Friday, July 31, 2020

Galatine Biscotti…Milk Candy?

It's great when I think I'm gonna hate something, then I love it.

from Candy Gurus
by Jonny July 31, 2020 at 11:34AM

So How Do Animals Swallowed Alive Actually Die and Do Any Animals Ever Get Out Alive After?

We’ve all heard the story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale, and then, along with his father Geppetto, creating a fire so that the whale sneezes them out … Or something like that. Whatever the case, being swallowed whole is a fate that has permeated our mythology and stories throughout time. But what is the actual typical progression to death when an animal gets swallowed whole? And are there any animals outside of more commonly known things like tapeworms that occasionally survive the ordeal and go along their merry way, whether by fighting their way out or simply being pushed out the other end?

As you might expect, death for creatures swallowed whole depends on what creatures eat them. Some of the most famous animals known for swallowing prey whole—snakes—actually kill their prey before consuming it, either through venom or constriction. However, in some instances certain animals take their prey directly into their mouths while the creature is still alive and kicking. Such creatures include frogs, certain fish and birds, varieties of snake and even people (we’re looking at you, goldfish-swallowing-craze college students).

One especially creepy example of a creature that eats its prey whole is the Kinabalu giant red leech. This large annelid/tiny lovecraftian horror preys on a species of giant earthworm native to the jungles of Borneo and sucks the whole thing into its mouth like a giant piece of spaghetti … being eaten by another giant piece of spaghetti.

While there is some contention among experts, it appears these worms are swallowed alive as there have been instances of the leeches having to spit out worms whose size they underestimated, after which point the worm goes on its wiggly way. So what happens to them once inside? It is generally thought the worms die relatively quickly, since the stifling confines of the leech’s body aren’t exactly ideal for the worm’s respiration, causing it to suffocate long before being converted into leech dooky.

In some examples, such as with certain birds, the predator may attempt to stun or incapacitate its prey with its mouthparts before swallowing, though this may simply result in debilitating injuries rather than death., A conscious trip to the stomach is also a legitimate possibility in the case of things like frogs and fish, which commonly push their food to the backs of their mouths with little or no injury before swallowing.

So, supposing an animal’s prey survives its foray in the mouth of its predator: what happens to it next? While some might claim the strong contractions of the predator’s esophagus is enough to crush the animal, anyone who’s thrown up and seen a fully intact french fry from lunch can attest that esophagial contractions are seldom strong enough to crush food- only strong enough to encourage its trip down to the stomach.

Once in the stomach, while the most obvious cause of death for animals swallowed alive would be the powerful stomach acid of a predator, it’s generally unlikely that this is going to cause the death, at least not in the flesh melting way occasionally mentioned in Hollywood. Rather, thanks to sphincters—everyone’s favorite variety of muscle—the interior of a stomach is largely bereft of breathable air. Thus, such an environment would likely cause an air-breathing animal to pass out and die
relatively quickly. By contrast, it would take much longer for stomach acid to eat through the skin or outer surface to the point where it would do any life threatening damage. Even in the case of fish being swallowed alive, the high-acid/low-oxygen content of the stomach acid and chime present in the predator’s digestive tract would likewise cause it to perish from suffocation fairly quickly.

Of course, the next question that’s bound to arise when considering this morbid issue is: Outside of obvious creatures like certain parasites, can other creatures feasibly survive being swallowed alive?

It turns out- yes. For example, some snails, which have been known to make the long and undignified journey through an animal’s entire digestive tract and come out, Shawshank Redpmetion-style, on the other end.

For example, the Tornatellides boeningi snail of Japan’s Hahajima Island are known to have a small chance of surviving an entire trip through a bird’s digestive system after being eaten. We like to imagine this process leaves the snail’s shell with a shiny new buff job, though it probably never smells quite the same.

As to how often they survive, Shinichiro Wada and his colleagues at Tohoku University found that, when these snails were fed to bird species native to Hahajima Island, about 15% of them survived the trip, with one of them even giving birth after the journey.

As for the exact mechanism that allows the snails to survive the trek down the bird’s bowels, this isn’t clear. However, the researchers theorize the snail’s shell, coupled with an ability to seal itself in with a powerful coating of mucus (called an epiphragm), prevents stomach acid from touching the snail. Additionally, the gastropod’s small size ensures that it encounters minimal complications, such as being crushed, as it makes its stinky journey. It’s even hypothesized that this mechanism might even be an element of the snail’s evolution, allowing it to propagate its species about the island via handy transportation inside birds. Scientists have seen similar phenomena in pond snails eaten by fishes and birds.

So what about other creatures? Well, in 2012, biologists in East Timor observed a strange, wormlike species of snake, known as a blind snake, emerging from the rear end of a toad. As to how the snake survives such an event, the researchers hypothesize this is due to the creatures overlapping scales, which made it resistant to damage; its wormlike shape, which allowed it to crawl through the toad’s bowels; the fact that the toad hadn’t eaten recently, leaving a nice, poop- free intestine for the snake to climb through; and, finally, the blind snake’s ability to thrive underground with only minimal oxygen.

All that said, unfortunately the intrepid blind snake died several hours after its triumphant emergence, though it wasn’t really clear why.

Moving on from there, what about animals that perhaps attempt at least to fight their way out?

While most creatures have the sense to not to swallow anything alive that has sharp spines, claws, or toxins, it just so happens that there is a kind of creature in which such a scenario has played out multiple times in the past. Enter the snake eel.

The snake eel has a barbed tail which it uses to burrow in the sand. However, when eaten by fish, it has been observed to use this tail to attempt to bore through the stomach of the animal that ate it. However, as far as researchers can tell, these attempts always end up being in vain as the eel inevitably finds itself trapped in the space between the stomach and abdominal wall, where it often suffocates, though does at least get a little revenge on its killer.

Generally, however, such SNAFUs are avoided by the evolutionary instincts of the predator in question. When it comes to the highest-evolved of animals, however, that animal’s greatest asset— personality and free thought—sometimes override this safeguard. Enter humans.

For example, in 2016 a drunk man from the Netherlands was coaxed into swallowing a live catfish. Now, for those not acquainted with catfish anatomy, these creatures have sharp spines on their pectoral fins (and in some species these spines can be quite venomous) used in self-defense scenarios … such as being swallowed by an inebriated Dutchman.

The fish ended up lodging itself in the man’s throat, and the poor reveler/zoophage was rushed to intensive care, vomiting blood, where the siluriform was subsequently and safely removed. The man lived to experience further parties, and perhaps swallow other creatures. The fish, however, while successfully achieving its goal of extraction, wasn’t so lucky: Despite its valiant efforts to carve its way from the innards of the beast that consumed it, it perished in the fight, likely due to lack of oxygen, or being drowned in cheap Dutch beer.

But have there ever been any happy endings- where an animal has safely fought their way out?


One such feat of derring-do has been observed from the bombardier beetle. These critters have the ability to release a burst of highly irritating chemicals that shoot from their insectoid moneymakers with extremely high pressure. You might recall how, earlier, we mentioned that some frogs tend to swallow prey without incapacitating it first—well, Shinji Sugiura and Takuya Sato, researchers at Kobe University, observed instances of frogs consuming the beetles, after which point the beetles’ defensive mechanisms, once applied from the confines of the frog’s stomach, would cause the amphibians to regurgitate the beetle. The beetle, in spite of its trip to the Gastric Hilton, generally remained unharmed after the ordeal.

