Did You Know? (Lightning Edition)

That when lightning strikes, the air around it becomes five times hotter than the surface of the sun?

I found this information on page 79 in the book 501 ½ Horrible Facts.

According to Isaac Asimov’s book The Solar System: the Sun the temperature of the sun is about 11,000 ˚F on the surface and about 27,000,000 ˚F at the center. This means that the air around a lightning strike would be about 55,000 Fahrenheit. In other words, there isn’t enough sunscreen on earth to make a trip to the sun possible! The sun is the nearest star to earth. It takes light from the sun about 8 minutes to get to earth, for the next nearest star the light takes over 4 years to get here!

Cumulonimbus clouds are the thunderclouds we see before and during a lightning storm. They are huge masses of air, water, and ice. Inside of these clouds violent air currents cause ice crystals to smash into each other, causing static electricity. Ice crystals at the base of the cloud become negatively charged while the top of the cloud and the ground are positively charged. The difference becomes so great that electricity starts leaping back and forth in the cloud causing sheet lightning or between the cloud and the ground causing fork lightning. I learned this and so much more about all kinds of weather events in the DK book Weather .

Thunder and lightning always reminds me of Zeus, the sky and thunder-god in ancient Greek religion, which makes me think of mythology! Check out one of our mythology books to read stories about gods and goddesses in Greek, Roman and Celtic Mythology.

Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle is a nice story about people escaping into a subway to avoid the thunder and lightning from a storm. People share smiles and umbrellas as they all wait out a storm together.

Did You Know (Possum – Opossum Edition)

That possums and opossums are two different animals?

I found this information on page 21 in the book ABCs of Animals by Bobbie Kalman. They belong to different groups of marsupials. The Virginia opossum is the only opossum in North America. Pocket Babies and Other Amazing Marsupials by Sneed B Collard III explains more about the possum/opossum differences, and tells about other marsupials’ habits as well.

‘Playing possum’ is a handy trick these animals have learned to play. Tricky Opossums by Catherine Nichols explains how they can maintain this pose for up to 4 hours, blowing snot bubbles and stinky goo to really enhance their ‘dead-ness.’

While playing possum is considered a trick, it is not a magic trick. For those of you, who want some ‘real’ magic in their lives, check out the book That’s Magic by Richard Jones to learn 40 foolproof tricks!

How many times have we asked ourselves: “Is this real or fake?” (Remember the “Is it live or is it Memorex?” commercials?) For kids, we have the book 100% Pure Fake by Lyn Thomas which gives directions and recipes for some very gross fake-outs… brain pie, scars or blisters, and rotting skin. This book would be very handy for April Fools’ day or Halloween. For musicians there are many different Fake Books by Hal Leonard with melody, lyrics and simplified chords that will help you to easily expand your musical repertoire.

So, the next time you see an opossum cross the road you will know it’s not a possum! And, if it ‘drops dead’ you will know it really isn’t!

Did You Know? (Salary Edition)

That the word salary came from soldiers being paid in salt?

I found this information on page 63 in the book Salt: a World History by Mark Kurlansky. This is also where we get the saying “worth his salt.”

I’m not sure about you, but I prefer my salary to be paid in money! I doubt that I have a single creditor that would take a payment in salt. Salary Tutor by Jim Hopkinson will help you get the most pay possible for your position. While most of the information relates directly to getting a new job, there is a chapter dedicated to helping you get a raise from your current employer.

I remember when I was young, overhearing the adults talking about salaries and wondering why they were talking about celery! I’m not certain that this would be any better than getting paid in salt. I suppose if you had an abundance of celery lying around, you could try the recipe for braised celery in Martha Stewart’s Vegetables book.

While it may not be braised like Martha makes, Amor y apio/ (Love and Celery) is a book about healthy eating while pregnant. This is one reason you would be glad to eat celery!

But, back to ‘green’ that isn’t vegetables. Let’s assume you are actually getting paid in money and not salt….or celery. We have many books on investing, saving and creating a budget with your money. But you have to be careful where you are putting those hard-earned wages! The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to do about It by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig has financial advice we can all use.

You know it’s never too soon to start planning! Kid Millionaire by Matthew Eliot is a great way for young people to get started earning, saving and investing. There are great tips for start-up jobs and games and apps that kids (or adults) can play or use to learn to track their money.

Did You Know? (Cassowary Edition)

That the most dangerous bird on earth is the Southern Cassowary?

National Geographic Angry Birds by Mel White shows 50 birds that you don’t want to mess with. It talks about the cassowaries on page 144. While Cassowaries are the most dangerous bird, the Australian Magpie is rated the angriest bird, dive bombing anyone near their nests.

Birds are living dinosaurs. This is something that serious paleontologists now agree on. Birdology by Sy Montgomery explains this on page 49. He has a very informative chapter on cassowaries, with photos of their deadly feet and dagger sharp claws.

Other birds can appear to be very angry as well… here in the northwest there are crows that dive bomb people when they walk too close to their trees! The PBS documentary DVD A Murder of Crows: Birds with an Attitude and the book In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzluff both describe this phenomenon and explain the behaviors.

Cassowaries live in New Guinea, northeast Australia and nearby Islands. While they are one of the 10 most dangerous birds on earth, there are other critters in these areas I wouldn’t want to mess with either. As cute as koala bears are, they can be quite vicious, and kangaroos can kick as badly as the cassowaries but without the deadly damage of the claws. The largest predators in Australia are the crocodiles that grow up to 20 feet long, and can pull a grown water buffalo from the banks and drown it!

