WTF Fun Fact 13691 – The Earth’s Rotation is Slowing

The Earth’s rotation, the invisible clockwork that dictates the rhythm of our days and nights, is gradually slowing down. While this change is imperceptible in our daily lives, it has profound implications over geological time scales.

The Gradual Slowdown of Earth’s Rotation

Earth’s rotation is not as constant as it might seem. It is gradually slowing down at an average rate of about 1.7 milliseconds per century. This deceleration is primarily due to the gravitational interactions between the Earth and the Moon, a phenomenon known as tidal friction. As the Moon orbits the Earth, its gravitational pull causes the oceans to bulge outwards.

The Earth rotates beneath these bulges, and since the bulges are slightly ahead due to the Moon’s pull, there’s a constant transfer of energy from the Earth to the Moon. This transfer slows its rotation and causes the Moon to move slightly further away from us each year.

Tidal Friction and Its Effects

Tidal friction’s effects extend beyond just slowing down our planet’s spin. It also contributes to the lengthening of the day. Over the past century, the length of a day has increased by about 1.4 milliseconds. While this might not seem like much, it accumulates over millions of years, significantly altering the Earth’s natural rhythms. This gradual change has implications for timekeeping, requiring periodic adjustments like leap seconds to keep our clocks in sync with Earth’s rotation.

Geological and Biological Impacts of the Earth’s Rotation

The slowing rotation also has potential impacts on Earth’s geology and biology. For instance, a longer day can affect the patterns of weather and climate by altering the dynamics of the atmosphere. Moreover, many organisms, from tiny plankton to large mammals, have biological rhythms tied to the cycle of day and night. Changes in the length of the day could potentially affect these rhythms, although such effects would unfold over timescales far beyond human lifespans.

Looking to the Future

As Earth’s rotation continues to slow, future generations might experience longer days, although these changes will be gradual and spread over thousands to millions of years. The precise impacts of this deceleration on our planet’s geology, climate, and ecosystems remain areas of active research. Understanding these processes not only sheds light on the dynamic nature of our planet but also on the intricate interconnections between celestial mechanics and life on Earth.

In essence, the slowing of Earth’s rotation is a subtle yet constant reminder of the dynamic and ever-changing nature of our planet. It highlights the complex interplay between celestial bodies and the profound impacts these interactions can have on the Earth’s environment and its inhabitants over geological time.

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Source: “Ancient eclipses show Earth’s rotation is slowing” — Science

WTF Fun Fact 13677 – A Day on Venus

A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus. Yes, you read that right. But before your brain does a somersault trying to wrap itself around this fact, let’s break it down into bite-sized chunks.

A Long Day on Venus

First off, let’s talk about planetary rotation. A rotation is how long it takes for a planet to spin once around its axis. For Earth, that’s what gives us a 24-hour day. Venus, on the other hand, takes its sweet time. It rotates once every 243 Earth days.

That’s right. If you were standing on Venus (ignoring the fact that you’d be crushed, suffocated, and cooked), you’d experience sunlight for about 116.75 Earth days before switching to an equal length of pitch-black night. That’s one slow spin, making its day extraordinarily long.

Orbiting on the Fast Track: Venus’s Year

Now, flip the script and consider how long it takes Venus to orbit the Sun, which is what we call a year. Venus zips around the Sun in just about 225 Earth days. This is where things get really interesting. Venus’s year (its orbit around the Sun) is shorter than its day (one complete rotation on its axis).

Imagine celebrating your birthday and then waiting just a bit longer to witness a single sunrise and sunset.

The Why Behind the Sky: Understanding the Peculiar Pace

So, why does Venus have such an unusual relationship with time? It all comes down to its rotation direction and speed. It’s is a bit of a rebel in our solar system; it rotates clockwise, while most planets, including Earth, rotate counterclockwise. This is known as retrograde rotation.

Scientists have a few theories about why Venus rotates so slowly and in the opposite direction. One popular theory is that a massive collision early in the planet’s history could have flipped its rotation or altered it significantly. Another theory suggests gravitational interactions with the Sun and other planets over billions of years have gradually changed its rotation speed and direction.

Regardless of the cause, Venus’s leisurely pace and quirky orbit give it the unique distinction of having days longer than its years. This fact not only makes Venus an interesting topic of study for astronomers but also serves as a fascinating reminder of the diversity and complexity of planetary systems.

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Source: “Interesting facts about Venus” — Royal Museums Greenwich

WTF Fun Fact 13539 – Research in Space

The future of ophthalmology could be in the stars, quite literally – LambdaVision, a groundbreaking company, is exploring research in space.

The company is testing the outer limits of medical science by developing a synthetic retinal implant. This innovation could revolutionize treatment for degenerative eye diseases. Their method involves the intricate layering of bacteriorhodopsin, a light-reactive protein, to mimic the retina’s function.

Artificial Retina Research in Space

This delicate process, termed “layer-by-layer deposition,” traditionally involves transitioning a gauze piece through multiple solutions hundreds of times. The challenge? Sedimentation, evaporation, and convection significantly impact the formation of these vital thin films.

