Weird facts II

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This is the second installment of weird facts. Last week we had Kent cigarettes adding the cancer causing micronite filter in the 1950s to its already cancer causing cigarette, the story of famous Vietnam War sniper Carlos Hathcock and President Andrew Jackson being the last president to balance the U.S. budget in 1835. The stories about these facts might come in handy at a trivia party. Now for our next group to enhance your knowledge!
Weird fact No. 1 – Adelir Antonio de Carli (1966–2008), also known in Brazil as Padre Baloeiro, was a Brazilian Catholic priest who died during an attempt at cluster ballooning on April 20, 2008. Carli, an experienced skydiver, undertook the exercise in order to raise money to fund a spiritual rest area for truck drivers in the Parana port city of Paranagua.
He strapped 1,000 balloons to a lawn chair that had a floatation device and sent himself up. He had a parachute, satellite phone, GPS and five days of food. His training for the stunt included jungle survival and mountain climbing courses, but apparently did not include instruction on use of his GPS. In a telephone call he made during the flight, he stated that if someone could just explain how to use his GPS he could relay his position to rescuers. When he was lost over the sea he phoned for help, but rescuers were unable to find his location. Weeks later he was found dead at sea.
I wondered what this type of ballooning was about. It seems cluster ballooning is a form of ballooning where a harness attaches a balloonist to a cluster of helium-inflated rubber balloons. Unlike traditional hot-air balloons, where a single large balloon is equipped with vents enabling altitude control, cluster balloons are multiple, small, readily available and individually sealed balloons. To control flight, stop a climb or initiate a descent, the pilot incrementally jettisons or deflates balloons. Ballast, like bottled water, can also be jettisoned to facilitate ascent. So it’s not an easy task and obviously risky, since the priest didn’t survive. His goal for the cluster ballooning exercise was to break the 19-hour flight record and claim a new world record.
Weird fact No. 2 – About 40 percent of genetic information found in your GI tract does not match anything ever classified before – not plant, animal, fungus, virus or bacteria. Not knowing what it is, biologists call it “biological dark matter.”
I have a science background, but had never heard of this, so after further investigation I learned biological dark matter is uncategorized genetic material found in humans and its presence suggests that a possible fourth domain of life may yet be discovered. Also I learned 20 percent of the genetic material in a typical human nasal swab is biological dark matter that cannot be attributed to any of the characterized living organisms on Earth. Nice, huh?
Some of these samples are so unusual they seem to have come from organisms that are only distantly related to cellular life as we know it. They may belong to an organism that sits in an entirely new domain.
Where are they from? It seems there are two possibilities. They could represent an unusual virus, or a totally new branch in the tree of life. This will give you something to think about!
Weird fact No. 3 – In January, 2014, Aitzaz Hasan, a 15-year-old boy from Pakistan, died when he bravely confronted a suicide bomber walking toward his school, which resulted in early detonation of the bomb. His action saved the lives of hundreds of students. He was last seen running after the suicide bomber moments before a huge explosion.
Apparently, Aitzaz had spoken out days before about the militants and their targets on schools. He is revered as a hero in his home town. Just think that these young students have to worry about suicide bombers every day in schools and homes. How sad!
If you missed weird facts I, just go to marysvillejt.com and click on off the hook and then on archives.
Next week, more weird facts.(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)



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