Raining Frogs and Fish

By Anupum Pant

Raining cats and dogs is a bit unlikely, but there is nothing wrong about saying, “it is raining frogs and fish”. It happens more often than you think. So, don’t be alarmed if one day you wake up and find fish on your terrace.

When we talk about rain, the one place in India which stands out is Kerala. As we’ve seen in a previous post that Kerala has seen red rains, it has also seen raining fish. This isn’t a joke. On February 12, 2008, people actually saw fish falling down from the sky.

Not just that. I’ve seen reports of water birds, tomatoes, coal, and even a boats falling from the sky.

Raining Animals

After a few moments of awe, when you look at the occurrence of raining animals with the science microscope, you’ll find that it is not something very extraordinary. In fact, there is a whole Wikipedia page on raining animals. It turns out, several places around the world have experienced raining frogs, fish, spiders, worms etc. And as always, science has an explanation for it.

How does it happen?

Water Sprouts: When tornadoes move on land, they can pick up trucks, houses, trees and what not. They suck up several things from the ground and cause total destruction along the path they travel. But, when such storms travel on water, they suck up water, fish and of course, frogs.

This experiment proves how a low pressure can pick up things. – [Experiment]

These things can stay up with the storm for a long time. And eventually when the storm comes on land and weakens the animals may drop down with rain. As a result, we see fish and frogs raining from the heavens.

The Musty Old Book Scent

By Anupum Pant

Note: Since I’ve been getting quite a lot of visitors on this blog now, I think it would make sense to imbue a conversational tone in my posts. At least with enough readers, I won’t feel as if I’m talking to the air. So, instead of just creating a repository for archived trivia, I’ll take freedom to write my blogs in a more personal way from now on. You’ll have to wait for comments though (Tomorrow I’ll tell you why). Till then, you can get in touch through my about page.

The state of reading

No longer does a major chunk of human population has the drive or patience to go through a long chain of black letters. Instead, we prefer a stream of individual quick-visual-gags (memes). Others like to listen to audio books while they are slashing fruits on their smart-phones; some others like to ‘read’ info-graphics instead of blog posts.
A blog post without images is quickly discarded as an uninteresting one (like mine). Nevertheless, I believe, among those billions of people on the internet now, there is a tiny chunk of people who like to read. And a tinier part of that tiny chunk of people have come here to read this. I salute you. Salute me back on twitter.

That said, I’m not against info-graphics. I love them too. Also, it doesn’t mean I’m against audio books or memes.

So, if you’ve read past the two paragraphs above, I can safely assume, you are one of those who like to read. And I think we’ll connect well if I state – There is nothing like the smell of an old book; or a fresh book for some. Both ways, I think it makes sense to book lovers.

The smell according to experts

Unike Petrichor, the smell of old books does not have a specific name but you could call it “musty” in a good way. Experts need a much more detailed phrase to communicate the subjective experience. Back in 2009, the lead scientist who looked into what actually caused the smell described it as:

A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness. [Source]

The pleasant aromatic smell is due to aromatic compounds emitted mainly from papers made from ground wood which are characterized by their yellowish-brown color. They emit vanilla-like, sweetly fragrant vanillin, aromatic anisol and benzaldehyde, with fruity almond-like odor. On the other hand, terpene compounds, deriving from rosin, which is used to make paper more impermeable to inks, contribute to the camphorous, oily and woody smell of books. A mushroom odour is caused by some other, intensely fragrant aliphatic alcohols. [Source]

What causes the book scent

A typical “old book” smell is a mixture of fragrant volatile substances and does not comprise of any single compound. So, all books do not smell the same, as materials and printing inks vary from book to book.

As a book ages, a compound called Lignin that makes up the cell walls of wood used to make paper, starts breaking down. It releases a smell that is a lot similar to Vanilla. In fact this is the same compound that makes Vanilla smell like Vanilla. This smell is a major contributor among several other scents that make up the characteristic book scent.
Other factors that may cause the scent to vary could be due to the kind of ink and chemicals used to process the paper.

Bring it home

It is a good thing for book worms who just can’t stop smelling their books. A creative enterprise, Lucky scent, sells it in a bottle – Paper Passion perfume – sold here.

If you prefer reading eBooks and at the same time also miss the sweet  book scent, you’ll find this interesting – Classic Musty Scent and New Book scent.

Another company CafeScribe shipped “musty-smelling” scratch-and-sniff stickers with every eBook order. I’m not sure if they still do it. This was around 6 years back.

Disclaimer: I’m in no way related to the above products, they aren’t affiliate links.

The Red Rain of Kerala

By Anupum Pant

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In the year 2001, between 25th July and 25th September, people from the Indian state of Kerela (Kottayam and Idukki districts) experienced a bizarre oddity – The Red Rain of Kerala. Sporadic heavy downpours of mysteriously colored water left the people of Kerala dazed. More recently, red rains were also seen in parts of Sri Lanka between 15th November and 27th December, 2012.

Yellow, Black and Green rains have also been reported several times since 1896.

Red Rain of Kerala – Studies

A study conducted in India showed that the rain was colored because these raindrops contained millions of spherical and oval red particles which had an internal structure. These things looked like biological cells. Initially, when scientists weren’t able to confirm the existence of DNA (a fact which has baffled scientists) in them, in spite of an internal structure present in the cells, some started claiming that the origin of these red particles was extraterrestrial, possibly, coming from an exploded meteor.

Later the mystery was solved, the presence of DNA was confirmed and a study, destroying popular media claims, concluded that the red rain of Kerala had been colored due to airborne spores originating from a type of algae. There was nothing alien about it.

The unusual color of the rain was due to the presence of a unicellular micro-organism belonging to Kingdom Protista, of the Phylum Euglenozoa, known as Trachelomonas. Trachelomonas was the main cause of reddish downpours in other regions of the world as well.

[Source: The Red Rain of Kerala]