A Massive 3200 Year Old Tree in a Single Picture

By Anupum Pant

If there’s one place I’d like to visit, it is the part of California where you find giant sequoia trees. The Giant forest is one such grove in the western Sierra Nevada of California. It is home to five of the ten most massive trees on the planet.

With a tree trunk measuring 36.5 feet in diameter, the Giant Sherman in the Giant forest grove, is the largest of the trees in this grove. It is 275 feet tall! (and yet there are taller trees in existence – Hyperion – again in California, which is about 379 feet tall)

While the President tree, 3200 years old, is another one of these Giant sequoia. It has seen hundred generations of humans pass by. Throughout its life it has survived a number of storms, fires, winters, earthquakes, and climate changes. And even today it grows faster than most other trees on the planet, adding one cubic meter of wood every year.

Its trunk measures around 27 feet in diameter.  In height, its topmost point measuring at 247 feet, is slightly shorter than the Giant Sherman. Still, the tree is massive. Its huge branches hold about 2 billion needles (leaves), which is more than any other tree on earth.

It is so huge that until recently it hadn’t been captured in a single photograph (excluding satellite shots and other such smart ideas). A team from National geographic magazine joined scientists to study and photograph the tree.

the president tree

This Green Slime Like Thing is a 3000 Year Old Plant

By Anupum Pant

It looks like moss, but it isn’t. Nor is it slimy.

This gooey or slimy looking thing is actually a plant which grows in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Peru, up in the Andes at altitudes between ten to fifteen thousand feet. Believe it or not, some of these plants are more than 3000 years old. Yes, they are one of the oldest living organisms on the planet earth – older than the golden age of Greece.

Even though the plant looks slimy goo-like from a distance, when you go closer, it is actually solid and dry to the touch. The surface of the plant consists of densely packed tens of thousands of tiny buds and flowers which make the surface feel like a pillow. That is the reason it is also  known as the Andes Pillow. In fact the surface is so stiff that a person can lie on it and the plant won’t get crushed.

It is sort of a cousin to parsley and carrots. And it is interesting to note that the plant smells like mint. Locals often boil it in water and use it to cure muscle pain.

Llareta grows extremely slowly. It grows about 1.5 cm every year. The ones which are about 2.5 to 3 meters in size can be said to have grown for hundreds of years to reach that size.

Since Llareta is dense and dry, it burns like wood, and has been known to be used by the climbers/hikers to make fire. Some say that it was also used in steam engines instead of coal. This careless burning of the extremely slow-growing living museum has endangered their long-term survival.

via [RadioLab]

The Mystery Light Bulb Has Been On For 113 Years

By Anupum Pant

There are a handful of different reasons that may make an incandescent bulb blow out. Improper sealing, rough handling and electrical surge are some of them which may blow out a bulb prematurely. Still, bulbs are not for ever.

Very gradually, due to the extremely high heat of resistance, the very thin tungsten filament would evaporate making it thinner and thinner with time. Ultimately, the filament will certainly reach a point beyond which it can’t last. At a certain place in the filament where a slightly greater number of atoms get evaporated into the inert atmosphere of the bulb, the filament breaks. As a result the bulb pops and you need to replace it.

Even if everything goes right, your average incandescent bulb won’t usually last for more than a couple of years. Certainly not for 113 years! But one bulb did and it still glows. No one knows or understands why exactly it has lasted for so long. Whatever it is, it is nothing less than a miracle.

Installed in the year 1901, the incredibly old bulb (not tungsten filament, this one is a carbon filament bulb) still glows at a fire station in Livermore, California. All it’s life it’s seen ups and downs, was moved from one place to another (mostly fire stations), was protected from electrical surges and what not. With a few hours of brief outages here and there it has clocked over one million hours of burn time. And it still glows. In fact it holds the world record for being the longest burning light bulb. You can watch it here on the live cam.

[Centennial bulb live cam] Fun fact: The bulb has outlasted 3 of these webcams which keep broadcasting its live status.

Last year, it went off for a couple of hours and created waves all over the media. Later, it was reported that the bulb was back again. It was probably “just taking a nap“.

There are a couple of explanations (theories) on what may have made the bulb last so long. A few of them being –

  • It hasn’t been switched on and off many times. Lesser cycles, longer life.
  • It is a 60 watt bulb turned on to about 4 watts, which probably prevents it from going too hot.
  • Since a lot of extra care and money was spent on making this bulb, it was not one of those mass manufactured bulbs. It has probably been sealed perfectly. So, there’s no chance of air leaking into the bulb.

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