Pulse Rate September 2013

Alchemy is real… But there are some drawbacks. Using a nuclear reactor, bombard a chunk of mercury-196 with neutrons. This alters the structure of the atoms, changing them into gold. Radioactive gold, that is.

Ever wonder why there are 13 buns in a baker’s dozen? It began as a medieval English practice of including an extra bun with a dozen because bread was sold by weight. Bakers who shorted customers could be fined, pilloried or flogged.

At 1,401 square miles, Long Island is geographically the 148th largest island in the world. We are slightly larger than the Yemeni island of Socotra and slightly smaller than the Grecian isle of Euboea.

The first traffic light in history was placed outside Great Britain’s Houses of Parliament in 1868. Unfortunately its manually operated red and green gas lamps leaked, causing an explosion that killed the police officer running it.

Around 8,000 years ago in the region of the Black Sea, someone was born with a mutation in the OCA2 gene, which turned off production of brown melanin pigment in the eyes. He or she became the first human in history with blue eyes.

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page actually used a cello bow instead of a violin bow for his psychedelic solos. In 1979, a powerful (and cool-looking) laser was mounted on the end that was strong enough to make the linoleum on stage smoke.

Seven billion humans populate Earth, but we were almost made extinct from the climactic effects of the massive eruption of the Indonesian Toba volcano about 70,000 years ago. Our species was reduced to at most 10,000 people, not even a sellout crowd at Nassau Coliseum.

The mystery of a candle flame revealed: The combustion produces all known states of carbon, including millions of tiny diamond particles. They cannot be collected, however, as they convert to carbon dioxide in an instant.

Wolves don’t actually howl at the moon. They howl to communicate and tilt their heads up so the sound projects farther.

In light of Manhattan’s steady population growth, 19th century futurologists predicted a catastrophic horse manure problem building to a peak in the 1950s. One prognostication placed piles of equine leavings 40 feet high on city streets.

Competitive eating really packs on the calories. Joey Chestnut’s record of 69 hot dogs (in ten minutes!) slammed his system with over 20,000 calories and about 2.5 pounds of fat.

It’s a 120-yard run around the bases on a Major League Baseball diamond, 20 yards more than the distance between goal lines on a football field.