A few days back, in the month of December I had compiled a list of 6 space oddities that really interested me. At that time, I was pretty sure I would stumble upon a few more odd/interesting things about space within a month or two. With that in mind, I had decided to suffix the heading with “Part – I”. Four months have passed. That was a very thoughtful thing I did – thinking 4 months into the future. I have to appreciate my forethought (with a self-administered pat on the back) for doing that because today I’m back with a few more of these odd / interesting things about space and I’m still not embarrassed about the heading for the post.

So, here is the part II of space oddities (read the part I here):

1. A Hole in the Universe

About 7 years from now, researchers from University of Minnesota found out about a really huge void in our universe. The abnormal hole measures approximately sixty billion trillion miles. In easier words, it is about 10 Billion light years wide. Imagine! A beam of light would takes 10 Billion years to travel through that empty place. How lonely would it be at the centre of it. The void is bigger than anything else scientists have ever seen in space.

The whole volume of space shows no sign of any stars, planets, asteroids, gases, clouds, dust. The volume doesn’t even have any signs of dark matter (95% of our universe is dark matter) too. [read more about it]

2. Costliest thing ever built

Think of a huge 5 bed room house floating in space that can be seen moving from the surface of the earth with the naked eye! Yes, I’m talking about the International Space Station. It is a whooping 200,000 kg object that is 171 feet long, 240 feet wide and 90 feet high.

When it comes to the price of building something this huge in space, it beats everything from the most lavish sky scrappers to the most largest dams ever built. The price of building it is estimated to be about $160 Billion and fortunately the cost is shared by Canada, the European Union, Japan, Russia and the US. It is officially the most expensive object ever constructed, and it is NOT on earth! – Guinness book of World Records.

What would you get if you if you crossed a duck, frog & snake? Hint: It is a mammal and lays eggs!
You’d have one of the most weirdest and mysterious animal, the Platypus.

Note: Unlike what is popularly taught in schools, Platypus is not the “only mammal that lays eggs”. Echidna – Knuckles from Sonic the Hedgehog – is the second kind of mammal that lay eggs.

So, Platypus is considered a strange animal because, it secretive and even today, not everything is known about it. It has a beak that looks like a duck’s beak, it’s feet are webbed like that of a frog’s. Besides that, this cute & cuddly looking creature, found in the Eastern part of Australian fresh waters, uses venom like a snake. But there is more:

Some Incredible things about the Platypus

Firstly, it lays eggs and is not a reptile. It is one of those two mammals which lays eggs.

For up to 3 months the male Platypus stores the eggs in its bill.

They swim underwater with their eyes shut and come out mostly at night.

Venom: They have a sharp and hollow thumbnail (spur) in their hind legs that is venomous. The venom is strong enough to kill a dog (doesn’t kill humans, but is extremely painful). This is used only in self defense. And only males are venomous. I never knew they had venom, but since they are from Australia, I had expected that.

Electrolocation: Under water, they detect electrical signals to find insects, store them behind their bill, come up and then eat them. It uses electrolocation – sees using electricity – Like bats use echolocation.

Under their bill are about 40000 sensors arranged in longitudinal strips. These sensors can detect fluctuations in the surrounding electric field. Even something producing a very minor electric fluctuation at a distance – contractions in the muscles – can be detected by the Platypus.

Sharks do the same and this is the reason they attack and damage our internet cables under the sea.

Mechanical sensors: Besides that 60000 mechanical sensors (push rods) are used to detect movement in the water. Scientists say that the information from the electrical sensors and mechanical sensors is combined by its brain to calculate the prey’s exact location.

No Nipples: The young ones feed on milk from the mother Platypus. This milk doesn’t come from nipples, it comes from modified sweat glands (not unique to platypus) under its body. It has no nipples.

They can eat their own body-weight in under a single day.

They find it hard to stay underwater because they have a natural buoyancy. Yet, they can use other objects to stay under water for a maximum of 10 minutes. Then they have to come up for air.

Babies: The baby Platypus does not have an official name. Some call it puggle (which is not correct). But the accepted word, “Platypup” can be used.

