Category Archives: Puzzling Things

What in the world is it?

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OK…this is weird. The other morning after a very cold night, my wife called tme and said I should bring my camera. I asked what for, and she said it was because there was something in the birdbath that is on the back deck. I went to get my camera, thinking it was a bird or perhaps some leaves or pine needles. Imagine my surprise when I saw thing:

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I had never seen anything like it, nor have I since (but hey – that was only less than a week ago). I couldn’t figure out what it could possibly be that caused it. There was nothing inside of it except air bubbles, yet there it was, ice sticking straight up about six inches out from the surface of the birdbath. If it had a branch in it, a feather perhaps, it might be understandable, but nothing? How does water mound itself up in defiance of gravity and do in such a way that it instantly freezes before it falls back into the liquid from which it sprang?

I was totally at a loss for the cause…until today, when an old friend of mine shared a photo he’d taken on Facebook of the exact same phenomenon at their home! He didn’t know what it was, either, but one of the people who read his post knew what it was: an ice spike. You can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_spike. Even thought I read about how it is believed to form, I’m not sure that I understand it at all. Regardless, it is an explanation.

Have you ever seen such a thing?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1996, a cargo plane crashed in Kinshasa, Zaire, (modern day Democratic Republic of the Congo) killing somewhere between 225 and 350 people and injuring another 500.

Africa Air was a private freight company that operated on the margins of legality. They were well-known for sometimes ignoring safety regulations, and enforcement of the rules was lax in Zaire. On January 8, the company went even further, sending its Russian Antonov AN-32B into the sky from N’Dolo Airport in Kinshasa even though its certification for flying had been revoked. Making matters worse, the Russian crew members had loaded the plane with freight beyond its capacity. The plane was allegedly on its way to bring supplies to Jonas Savimbi’s notorious rebels in Angola.

As the plane barreled down a runway on the sunny afternoon, its engines smoked and then burst into flames. The plane could not attain any altitude and simply ran off the end of the runway, toward a marketplace filled with wooden and iron shacks. The plane crashed into the crowded market and exploded. Fires broke out everywhere and would-be rescuers were driven back by the intense heat and smoke.

In all, estimates of the death toll ranged from 225 to 350 people killed and approximately 500 seriously injured. Of the six crew members on board, four survived. The angry marketplace crowd attempted to lynch them but was thwarted by authorities. There was a second attempt while the crew was at a local hospital but it also failed. The crew members were extradited to Russia for prosecution and sentenced to two years in prison. Pilot Nicolai Kazarin stated during the trial “the market shouldn’t have been there, so why should they be entitled to compensation?” Africa Air subsequently went out of business.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In 1995, Hiroyoki Gotu memorized 42,195 places of pi and is considered the current pi champion. Some scholars speculate that Japanese is better suited than other languages for memorizing sequences of numbers. The first 144 digits of pi add up to 666 (which many scholars say is “the mark of the Beast”). And 144 = (6+6) x (6+6).