A flea can accelerate faster than the Space Shuttle
A jumping flea reaches dizzying heights of about eight centimetres (three inches) in a millisecond. Acceleration is the change in speed of an object over time, often measured in ‘g’s, with one g equal to the acceleration caused by gravity on Earth (9.8 metres/32.2 feet per square second). Fleas experience 100 g, while the Space Shuttle peaked at around 5 g. The flea’s secret is a stretchy rubber-like protein which allows it to store and release energy like a spring.
Venus is the only planet to spin clockwise
Our Solar System started off as a swirling cloud of dust and gas which eventually collapsed into a spinning disc with the Sun at its centre. Because of this common origin, all the planets move around the Sun in the same direction and on roughly the same plane. They also all spin in the same direction (counterclockwise if observed from ‘above’) – except Uranus and Venus. Uranus spins on its side, while Venus defiantly spins in the complete opposite direction. The most likely cause of these planetary oddballs are gigantic asteroids which knocked them off course in the distant past.
A teaspoonful of neutron star would weigh 6 billion tons
A neutron star is the remnants of a massive star that has run out of fuel. The dying star explodes in a supernova while its core collapses in on itself due to gravity, forming a super-dense neutron star. Astronomers measure the mind-bogglingly large masses of stars or galaxies in solar masses, with one solar mass equal to the Sun’s mass (that is, 2 x 1030 kilograms/4.4 x 1030 pounds). Typical neutron stars have a mass of up to three solar masses, which is crammed into a sphere with a radius of approximately ten kilometres (6.2 miles) – resulting in some of the densest matter in the known universe.
Babies have around 100 more bones than adults
Babies have about 300 bones at birth, with cartilage between many of them. This extra flexibility helps them pass through the birth canal and also allows for rapid growth. With age, many of the bones fuse, leaving 206 bones that make up an average adult skeleton.
Some metals are so reactive that they explode on contact with water
There are certain metals – including potassium, sodium, lithium, rubidium and caesium – that are so reactive that they oxidise (or tarnish) instantly when exposed to air. They can even produce explosions when dropped in water! All elements strive to be chemically stable – in other words, to have a full outer electron shell. To achieve this, metals tend to shed electrons. The alkali metals have only one electron on their outer shell, making them ultra-keen to pass on this unwanted passenger to another element via bonding. As a result they form compounds with other elements so readily that they don’t exist independently in nature.
It takes 8 minutes, 19 seconds for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth
In space, light travels at 300,000 kilometres (186,000 miles) per second. Even at this breakneck speed, covering the 150 million odd kilometres (93 million miles) between us and the Sun takes a considerable time. And eight minutes is still very little compared to the five and a half hours it takes for the Sun’s light to reach Pluto.