Even more impressive is the rough-skinned newt, an amphibian that produces a powerful toxin that has the potential to kill any predators foolish enough to ignore the newt’s cautionary orange coloring. The newt’s poison is so powerful, in fact, that frogs have been observed swallowing the critter, then succumbing to the toxin so quickly that the newt has time to exit through the frog’s mouth before the predator’s digestive juices and lack of oxygen takes effect.

Moving on from there, the epomis beetle larva has been known to take things a step further. In fact, this beetle—and its nighmarish offspring—are known as frog hunters.

So how does a tiny invertebrate hunt down and slowly eat alive a creature many times its size? In short, the larvae have a tactic of dodging the frog’s tongue before being swalloed, then latching onto the creature, where they proceed to devour it. In at least one instance, however, the frog actually succeeded in consuming the larva, whereupon it was regurgitated. At this point, the food turned on its diner, grabbed it with its mandibles and proceeded to feed. Thus, not only surviving the event, but ultimately consuming the creature that swallowed it.

But let’s go back to the beginning and talk about Jonah and Pinocchio. Are there any animals that can swallow people whole and alive? Although there have been some very rare instances of snakes swallowing people, such reptiles have a means of incapacitating you first, mainly through

constriction, so you’d be dead before being swallowed, especially considering that the swallowing process in such cases would likely take hours or longer.
Crocodiles and sharks again rarely consume people, and in such cases, the prey would be dead first by being ripped apart or significant damage done by the predator’s powerful teeth and jaws. This leaves whales as the only candidate for swallowing people alive. However, the largest animals on the planet, the blue whale, along with the largest fish, the whale shark, are not equipped to swallow humans, having tiny esophagi which would cause them to choke on us. That leaves the sperm whale, the largest carnivorous cetacean.

And some experts claim that it may theoretically be possible for a sperm whale to swallow a person whole, though there are two problems with this. One is that the sperm whale’s dagger-like teeth would likely kill the prey first, in which case you’d be long dead before suffocating in the whale’s several stomachs. But this point is rendered mostly null, as sperm whales only feed deep beneath the surface of the water and would never view humans as prey. So any accidental swallowing would have to derive from a rather bizarre sequence of events.

That said, there is a commonly told story of one James Bartley being swallowed by a sperm whale in the late 1800s, after which he was cut out of the whale by fellow mariners apparently many hours later. Though his skin had supposedly been bleached white and his eyes rendered blind, he allegedly survived.

However, in more recent times, most find this story a bit farfetched, given the particulars, including the extreme amount of time Bartley supposedly spent in the whale’s insides, among other issues with the tale. On top of that, there really isn’t much of any hard evidence to indicate this actually occurred, despite the story making the rounds back in the day. Perhaps a bit akin to the legend of the dolphin Pelorus Jack that was a world-wide sensation in his day and even still widely credited today for something he never once actually did, as we tracked down for our video on the subject.

On the plus side, humans can apparently take heart in the fact that, among the multitudes of unpleasant ways we can die, we’ll never have to worry about being swallowed alive, unless Cthulhu emerges from his sunken palace beneath the tides to once more begin his terrible reign over mankind.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

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The post So How Do Animals Swallowed Alive Actually Die and Do Any Animals Ever Get Out Alive After? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Eric Flynn - July 31, 2020 at 12:00AM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Why is Superman Described as Leaping Tall Buildings with a Single Bound When He Can Fly?

“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”

Well, of course Superman could hurdle skyscrapers. He can fly after all. Compared to the kind of aerial self-propulsion that Daedalus couldn’t have conceived of, jumping over even the Burj Khalifa seems hardly worth mentioning. Super-vaulting seems more along the lines of Kal-El’s super-ventriloquism – sure, it’s technically part of his power set, but there aren’t many situations that call for it over one of his infinitely more practical powers. So why does this iconic line praise rhapsodically Superman’s vertical leap but make no mention of the fact that he could fly from Metropolis to Gotham without having to take his red boots off while going through the TSA checkpoint at the airport?

The fact is, when those bombastic boastings were first announced on the Adventures of Superman radio program, Superman’s power of levitation no more existed at that time than did the Transportation Safety Administration. Though the opening monologue would change throughout the radio show’s eleven year run from February 12th, 1940 – March 1st, 1951, the initial incarnation in the four fifteen-minute demo episodes that were shopped around to networks in 1939 were exacting in their description of the limitation of his powers at the time:

Narrator: Boys and girls, your attention please! The Blank Corporation presents a brand new adventure program, featuring the thrilling adventures of an amazing and incredible personality! Faster than an airplane! More powerful than a locomotive! Impervious to bullets!

Male: Up in the sky – Look!

Female: It’s a giant bird!

Male: It’s an airplane!

Male: It’s Superman!

Narrator: Superman! A being no larger than an ordinary man, but possessed of powers and abilities never before realized on earth. Able to leap into the air an eighth of a mile in a single bound, hurdle a twenty story building with ease, race a high powered bullet to its target, lift tremendous weights, and rend solid steel in his bare hands as though it were paper. Superman! Strange visitor from a distant planet. Champion of the oppressed! Physical marvel extraordinaire, who has sworn his existence on Earth to helping those in need.

That this awkward mouthful would later get trimmed to the version with which we’re familiar is no surprise, but what does stand out is the precision with which his powers are explained, and rather redundantly at that. Immediately after specifying that Superman could win the Olympic gold medal for high jump by well over a hundred meters, the announcer next describes the same feat in terms of a twenty-story high rise. Almost certainly the first figure was actually intended to describe Superman’s long jump. The measure of an eighth of a mile is taken directly from the second page of Superman #1 (1939), accompanied by an illustration of the Metropolis Marvel hoping horizontally, not vertically. In the same issue, Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster included the first of many attempts at a scientific explanation of the Man of Tomorrow’s powers:

Superman came to Earth from the planet Krypton, whose inhabitants evolved, after millions of years, to physical perfection! The smaller size of our planet, with its slighter gravity pull, assists Superman’s tremendous muscles in the performance of miraculous feats of strength! Even upon our world today exist creatures possessing super-strength! The lowly ant can support weights hundreds of times its own. The grasshopper leaps what to man would be the equivalent of several city blocks! It’s not too far-fetched to believe that some day our very own planet may be peopled entirely by supermen!

Siegel and Shuster’s vision of the character in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s was of a peak perfect human whose abilities were all of a kind with ordinary earthlings but taken to an evolutionary extreme. In the first few strips of the Superman daily comics printed in newspapers starting in ‘39, his father Jor-L was seen performing equally extraordinary feats even on his homeworld, such as running faster than an express train, hopping the rooftops of skyscrapers, emerging unscathed when a building collapses with him in it during a planetquake, and lifting many tons of rubble with ease. As the very first panel of the series explained, “Krypton, a distant planet so far in evolution that it bears a civilization of supermen – beings which represent the human race at its ultimate peak of perfect development!”

