Weather Reporting Leeches

By Anupum Pant

Of all the creatures in the whole wide world, you’ll be surprised to know that leeches have played a fairly important role in the history of weather forecasting. An incredibly bizarre device invented by Dr. George merry weather, in the 19th century, called the tempest prognosticator, was basically a barometer powered by leeches.

Dr. George Merryweather, aptly named, was a surgeon by profession who was a lot into leeches. Since barometers were already being used for a long time then, to indicate approaching storms, he knew that air pressure was crucial in determining weather. However, Dr. Merryweather, an ingenious man, hell-bent on doing things the different way, had a different plan in his mind.

In his profession, he came across medicinal leeches all the time. In course of time, with a keen ability to notice details, he noticed that leeches were sensitive to electrical variations in the atmosphere.
He noticed a peculiar behaviour among these creatures. He observed that the leeches often started squirming around in a chaotic manner before a storm arrived.

Putting this practical knowledge to use, and experimenting with a number of designs, Dr. Merryweather devised a contraption. It consisted of 12 pint-sized bottles arranged in a circle. Each of which contained a leech in one-and-half-inch deep rain water. The top of every bottle had a tube into which the leech could crawl and disturb a mechanism, which in turn would activate a hammer to hit a bell – indicating that a storm is coming.

When a storm would come, the leeches were expected to crawl up the bottle, into the little pipe and activate a Heath-Robinson like mechanism which would make a hammer hit the bell. When the leech had completed its job it would fall down into the water and the hammer would go back to its place.

However, a number of times the leeches would give a false alarm. That was the reason he decided to use a jury of 12 leeches. And said,

The more of them that rang the bell, the more likely it was that a storm would be on its way.

If you ever go to Devon, you must take some time out to visit the Barometer World Museum to check out a full-scale working model of this device. Or you could go to the Whitby Museum in North Yorkshire to see the other working model.

The Hottest Place on Earth – Not Death Valley!

By Anupum Pant

For years I’ve known that the death valley was the hottest place on earth. Of course, not counting the lava, laboratory furnaces, hot springs and other such smart-ass answers, the death valley has always been, in textbooks and beyond, the hottest place on our planet.

On July 10th 1913, the temperature there was measured to be around 56.7 degrees centigrade. Nowhere else has the mercury risen to such high levels since then. Or so we thought…

Until, like always, a science channel from YouTube – MinuteEarth – decided to dive in a little deeper.

This is what the weather statistics do when they measure the temperature – The temperature outdoors are measured in shade at about 1.5 meters above the ground. Of course they had a standard procedure set to do that, and there must be a solid reason for that.

But, practically, who are we kidding. Anyone who has been on a beach, barefoot on a sunny day knows how hot the surface of sand can get in the sun, right?

The data from NASA’s satellites equipped with spectroradiometers has a different story to tell. A place somewhere in the Lut desert in Iran is the winner. The temperature averaged in a 1 square kilometre by the satellite shows that temperatures here have reached a whooping 70.7 degree Celsius. The place is somewhere inside the blue circle I made on Google maps.

 lut desert hottest place on earth

You could literally cook eggs in the open there. Anyway, that isn’t totally new. Mr. Sargunaraj claims to have cooked an egg on the streets of Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu, India too. And I’ve also seen a video of a restaurant serving eggs cooked in the open (without fuel).

Crickets – Nature’s Weather Reporters

By Anupum Pant


An annoying Cricket’s treet-treet-treet noise is really unbearable sometimes, especially when a house cricket ends up under your bed and treets all night long. To others, it’s pleasing, they associate it with the night time, and it makes them go to sleep.

Whatever it is for you, there’s one interesting thing universal about that noise they make. If you can count the number of chirps, you can almost accurately estimate the atmospheric temperature using a simple formula! Good ‘ol farmers used to do this.

I know all of us have smartphones these days, so counting cricket chirps to estimate temperature probably makes no sense to you. Still, I’ve said it back then and I say it again, it’s never bad to know anything.

Here’s how you do it

For doing it, you somehow should be able to measure 14 seconds. In those 14 seconds, count the number of times a single cricket chirps. Suppose there are 35 chirps heard, you save that number and add it to 40 (always 40). And this gives you the present temperature in Fahrenheit.

35 chirps + 40 = 75 degrees Fahrenheit

Now, since only a handful of countries use Fahrenheit to measure temperature, you might want to convert it into Celsius scale. I personally am comfortable with only the Celsius scale. But you don’t have to go through the trouble of converting because, to measure the temperature in Celsius scale using the cricket’s treet, this is what you have to do.

Simply count the number of chirps it makes in 25 seconds. Now divide the number by 3 and add 4 to it. There you have your ambient temperature in Celsius scale. Suppose the cricket chirps 50 times…

(50 chirps/3) + 4 = 20.67 degrees Celsius 

Why it works

To know that it is first important to understand how a cricket makes that sound. Remember only male crickets of a few species make this sound. They do this by a process called stridulation – rubbing 2 body parts to make a sound. Rubbing the underside of one wing with the upper side of the other wing does this trick – as they have rough and hard structures over there.

To move these wings it requires a particular chemical reaction to happen in their muscles. The speed of this chemical reaction is dependent on how hot or cold it is. The hotter it is, the faster the reaction happens and the faster it is able to move its muscles to produce more sounds in those 14/25 seconds…

via [Scientific American] and  [Howstuffworks] and [Farmer’s Almanac]