Sunday, June 24, 2007

27 Earth Amazing Facts

1. What is the hottest place on Earth?
Count one wrong if you guessed Death Valley in California. True enough on many days. But El Azizia in Libya recorded a temperature of 136 degrees Fahrenheit (57.8 Celsius) on Sept. 13, 1922 -- the hottest ever measured. In Death Valley, it got up to 134 Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913.

2. And the coldest place around here?
Far and away, the coldest temperature ever measured on Earth was -129 Fahrenheit (-89 Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica, on July 21, 1983.

3. How much space dust falls to Earth each year?
Estimates vary, but the USGS says at least 1,000 million grams, or roughly 1,000 tons of material enters the atmosphere every year and makes its way to Earths surface. One group of scientists claims microbes rain down from space, too, and that extraterrestrial organisms are responsible for flu epidemics. There's been no proof of this, and I'm not holding my breath.

4. Where is the worlds highest waterfall?
The water of Angel Falls in Venezuela drops 3,212 feet (979 meters).

5. What would a 100-pound person weigh on Mars?
The gravity on Mars is 38 percent of that found on Earth at sea level. So a 100-pound person on Earth would weigh 38 pounds on Mars. Based on NASA's present plans, it'll be decades before this assumption can be observationally proved, however.

6. What is the largest volcano?
The Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii holds the title here on Earth. It rises more than 50,000 feet (9.5 miles or 15.2 kilometers) above its base, which sits under the surface of the sea. But that's all volcanic chump change. Olympus Mons on Mars rises 16 miles (26 kilometers) into the Martian sky. Its base would almost cover the entire state of Arizona.

7. How far is it to the center of the Earth?
The distance from the surface of Earth to the center is about 3,963 miles (6,378 kilometers). Much of Earth is fluid. The mostly solid skin of the planet is only 41 miles (66 kilometers) thick -- thinner than the skin of an apple, relatively speaking

8. What is the highest mountain?
Climbers who brave Mt. Everest in the Nepal-Tibet section of the Himalayas reach 29,035 feet (nearly 9 kilometers) above sea level. Its height was revised upward by 7 feet based on measurements made in 1999 using the satellite-based Global Positioning System.

9. What percentage of the world’s water is in the oceans?
About 97 percent. Oceans make up about two-thirds of Earth's surface, which means that when the next asteroid hits the planet, odds are good it will splash down.

10. Which of the Earth’s oceans is the largest?
The Pacific Ocean covers 64 million square miles (165 million square kilometers). It is more than two times the size of the Atlantic. It has an average depth of 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers).

11. How much surface area does Earth contain?
There are 196,950,711 square miles (510,100,000 square kilometers).

12. What is the largest lake in the world?
By size and volume it is the Caspian Sea, located between southeast Europe and west Asia.

13. Which of the following sources stores the greatest volume of fresh water worldwide: lakes, streams or ground water?
Groundwater comprises a 30 times greater volume than all freshwater lakes, and more than 3,000 times what's in the world’s streams and rivers at any given time. Groundwater is housed in natural underground aquifers, in which the water typically runs around and through the stone and other material.

14. How many people have been killed by volcanoes during the last 500 years?
At least 300,000. Between 1980 and 1990, volcanic activity killed at least 26,000 people

15. Can an earthquake cause a tsunami?
If the earthquake originates under the ocean, yes. Near the earthquake’s epicenter, the sea floor rises and falls, pushing all the water above it up and down. This motion produces a wave that travels outward in all directions. A tsunami can be massive but remain relatively low in height in deep water. Upon nearing the shore, it is forced up and can reach the height of tall buildings. One in 1964 was triggered in Alaska and swamped the small northern California town of Crescent City, moving train cars several blocks and killing several people there. Asteroids can cause tsunami, too.

16. How much of the Earth’s land surface is desert?
About one-third.

17. What is the world’s largest desert?
The Sahara Desert in northern Africa is more than 23 times the size of southern California’s Mojave Desert. [Several readers have e-mailed to suggest that arid Antarctica technically tops this category; true, some researchers put it there, but most lists of deserts don't include it.]

18. What is the world’s deepest lake?
Lake Baikal in the south central part of Siberia is 5,712 feet (1.7 kilometers) deep. It's about 20 million years old and contains 20 percent of Earth's fresh liquid water.

19. How many minerals are known to exist?
There are roughly 4,000 known minerals, although only about 200 are of major importance. Approximately 50-100 new minerals are described each year.

20. What is the world’s largest island?
Greenland covers 840,000 square miles (2,176,000 square kilometers). Continents are typically defined as landmasses made of low-density rock that essentially floats on the molten material below. Greenland fits this description, but it's only about one-third the size of Australia. Some scientists call Greenland an island, others say it's a continent.

21. Can asteroids create islands?
Speculation has existed for decades that ancient asteroid impacts might create hot spots of volcanic activity, which could give rise to mountains that poke up through seas that didn't used to be there. There's no firm answer to this question, but a recent computer model suggested Hawaii might have been formed in this manner.

22. Is ice a mineral?
Yes, ice is a mineral and is formally described as such in Dana's System of Mineralogy.

23. What is the softest of all minerals?
Talc is the softest of minerals. It is commonly used to make talcum powder.

24. What is the hardest of all minerals?
The one that becomes emotionally useless after a divorce but still retains monetary value.

25. Does Earth have the worst weather in the solar system?
Right now, it's the worst that most humans I know ever experience. But there's lots of wilder weather elsewhere. Mars can whip up hurricane-like storms four times bigger than Texas. Dust storms on the red planet can obscure the entire globe! Jupiter has a hurricane twice the size our entire planet, and it's lasted for at least three centuries (another storm on Jupiter is even bigger). Venus is a living hell, and Pluto is routinely more frigid than the coldest place on Earth (though may change one day, and Pluto may in fact become the last oasis for life).

26. What is the highest, driest, and coldest continent on Earth?
That would be Antarctica

27. Where are the oldest rocks on Earth found?
Since the ocean floor is being continually regenerated as the continental plates move across the Earth’s surface, the oldest rocks on the ocean floor are less than 300 million years. In contrast, the oldest continental rocks are 4.5 billion years old



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