Today is pi day. Pi day is celebrated on March 14 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (March 14 is 3/14) at 1:59 PST which is 3.14159.

Since pi day is today’s date written in the mm.dd (03.14) format, it could not be a pi day for most of you because dd.mm is the format used for writing dates in most countries around the world. In fact, those countries where more than half of the world’s population resides, will never have a pi day because you know, we can’t have a 14^{th} month! Pi day is a valid celebration for people living only in the United States (including the 49^{th} and northernmost state, Alaska and Hawaii of course) and Belize. Everywhere else people get zilch today?

Firstly, there is always the pi approximation day, which is celebrated on 22nd July (22/7) and uses the dd.mm format. Talking about March 14th, there is much more to pi day than just the date format itself. Let’s see…

Birthdays

I know, Eugene Cernan – The NASA astronaut who was the last man on the moon, and the one you can hear speaking in a popular Daft Punk Track – is one famous man who was born on pi day, 79 years from now, is an American too.

But guess what? Albert Einstein, one of the most genius men of recent times, was born on pi day too. He was a German born physicist (He did live in the US for more than 15 years and in fact, even took his last breath in New Jersey)

So, you see there is a little bit of pi day for every one around the world today. It is not just an American thing. Now moving on the most amazing things about pi.

Irrational pi

Firstly, pi, unlike what we all are taught in school, isn’t 22/7. 22 divided by 7 is just an approximation of pi – it is only 99.95975% accurate. As we all know, pi is actually the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. A slightly better approximation of pi would be 104348/33215 – which is 99.99999998944% accurate. But, since it is an irrational number, it can never be written in the form of a fraction.

Exact Value

The exact value of pi is impossible to write in digits because the number of digits needed to write it would be infinite and could never be fit inside the known universe.

To think of it in another way, if you divided the whole universe into the smallest possible volumes (plank volume), you’d end up with a mind bogglingly large number of volumes. Suppose you started writing the digits of pi inside these little volumes, you’d finish up the universe and would be still left with infinite more digits to write.

The Digits of Pi

The latest record for the maximum number of known digits of pi is 12.1 Trillion digits (December 28, 2013), as calculated by Alexander J. Yee & Shigeru Kondo. They have run out of disk space to store more numbers. Here you can have a look at the first 100,000 digits of pi. And One million digits, if you need more than that.

In these first one million digits, the sequence 12345 occurs 8 times!

The Feynman Point: If you’d like to hear what pie would sound like if you mapped a couple of pleasant sounding notes to each of the digits of pi, try listening to this. If you kept listening for a while and made it till the 762th digit, you’d hear a series of (6 of them) high frequency notes (the ones mapped to the digit nine) that get played continuously. This place in the digits of pi is called the Feynman point where six 9s occur one after another. Isn’t it incredible for six same numbers to be there consecutively in a random irrational number!

Practically useful pi

Pi can be used in real life to make a couple of things easier. For instance, if you were to find the size of your hat (usually measured in diameters), you’d have a hard time measuring the diameter of your head. This is what you can do to get a good approximation:
Measure the circumference of your head and divide it by π.

Another one trick is used by forest guards: To estimate the height of an elephant the Diameter of an elephant’s foot is multiplied by 2 π.

Pi Jokes, facts and Coincidences

It is an impressive coincidence that 3.14 if horizontally flipped, looks like the word “Pie”. You can check this in the mirror.

Another one is that, the 16th Greek letter is ‘Pi’ and the 16th letter in the English alphabet is ‘P’.

The famous comedian John Evans once made a joke: “What do you get if you divide the circumference of a jack-o’-lantern by its diameter? Pumpkin π.

There is a cologne named pi and is sold with the following marketing mantra: “highlighting the sexual appeal of intelligent and visionary men.”

The height of the Great Pyramid of Giza multiplied by 2 π is equal to the perimeter of its base.

The 90841th place in pi is 122189 – which is also my birth date in the mmddyy format. Find yours here and tell me in the comments below.

Do share with me in the comments, other facts about pi you know and I haven’t covered them here.

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