You’re all wrong: The ISS is the 8th Wonder Of The World

They say the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object you can see from space. That’s not true, but if you turn the idea on its head you have something that IS true: The world has about 1,000 functioning satellites right now and they’re the only man-made objects you can see from anywhere in the world. The International Space Station is by far the most awesome of them. Look up at the right time tonight and you’ll see it. It’s the real eighth wonder of the world.

Lists of the wonders of the ancient world always include a big pile of stone blocks called the Great Pyramid. Lists of the wonders of the modern world usually include the Golden Gate Bridge and Canada’s CN Tower. Those are cool enough, but miles above them is a football-field-sized flying mansion and laboratory that the world’s 16 most powerful nations united to create. It literally runs circles around all the other wonders.


It’s a stepping-stone into the rest of the universe. It’s the only wonder of the world that brought the world’s nations together in cooperation. It has a giant robot arm that on Earth could lift 220,000 pounds. They make their own air from water up there. It has brought us some amazing new scientific achievements, including finding clues to the mystery of dark matter. More than 300 astronauts from around the world have worked and trained up there, preparing for the future. Like Kennedy said about the mission to the Moon: “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

If you live in the middle of the U.S. (Wichita specifically), the International Space Station will fly directly above your head tonight at about 6:28.

You can find out when it’s visible in your area using a tool called The Astroviewer. Or find out from NASA. Looking up you’ll see what looks like a lone star following its own path across the sky.

So tonight, look up.

And realize that this is what they’re seeing when they look back down at night:

If you could see the Earth illuminated when you were in a place as dark as night, it would look to you more splendid than the moon.

-Galileo Galilei

Give thanks tonight that we live in a world of such wonder.


Earth got two new islands this year.

A few days ago, a new island began to appear south of Japan. This volcano is exploding like crazy.

In September, an earthquake in Pakistan caused a volcano of mud to erupt off the country’s southern shore. You can set fire to the gases bubbling out of it.

Over the past decade, an island has been slowly building up off the coast of Germany. This one had nothing to do with volcanoes: The island of Norderoogsand is basically a giant sandbar in the sea. The waves have pushed sand and silt into a crescent shape that in recent years finally became a respectable island.

Any of these new islands could disappear again soon. The Japanese island is the only one that has a chance of lasting. New islands like these typically sink back beneath the waves within a few years. Even the Hawaiian islands will eventually descend into the ocean again. In a sense, they’re all temporary.

Those aren’t the only ways that islands are made, though. Dubai has some awesome man-made islands:

What would you do with your own private island?

Magic from the cupboard: How to summon a horrifying tiny tentacle monster (with cornstarch)

You probably already know about the stuff you can do with cornstarch. You can mix it with water to make a weird fluid that will flow like syrup, but if you slam a hammer into it, it will suddenly transform from a liquid to a solid and crack. You can punch your fist into a bowl of it and instead of splashing everywhere, it just stiffens up and takes it like a man.

(The proportions are 1.5 cups of water for every 1 cup of cornstarch.)

Here’s two uses for it I’d never seen before:

1. Pour it on a cookie sheet. Put the sheet on top of a subwoofer or other big speaker with strong bass. Play music and hold the sheet down with your fingernails.

This is the secret ritual to summon a terrifying tiny tentacle monster.

2. Fill up a swimming pool with it and dance merrily on top.

Have you ever used cornstarch for fun? Tell us about it in the comments.

So I stepped on a giant prehistoric snail on the way to work.

Cities around the world have the fossilized remains of ancient life embedded in their infrastricture. The builders usually didn’t even know it.


People just walk over this cross-section of a giant snail in the floor of the Smithsonian Arts & Industries building without even thinking about it. (Photo credit: Christopher Barr)

If you look closely at the stones of certain buildings in your area, you might find fossils stuck in the walls or floors. Or in a bridge or paving stone or any other stonework. We use huge amounts of rock in constructing our cities, and often they just happen to have fossils embedded in them.

Sometimes it’s deliberate, but sometimes it’s only later that we notice that some of the stones have fossils. There’s probably many times more hidden beneath the surface.


The floor of the National Gallery of Art is full of these weird extinct nautiloids. (Photo credit: Christopher Barr)

There’s fossils built into the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. Not just that, of course. They’re everywhere. You just have to look for them. A good geologist can often tell a sedimentary rock (the kind more likely to have fossils) just by looking.

Christopher Barr, a geology expert in Washington, D.C., has been hard at work obsessively cataloging the fossils you can find just by walking around in public in the nation’s capital. No museum required.

The BBC has video showing these ancient treasures hidden in plain sight in London.

Here’s where to find a few in Manhattan. They can also be found in a bathroom in Florida, a church in England, and a department store in Tokyo.

They’re everywhere!

Have you ever seen a fossil hidden in plain sight? Keep an eye out and maybe you will.

Let us know if you do.

Why talking birds are taking over the world

The common starling is everywhere in America and Europe. I’ve seen them zillions of times in Wichita, but I never realized they can talk.

Starlings are native to Europe, but are now found in all hemispheres because of a weird British society dedicated to helping invasive species spread around the world. The Acclimatization Societies devoted themselves to exporting European plants and animals to European colonies around the world, thinking that native species weren’t as good as European species. In America, they made a special point of bringing in every type of bird mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. (Why? It was a lark.) They’re everywhere now.

I always thought a talking bird had to be something exotic, but it turns out they’ve been pooping on my windshield all this time.

Anyway, a captured wild starling apparently makes a surprisingly good pet. In the first link of this post, a New Zealand preschool teacher rescued a baby starling and it grew up learning phrases from her. Now she uses it in class with her preschoolers.

Ravens, which are also found in North America, can also speak. I always thought Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven was just about a guy hallucinating as he descended into madness, but ravens actually can talk.

Who needs parrots?

(Hat tip to Jerry Coyne for the first link.)

4 jaw-dropping things that happened when no one was watching

Cameras are everywhere these days. So things that would have been missed in the past are today more likely to be caught on camera.

Things like:

1. Deer sometimes like to stand up when no one’s looking and have bouts of fisticuffs.

2. A couple weeks ago in Connecticut, a police officer’s private vehicle was vandalized… By a miniature tornado that blew into a crowded parking lot, ripped off one mirror from one car, kicked it around the lot, then laid it back down right beside the vehicle. Some people think it’s a ghost.

3. …Bears secretly dream of becoming pole-dancing strippers? (Skip to about 25 seconds in, and it gets better and better from there).

4. Lastly, as I posted before, in the past few months the world learned that asteroid impacts are more common than we ever thought before. This is bizarre, but it has always been this way: Huge rocks can at any moment fall out of the sky and blow up with the power of a nuclear bomb while still in the air… or cause devastation if they actually hit the ground. A team of scientists examined records from monitoring devices that listen for actual nuclear blasts, and they found about 60 blasts since 1990 that could only have been major asteroids exploding in the atmosphere. Despite the Earth’s 7 billion people, most of the planet’s surface is still uninhabited and we just don’t see most of what’s going on.

Mount Etna, hot and blowing volcanic smoke rings

I thought blowing smoke rings was something only people did, but it turns out the Earth sometimes has a whimsical puff now and then, too.

eats shoots 'n leaves

The largest of Italy’s three active volcanoes, the Sicilian peak is active more than it’s not.

One of the most spectacular of Etna’s phenomena is the the mountain’s habit of blowing smoke rings, as in this example captured earlier this month by vlogger Omer Orda:

Spectacular, incredible, amazing rarely seen smoke rings at Mt Etna

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