This is why besides flight the Last Son of Krypton’s other exotic powers – such as infrared and x-ray vision – were also absent in his initial appearances. They simply weren’t inline with a linear projection of the path of future human evolution. But this state of affair changed more quickly than Clark Kent in a phone booth. At least as early as November 28, 1941, with the release of “The Mechanical Monsters,” the second of Fleischer Studios’ animated Superman shorts, Supes is seen using his soon to be signature x-ray vision. In Superman #59 (July 1949), the Big Blue Boy Scout was utilizing the energy of those x-rays to melt a glacier – presaging heat vision as a unique power in the next decade.

These reflected an emerging vision of Superman being more alien in nature, his powers inhuman, but not implausible per se – the product of photosynthetic processing and repurposing of solar energy. But the succeeding decades would add increasingly non sequitur abilities to his repertoire, such as in 1958’s Superman #125, wherein he gained the not at all allegoric ability to produce from his palm a miniaturized Man of Steel, depleting his own potency in the process – this was before Cialis became commercially available. And that was still more useful than super-mathematics, in which Superman was able to calculate basic multiplication in his head (and escaping the notice of both the writer and editor, arriving at an incorrect product by a factor of ten). The movies were no less nonsensical in their establishment of new powers, such as the Cosby cocktail kiss at the end of the second Superman film or the reverse entropy vision in the third.

These are a far cry from the powerset of the Superman as he was originally envisioned, but then again, so were super-strength and speed. Superman as he appeared in his June 1938 debut in the pages of Action Comics #1 was no less than Siegel and Shuster’s third attempt at a character bearing that nom de guerre, with the first of their creations by that appellation appearing in the third issue of their self-published magazine “Science Fiction” in a short story entitled “Reign of the Superman” (January 1933). As far from a heroic Hercules from a distant planet as possible, this Superman was a villainous earthling with an ordinary physique but vast mental abilities. He used telepathy to control the will of others and even to mentally observe events on Mars.

Their second Superman appeared later that same year. Instead of prose accompanied by illustrations, this Superman was the star of an eponymously titled comic book. Only one issue was written and drawn, sent unsolicited to Consolidated Book Publishing for consideration, but politely rejected. Despite the cover – all that survived Shuster’s despondent immolation of the issue – proclaiming this Superman as “The most astounding fiction character of all time,” his strength, while considerable, was strictly of the non-super variety. Ironically, this Superman – or at least a slightly tweaked strongman now named Slam Bradley – was one of the characters created for Detective Comics #1 (1937), a series normally associated with Superman’s best frenemy and fellow son of a Martha, Batman.

But by the time that the one true Superman finally hit newsstands in Action Comics #1, all the essential elements of his powerset were in place. Beginning on the cover, his super-strength was communicated through the ease with which he lifted an automobile high over his head, smashing it against the rocky outcrop of a non-descript backdrop. By the bottom of the second page, his invulnerability was inferred as a bullet bounced harmlessly off his chest, and later confirmed when a blade broke upon striking his skin. When the events of the story caught up to the cover scene, his super-speed was shown for the first time as he overtook the car which readers already anticipated he was about to smash.

But through it all modern readers will note the conspicuous absence of flight. In the very first panel we see him high up in the air, a farmhouse far below him, but instead of the iconic swimmers’ pose indicative of flight, his posture is vertical and erect, his legs outstretched, the left fore and the right rearward, as if he’d just pushed off the ground with ball of his right foot, and when he falls hundreds of feet hence, it’ll be on his left heel. Without any narration explaining the power, Shuster’s crude art is nevertheless highly communicative of the action taking place. Later in the issue, unable to hover (or yet use super-hearing), Superman is reduced to hanging on the windowsill of a senator in order to eavesdrop on his conversation. Immediately after, the flightless Superman grabs a mobster in cahoots with the politician and traverses the city with him in tow by leaping onto powerline poles and running across electrical wires.

So when did his literal fight and flight instinct finally kick in? It wasn’t in the comics, but rather in the same medium that gave us almost every other essential element of the Superman mythos, including the names of the Daily Planet, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, the first appearance of Kryptonite, and even the first crossover between Batman and Superman: radio. On Saint Valentine’s Day of 1940, at the very start of the series’ second episode, entitled “Clark Kent, Reporter,” the narrator catches listeners up on the action: “Today, as our story continues, we find him hovering with his curious power above a quiet highway in Indiana. A trolley car is just pulling up the hill, and as Superman wheels and turns in curious flight, unseen below, a man and a boy come out of the shed that serves as waiting room.” Through it all, a steady sound of wind blows in the background, placing listeners whose imaginations were attuned to the audio cues of radio up in the atmosphere alongside Superman.

With the precedent of his new power set, depictions of Superman in other media soon followed in making the leap from leaping to full flight. First was Fleischer Studios – famous for fellow strongman and Superman influence Popeye – in the inaugural of their animated shorts, titled Superman (a.k.a. “The Mad Scientist” – September 26, 1941). The Man of Steel, having just changed into his costume in a storage closet, opens a window of the Daily Planet and looks ready to leap out. He steps back briefly, as if to get momentum for a great jump, but then bolts forward faster than the eye can see. Any ambiguity as to the action is immediately removed; looking through the still open window, the viewer sees Superman turn sharply in midair, his pose prone with both legs straight back and one arm forward as if to steer through the atmosphere. Yet Fleischer was strangely inconsistent in its portrayal; in the fourth episode, “The Arctic Giant” (February 27, 1942), Superman flies out of the main entrance of the Daily Planet building before immediately proceeding to hop, skip, and jump for the remainder of the short.

The comics were even more inconsistent. The first alleged example of Superman in flight from the comics is Superman #10 (1941), in which artist Leo Nowak – new to the series as of that issue – drew several panels that certainly look more like Superman is hovering stationary in the air rather than being depicted midleap. Of particular note is one panel in which Superman, with clouds behind him and buildings below, appears to be conversing casually, his cape not flowing in the wind, and not an action line anywhere to indicate movement. But elsewhere the issue makes clear this is a mistake, showing him limited to leaps and incapable of truly defying gravity. Per Glen Weldon in Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, “The comics, however, wouldn’t make up their minds on that leaping/flying score for years – at times showing him seemingly hovering in the air, at times showing him scaling buildings to reach upper floors. It wouldn’t be until 1943 that he was depicted unequivocally flying on the comics page.” The 1943 dating is in reference to Action Comics #65. Though the majority of the issue is likewise ambiguous in its art, with Superman’s body movement more reminiscent of Shuster’s skipping Superman than Fleischer’s flying Man of Steel, in one of the penultimate panels an orphan asks “Let’s see ya fly,” to which Supes obliges, proclaiming “Up, up, and away!”

There were efforts later on to clip his wings. During a Bronze Age update to ground the character, Editor Julius Schwartz and writer Dennis O’Neil flirted with the idea, as chronicled by Les Daniels in Superman: The Complete History, in which O’Neil relates “One of the first things Julie and I agreed on was the story line that would scale him back almost to what Joe and Jerry started with in 1938.” Supes was depowered to those levels briefly after his resurrection following his death at the hands of Doomsday. When the risen Superman took on the cyborg impostor who tried to replace him, he had to make do with long leaps and big guns instead of supersonic flight and heat vision. Another longer lasting depletion occurred in a 2016 story arc entitled “Truth,” wherein overuse of his new solar flare ability – an evolution of his heat vision emanating from every part of his body – permanently depleted his cells’ stores of solar energy, leaving Superman grounded for months and giving readers a reprieve from ancillary characters shouting “Look! Up in the sky!”