Wagner believes the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) could be the solution. In space, the absence of these earthly constraints allows for more precise film formation.

On April 27, 2023, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, bearing the experimental setup for LambdaVision’s synthetic retina, docked with the ISS. This venture was part of NASA’s Crew-4 mission’s extensive scientific agenda.

The Crew-4 team, consisting of NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, alongside ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, engaged in various experiments over their six-month mission. Their tasks ranged from studying microgravity’s effects on the human nervous system to trialing innovative plant growth technologies.

One experiment that stands out is the Beat project, a brainchild of the German Space Agency. It involves astronauts wearing smart shirts embedded with sensors to monitor vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure.

Manufacturing the Future in Microgravity

Dr. Wagner envisions manufacturing the synthetic retinas on the ISS or future commercial space stations. This approach could significantly enhance the quality and functionality of these implants.

LambdaVision is still a few years away from clinical trials, but the work conducted on the ISS could expedite this timeline.

If successful, their space-manufactured synthetic tissues could restore sight for individuals suffering from conditions like retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration.

Implications and Aspirations of Research in Space

LambdaVision’s ambitious project is more than a scientific endeavor; it’s a beacon of hope for those grappling with vision loss. Their success could pave the way for more space-based biomedical manufacturing, leading to breakthroughs in various medical fields.

The ISS becomes not just a research facility but a vital production center for advanced medical therapies.

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Source: “Astronauts to help build artificial retinas on Space Station” — The Independent

WTF Fun Fact 13578 – Presidential DNA in Space

What happens to a deceased person’s DNA in space? We don’t yet know, but one company is finding out.

In an unprecedented melding of history, space exploration, and pop culture, DNA samples of four iconic American Presidents are set to take an out-of-this-world journey. In a move that combines reverence for national leadership and a nod to entertainment legends, Texas-based space burial company, Celestis, is gearing up to launch an astonishing payload.

Sending Founding Fathers’ DNA in Space

Determined to make history, Celestis has chosen the DNA samples of four of the most recognized U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. These samples will be part of Celestis’ deep space remembrance Enterprise Flight. This flight’s announcement fittingly occurred on Presidents’ Day, honoring some of the nation’s foremost leaders. The mission is groundbreaking, marking the first instance any U.S. president is symbolically dispatched to space.

Joining Trekkies on an Epic Journey

These presidential DNA samples are not traveling alone. Sharing their celestial voyage are the remains and DNA samples of some of the most beloved names from the “Star Trek” franchise. Among them are Nichelle Nichols, DeForest Kelley, and the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, along with his wife, Majel Barrett Roddenberry.

The list doesn’t end there. James “Scotty” Doohan, renowned for his role as the “Star Trek” engineer, and Douglas Trumbull, the visual effects genius behind classics like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, will also join the journey.

Interestingly, the hair samples, which are the DNA sources for these presidents, are from the collection of Louis Mushro. A global celebrity in the realm of hair collection and appraisal, Mushro’s reputation is unparalleled. Before his demise in 2014, he ensured these samples were stored meticulously in a climate-controlled facility. They now embark on a mission of historic significance, thanks to an anonymous donor who gifted these samples to Celestis.

DNA in Space, Beyond the Earth-Moon System

According to Charles M. Chafer, Co-Founder & CEO of Celestis, Inc., their “Enterprise Flight is historic by any standard.” Celestis envisions an ambitious future: assisting human expansion throughout the solar system. By sending the DNA of such significant figures into space, they aim to pave the way for future human missions.

This Enterprise Flight will transcend the Earth-moon system, traveling between 93 to 186 million miles into deep space. It will carry over 200 flight capsules, each loaded with cremated ash remains, DNA, personal messages, and greetings from global clients.

The journey of these capsules isn’t just about remembrance. The Vulcan Centaur rocket, responsible for transporting these capsules, has a primary mission: aiding the Pittsburgh aerospace company Astrobotic. This assistance involves directing their Peregrine lunar lander toward the moon’s surface. Following this, the Vulcan Centaur’s upper stage will delve deeper into space. Its destination? An orbit around the sun, where it will establish humanity’s furthest outpost, the Enterprise Station.

Adding to the mission’s allure is its partnership with Amazon. The 2023 Enterprise Flight will carry two prototype satellites, set to be part of Amazon’s internet constellation, Project Kuiper. As space exploration moves forward, collaborations like these symbolize the fusion of commerce, innovation, and remembrance.

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Source: “DNA from 4 American presidents will launch to deep space” —

WTF Fun Fact 13287 – The First Spacewalk

On March 18th, 1965, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made history by becoming the first person to walk in space. Leonov left his spacecraft, the Voskhod 2, and floated in space for 12 minutes and 9 seconds. The first spacewalk paved the way for future space exploration and opened up new possibilities for scientific research in space.

The Soviets made the first spacewalk

The spacewalk was a remarkable achievement for the Soviet space program, which was in competition with the United States at the time to achieve milestones in space exploration. The mission was not without its challenges, however. Leonov’s space suit had inflated in the vacuum of space, making it difficult for him to move and causing him to experience overheating.

