If you’ve ever made popcorn on the stove in a pot with a glass lid, you’ve probably tried your darndest to see what actually happens when the corn kernels explode. How does something so hard and inedible become something so fluffy and delicious? And even if you can get a good enough look without having your eyeballs seared by hot oil, nothing can beat witnessing corn popping in super slow motion.
So here you go! (You’re welcome)
Video Source: “Popping Popcorn in Slow Motion” Uploaded by Slow Mo Lab to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rPMIkN5fR4
What’s stronger than Roger Federer’s backhand, more durable than Celine Dion’s singing career and lighter weight than Kate Moss after a coke binge?
From NASA space shuttles to dental implants, this metal boasts a suite of impressive properties that makes it, quite literally, the most awesome metal on the planet and so very useful to mankind. In fact, many of our most important medical feats would not be possible without titanium.
Can you craft a functional tooth replacement from platinum? Nope! Can you make a space shuttle out of silver? You could, but it would be Challenger all over again. Could Venus Williams send a tennis ball into hyper drive with a tennis racquet made of gold? With deltoids like that, probably… but that’s not the point.
Titanium is more than just a David Guetta song. Let’s take a closer look at this indispensable metal.
Titanium’s Many Claims to Fame
You cannot imagine a metal with more applications – important applications – than titanium. This lustrous metallic element is incredibly strong, lightweight, has a non-corrosive personality and enjoys long walks on the beach. A combination of these traits coupled with its low thermal conductivity (science speak for a high resistance to heat) makes titanium the perfect metal for the fabrication of totally awesome things like space shuttle, fighter jets, high performance cars, submarines and naval ships.
Powdered titanium burns brilliantly, so it’s used by pyrotechnics to make fireworks that don’t fizzle, but bang! It’s also used in sports where the weight of your tennis racquet, lacrosse stick or golf club is as important, if not more so than its strength. Titanium, which is as strong as a steel alloy but 45% lighter, has the highest strength to weight ratio, so it achieves both. It’s no wonder the Russians clicked on to its incredible potential for military and naval applications, most notably for the building of submarines. And yes… the Russians beat the Americans to this one.
It’s in You
Usually, the special metals that are coveted by humans are rare. Or perhaps it’s because they’re rare that they’re coveted… but in titanium’s case, it is the 7th most abundant metal on the planet and the 9th most common element in the Earth’s crust. Just look at the ground beneath your feet. You are, unbeknownst, staring at this metal of which I so reverently speak. Touch yourself. Not there! There’s titanium in you too…
And that isn’t a metaphor for emotional resilience.
There’s titanium in meteorites, plants, on the moon and in the stars – our sun in particular – which is where this metal and the heavier elements that make up our universe are forged. There’s titanium everywhere and thank goodness for that, otherwise Venus Williams would long have long ago been kicked out of professional tennis for breaking so many racquets!
The Name’s Bond… Biological Bond
One of titanium’s most interesting traits is that it is totally bio-compatible and that, if implanted in the body, will not be rejected by the tissue. In fact, bone readily bonds with the surface of titanium metal, as if it were just another part of your body and this is called ‘osseointegration.’ The ability of the bone tissue to biologically bond with titanium is what has made it an indispensible material in orthopaedic surgery, where the repair of bones and replacement of joints is necessary.
It’s also what has made the entire field of dental implantology possible. In other words, without titanium, there would be no fixed and non-removable replacement solution to missing teeth. This would spell certain disaster for the human race, since we are so preoccupied with appearance. A lost tooth causing a conspicuous gaping hole in your smile would be the end of your sexual career.
Class Dismissed: Your Take-Home Message
Titanium is so strong, yet lightweight and so resistant to cracks, breaks, corrosion and fatigue that it’s used in some of the most demanding applications on Earth: to fabricate space shuttle that can safely tear through the thermosphere and submarines that can plunge more than 3,000 feet deep into the inky blackness of the ocean.
Then there’s jewellery, professional sports equipment, pyrotechnics and dental implants, which can last more than 30 years embedded in the jaw of your mouth. We owe much of our medical and technological advancement to titanium.
Titanium’s abundance on Earth also holds for mankind an incredibly important lesson. To covet a resource just because it is rare is dangerous and the product of flawed thinking. Titanium is in great demand because it has so many essential applications in the advancement of our civilisation.
Now if only we regarded our natural environment with the same eyes.
The event shown in the video below has been entered into the 2016 Guiness Book of World Records – and into all other historic records – as the largest glacier calving event to have ever been captured on film. For about three minutes, we watch tier after tier of ice breaking off the parent glacier and crash into the choppy, chunky icy waters below. Where things get truly UNBELIEVABLE is towards the end of the film, when things are put into perspective for us and the true scale of the event is revealed during a presentation of the footage. Absolutely fantastic!
Video Source: “CHASING ICE” captures largest glacier calving ever filmed – OFFICIAL VIDEO” uploaded by Exposure Labs to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC3VTgIPoGU
It is literally nature’s most disgusting creature and there are few people – men and women alike – who are unbothered by it coming within close proximity: the cockroach. And yet, the cockroach is an extraordinarily successful creature on planet Earth and one that will easily survive any apocalypse: mad-made or natural.
And so, in this fascinating TED Talk video, Dr. Robert Full (Director of the Poly-PEDAL Laboratory at Berkeley University) shows us just how amazing these creepy crawlers are in their ability to move through, up, around and over any obstacle or terrain. He and his team have applied the various laws of mechanics and modes of stabilisation they learned from the cockroach to the fabrication of robots, which are cute in a weird and creepy way.