Still, for the majority of his eighty plus years as a strange visitor on our planet, Superman has been able to fly. But how? When writer and artist John Byrne was tasked with rebooting the character of Superman following the multiverse ending event Crisis on Infinite Earths, he offered a novel explanation: tactile telekinesis. The conceit was that Superman could subconsciously psychically move objects – but only so long as he directly made contact with them. This greatly enhanced the superstrength granted by his natural muscularity, and as he was always in contact with his own body, he could also use tactile telekinesis to lift and move his body anywhere he thought to. He comes to this realization in Superman #1 (December 31st, 1986), musing in a thought bubble: “The lab seems to have lost almost all its weight now that I’m flying rather than lifting with pure muscle-power… Evidently, I fly objects the same way I fly myself – by sheer force of will, not by strength.” Though subsequent writers soon discarded this explanation, it was brought back to explain the powers of Con-El, a.k.a. Superboy, a half-human clone created of Superman after his death at the hands of Doomsday.

An alternate explanation was put forth by Mark Wolverton in The Science of Superman. He postulated that Kryptonians had evolved an organ which allowed for the direct manipulation of the fourth fundamental force: “Gravity – specifically the possible existence of gravitons and negative gravity – give us a mechanism that Superman might be able to use to achieve flight without encumbrances like wings and engines.” This explanation was recycled in the Mass Effect video games, wherein individuals with “biotic” abilities could directly manipulate this universally repellant Dark Energy (a.k.a. the titular “Mass Effect”).

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Bonus Fact:

So, we know when Superman first took flight, but who was the first character in recorded writing to escape the bonds of Earth without wings or a vehicle with which to do so? Jesus’ walking on water is a feat later replicated by Superman, and His ascension certainly bears resemblance to levitation, but one of the first to be described explicitly as flying was Christ’s contemporary, the magician Simon Magus. In the apocryphal Acts of Peter, Magus challenges the faith of the titular Apostle by flying over the crowds gathered along the Via Sacra in Rome. Taking up the challenge, Peter prays to the Lord for Simon to fall and break his leg in three places, which the wizard promptly does before being stoned by the fickle onlookers.

An even closer analogue to Superman can be found in Saint Joseph of Cupertino. Per the Catholic Encyclopedia, his miraculous works were a grab bag of common comic book superpowers: “Neither dragging him about, buffeting, piercing with needles, nor even burning his flesh with candles would have any effect on him… Frequently he would be raised from his feet and remain suspended in the air.” Unsurprisingly, like Magus, he was suspected by his contemporaries of witchcraft, earning a denouncement from the Inquisition. More surprisingly, posterity remembers him equally for his intellectual shortcomings as for his alleged aeronautics. Joseph is the patron saint of aviators, astronauts, and the mentally handicapped. At this point just for fun, we feel compelled to point out that the patron saint of not just children, but prostitutes, is St. Nicholas. Yes, that St. Nicholas.

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The post Why is Superman Described as Leaping Tall Buildings with a Single Bound When He Can Fly? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Matthew Theriault - July 30, 2020 at 12:05AM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

That Time the Soviets Decided to Try to Extinguish a Fire with a Nuke For Reasons…

The phrase ‘the peaceful use of nuclear weapons’ might sound like the ultimate oxymoron. While nuclear reactors are widely used to peacefully generate electricity and medical isotopes, it is difficult to imagine a peaceful use for atomic bombs on account of the whole, you know, radioactive BOOM. But incredibly, between 1961 and 1989, both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted hundreds of atomic tests in order to develop nonmilitary applications for nuclear weapons – and even more incredibly, some of these tests actually worked. This is the story Project Plowshare and Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy, two of the most audacious projects to come out of the Cold War.

Project Plowshare, named after a passage in the Book of Isaiah reading“…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” was officially launched in 1957. The project had its origins in the first Soviet atomic bomb test, which took place at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan on September 23, 1949. The test, codenamed RDS-1, shook the American Defence Establishment to its core. Experts had predicted that the USSR was still 10 years away from developing an atomic bomb, not realizing that during the war a network of spies had infiltrated the top-secret Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico and stolen all the technical technical data the Soviets needed to launch their own atomic program. The detonation of the first Soviet thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb on August 12, 1953 only served to hammer home the point: if America was to survive, it had to start building bombs – and fast. But, there was a problem: the American Public, having seen the horrific destruction and suffering wrought by atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was unlikely to support an all-out nuclear arms race. Facing a major public-relations disaster, on December 8, 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower stood before the United Nations and delivered what came to be known as the “Atoms for Peace” speech, outlining a new direction for American nuclear policy:

The United States would seek more than the mere reduction or elimination of atomic materials for military purposes.

It is not enough to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers. It must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.

The United States knows that if the fearful trend of atomic military buildup can be reversed, this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon, for the benefit of all mankind.

Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program represented a dramatic reversal in American nuclear policy, which since 1946 had forbidden the sharing of nuclear secrets even with close allies such as Britain and France. The program would see the US helping over 30 allied nations set up their own peaceful nuclear programs, providing technical expertise, reactors, and even highly-enriched uranium fuel. Meanwhile back at home the Atomic Energy Commission built dozens of civilian nuclear power plants and even a nuclear-powered cargo ship, the NS Savannah. But while this campaign was effective in keeping allied nations onside and promoting the new atomic age to the American public, it wasn’t enough to keep America ahead of the accelerating arms race. Building a nuclear stockpile meant more than just building reactors; nuclear weapons designs still had to be constructed, tested, and refined. Thankfully, the Soviets themselves had provided a possible answer to this conundrum.

On November 10, 1949, a little more than a month after the first Soviet nuclear test, representative Andrei Vischinsky gave speech before the United Nations outlining his country’s plan to carry out a very different kind of nuclear program:

The Soviet Union did not use atomic energy for the purpose of accumulating stockpiles of atomic bombs. It was using atomic energy for purposes of its own domestic economy: blowing up mountains, changing the course of rivers, irrigating deserts, charting new paths of life in regions untrodden by human foot…progressive science claims that it is possible to utilize the noble force of the explosions builder for for peaceful purposes. With the help of directional explosions one can straighten out the beds of large rivers, construct gigantic dams, cut canals. Indeed, the perspectives disclosed dye to the new atomic energy are unlimited.

Indeed, the idea of using nuclear weapons for nonmilitary purposes is as old as nuclear weapons themselves. In 1945 Otto Frisch, a senior scientist in the Manhattan Project, had proposed using nuclear explosions as a source of high-energy neutrons for scientific experiments, while in 1950 Los Alamos physicist Fred Reines had written a paper exploring the possibility of using atomic bombs to excavate canals or mine valuable minerals. But Reines had concluded that  “…such uses appear at best to be extremely limited in scope owing to the radioactivity hazard associated with atomic explosions.” However, the development of thermonuclear weapons allowed the construction of so-called “clean” bombs, up to 98% of whose power is derived from nuclear fusion. Such devices generate relatively little radioactive fallout, opening the floodgates to a deluge of audacious proposals.