Despite these challenges, Leonov successfully completed his spacewalk and returned to the spacecraft, where he faced another problem. The spacecraft’s automatic landing system had failed, and Leonov and his crewmate had to manually steer the spacecraft to a safe landing.

Subsequent spacewalks

Since Leonov’s historic feat, many other astronauts and cosmonauts have followed in his footsteps (or rather, lack of footsteps). Here are some quirky facts about spacewalking:

  • The longest spacewalk in history was conducted by Russian cosmonauts in 2013. They spent 8 hours and 7 minutes outside the International Space Station.
  • Spacewalks are often referred to as “EVA,” which stands for “extravehicular activity.”
  • Spacewalkers wear special suits called Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs). These are designed to protect them from the extreme conditions of space.
  • During a spacewalk, astronauts and cosmonauts tether themselves to the spacecraft to prevent them from floating away into space.
  • The first American to conduct a spacewalk was Ed White in 1965, just a few months after Leonov’s historic walk.
  • In 1984, American astronaut Bruce McCandless made history. He became the first person to fly freely in space without being tethered to a spacecraft.
  • The first all-female spacewalk took place in 2019. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conducted a 7-hour walk to replace a failed power controller.

As space exploration continues to advance, it’s likely that we’ll see even more remarkable achievements in spacewalking. But Alexei Leonov’s historic spacewalk on March 18th, 1965 opened up a new world of possibilities for space exploration.

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Source: “The First Spacewalk” — New Scientist

WTF Fun Fact 12641 – A Great Ball of Fire

The world didn’t end on April 27, 2022, though we’re confident that a few people thought it might after seeing a giant fireball in the sky headed straight for earth at 8 am.

Around 60 people in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana saw what turned out to be a meteor, but hundreds of people heard the loud boom. That’s because it exploded 34 miles above a swampy area in Louisiana with the power of 3 tons of TNT. Frankly, we would have just gone back to bed after all that.

NASA confirmed the meteor and verified that pieces of it had been recovered on the ground in Mississippi. At first, they estimated its speed at 55,000mph but later amended it to a more modest 35,000mph.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said the event caused no physical injuries or property damage. However, we’re pretty sure there was at least a little bit of existential damage done to anyone who thought they were about to meet the same end as the dinosaurs.

Because the law states that meteorites belong to whoever owns the property they land on, NASA will not disclose the locations of any of the fragments. (We’re pretty sure someone on Facebook will take care of that.)

NASA also reminded people: “We are not meteorite people, as our main focus is protecting spacecraft and astronauts from meteoroids.” So they won’t be identifying or authenticating any other rocks people claim are meteorites. They also confirmed that Mississippi is particularly meteorite-prone, with incidents occurring in 1854, 1910, 1922, and 2012. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Pieces of ‘fireball’ that exploded while zooming over 3 Southern states are being found on ground, NASA says” — CBS News

WTF Fun Fact 12451 – The Bishop of the Moon

Archbishop William D. Borders was the founding bishop of the Diocese of Orlando, established in 1968. It covered 13 counties and nearly 10,000 square miles of central Florida. And possibly the moon.

Now, the Catholic Church has made no claim at all to the moon, but Borders’ territory happened to include Brevard, Florida, home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is where the U.S. launches its space missions.

At the time of the moon landing in July of 1969, many religious leaders praised the space program, seeing it as proof that God’s creation was neverending.

But for Borders, the moon landing was a little more personal. According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (aka The Pio-Benedictine Code), which was in effect until 1983, any newly discovered territory was to be placed under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the expedition that discovered that territory originated.

In other words, since the Apollo 11 mission launched from Cape Canaveral and that was in Borders’ territory, it was technically under his jurisdiction. A couple of other bishops joked that they might have dibs, but it was all in good fun.

In fact, to keep the joke going, Bishop Borders mentioned this to Pope Paul VI on a visit to the Vatican in late 1969. The pope had watched the moon landing with great interest (the Vatican has one of the best observatories in the world), but we’re not quite sure what he thought of the claim.

The story of their meeting comes to us via Renae Bennett, Orlando’s diocesan archivist, who wrote:

During his visit, Bishop Borders mentioned to the pope that he was the ‘bishop of the moon.’ Responding to the pontiff’s perplexed reaction, Bishop Borders explained that according to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (in effect at that time), any newly discovered territory was placed under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the expedition that discovered that territory originated. Since Cape Canaveral, launching site for the Apollo moon missions, was in Brevard County and part of the Diocese of Orlando, then in addition to being bishop of 13 counties, he was also bishop of the moon,” Bennett wrote. That would add more than 14.6 million square miles to the Diocese of Orlando, making that diocese the largest in the known universe.”

Of course, it all means very little, but that’s what makes it a fun fact.

Another fun fact: This would all make the current Bishop of Orlando, John G. Noonan, not only bishop of the moon but also of the International Space Station, which launched from Kennedy Space Center. – WTF fun facts

Source: “A Catholic bishop of the moon?” — The Catholic Weekly