy wherein one of the fetuses seemed to be at a younger developmental stage in its mother’s womb compared to its sibling. Evidence for superfetation has been found throughout history in many species, including our own and often twin births can appear to have been conceived at different intervals due to developmental variations in the offspring, but this can be put down to poor health in one baby. The above case is the only one of it’s kind in which a verdict of superfetation was announced, because both offspring were in perfect health.

Travel sickness occurs because your brain thinks it has been poisoned. (4)

Travel sickness occurs when motion is seen but not felt, or vice versa. The discrepancy between the two cause the brain to assume that the body is hallucinating due to some form of neurotoxin and vomiting is induced in order to clear this phantom poison. That’s the most commonly held hypothesis, anyway.

It would take a piece of lead approximately 1 light-year thick to stop a neutrino.(5)

Neutrinos have no electrical charge and almost zero mass. For this reason, they are famed within the particle physics world for passing through matter undisturbed and without interacting. It is said that it would take a piece of lead 9.5 TRILLION kilometres thick to stop one. Thats how far light travels in a year. And that’s only on the off chance that it would interact with the lead at all!

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About the author: Conor Hughes works as a Marketing Executive at Life Science Recruitment.