Monday, March 21, 2011

Two useless things I learned today

Thing One:  The young Moon rotated very fast.  The Earth's gravity created a bulge in its surface seven meters high on the part closest to the Earth. You should imagine a wave traveling across the Moon's rocky surface. Eventually, the wave slowed the Moon to a stop, which is why we never see its dark side.
Thing Two:  In medieval Europe it was believed that pulling up a mandrake root (which was valued for its supposed medicinal or magical properties) would kill you if you heard the root scream. That bit I knew already. What I did not know was that the recommended solution was for a man to put beeswax in his ears, tie a dog to the stem of the mandrake, and beat the dog while sounding loudly on a trumpet so that the he would not hear the scream of the root as the dog ran away and dragged it out of the ground.
Both things I learned courtesy of the BBC (Brian Cox and David Attenborough respectively). Testament to the BBC as a civilisational institution. (I am being serious.)

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