Largest Organism

What’s the largest living thing in the world? It depends:

  • Savannah elephants get up to 26,400 pounds, and of course some land dinosaurs were far larger.
  • In the ocean, the blue whale can reach 100 feet and weigh 150 tons. It’s thought to be the largest animal that’s ever lived.
  • There’s a fungus in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest that fills 2,200 acres, but technically it’s not one individual organism.
  • Likewise, there are some stands of aspens that grow from one gigantic root system. One covers 200 acres and weighs an estimated 6,600 tons.
  • Australia’s Great Barrier Reef stretches for 2000 kilometers — it’s not a single creature, but it’s certainly the world’s largest “superorganism.”
  • The overall winning candidate is probably this tree, California’s “General Sherman.” It’s 274 feet tall and 36 feet thick at the base, with a trunk volume of 1,487 cubic meters.

The largest bacterium ever discovered, by the way, is Thiomargarita namibiensis — it grows to 0.75 mm in diameter, which means you can see it with the naked eye. Eww.

Fayum Mummy Portraits

This is Eutyches, a young boy who died in Egypt during the Roman Empire. How do we know this? Because this portrait was stuffed inside his mummy.

This was actually a common practice in the Fayum region of ancient Egypt, and it’s given us some of the best-preserved paintings from ancient times.

Artists would paint the portraits on wooden panels, using hot, pigmented wax, and they’ve survived remarkably well in the region’s dry heat.

CAT scans show that the portraits match their mummies in age and sex, and they’re strikingly naturalistic, though reportedly a little formulaic.

Many, like Eutyches, were children, a sad mark of the era’s low life expectancy.

A Postman’s Nightmare

Good luck delivering a letter in Baarle-Nassau. The Dutch municipality contains 24 Belgian exclaves — “islands” of Belgium “floating” in the Netherlands.

Worse, those islands contain islands: The 24 Belgian exclaves contain seven Dutch exclaves. Bring a map.

Obscure Holidays

Obscure holidays:

  • Pi Day (March 14, or “3/14”)
  • Pi Approximation Day (22 July, or “22/7”)
  • No Pants Day (the first Friday in May)
  • National Talk In Elevators Day (the last Friday in July)
  • National Underwear Day (August 11)
  • International Orgy Day (September 3)
  • International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19)
  • Ask a Stupid Question Day (September 28)
  • October Fool’s Day (October 1) (the Southern Hemisphere’s version of April Fool’s Day)
  • Mole Day (6:02 on 10/23) (ask a chemist)

The first Friday the 13th of the year is “Blame Someone Else Day.”