Tag: Nature

Happy Birthday California!

Happy birthday California (163 years old today!). Here are some amazing California facts from Uncle John’s Plunges into California.



How much do you know about California’s highest, lowest, oldest, largest, and smallest stuff?

Happy Birthday CaliforniaTALLEST LIVING THING: Hyperion, a 379-foot Sequoia (California redwood) tree located in the Redwood National Park near Eureka. Hyperion’s location in the park is kept secret to prevent it from being damaged by tourists.

SMALLEST MOUNTAIN RANGE: The Sutter Butte Mountain Range near Yuba City. The buttes are a circular volcanic outcropping just 10 miles in diameter.

OLDEST LIVING TREE IN NORTH AMERICA: A 4,842- year-old bristlecone pine in Inyo National Forest outside Bishop.

Named Methuselah (after the oldest person whose age is referenced in the Bible), this pine was a seedling during the Bronze Age, when the Pyramids were going up in Egypt.

LARGEST LIVING TREE: General Sherman, a giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park, east of Visalia. Named for Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, this tree weighs more than 2 million pounds, is 275 feet tall, and is the largest tree on earth when measured by its estimated volume of 52,513 cubic feet.

BIGGEST SOLITARY BOULDER: Giant Rock in Landers in the Mojave Desert. At about seven stories high, it weighs more than 23,000 tons.

LONGEST RUNWAY: At Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. It’s 7.5 miles long, and the first space shuttle landed there.

WORLD’S TALLEST ONE-PIECE TOTEM POLE: Built in 1962, the brightly painted 160-foot-tall pole in the McKinleyville Shopping Center was designed by Ernest Pierson, who carved it from a single 500-year-old redwood.

OLDEST CONCRETE BRIDGE STILL IN USE: Fernbridge in Humboldt County. Built in 1911 of reinforced concrete, it crosses the Eel River and is 1,450 feet long.

HIGHEST LANDING PAD ON A BUILDING: The U.S. Bank Tower in downtown L.A. is 1,018 feet high, making it the world’s tallest building with a helipad on the roof. It’s also America’s tallest building west of Chicago.

NORTH AMERICA’S BEST VIEW OF THE WORLD: The 3,849-foot summit of Mt. Diablo in Contra Costa County. It reveals more of the earth’s surface than any other peak in the world, except Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. Mt. Diablo looks west to the Farallon Islands in the Pacific, east to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, south to the Santa Cruz Mountains, and north to the Cascades.


Famous For Fifteen Minutes: Grand Canyon Stunts

There’s something about America’s biggest hole in the ground that seems to lure thrill-seekers into believing that they simply must risk their lives and navigate it somehow. In June, seventh-generation tightrope walker Nik Wallenda successfully walked over the Grand Canyon on a two-inch-wide cable, without a safety harness or net while the Colorado River roared thousands of feet below him. (And all on live TV.)

grand canyon stunts

Here are two more possibly less-than-sane individuals and their death-defying Grand Canyon stunts.

No Whey? Yes Whey: The Truth About Greek Yogurt

The truth about greek yogurtA few years ago, a new product hit your grocer’s dairy case seemingly out of nowhere: Greek yogurt. It’s an extra-thick, extra-creamy, and protein-heavy version of. The main difference, besides the thick, almost cheesecake-like consistency: There’s very little liquid in a container. Popular brands include Yoplait and Chobani. And Ben and Jerry’s has a frozen version. How popular is Greek yogurt? In New York state alone, production at yogurt plants has tripled over the last five years to more than a billion pounds per year. Want to know the truth about Greek yogurt?

The World’s Smallest Movie

world's smallest movieThis tiny film doesn’t feature any big stars like Brad Pitt, or even any littler stars—because there literally wasn’t enough room for them. Instead, A Boy and His Atom stars, amazingly, just a few microscopic particles. Guinness World Records has declared the stop-motion-animated short film “the world’s smallest movie.” The 90-second film consists of a “boy” bouncing an atom-sized ball while dancing and jumping around. There’s not much of a plot but given the methods involved, it’s pretty incredible.

IBM scientists created the film with a “scanning tunneling microscope” that manipulated a few dozen carbon atoms placed atop a copper surface. First they had to chill the microscope to just above absolute zero (-450° F) because at a higher temp, the “excitable” atoms would have ignored their stage directions.

Big Noise, Little Bug: The Cicadas are Coming!

As the East Coast prepares for the cicadas invasion due sometime in the next month, we dig in our vault to find some more information about this tiny, yet noisy bug. The following article is from Uncle John’s Fully Loaded Bathroom Reader.


Cicadas are the vuvuzelas of the insect world. (What are vuvuzelas? Those loud horns that nearly caused soccer fans’ brains to explode during the 2010 World Cup.) Vuvuzelas reach a decibel level of 60, but cicadas? These little bugs can reach a decibel level twice that loud.That’s as loud as a rock concert or a jet engine.


CicadasCicadas are bizarre, especially the “periodical cicadas” that live only in eastern North America. What’s odd about them is that they’re on either a 13- or a 17-year cycle. They emerge in “broods” of so many bugs it’s like some shock-and-awe insect invasion, make a lot of deafening noise, mate, lay eggs, and, within just a few weeks, die. Then they disappear again for an another exact number—13 or 17—of years. Entomologists are still trying to figure out what makes periodical cicadas tick. The main problem: those long cycles. It’s difficult for scientists to study an insect that shows up only once or twice in their careers. The name cicada is Latin for “tree cricket,” which is actually incorrect: cicadas are not crickets. And though one species is commonly called the “17-year locust,” they’re not locusts, either. Locusts are “eating machines” that can devour entire crops. Cicadas don’t eat leaves; they’re sapsuckers, like their closest relatives leafhoppers and spittlebugs. Cicadas have also been called “jar flies,” “harvest flies,” and “dust flies,” but their Australian nickname, “galang-galang,” which echoes the racket they make, may be the most fitting.