And we do mean audacious Some of the suggested civilian uses for nuclear weapons included widening the Panama Canal, blasting a brand-new “Pan-Atomic Canal” through Nicaragua, blasting giant caverns for storing oil and gas, connecting underground aquifers in Arizona, melting icebergs ice jams, blasting a route for Interstate 40 through the Bristol Mountains of California, changing the course of rivers, and melting Canada’s Athabasca tar sands to allow the oil to be more easily pumped out.

But the most grandiose of these proposals was Project Chariot, a plan to excavate a deep-water harbour on Cape Thompson, Alaska, using a chain of 5 atomic bombs. Alaska having just become the 49th State, the local residents were surprisingly keen on the idea, a 1960 editorial in the Fairbanks News-Miner stating, “We think the holding of a huge nuclear blast in Alaska would be a fitting overture to the new era which is opening for our state.” But one group was decidedly less than enthusiastic: the indigenous Inupiat people of nearby Point Hope, who, along with environmental groups like the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, and Committee for Nuclear Information, campaigned vigorously against the project. It didn’t help that despite all the time and resources the Government was pouring into the project, nobody actually had any use for the proposed harbour. And so after nearly four years of planning and debate, in 1962 Project Chariot was quietly shelved.

In the end, the objectives of Project Plowshare were narrowed down to 6 main areas: excavation, energy generation, isotope generation, oil and gas stimulation, particle physics experiments, and geophysics. Between 1961 and 1975 a total of 31 atomic explosions were conducted as part of the project.

The first Plowshare test, codenamed Gnome, took place on December 10, 1961. The 3.1 kiloton device was detonated at a depth of 361 meters in a salt bed 39 km southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, blasting a massive cavity 52 meters wide and 24 meters tall. The goals of the project were fourfold. First, it was expected that the rock salt would absorb the tremendous heat of the blast and retain it for a long period, allowing water to be pumped into the cavity to produce  steam and generate electricity. Second, the intense neutron flux from the blast would transmute some of the salt into useful heavy radioisotopes, which could be harvested by dissolving the salt with water. This same neutron flux was also used to conduct several particle physics experiments. And finally, atomic physicists had theorized that detonating nuclear weapons in underground caverns would disguise their seismic signature, making nuclear tests harder for enemy nations to detect – and the Gnome shot was used to test this theory. However, of these experiments only the particle physics test proved successful. When scientists drilled into the cavity, they found that the walls and ceiling had collapsed, mixing in rubble with the molten salt and reducing its temperature such that no useful energy could be extracted. Also, though the cavity was supposed to be self-sealing, a plume of radioactive dust escaped to the surface, causing a bit of PR disaster.

Nonetheless, Project Plowshare plowed on. The next test, codenamed Sedan, took place at Yucca Flats on the Nevada Test Site on July 6, 1962. This experiment was intended to test the feasibility of using nuclear weapons for large-scale excavation projects. The 104 kiloton device, detonated at a depth of 194 meters, displaced some 11 million tons of earth, blasting a crater 390 meters across and 100 meters deep and registering 4.75 on the Richter scale. It also generated a substantial amount of fallout, sending two plumes of radioactive dust to an altitude of 5 kilometres that drifted east over Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois. So dirty was this single explosion that it generated a full 7% of the total fallout produced by the Nevada Test Site, which between 1951 and 1992 carried out over 1000 nuclear tests. Despite this, the Sedan shot did make an important contribution to science, allowing geologists to conclude that Barringer Crater in Arizona – today known as Meteor Crater – was formed by a meteorite impact and not a volcanic eruption as previously believed. Work on nuclear excavation also continued, with the majority of the remaining 29 Plowshares experiments being devoted to testing cleaner devices for this purpose. The largest of these, codenamed Buggy, took place on March 12, 1968, and involved the detonation of five 1-kiloton devices in a chain to investigate the feasibility of digging canals.

But perhaps the most unusual and promising of the Plowshare tests took place on December 10, 1967 in northern New Mexico. Codenamed Gasbuggy, the objective of the test was to use a 29-kiloton device detonated at a depth of 1300 meters to fracture a formation of oil and gas-bearing shale, making the fossil fuels easier to extract. In other words: atomic fracking. While the concept worked, the extracted gas was found to be too radioactive for household use. Gasbuggy was followed up by Project Rulison in 1969 and Project Rio Blanco in 1973, both carried out in gas fields in Colorado. These tests managed to produce gas that was only 1% more radioactive than background levels, but by this time the growing anti-nuclear movement had made even mild contamination unviable to customers. Furthermore, due to the staggering cost of the project – $82 million ($500 million today) in all – it was determined that even after 25 years of gas production only around 40% of this investment could be recovered. In 1975 funding for Plowshare dried up and the project officially came to an end.

At the same time as Project Plowshare ,the Soviet Union was also conducting their own Peaceful Nuclear Explosions program. Despite being the first to propose such a project, the Soviets were actually several years behind the Americans in launching theirs. Indeed, upon the announcement of Project Plowshare at the 2nd International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in 1958, Soviet delegate Vasiliy Emelyanov disavowed previous statements by his countrymen and accused the American project of being merely a “cover to evade suspension of bomb tests [which] do not reach practical ends but only political ends.” Nonetheless,  not wanting to fall behind in the arms race, in 1965 the Soviets reluctantly initiated their own Peaceful Nuclear Explosions project, known as Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy. In terms of objectives the Soviet project was very similar to Plowshares, with the main focus being on excavation, oil and gas stimulation, ore crushing, and geophysics. But it was also far larger in scale, with 156 tests being conducted between 1965 and 1989.

One of the most famous tests of the series was the Chagan shot, carried out on January 15, 1965. A 140 kiloton device was exploded on the bed of the Chagan River in the Semipalatinsk test site, blasting a crater 408 meters wide and 100 meters deep. The wall of the crater was then excavated to let the river flow in, creating an artificial reservoir with a capacity of 10,000 cubic meters. While still radioactive, Lake Chagan – also known as Lake Balapan or Atomic Lake – is still used to water local cattle herds to this day.

Another major test of the Soviet program was the Taiga shot of March 23, 1971. This was part of a decades-old plan called the Pechora-Kama Canal, which sought to divert water from northern Russian rivers into the Volga basin and down into the Caspian Sea to aid with irrigation. Three 15-kiloton devices were detonated in a line near the town of Vasyukovo, Perm Oblast, blasting a crater over 600 meters long. Unfortunately, due to the soft stone in the region the crater walls collapsed, reducing the depth of the prototype canal to an unusable 10 meters. Scientists concluded that nuclear weapons were unsuited to digging canals, and the Pechora-Kama project itself was abandoned in 1986.

Other tests followed along the same lines as Plowshare, including shots Butane, Grifon, Takhta-Kagula, Neva, and Helium, all geared towards stimulating oil and gas fields. Like their American counterparts, these tests were largely successful, increasing oil and gas production by up to 40%, and unlike the Americans the Soviets had no qualms about using slightly irradiated fuel. But ultimately as with Plowshare, the technique never saw widespread commercial adoption.