While cassowary babies are chicks, I wouldn’t mess with them or with Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J Gomez. And you probably shouldn’t confuse them with the very talented musical group the Dixie Chicks either. You wouldn’t want to make those “chicks” angry!

Did You Know? (Tomato Edition)

That canning tomatoes can cause Clostridium botulinum?

I found this information on pages 13 & 18 in the book Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti. This book shows how to safely preserve most Italian foods. While I’ve always thought of tomatoes as being highly acidic, in fact they aren’t and can be very dangerous if acid (lemon juice or citric acid) aren’t added to kill the botulinum in the canning process. The Idiots Guide to Canning and Preserving by Trish Sebben-Krupka and America’s Test Kitchen Foolproof Preserving both have step by step instructions with photos that make canning easy.

What do you need to do before you can can a tomato? You have to grow them! Richard Bird wrote How to Grow Tomatoes with directions on starting them, preparing the soil, and tips for keeping them frost free or growing them in a green house. We actually have many gardening books that will help you grow your own vegetable garden.

Big brother Charlie helps his little sister Lola eat veggies she couldn’t ever imagine eating in I Will Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child. Reading this book, you will discover that tomatoes are actually “moonsquirters!”

I love eating fried green tomatoes, and I loved the book Fried Green Tomatoes and the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg. This is a very empowering book and shows the kind of gumption it takes to pick yourself up and keep going.

Lastly, have you ever seen a singing tomato? Veggie Tales DVDs have Bob the Tomato and his friends going on adventures and singing. One episode featuring Bob is Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry’s Big River Rescue. Fun for the whole family!

Did You Know? (Bat Edition)

That the bumblebee bat is the world’s smallest mammal?

I found this information on page 175 in the book The Secret Lives of Bats by Merlin Tuttle. The name bumblebee bat is actually a nickname for the Kitti’s hog nosed bat from Myanmar (Burma). It was discovered in 1973-74 and weighs a third less than a United States penny! These bats are only about an inch long.

Bats by Phil Richardson tells about bats’ lifestyles and life cycles. He explains about the different classes of bats and that the Kitti’s hog nosed bat is considered one of the 930 species of ‘microbats.’ This book has excellent photos of many bats. The children’s book Bat Watching by Diane Bair and Pamela Wright has helpful information about removing bats from buildings and where to look for them for viewing. The Magic School Bus DVD has a ‘Going Batty’ episode where you really learn what it is like to be a bat: how they see with sonar, what they eat, and how they take care of their young.

On the other end of the spectrum is the world’s largest (baseball) bat. 1,000 Places to See Before you Die by Patricia Schultz shows the huge baseball bat outside of the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Louisville, Kentucky. I’m sure it will be much easier to see than the bumblebee bat, plus you won’t have to travel as far!

Smithsonian Baseball Treasures by Stephen Wong has a very interesting history of baseball bats and other items. For example, in 1885 a flat bat was used to aid in batting techniques like bunting. There is a great photo of Babe Ruth kissing his bats before the start of the World Series September 29, 1926. Combining both kinds of bats is Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies.

Lastly, baseball has a bat boy (or girl), but the world of super heroes has Batman! Here at the library we have The Batman Strikes, Going… Batty! by Bill Matheny. In this exciting graphic novel Batman fights a bad guy that turns into a bat.

Did You Know? (Cannibal Edition)

Some cannibals say that humans taste like pork!

I found this information in the prologue of the book Death by Cannibal by Peter Davidson. This book has the true stories of five convicted cannibals.

One of the most famous cases of cannibalism is the Donner Party. Author Bill Schutt investigates the evidence surrounding this
controversial case of “did they or didn’t they?” in Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. The case of Alfred G. Packer is another cannibalistic tale told in the book A Voice for the Dead by James E. Starrs. In 1873 Alfred took off near Provo, Utah with five other prospectors and was the only one to return. As of 2005 when this book was published, James tells us that “Even in today’s world of criminal statutes in the 50 states, the only state declaring cannibalism to be a punishable criminal offense is Idaho.” (page 22)

There are different ways to be a cannibal. Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankind’s Oldest Taboo by Carole A Travis-Henikoff tells us that starvation brings on survival cannibalism, while the ingestion of dead relatives is known as endocannibalism or funerary cannibalism. Religious cannibalism is actual or simulated partaking of human flesh and blood, and autophagy (to eat one’s self) ranges from the little child picking their nose and eating it to torture-induced self-consumption and truly disturbed individuals who cook and eat their own flesh. There are a few other types as well… medicinal, gastronomic, and ritual. This book tells you all you could ever possibly want to know.

Speaking of tasting like pork, humans are more like pigs than we think! Pig (and baboon) body parts have been transplanted into humans in several cases. According to an article in the Aug/Sept 2017 issue of Atlantic Monthlypigs are also being genetically engineered to grow organs for people. This is called xenotransplanting.

There are many animals that are cannibals too. It is not uncommon for adult lions, hyenas, bears and many other animals to eat the young of their species to prevent them from being competition when they are older, or for young siblings to eliminate competition for food from their mothers. Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas is a DVD that shows both lions and hyenas in this (graphic) documentary.

As author and chef Alton Brown says: “That’s good-eats!” Let’s hope none of us are ever desperate enough to find out!