Interesting Facts

This page has a selection of some of the fascinating ideas to be found in science and maths. If you have some favourites that you would like added to this page, then please email them to us.

Did Physics end in 1900?

There is nothing new to be discovered in Physics said Lord Kelvin in 1900. Not long after came relativity, quantum mechanics and particle physics .. and the discoveries continue today.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

A 27km electromagnetic ring 100m below the Geneva countryside, the Cern project will accelerate trillions of protons to within a few metres per second of the speed of light, colliding them to re-create conditions a billionth of a second after the big bang. Four big experiments, involving 10,000 scientists, will explore the nature of the 95% of the universe - dark matter and dark energy - which is not currently understood. After more than 20 years of development, the LHC will study anti-matter and the beauty quark, interactions between quarks and gluons and search for the elusive Higgs boson (uniting gravity with the other fundamental forces). Despite the fears, the LHC won't destroy the world in a black hole!

The Infinite Hotel

The idea of infinity gives rise to some strange effects. Imagine a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. You arrive one night to be told that the hotel is full. No problem you say, just move the resident in room 1 to room 2, the one in room 2 to room 3, the one in room 3 to room 4 and so on. Everyone will be relocated and room 1 will then be free for you.

Pythagorean Triangles

The familiar right-angled triangle is the 3,4,5 triangle; squaring of the sides we see that 25=9+16 (Pythagoras' theorem). To find others, try this: take any odd number (e.g. 5), square it (25) and find two numbers that differ by 1 and sum to this square (12 and 13) giving the 5,12,13 triangle. Or take an even number (e.g. 8), square it (64), halve that number (32) and find two numbers that differ by 2 and sum to this last number (15 and 17) giving the 8,15,17 triangle. Not all such triangles will be genuinely new - e.g. the 6,8,10 triangle is just a scaled-up 3,4,5 triangle.

Colours don't exist

The frequency of visible light varies continuously. The eye and brain work together to decide that certain ranges of frequencies will be interpreted as definite colours - orange, green etc. A rainbow actually has a gradual change from top to bottom - yet what we see is ... seven distinct bands of colour. There is a related effect with the way we hear notes in music.
PS It was Isaac Newton who claimed seven colours, one for each of the planets then known ... but most people see only six.

400 tonnes a day

Amazingly, 400 tonnes of material from space reach the surface of the Earth every day. But this is tiny against the mass of the Earth - 6 thousand million million million tonnes.

Atoms, Cells and Bodies

The cell is the building block of living organisms and all matter is made from atoms. In the human body there are about ...

  • a thousand million million = 1,000,000,000,000,000 cells
  • a thousand million million million million = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms

To give you some idea of these numbers ... if you had been making cells ever since the start of the universe (15 billion years ago) at the rate of one cell every 5 seconds, you would by now have just enough cells to make a single human being.

New 100m Record - August 2009 - Bolt again

The men's 100m now stands at 9.58 seconds - a year ago it was 9.69 seconds. Bolt hopes to reach 9.4 but there must surely be an ultimate limit ... 9.2 seconds (say experts)? Will we want to start timing in thousandth's of a second? At sprint speed, that equates to about 1cm. Can we measure the track, the start and the finish to this accuracy, and is it pointless when it takes tenths of a second to react to the starting pistol?

Did you know?

  • On average a 4-year old asks 437 questions a day
  • the right lung takes in more air than the left one
  • the brain requires 25% of all oxygen absorbed by the body
  • if you were to spell out the numbers you would get to 1000 before meeting the letter "a"
  • a shark can detect one part of blood in 100,000,000 parts of water
  • you cannot taste food unless it is mixed with saliva
  • snails can sleep for 3 years without eating
  • hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words

We are all very Wet

Whilst life depends on the unique ability of carbon to form large and complex molecules, water is also essential to the evolution, chemistry and composition of all living things - the bodies of most organisms are composed of at least 70% water.

Aluminium - more precious than gold

Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the surface of the earth, but was only extracted from its ore 170 years ago and remained a rarity for another 60 years. The Tsar of Russia gave his son an aluminium rattle to play with as it was more precious than gold at that time.