On the ground, the weather balloon starts out around 6 feet wide (a tallish man size). That’s a big balloon! But wait! It gets EVEN BIGGER. By the time it gets all the way up into the sky, the air around it has gotten so thin that the balloon grows – and grows – AND GROWS! It can stretch to be around 25 feet wide (a tallish elephant).
And then it pretty much has gotten too big and pops. And the radiosonde, attached to a small parachute, falls back down to the ground where people like me find it.
And mail it back, to see if it can be reused again.
Given how rusty and generally beat up our radiosonde was, I don’t have high hopes. But imagining it in its glory days, floating high above the planet attached to its 25-foot-wide balloon, makes me happy anyway.
Hello all! Now that we’ve taken care of publishing excitement, let’s get back to the Theme of the Month: Weather Balloons!
Do you want to know something crazy? REALLY CRAZY?! I mean, CRAAAAAAAAAZZZZZY?!!!!
Alright. Prepare yourselves:
In order for scientists to collect the information they need to give us our daily weather reports, twice a day, every day, at exactly the same time, they send up weather balloons in over 900 different places across the whole earth!
That’s 1,800 weather balloons a day!!
That’s 657,000 weather balloons a year!!
That’s a lotta balloons. I’m kind of wondering why I’ve only ever found ONE.
I’m going to be spending this afternoon painting some weather balloons. I wonder where they will be… over the ocean? Over a city? Or maybe over the tundra, which is where we live in Alaska where we found our balloon. Maybe you can spend your afternoon painting a weather balloon. Where will yours go?
We have definitely been experiencing April showers around here. It’s been exciting seeing all of the plants start popping up, finally believing that SPRING IS HERE!
I mostly think of rainy days as being rather dreary (though I enjoy the dreariness very much, especially when I’m inside and can hear the raindrops falling on the tin roof of our barn). But I remember one time in Alaska (it was mid-summer) I had the amazing experience of standing on the beach up to my elbows in fish slime (as one does when one is a commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska) being in a sunshower. A sunshower is when it is raining but the sun is also shining brightly at the same time. It was amazing – each raindrop was lit up by the sun and it looked like diamonds were falling from the sky.
I searched high and low for a video that might capture it, but the closest I came was this one:
It’s much cooler when you can stand in it and look up at the drops falling down on you (a friend who has experimented with trippy things said that if you take a shower with a strobe light on it has a similar effect, but that’s definitely something to set up with adult supervision).
I learned that across the globe, there is a lot of folklore related to sunshowers. In many countries, it has something to do with weddings:
In Algeria, Bangladesh, France, Portugal, Japan, Morocco, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and various parts of India they say it’s a fox’s or wolf’s wedding when there’s a sunshower.
In Bulgaria, it’s bears getting married.
In Greece, it’s the poor getting married.
In Kenya, hyenas are getting married.
In Korea, it’s a male tiger getting married to a fox.
In northern Iran, it’s a jackal getting married.
In parts of Pakistan, it’s a one-eyed jackal’s wedding (to get even more specific)
In South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago it’s monkeys getting married
In Sudan, it’s a donkey getting married to a monkey
In other countries, it has to do with witches:
In Catalonia (part of Spain) it’s witches brushing their hair
In Poland, it’s a witch making butter
In Puerto Rico and The Dominican Republic, it’s a witch getting married
And so I wonder who was getting married, making butter, or brushing their hair in Alaska on that day when I was in a sunshower. I hope it was a monkey getting married to a donkey, because, well, wouldn’t their babies be adorable?
Have you ever imagined what a fox’s wedding might be like? Or a one-eyed jackal’s, for that matter? Draw a picture and email it to us or post it on the Bobbledy Facebook page and you could win a free item of your choice from the Bobbledy Shop!
For the very last day of Snake Month, I thought I’d pull out the real exciting stuff: if you didn’t think snakes were bad enough, how about FLYING snakes?
No. Not snakes on a plane. No no no.
Snakes that TRANSFORM THEIR BODIES and fly through the air like the slithery, squirmy, snakey snakes they are. Check it out:
This is just a short outtake of a much longer NatGeo video that can be found HERE. Beware, there are a few (very short) bits about things getting eaten that the tender-hearted might not like. But I have to say, Alden and I watched the whole thing raptly.
It was fascinating, and quite exciting.
