Science

Lesedi La Rona Diamond

10/05/2017

A little over a week ago, the Lesedi La Rona diamond, the second-biggest gem-quality* diamond ever found, sold for a whopping $53 million. Well, whopping is a relative term here, just a few years prior the diamond had failed to sell at auction when nobody was willing to meet the opening bid price, which Sotheby's had set at $70 million.

Nagasaki — Second City to Suffer a Nuclear Attack

08/20/2017
Updated
09/05/2017

Nagasaki was not the primary target for the nuclear attack the United States launched against Japan on the morning of August 9, 1945. It had barely even made the list of potential targets for atomic bombings. Kokura was the primary target, and Nagasaki was the secondary target should weather conditions have prevented the attack on Kokura.

Conditions for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which occurred three days earlier, were perfect — sunny, clear skies, nothing to obscure the target. Not so on August 9 over Kokura. The city was obscured by clouds and smoke coming from a nearby town that had been, ironically enough, firebombed by the U.S. the day before. This was a big problem.

K2 — World's Second-Highest Mountain

02/27/2017
Updated
10/09/2017

Attempts to summit K2 begin in Islamabad. From there you will spend a day driving in a rickety bus toward the town of Skardu on the dangerous Karakoram Highway (and they’re using the term “highway” VERY loosely here). You’ll probably have an armed guard wth your party because aside from the road itself being dangerous, there are people on it who want to rob you. If the weather is good, instead of ground transport to Skardu, you can take a one-hour plane flight through the mountains.

Pronghorn — Second-Fastest Land Animal

01/31/2017

Cheetahs are cool. They're sleek. They're majestic. They’re hunters who use their speed to chase down their prey. They’re the fastest land animals around, topping out in some measures at 60-70 mph. The pronghorn is not as fast as the cheetah. To the lay person, a pronghorn looks like any other hoofed antelope-type creature — brownish, white, kinda boring. For the most part, it looks like a goat with aspirations. Despite having been clocked at 50-60 mph in full sprint — just a tad slower than the cheetah — the pronghorn is not nearly as cool.

Helium (He) — the Second-Most Abundant Element in the Universe

12/02/2016

Helium is almost like magic with the things it can do—it keeps blimps and balloons aloft, it makes our voices sound funny when we huff it, and it makes all sorts of industrial processes possible. Helium is just plain fun. And for its place among the silver medalists, helium is the second-most abundant element in the universe and the number 2 element on the periodic table.