Fast as Lightning

The fastest flashes move at 140,000km per second (87,000 miles per seconds) – fast enough to go three times round the Equator in one second, but of course lightning does not travel that far. The longest flashes of lightning are about 30km (19 miles) form cloud to ground.

If you want to know how far away a thunderstorm is, see how many times you count slowly up to five between the flash and rumble. Every group of the five equals a mile. Count in groups of three to get kilometers.

If you don’t like thunderstorms don’t go near the Tropics. There are over 3,000 thunderstorms somewhere in the Tropics, or nearby, every night. Bogor in Java has thunder on up to 320 nights every year.

Interesting Facts:

- The heaviest snowstorm fell on Mount Shasta in California. For six days it never stopped snowing and at the end, the snow was nearly 5m (16ft) deep.

- In Britain the Thames used to freeze and people held fairs on the ice. The last was held in 1814.

A Million People – How Many is that?

Q: In 1961 in the First World War one million men were killed in one battle, the battle of the Somme. In Britain in 1992 over three million people were unemployed. Suppose a million people decided to march in rows of four, 1.5m (5ft) apart, form Trafalgar Square in London, north to the M1, where do you think the front of the column would be when the last people left? Would they reach M1 at all? Would they reach St. Albans; 32 km (23 miles) form London? Or would they get farther?

A: The front of the column would have marched 375 km (234 miles) before the millionth person left Trafalgar Square. They would have passed through Leeds and be within 6km (4 miles) of Richmond in North Yorkshire.

Q: An old advertisement began…

A million housewives everyday pick up a can of beans…if they put all their baked beans together, could they fill a bath tub? 10 bath tubs? A public swimming pool?

A: Baked beans bonanza: a million cans of baked beans would fill a swimming pool 25m by 13.5m to a depth of 1.5m (82ft by 44ft by 5ft)

Q: If you piled a million soft drink cans on a top of the other, how high would they reach?

1) as high as Mount Everest (8,848m/ 29,030ft)?

2) 110km (68 miles) into the ionosphere where satellites orbits?

3) 384,402km (238,867 miles), right to the Moon itself?

A: the soft drink cans would reach 110km (68 miles). Not to the Moon – even the fizziest drink in not that spectacular!


Some scientists warn that another Ice Age is on the way. In a thousand of years time Britain and much of northern Europe, America and Asia may be covered with snow and ice all round.

In the meantime the Earth is getting warmer. Cars, truck, factories and power stations are polluting the air with carbon dioxide. This gas hangs in the air and forms a warm blanket around the Earth keeping in the heat. But don’t think the weather will get better as the Earth warms up. There will be more storms, Hurricanes and droughts. Much of Southern Europe will become like the Sahara.

The highest winds are whipped up by tornadoes. In 1958 winds of 450km per hours (280 miles per hour) hit Wichita Falls in Taxes, USA. That is faster than the fastest passenger train and as fast as a racing car.

Tornadoes seldom last more than an hour and move very slowly across the country. Yet in that time they do tremendous damage. In 1925 a tornado killed 700 people in the southern-central United States of America.

The world’s worst hurricanes hit Bangladesh in November 1970. A million people were killed by the floods whipped up by the winds and the rain.


The Ancient Greeks write of an idyllic island called Atlantis which disappeared into the sea. Why did it disappear? According to the story, the sea God was so angry at how greedy and dishonest the people had become, he shook the island for a day and a night before the sea swamped it forever. Many people have wondered whether Atlantis really existed and historians think that the legend is based in the island of Thera, now known as Santorini. In 1450 BC a huge volcanic explosion shook the island. Most of the island disappeared beneath the sea and a tidal wave flooded the island round about, probably destroying the Minoan civilization of the nearby island, Crete.


There is an area in the Caribbean Sea known as the Bermuda Triangle. Many ships and planes have mysteriously disappeared here. Is there some supernatural force at work here, spiriting people away to another planet or pulling them to their death in the sea below? Although many disappearances are reported to have happen in the calm weather, investigations show that the area is given to sudden storms. Hurricanes often begin here and it is not surprising that many planes and ships have been lost.


The supernatural seems to hate scientific laboratories. Experiments have been set up with clairvoyants – people who can see things that are going on out their range of vision. Clairvoyants have been asked to guess what shapes are on hidden cards, but the number of correct answers is not significantly better than those chose by chance.

But, say the clairvoyants, predicting shapes on card has no emotional importance – unlike an impending disaster. The police have used clairvoyants and look for missing people. The difficulty of investigating these facts interesting supernatural phenomena using scientific equipments is illustrated by toci-toci beetles.

The male beetle attracts a mate by tapping on a stone. He can be heard by females up to 5km (3 miles) away, but no sound can be detected by even the most sensitive microscope. Those who believe in the supernatural, might say that just because the microphone does not pick up the sound, it does not prove that something is not prove that something is not happening. The scientific might say that the females do not use supernatural powers to detect the male, but hear the sound waves caused by his tapping.


Truffles are an expensive food delicacy used in the very best French pates. They look like large spongy walnuts and grown in the ground. Because they like to eat them, pigs are often used to find truffles.

*what is the difference between rabbits and hares? The hare is often mistaken for its cousin, the rabbit, yet it is very different. Hares are larger with long legs; they do not live underground like rabbits and are immune to the disease myxomatosis that kills many rabbits.

*what are baby hares called? They are called leverets and are born with a full coat of fur.

*what is a Tasmanian Devil? The fierce animal used to live in Australia, but is now found in Tasmania. About 1m (40in) long form nose to tail, it only comes out at night. It feeds on small animals, birds, lizards and even wallabies if it can catch them.

*what makes bread rise? Bread dough is made to rise by the reproduction of minute fungus cells of yeast. Add yeast to a sugar solution and it multiplies rapidly. When flour is kneaded with yeast, water and salt, the yeast generates bubbles of carbon dioxide and makes the dough rise, which retains its shape when baked in the hot oven.

*what was tulipmania? Although still one of the world’s favorite flowers, when it was introduced into Europe 400 years ago the tulip caused ‘tulipmania’ Rare bulbs were worth as much as a house particularly in Holland.


The story of this great English Scientist discovering the law of gravity by being hit on the head is not true, although it was an apple that started him thinking about the gravity that led to great development in science and the study of astronomy. He also invented a reflecting telescope and it was Newton who first realized what causes a glass prism to split light into the color of the rainbow, the spectrum. The apple tree which started it all was blown down in 1820.

*Who cooked an Omelette while on a tightrope: The great tightrope walker Blondin performed many daring feats, but one of his strangest was in 1862 at London’s Crystal Palace. He carried a 23 kg (50 lb) stove out to the middle of the rope. After lighting it, he cooked an omelette, still balancing himself and the stove high above the crowd.

* Facts interesting about Stonehenge: Standing on Salisbury Plain is the greatest relic of prehistoric times to be found in Britain. It is a circle of huge stones, which look like doorways. No one knows who built it or why. It was probably built around 1700 BC and may have been a temple for Sun worship. Centuries later it was used by Celtic druids for their ceremonies.