Yet despite its similarities to the American project, Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy holds the distinction of carrying out the only truly practical peaceful nuclear explosions in history. On December 1, 1963, drillers at the Urtabulak gas field in Uzbekistan lost control of well No.11, causing it to blow out and vent over 12 million cubic meters of gas per day – enough to supply a city the size of St Petersburg. Over the next 3 three years many attempts were made to cap the well, but none were successful. As the bottom of the well had not been cemented, even a successful capping just caused gas to vent into other nearby wells. Finally, in 1966, having run out of options, the Soviet Government decided to break out the big guns. In the fall of that year a 44cm diameter slanted borehole was drilled to within 25 meters of the well and a 30 kiloton device inserted. On September 30, 1966 the device was detonated, creating a shock wave that pinched the unruly well shut. 23 seconds later, the flame went out and the well was back under control.

The technique would be repeated four more times, at the Pamuk gas field in 1968, the Mayskii and Kretishche gas fields in 1972, and the Kumzhinsky gas field in 1981. All were highly successful except for the last shot, which due to poor geological data unfortunately failed to seal the well. In 1989, in response to local protests in Kazakhstan, the Soviet Government agreed to a moratorium on nuclear testing and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions program finally came to an end.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Expand for References
  • Nordyke, Milo D, The Soviet Program for Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Explosions, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, July 24, 1996
  • Carlisle, N & J, Project Gasbuggy, Popular Mechanics Magazine, September 1967
  • Executive Summary: Plowshare Program U.S. Department of Energy, Nevada Operations Office, Office of Public Affairs and Information
  • Rawson, D et al. Project Gnome: The Environment Created by a Nuclear Explosion in Salt, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, September 1964

The post That Time the Soviets Decided to Try to Extinguish a Fire with a Nuke For Reasons… appeared first on Today I Found Out.

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by Gilles Messier - July 30, 2020 at 12:00AM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

How to Win – Taking theatre gaming online

How to Win – Taking theatre gaming online How to Win is a new online adventure game where the story is shaped by...

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by Bee234 July 29, 2020 at 10:59PM

The Widespread Nuclear Disaster Everyone Promptly Forgot About

If you’ve ever heard of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico at all, it’s probably because for a time the densely populated town next to El Paso, Texas was known as “the most dangerous city in the world”. But it turns out that at one point a bizarre sequence of events led to a rather odd nuclear disaster occurring there. Now, you might at this point be wondering how such a thing could happen given the area does not have a nuclear power plant and Mexico is not a country that has nuclear weapons either. So how did they have a widespread nuclear disaster?

On December 6, 1983, one Vicente Sotelo Alardin and Ricardo Hernandez, two maintenance workers from the hospital Specialties Medical Center (Centro Medico de Especialidades), were told to take equipment from a warehouse to be sold as scrap. While gathering said equipment, Vicente and Ricardo saw a Picker 3000- a radiotherapy machine used for cancer treatment. Probably ignoring what it was or how dangerous what was inside it could be, they decided to disassemble it out of curiosity using Jeremy Clarkson’s favorite tool: A hammer. Inside the engine head they found approximately 6000 small pellets of cobalt-60.

For the uninitiated, Cobalt-60 is a radioactive isotope that is created when cobalt-59 is bombarded with a neutron source. When it decays it emits beta particles, which are high energy neutrons or positrons and gamma rays which are considered the emissions with the highest energy levels in the electromagnetic spectrum. As you might imagine, this is not good for your health since it could give you radiation poisoning and an acute case of “dead”- the prognosis after being diagnosed with death is, naturally, not good.

So at this point, you can probably start to see the issue for the two maintenance workers. But how did the problem become widespread?

Vicente and Ricardo took everything they could carry to a local Junkyard called Yonke Fenix using Vicente’s Datsun pick-up truck. Along the way pellets fell out of the vehicle. It should be noted that these pellets were VERY dangerous and with a half-life of 5.27 years, meaning that to reduce the emissions by half you have to wait a whole 5 years. They sold everything they had collected for $8.50 USD (about $26 today) and went back home. On the way, the pick-up truck broke down and it was parked next to the Rio Grande river for two days. According to Vicente, after fixing the truck, he drove it and parked it in front of his house. As if all this bad luck wasn’t enough, he

found out that someone stole the battery from the vehicle just outside his own home. Seeing it couldn’t be moved, he decided to leave it there and replace the battery later… The result was that he left it there for several weeks. According to the report from the Mexican agency, the National Nuclear Safety and Safeguards Commission (CNSNS), the pick up was found only after January 26, 1984, meaning the highly radioactive pick-up truck was parked for 7 weeks in a densely populated area.

OK, that’s still not super widespread though. So how did it get worse?

Well, matters didn’t improve when the junkyard (not knowing they received highly dangerous material) started to move it around using an electromagnetic crane and other equipment, polluting them and spreading the radiation like a massive invisible infection.

More significantly, the junkyard had a deal with smelter factories to take some scrap metal and use it for rebar in construction projects and table legs. The net result was some 6,000-20,000 tons of contaminated metal being made to be used in buildings and other such projects all over- all without anyone being the wiser at this point.

So, if neither Vicente, Ricardo, the junkyard workers or the smelter factories knew the material was radioactive. How did we find out about this? Well, the era before smartphones and widespread use of GPS might have saved lives. By January 16, 1984, one of the trucks that carried some of the radioactive steel through the United States got lost in New Mexico. While trying to find the right route, the truck passed quite near to Los Alamos National Security Lab. Yes, THAT lab. (Where the Manhattan Project was developed)

The lab had sensors that detected radiation just outside the facilities, because, you know… they don’t want their radioactive materials to leave the premises without authorization for obvious reasons. When the radiation was sensed, it triggered cameras that took pictures of the vehicle. Using these photographs the agency tracked the vehicle and tried to contact the driver, finally catching up to him at a motel. When the driver left his room, he was surrounded by a small army of people wearing protective suits to handle the situation.

When the agency measured the radiation of the vehicle, it emitted and astounding 1,000 rems. To give you an idea of how high this is: You will get serious radiation poisoning symptoms and possibly death at around 300 rems. The truck emitted more than three times this while traveling about on United States soil. After they found out the truck came from Mexico, the American authorities contacted the appropriate Mexican agency to figure out what was going on. Then then expended considerable effort to ultimately track down all the contaminated material, and attempt to contain the rather far flung problem as fast as possible.

While the United States authorities estimates they gathered 90% of the radioactive steel that entered their country and returned it back to Mexico, Mexican authorities had worse results in dealing with the same problems and shady practices played a huge part of it: When the authorities located the pick-up truck, they isolated it by temporarily dropping it in one of the most popular public parks in Ciudad Juarez, securing it with just a fence. Meanwhile, in an attempt to find each and every dropped pellet in the city, they had all the roads cleaned by steelworkers sweeping the streets and sifting through dirt with shovels and plastic bags while CNSNS personnel hid behind barrels filled with water. For anyone out there working with cobalt-60: This is not how you safely secure such radioactive material. On top of that, they had to track down every contaminated batch of steel that was transported around the country, which is a daunting, almost impossible task.

In an attempt to help, the United States Department of Energy provided a helicopter equipped with sensors to check for “hot spots” and look for these pellets and steel, but it might not have been enough. It is believed that thousands of tons of radioactive steel rebar was transported to multiple Mexican states to be used in housing and buildings. There is still a local legend that one of the largest mall centers of the city is built with “hot steel” and hidden from public record by corruption and bribery. Although this has not been corroborated, the dates of construction conveniently align for this to be possible.

