Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian skydiver attempting to break several frreefall records, has lifted off from Roswell, New Mexico and is ascending into the stratosphere and beyond as I write. The helium balloon that's lifting him upward is, right now, nearing 100,000 feet at a rate of about 15 feet/second. He hopes to reach 120,000 and then leave the capsule for about a 10 minute jump back to Earth. Half of that time will be spent in freefall. That's all I know. You can watch a delayed webcast of it at the BBC website.
Courtesy Ken Zirkel via FlickrLook at the top photo. That's the famous and rightly impressive life-size model of a blue whale at New York's American Museum of Natural History. The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest living vertebrate known on Earth, reaching up to 109 feet in length and weighing around 210 short tons. (Some sauropod dinosaurs were probably larger in some dimensions but they're extinct so they don't count.)
Courtesy Christopher Austin et al/PloS OneNow look at the bottom photo. That's a cute little frog named Paedophryne amauensis. The frog averages about 0.27 of an inch in length - about the size of a housefly (I gave up trying to find its average weight, if you find it, add it to the comments). Anyway, because of its extreme diminutive size, Paedophryne amauensis now holds the title of the world's smallest vertebrate. It was discovered recently in New Guinea by researchers from Louisiana State University. The previous record holder for smallest vertebrate was a tiny Indonesian fish named Paedocypris progenetica. The LSU team, led by Chris Austin, curator of herpetology at LSU's Museum of Natural Science, published its research in a recent issue of PLoS One. Since we're flinging around superlatives, New Guinea is the world's largest and tallest tropical island. Oh, and even though the frog's existence was just announced a couple days ago, a challenger to the "tiniest" title has already come forward.
The two guys holding the current world's record for tallest and shortest men met this week in Turkey during a ceremony surrounding the launch of the Guinness World's Record live show. It's kind of an amazing sight to see the two standing side by side. The difference in their height is 5 feet 8 inches.
Courtesy SkudsAfter lots and lots of work a team of British engineers broke the century old world speed record for a steam powered car. Charles Burnett III piloted the sleek green car to an average speed of 139.843mph. Steam cars sound crazy? They actually used to be quite common in the early days of automobiles, before the internal combustion engine really caught on.
Courtesy Datuk Chan Chew LunLight your sparklers Buzzketeers! It’s celebration time! And if you don’t have sparklers, go ahead and light any old thing! Because the world officially has a new largest insect!
Bang a gong!
This new bug is actually dead, and has been dead for about thirty years, but the international insect size record committee has had a lot of back work to do, and I guess they only just got around to it.
Anyway, we just have to accept that now everybody can measure insects as quickly as we might hope, and move on to this massive bug—Chan’s Megastick. (Or Phobaeticus chain if you’re going to be a jerk about it.) It looks… like a stick, really. A stick that’s nearly two feet long.
That’s right, y’all, the megastick is over 22 inches long from front legs to back legs, with a 14-inch-long body. It lives by disguising itself among the treetops, until a human walks beneath it, at which point it dives down, and inserts itself into the person’s body. It lives the remainder of its life there, laying eggs in all major organs, and scurrying around just beneath the skin.
That, or they spend their lives moving slowly and eating plants. Which ever you choose to believe.
The record-breaking specimen was collected decades ago in Borneo by a local giant bug enthusiast. Ten years later, the Malaysian naturalist Datuk Chan Chew Lun found the remarkable insect in the collection, and it was only announced to be a new species (among more than 3000 species of stick insects) last week. It edged out the previous record holder by less than an inch.
A huge, huge bug. How do you feel about that?