Video Source: TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) at YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekUh9AW1hKg
Why is this research prudent? Because getting into tiny spaces, travelling over very rough terrain, pulling off gymnastic maneuvers in air and getting around impossible obstacles could be extremely useful in delivering aid to people trapped in disaster situations, such as earthquakes, tornado or hurricane swept areas. Robots such as these could also be the future of unmanned planetary exploration.
Prestige aside, watching cockroaches move around in slow motion is super interesting!
In this exceptional documentary, homemade videos recorded by people caught in the devastating 2004 earthquake and tsunami are stitched together to tell the story. Part 1 is more background than anything else, but scroll down to Part 2 to see the earthquake hit Indonesia and then the tsunami. Part 3 shows this monstrous wall of water smack into one of Thailand’s most popular tourist resorts, Phuket.
This documentary is very well done and absolutely chilling to the point of disturbing. If your boss keeps staring over your shoulder at you, skip ahead to Part 2 and 3, because that’s where you’ll find the action! For the scoop on how Tsunami’s are caused, check out my blog post, Tsunami!
Lately, I’ve been featuring some of Earth’s most fantastical places on Why? Because Science Facebook page. For those of you who haven’t seen them, I’ve taken the liberty of putting together an ambitious bucket list of 10 of the most beautiful and amazing landscapes. So, pack your bags, strap on some heavy-duty hiking shoes and give your boss the finger, cos we’re going travelling!
# 1: The Spotted Lake of British Columbia, Canada. The evaporation of mineral-rich water in Summer leaves behind a landscape of polkadot lakes of varying colours and sizes, depending on the concentration of minerals in each pool (Source: Roberta Olenick/All Canada Photos).
# 2:Chinese Canola Field: A Chinese landscape is bathed in bright yellow as canola fields go into bloom. You could play a version of “Where’s Wally” here, with the target being Big Bird instead. (Source: www.boredpanda.com)
# 3: Hang Sơn Đoòng, Vietnam: I know what you’re thinking… holy crap that’s a small human. Just kidding. This is Earth’s largest cave and it lies beneath the limestone hills of the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park in Vietnam. This immense subterranean network of caverns is about 9 km long in total with the main passage being a staggering 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) long, 200 metres (660 ft) high and 150 metres (490 ft) wide! (Photo credit: Carsten Peter)
# 4: Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland: The spectacular thing about Giant’s Causeway is that it looks man-made… and yet it isn’t. This complex series of interlocking basalt columns is entirely the work of volcanic activity that happened about 50-60 million years ago. This UNESCO World Heritage site is located on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland. (Source: National Geographic)
# 5: Salar de Uyuni, southwest Bolivia: This is Salar de Uyuni – colloquially known as one of the planet’s largest mirrors. At 4,086 square miles in size (10,582 sq. km), it’s also one of Earth’s largest salt flats and is a remnant of a massive prehistoric lake, Lake Minchin. The desiccation of this lake left behind two smaller lakes and two vast salt deserts. (Source: www.boredpanda.com)
# 6: Great Blue Hole, Belize: Suitably dubbed one of the best scuba diving sites in the world, the “Great Blue Hole” is a massive underwater sinkhole located off the coast of Belize. At over 125 meters deep and 300 meters wide, it’s believed to be the largest of its kind. (Source: http://www.popsugar.com)
# 7: Atacama oasis, Peru: Ever wondered what a desert oasis looks like? Behold a secluded Atacama oasis and isn’t it exactly what you’d always pictured? The town – Huacachina – around this rare watering hole was built in the 1930’s and is home to a population of a little over 100 people. (Source: www.skyscanner.net/news)
# 8: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China: Physical erosion has left the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park with one of the most enchanting and beautiful landscapes on Earth. It’s soaring and gravity-defying rock pillars and verdant, forested peaks are a huge attraction to Zhangjiajie: one of China’s true natural gems. (Source: www.architecturendesign.net)
# 9: Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, USA: The Grand Prismatic Spring is a gorgeous, rainbow coloured lake located in the volcanically active Yellowstone National Park. It’s the third largest hot spring in the world and attracts droves of tourists every year for its strikingly coloured waters, the varying pigments of which are caused by single-celled organisms called “archaea.” These organisms flourish in the warm and mineral-rich waters, especially around the periphery of the Grand Prismatic Spring.
# 10: Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA: Antelope Canyon, formed primarily by water erosion, is located in the arid state of Arizona, USA. With just about every warm hue in the visible spectrum jostling for key position in this subterranean network of canyons, you won’t find any shortage of spectacular photographic opportunities here! (Source: www.architecturendesign.net)
For more fantastical places on Earth, follow us on Facebook and Instagram! Twitter’s on my to-do list.
On Monday 27th April 2015, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal (the country’s worst in 80 years), leaving much of its already impoverished capital, Kathmandu, in ruins. According to the Guardian, the death toll was 7,500 people, with a further 14,500 having sustained major and minor injuries. In addition to the loss of life, including those of many climbers at Everest’s base camp in the neighbouring Himalayas, Kathmandu suffered the devastating loss of several historic and cultural heritage sites with many of its architectural treasures being razed to the ground by the violent earthquake.
In this video, a drone provides us with a first-class view of the terrible damage done by the Nepal earthquake…
Video Source: “Drone Footage Shows Nepal Earthquake Damage” uploaded by Sky News on YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwIw1-voHKQ