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April 2010
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Fascinating Science That’s Stranger Than Fiction!
From curious occurrences to little-known facts, it’s a world of wonder!

Can fish fall from the sky? Do tigers ever lose their stripes? Will we ever run out of sea salt? What’s faster, a flea or a space shuttle? If you think you know the answers, take a look at these peculiar facts, some of which may surprise you!


You never know what to expect from the weather. You’ve heard people say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” and though it is merely a figure of speech, storms that have rained fish, frogs and even birds are a matter of fact! Such happenings have been reported all over the world, and span recorded history. Though the idea seems strange, it is easily explained. It’s generally agreed that strong winds produced in hurricanes, tornadoes and other forceful storms are actually powerful enough to draw up water from the bodies of water over which they travel. Eventually, the winds release the water and its contents, which sometimes include fish and animals, after carrying these bodies in the air for distances up to many miles. 


With birds, strong gusts and gales manage to somehow engulf flocks of unsuspecting flyers. Instances have even occurred where birds have rained down from the sky relatively unharmed. Other times, the birds have been frozen, indicating the possibility that high altitudes froze the creatures. Reported incidences in recent years include Great Britain in 1998 and 2004, Siberia in 2005 and India in 2006. Honduras actually receives an annual rainfall of fish, which reportedly has happened for more than a century!


Science may not be able to pinpoint exactly how the tiger got its stripes, but it can tell you that the stripes go deeper than just a well-camouflaged coat of fur. A tiger’s stripes are like a person’s fingerprints in that each pattern is original to the individual. The prints are ingrained into the tiger’s skin, so if the large cats were to become hairless, they still would have their stripes! This also holds true for felines of the domesticated variety, as color markings extend into their flesh as well. If you always wanted a pet tiger and not just an orange-striped tabby cat, perhaps you might look into a “toyger.” Thanks to scientific breeding, this type of cat closely resembles a tiger, but on a much smaller scale.


Need more salt? Scientists cannot actually copy sea salt in a laboratory, even when using the same basic elements because the crystal is so complex and salt can contain a variety of other trace minerals. We don’t need to worry about running out because apparently there’s plenty to go around. It is estimated that the world’s oceans contain enough salt to bury the earth’s landmass in 500 feet of salt. Of course, that figure doesn’t include the world’s salt flats. 


In Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats, ingenious builders put some of the white stuff to good use, creating the world’s one-and-only hotel made completely out of salt! The hotel, called the Hotel de Sal Playa, features furniture made of salt including chairs and tables, which gives a new meaning to what we consider table salt!


Five, four, three, two, one…blast off! What launches at a greater velocity, a common flea or a high-tech space shuttle? Oddly enough, the flea wins! A flea, which uses its superior jumping abilities to get from host to host, does so at a rate that is 20 times greater than the explosive propulsion behind a space shuttle launch. Who knew? 


Explore the world of unusual science, as it will surprise and inspire you!


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