All the hazardous material found near Ciudad Juarez was ultimately stored in a nuclear graveyard located at the Samalayuca desert near the city, about 24 kilometers or 15 miles away from the downtown area . According to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), this facility is improperly built and it represents a risk of pollution to the underground water deposits.

Originally these deposits were built open to the environment, but as of today satellite images show these graveyards sealed, appearing to be covered only with sand. Not a great method in a region known for occasional strong winds and sandstorms. “Radioactive wind” being rather less than ideal.

Meanwhile Vicente was used as a scapegoat by the administration of the hospital, allegedly being threatened to pressure him into signing a confession saying he stole the equipment. Vicente later claimed, “The truth is that we were never told that the machine had contamination, […] not one sign with a skull or something like that”.

This was confirmed and documented in the CNSNS report adding that the warehouse didn’t comply with the minimal requirements for the storage of this machine. The hospital denied wrongdoing, with one of its doctors going so far as to claim: “I don’t think we should accept (liability). We are not guilty for the acts from a disloyal employee”.

Of course, the hospital had previously purchased the machine without a license from an imaging company in Fort Worth, Texas for around $16,000 USD. As if this doesn’t sound negligent enough, the hospital was unable to hire a specialist for the machine to be used, so it just sat in the
warehouse collecting dust rather than ever being used.

So, at this point you might be wondering “what were the health consequences for the population?” Well, as you might expect given it was difficult enough just to track down the contaminated materials and how massively widespread the issue ended up being, this is hard to say.

Looking at the definitely contaminated individuals, medical studies reported cases of chromosome damage and abnormal sperm or diminished count among the junkyard workers and other neighboring citizens. These signs have the potential to progress into other health issues, such as cancer or congenital defects for their offspring. More worrying is that there is no way to measure the actual damage to those exposed on the long run due to stray pellets or houses made with contaminated steel, etc.

As to what happened to Vicente, the owner of the pick-up truck, shockingly, despite pretty extreme exposure and initial radiation poisoning symptoms including burns, vomit and diarrhea, he was fine in the long term. He even earned the nickname: “Vicente the Bionic Man”, due to his apparent good health after his exposure… what is the relationship between “surviving radiation exposure” and “bionics”? Who knows, but hey; it is an awesome nickname.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

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from Today I Found Out
by Gerardo Amador - July 29, 2020 at 10:02PM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Can the Iron in Your Blood Be Removed By a Super Powerful Magnetic Source?

Magnets are everywhere. Just about every electronic device uses them including the speakers you’re using to listen to me talk right now. Deriving their name from the Greek Island of Magnesia, magnets have come to play an integral part of our modern world.

As anyone whose ever watched a certain particularly powerful mutant of the villainous variety do his thing knows, the human body contains iron. This iron serves many purposes including allowing oxygen to hitch a ride from the lungs to the rest of the body via the bloodstream.

Since we’re exposed to magnets on a regular basis every day and magnets attract iron, this brings us to the question- Could the iron in your blood be removed with an especially strong magnet or by a certain mutant with a magnetic personality? And regardless of the answer to that, is it possible to make a magnet strong enough to simply kill you on the spot? And how would this happen? And just what are the most powerful magnets in the universe?

Before we get to all that, it’s important to understand why magnets effect iron in the first place.

Iron exhibits a property called ferromagnetism because the four unpaired electrons in the outer shell of each atom have the quantum configuration to give it a strong magnetic field and make the iron atoms act like microscopic magnets. The poles of these magnetic atoms will align with an outside magnet creating an attractive force since the opposite poles are attracted and facing one another. The protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom also have their own magnetic fields, but they’re much weaker than what’s created by the electrons and don’t have any significant effect on the overall magnetic field of the atom.
Iron also has domains, which are about a millimeter across and consist of magnetically aligned atoms. If a strong enough magnetic field is applied, the magnetic fields of all the iron atoms in all the domains will also align. If a magnetic field is applied for long enough, the domains in the iron will remain aligned even after the magnet is gone causing the iron to become magnetized creating a permanent magnet. There are also some other metals that exhibit this ferromagnetic property including nickel, cobalt, and gadolinium as well as certain alloys or mixtures of metals and can be made into permanent magnets. You may have a few on your refrigerator.

So that’s why the two love to tango, now let’s talk about potentially ultra strong magnets that may or may not be capable of ripping iron from your blood or killing you in other ways. Enter electromagnets

A magnetic field is created when an electric charge accelerates. You might also have created an electromagnet in school by coiling a wire around a nail and attaching the ends of the wire to a battery. The current supplied by the battery is spiraling around the nail through the wire creates a magnetic field, because it’s undergoing a centripetal acceleration.

Magnetic field strength is measured in Gauss. The unit of measurement for 10,000 Gauss is called a Tesla (tribute to Nicola Tesla). For reference, the strength of Earth’s magnetic field at the surface is between .25 and .6 Gauss depending on where you are in the world. It’s not very much, but it’s enough to manipulate the needle on a compass and allow a pigeon to find its way home. A typical refrigerator magnet has around 50 Gauss, electric guitar pickups have about 100 Gauss, and an industrial electromagnet that’s used to pick up scrap metal at a landfill will have 10,000 Gauss or one Tesla!

As for Superconducting Magnets, the higher the electric current running through a coil in an electromagnet the stronger the magnetic field will be created. However, the wires that make up the coil may be electrically conductive, but they still have a little bit of resistance meaning that some of the electrical energy from the current running through the wire will be turned into heat. This is what causes the coils in a toaster, oven, or certain lightbulbs to get hot and glow.

To get around the problem, superconductors are used, which are materials that have no electrical resistance but only work at low temperatures. They have to be kept very cold using liquid nitrogen or even colder with liquid helium. Since they have no resistance, they can handle a lot more electrical current without heating up and thus one can create incredibly strong magnetic fields.

This brings us to one of the most powerful magnets mere mortals occasionally encounter in the form of Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI’s). One of the main uses of these superconducting magnets is to image the body in an MRI machine that can produce from 15,000 up to 94,000 Gauss. This immense magnetic field causes the lone protons in the nucleus of hydrogen atoms that are part of the water molecules in the body to precess like the way the needle on a compass shakes when you put a magnet next to it. This precession occurs at a frequency to allow the protons to absorb and transmit radio waves, which can be detected to create a 3-D image if the magnetic field is applied in multiple directions.

So that all out of the way and with your brains sufficiently full of a rather attractive amount of magnetic knowledge, this finally brings us to how much iron is in human blood, and why doesn’t it get sucked out during something like an MRI or similarly insanely powerful magnets?

The average human body contains 3 to 4 grams of iron almost all of which is contained in molecules like hemoglobin. In this hemoglobin, of which there are a few types, the outer electrons of the iron which cause the ferromagnetic properties mentioned earlier are in a different configuration because of the coordinant-covalent bonds with other atoms like nitrogen. These bonds don’t allow the electrons to align with a magnetic field rendering the iron atoms only paramagnetic, which is a very weak attractive property a lot of atoms and molecules have. There’s also only one iron atom per hemoglobin molecule.

Furthermore, some other molecules have a repulsive diamagnetic property including water, of which there is a lot more of than iron in your body. Thus, even a super powerful magnet like in an MRI only has a miniscule effect on the iron if any, which is why it’s safe for you to be inside one.