There is a moment where the scientist gets bitten when he’s trying to capture one of the snakes for his flying snake experiment. Alden didn’t like that part one bit (get it?).
I explained to her that these were the things that scientists risk in their relentless pursuit of knowledge. And that if the snake had actually been poisonous, the scientist probably would have worn gloves and been a lot more careful.
Note that the video also features some super cute little fuzzy guys called colugos, probably to balance out all the creepy snake-ness. Totally worth the watch if you have 45 minutes to spare (or 4 1/2 sets of 10 minutes scattered throughout the day as we did).
At any rate, thanks for joining us for a month of SNAKES. I actually have to admit that I’m not as creeped out by them any more. Some of them are even downright cute (yes! I said it!). That said, I still don’t think I’ll be opening a snake petting zoo or anything anytime soon. Join us next month (tomorrow!) to find out more about our new theme!
If any of you have been keeping track, you might have noticed that Everett sent us in a drawing of a Titanoboa last week. If you’re really in the loop, you might know that Everett is Simon’s brother. And that Simon is known for famously inventing very interesting and compelling “facts” about our different monthly themes.
As a third child, I should know not to judge a younger child on the actions/skills/talents of an older sibling (I was neither good at math (my older sister) nor lacrosse (my older brother))!
It turns out that Titanoboas are, in fact, not made up at all! They are HUGE snakes – about 40 feet long (that’s about the height of a 4-story building!!!). Their bellies are about waist-high. That’s a pretty big belly. And so you will be delighted to know that they also are 100% extinct.
They lived about 60 million years ago, right after the dinosaurs went extinct. I guess all the dinosaurs dying out left some room for giant, honking, terrifying snakes.
The Smithsonian Museum created a life-size fake version of a Titanoboa for a traveling exhibition. Here’s a pretty cool video that gives you a good sense of how huge they really were:
But more than that, this video gives you a good sense of what truly cool jobs there are out there in the world. Wouldn’t it be fun to spend your days making giant things out of styrofoam and plaster and paint (even if they were snakes)?
Hi Everyone –
I had been hoping that my study of snakes this month would help me overcome my ophidiophobia. Alas, it has not. It has, in fact, made me realize JUST HOW CREEPY SNAKES REALLY ARE.
For example, snakes are carnivores. Carnivores are animals who eat meat. Now, I don’t have a problem with that—some people (myself included) eat meat. No no, that’s not the problem. The problem is that snakes eat meat by unhinging their jaw and swallowing their meat whole. It is the grossest.
If you find this sort of thing fascinating, please feel free to click play on the video below. If this is the stuff of nightmares (which it is for me) then I will give you a play-by-play description below. Hold onto your lunch:
AUUGHGGHGGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGGHGHGHHHHHHH!!!! If I were allowed to use swear words on this blog, you can be sure that this is where I would use them. For those of you who didn’t watch the video, basically it shows an African Egg Eating Snake taking an egg that is WAY bigger than its head, opening up its mouth, bigger, and BIGGER and BIGGER until that egg is unbelievably completely swallowed. After it closes its mouth, it’s basically got a giant egg-shaped lump in its throat.
Then (apparently) it takes these bony little bits that are attached to its spine (INSIDE HIS BODY) to crack the egg. Then it kind of hurks and squeezes all the insides of the egg out into its belly and SPITS THE EGGSHELL BACK OUT in a neat little squooshed barf.
AUGGGHGHGHGGHGGHGHGHGGHGHGGHGGHGHHH!!! So, so gross. I really, really admire those of you who can watch that and not have your skin just go all goosebumps and creepy crawly.
Now, for the record, it turns out that African Egg Eating Snakes are actually quite shy and nervous. They don’t eat anything other than eggs and are totally non-threatening to people. Only threatening to eggs. And yet – and YET! I’m pretty sure if I ever saw one out and about on my next trip to Africa, I would surely scream like a baby.
I like my snakes to eat their eggs neatly, in an egg cup, with a wooden spoon please.
If there’s anyone out there interested in drawing a snake, drawing an egg, drawing a snake eating an egg, or writing about my egg-eating snake, we’d love to hear it. Email it to us and we’ll post it on the blog, or post it on the Bobbledy Facebookpage. And remember, one contributor every month gets a free book! (ps Simon, yes, we owe you a couple books now) (pps kids other than Simon, step up! Get your free book! The odds are in your favor!)