Interesting things you might (or might not) like to know...

  • In 1975, Russia successfully landed a probe, called Venera-9, on the *surface* of Venus and sent back pictures. Most Americans are still unaware that this ever happened. Check out Nasa's page on it, and their photos.

  • Can you believe that flowering plants didn't exist until after the dinosaurs?

    The Universe:14-18 billion years old
    The Earth: 4.5 billion years old
    First simple cells:2-4 billion years ago
    First multi-cellular organisms:1 billion years ago.
    First cambrian skeleton:570 million years ago.
    First fish:500 million years ago.
    First land plant:425 million years ago.
    First reptile:300 million years ago.
    The dinosaurs:65 to 230 million years ago.
    First bird:150 million years ago.
    First flowering plant:125 million years ago.
    First mammal:100 million years ago.

    (For more interesting reading, check out the Wikipedia entries on the Timeline of Evolution and the major Extinction Events of Earth's past.)

  • The average hamburger has meat from over 100 different cows in it, from 6 different countries.

  • Did you know that those funny-looking spiral-coil light bulbs - called Compact Fluorescent bulbs - only use one fourth the electricity of a regular incandescent light bulb? The cost a little more ($3-5), but they last for years and years, and of course, use less juice the whole time, which saves you anywhere from $30-100 (depending on the bulb wattage and the price of your electricity). Some things to keep in mind, though: 1) they often have a large base, so they won't fit in all fixtures, and 2) they don't work in dimmers. (Some do, but they often cost $15-20).

  • In the World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health[care] systems, the United States comes 37th - just after Costa Rica, and just before Slovenia. [source]

  • As of 2003, the U.S. is in debt by $3.8 trillion. Paying interest on that balance will cost us $161 billion this year, or 8.7% of our government's income for the year. We will spend(*) over $400 billion (21%) more than we take in from taxes this year, increasing our debt to $4.1 trillion by 2004. (* the budget has been revised since the document linked to above was published)

  • The EPA claims that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen about 28% since the Industrial Revolution. 40% of this CO2 is from burning coal to produce electricity; about 20% is from cars. All this CO2 is believed to be the main cause of global warming. One result of this, among many: in the last 35 years, the ice covering the Arctic Sea has thinned by an astounding 42%; the North Pole is now only seasonally covered with ice. This is a real problem with real, and dangerous, momentum, yet we consume more electricity and drive bigger and less fuel-efficient cars every year.

  • Global warming is caused mainly by CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, oil, and gasoline. The average car puts a whopping 10,000 pounds of CO2 into the air each year. Airplanes are awful too - a 5,000 mile flight (round trip) puts 3,250 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. The good news is that it's SUPER CHEAP to make up for all the CO2 your car burns. It takes 5 minutes, can all be done online, and will run most people less than $50 for the year. It's called CarbonFund. In a nutshell, they finance projects that either keep CO2 from going into the air; you make a tax-deductible donation, which finances upgrades at factories and power plants and tree planting and other such things to reduce industrial pollution & sequester CO2. It's a miracle, really, that it can be done so cheaply. (For reference, a $30 CarbonFund donation neutralizes 12,000 lbs of CO2, about the amount an average car emits each year. Not bad! And an SUV is only $50.)

    (The astute economist will notice that buying a hybrid car only makes up for half your driving CO2 for the year, and costs a ton of money. Or you can make a measly $50 CarbonFund donation (~$35 after the tax deduction) and make up for it ENTIRELY!)

  • The average American eats 2,400 animals during their lifetime (31 per year).

  • You can run your household on electricity from renewable sources through the green tag system, for about $200 a year. See my article, The Green Revolution, for a complete explanation of how it works; in brief, though, you're paying the difference between the cost of producing electricity from coal, and the cost of producing it from pollution-free, CO2-free wind. The average U.S. household uses about 10 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, and a green tag that respresents 1 megawatt-hour of wind energy costs about $20; so for $200 a year, your house can run on pure, green electricity, with no pollution, and no global warming contribution. You can buy them online at lots of sites; try the Bonneville Environmental Foundation for starters, because they have great information.

  • From the New York Times: "In the 2002 model year, the fuel economy of the average new light-duty vehicle sold in the United States sank to its lowest point in more than two decades, according to the EPA. Cars averaged 24.4 m.p.g. and S.U.V.'s 17.3 m.p.g. And that data understates the mileage gap, because the heaviest sport utilities with the worst fuel economy, like Hummers and Ford Excursions, are not counted. They are so big that they do not fit the definition of a passenger vehicle." [ original story ]

  • 41% of Iraq's inhabitants - that's 11 million out of 24 million - are under the age of 15 (according to the CIA world factbook for 2002).

  • The U.S. is militarily paranoid and armed to the teeth. We plan to spend $400 billion on Defense in 2004; 78 times what North Korea will spend, and a whopping 17.5% of our entire federal spending for the year ($2.229 trillion); compared to only $53.1 billion for education (2.4%), and $11.9 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (0.5%).

  • The U.S. is also one of the only developed countries that still uses land mines and depleted uranium (DU) (radioactive) munitions. And on 3/18/2003, a day before we 'attacked' Iraq (we never really stopped bombing them after the first war though), the UK said they would not be using DU, and the Pentagon said they absolutely would be using it.

  • The following apostrophes are used correctly. When I am reading information, and I see apostrophes used incorrectly, I begin to seriously take what I am reading with a grain of salt. So if you want to be taken seriously, at least by me, learn to punctuate!

         "I checked the radiator, and it's working fine." [it-is]
         "I checked the radiator, and its gasket is broken." [possession]
         "That is my brother's shoe." [one brother]
         "Those are my brothers' shoes." [two or more brothers]

  • (more coming soon...)

Useful Knowledge & Tips:

  • TIGHT LIDS: If you have a hard time unscrewing any kind of lid (from a jar, bottle, etc.), put a fat rubber band around it and twist that; no lid will be too tight.

  • MOTION SICKNESS: it turns out good old-fashioned ginger is more effective than dramamine. (funny how knowledge like this gets lost.)

  • BEATING A COLD: I've found two things that work incredibly well for beating a cold when I feel one coming on: Zinc and Elderberry. Zinc I take as swallowable tablets. (The chewables often taste TERRIBLE and make you feel yucky - I highly recommend the tablets.) Get the chelated ones for better absorption. It is relatively cheap, and is clinically proven to shorten cold times by an average 40%. I almost never get sick anymore, thanks to this discovery, but definitely also due to getting more exercise, better rest, eating healthier, and listening to my body. Another tip - if you're getting a sore throat, warm ginger tea is really good. And for anyone out there who didn't know it, Echinacaea is a toxin and should *only* be taken when you're getting sick, NOT every day! (What works for me & what works for you will probably differ, though; it's my experience that which natural medicines work for you just depends on your body chemistry, and varies from person to person.)

  • SPENT BATTERIES: Spent (dead) rechargeable batteries are toxic and should be recycled; take them to any Radio Shack, Sears, Home Depot, or Best Buy store and they'll take care of it for you. This is any kind of rechargeable battery (NiCd/NiMH/Li-Ion) as well as cordless phone, cell phone, laptop, etc. batteries. Non-rechargeable (alkaline) batteries can be thrown in the trash. (click here for more info)

  • (more coming soon...)

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