However, if a you have any metal implants an MRI, it would be quite disastrous. The steel that’s usually used in pins, plates, and any prosthetic body parts contains ferromagnetic iron. These shows up well on x-rays or CAT Scans which are done to check if there’s any concern there could be any metal implants that would get violently ripped out and fly around in multiple directions during an MRI causing extensive damage to the patient, the machinery and anyone else in the room.

But what if you eat a huge amount of iron containing foods or if a shapeshifting mutant injected you with some?

Iron is quickly broken down for use in the body in the small intestine. The iron in cereal is still in elemental form and retains its ferromagnetic properties but won’t cause any of the disastrous effects mentioned even it’s were still in your stomach waiting to be absorbed. It’s just not enough to cause an issue in something like an MRI, and it’s also very thinly dispersed. Further, you would almost definitely get iron poisoning if you ingested or were otherwise injected with enough to cause any ferromagnetic effects before it’s broken down.

On a similar note, Gadolinium is sometimes injected before an MRI to increase the contrast of the tissue that needs to be imaged. Gadolinium is ferromagnetic, which is why it shows up well in an MRI and is used as a contrast dye. However, it’s not enough to cause any issues from the magnetic field.

Now all that said, even though the iron in the human body doesn’t have ferromagnetic properties, there are still some lesser known effects magnets can have in an especially strong enough field.

For example, small animals like frogs and mice can be levitated in very powerful magnetic fields, because when a magnetic field is strong enough, the water and other elements including the iron in their body that aren’t normally magnetic experience the repulsive diamagnetic and attractive paramagnetic forces. These forces are much weaker than the ferromagnetic force that attracts iron, which is why it only becomes apparent with a very powerful magnet like the one at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University producing more than 100,000 Gauss, which is what it takes to levitate even a small animal in the center of the coil, called the solenoid. Unfortunately, magnets powerful enough and have a solenoid big enough to levitate a human don’t exist on Earth… yet.

This brings us to the question of whether there is a magnet strong enough to actually kill you?

Well… For that we have to go interstellar. When a large star between 1.5 to 3 times the mass of the sun comes to the end of its life, it will go out with a bang. The war between nuclear fusion and gravity comes to an end with gravity ultimately winning. All the particles are pulled towards the center, smashing together in a huge explosion called a Supernova. If there’s not enough mass remaining to form a Black Hole, whatever remaining matter that isn’t scattered about the rest of the universe by this explosion will be bound so tightly from the gravity that most of the electrons get pulled into the protons and combine to form neutrons creating what we call a Neutron Star. It has the mass greater than the sun but the size of a city making it extremely dense, one teaspoon of a Neutron Star would weigh over a billion tons!

Neutron Stars usually also spin very quickly, up to hundreds of revolutions per second, and since not all the protons and electrons combine in a Neutron Star, they can form electric currents around the quickly rotating surface creating a powerful magnetic field reaching up to an insane trillion (1012) Gauss at the surface. This is strong enough to disrupt the chemical reactions and nerve synapses that take place in your body and keep you alive. Thus, it turns out that while it’s not something you really need to worry about in your day to day life, the magnetic field around a Neutron Star is so powerful, it can kill you.

And on that note, before we end today, let’s talk a little about a rather fascinating phenomenon known as Magnetars. If just killing you is not enough- roughly one in ten of these Neutron Stars has enough surface current and spin slow enough to give it an extremely powerful magnetic field of a quadrillion (1015) Gauss. We call this a Magnetar, and the closest one to Earth is AXP 1E 1048-59, approximately 9,000 light years away. If you get close enough to it, say within a few hundred miles, and assuming you could even survive the radiation, this extremely powerful magnetic field created by this Magnetar will pull the electrons in your body causing your atoms to elongate parallel to the extreme magnetic field. It will then destroy the molecular bonds holding you together and rip you apart atom by atom, leaving your remains to get flung out into space or spiral in towards this super massive Magnetar, eventually becoming a part of it.

Which all begs the question, just how powerful is Magneto, and can he rival a Magnetar? If anyone knows the answer, feel free to enlighten us all in the comments below.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

The post Can the Iron in Your Blood Be Removed By a Super Powerful Magnetic Source? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Adam Ziebelman - July 29, 2020 at 09:14PM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Turkish Peber

Most of you won't like these. And that makes us sad.

from Candy Gurus
by Jonny July 24, 2020 at 10:59AM

Tainted Grail Review

Tainted Grail Review Tainted Grail is a new rogue-like RPG title for the literary adventurist or someone looking...

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by BDyer July 24, 2020 at 06:18AM

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Review: Hostess Caramel Ding Dongs

This version of the hockey puck-shaped Ding Dongs snack cakes looked like like the original ones from the outside, with an all-chocolate exterior, but inside, the cake had a light orange color, and the creme filling, a very light beige color. ...

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by July 16, 2020 at 11:42AM

Cavendish & Harvey Filled Caramel Drops

our second taste of Cavendish & Harvey this year!

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Review: Lotte Popping Corn Chips Sweet & Spicy

This snack took the same triangular, pillow-like form as the Grilled Corn and Original versions, which were OK but not particularly strong in the flavor department. ...

from Snack Reviews
by July 16, 2020 at 10:49AM

Review: Señorial Chobix Chipotle and Cheese Flavor

This bag contained wheat-based, square-cut, wiggly, light beige snacks with an uneven covering of orange seasoning. ...

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by July 16, 2020 at 09:42AM

Monday, July 13, 2020

Review: Apple Jacks Jumbo Snax

This snack followed very closely the example of Froot Loops Jumbo Snax, taking a popular cereal concept and just making the pieces bigger for snacking purposes. ...

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by July 13, 2020 at 07:22PM

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Review: Speedy Choice Carolina Reaper Premium Cheese Curls

This store-brand snack highly resembled Herr's Carolina Reaper Scorchin' Hot Cheese Curls in lots of ways, starting with the flavor name and continuing with appearance of the curls, which seemed pretty much identical -- thick, not very curvy and bright orange with a smattering of dark bits. ...

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by July 12, 2020 at 09:30AM

Friday, July 10, 2020

Review: Cornae

These snacks from Thailand looked a lot like Bugles, with a corn-based material formed into textured, bugle-shaped pieces, except that nearly all of the pieces were kind of flattened. ...

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by July 10, 2020 at 07:39PM

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review: Pu-Thai Black Pepper Flavor

These snacks were shaped like crabs but promised to have a black pepper flavoring on the wheat and tapioca base, so the seafood was evidently just a shape, not a flavor here (and there was no fish in the ingredients, though it was was listed among the allergens). ...

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by July 09, 2020 at 12:00PM

Review: Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme Cookie Bites

These snacks were ball-shaped, and based on the name and the inclusion of some kind of faux-Oreo on the front of the bag, they were intended to be Oreo-tasting, boasting a chocolate cookie center and an off-white creme coating. ...

from Snack Reviews
by July 09, 2020 at 11:55AM

Monday, July 6, 2020

Review: Tortix Twist Chiltepe

These corn-based snacks had spiral shapes similar to Fritos Flavor Twists, with some light red seasoning on the otherwise orange surfaces. ...

from Snack Reviews
by July 06, 2020 at 07:34PM