20 incredible facts that people recently tweeted

This Twitter thread may provide all the education a person needs.

20 incredible facts that people recently tweeted
  • A simple question on Twitter resulted in an avalanche of mind-blowing answers.
  • What else are we supposed to do with all of these stray bits of information?
  • Sciency, helpful, and ridiculous — we've got 'em all.

On January 27, educator, organizer, and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham tweeted a simple question: "What's the most random fact you know?" It turns out people know a lot of random things — the replies have been stunningly informative, amazing, and ridiculous. Here are 20 of the best facts shared:

1. A tarantula's best friend

So many thoughts. Interspecies slavery? Frog mills?

2. The snap

This might make you feel better if you're one of the many people incapable of doing the African Finger Snap once explained and demonstrated by Lupita Nyong'o.

3. Coincidence?

Mind = blown. Did her folks do this on purpose?

4. Blood stains

This is both amazing and cool. Custom-coded saliva just for your own personal use.

5. Not to worry

Are we the only ones who worry about this? Also, if you don't remove the label before washing the fruit, good luck getting it off.

6. In the event of alligator

One wonders how Ms. Rose, star of "The #1 Ladies Detective Agency" and "The Princess and the Frog," learned this useful survival trick.

7. Listen carefully

Hmmm, mmm, mmm. Whaddya know!

8. The nipple rule

Today is not the day nature stops being weird.

9. Your final sensation in space

Grim, but fascinating. Let's not do this.

10. Dotting your “i”

Because of course.

11. Not who you think they are

Ergo: Respect!

12. Vegans beware

While this is true, the resulting flavoring is so expensive to produce that it rarely gets used in foods. Check the label for castoreum. While you're there, keep an eye out for carmine, which is commonly used as a red coloring for food. It's made from crushed beetles.

13. Stand back or run away

Marine researchers must be very dedicated.

14. Or maybe just swim as fast as you can

Maybe keep your horses away from the ocean.

15. The fine grain of time

Of course "now" is a difficult concept to really comprehend. The moment you notice it, it's gone, as the tweet suggests.

This brings to mind quantum entanglement. Maybe particles don't really exist in multiple states at a time, but our ability to capture "now" is just so coarse it seems that way. Our idea of simultaneity may actually be a series of fine-grained moments rounded off into a single "now" that's large enough for us to perceive. Thus, we perceive multiple particle states as simultaneous but they're really not. Just saying.

16. Million billion

You've wondered, right? A perfect fact for the next conversation lull you need to fill.

17. Nuts in nature

Also, we only see the nuts because some of the discarded parts of the plant are toxic.

18. Orange carrots

Censored vegetables, for goodness' sake.

19. Angular numbers?

Some researchers are skeptical about this origin story, especially when it comes to the symbol for zero.

20. How long you’ll remember all this

What was the first fact on this list?

Live on Monday: Does the US need one billion people?

What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.

A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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