Figuring out where a spatter came from is useful sometimes. Not in any field I've personally worked in, but then I don't usually work with things that go splat. Some things which go splat, where the spatter marks remaining after the fact are the only evidence available to figure out how exactly it happened, include volcanoes (which can make very big, very dangerous splats most sane people wouldn't want to watch in person) and people being attacked (which often ends with the source of the spatter in no condition to describe the attack).

One obvious thing about spatters is that the individual marks are ovals, and they point in the direction of their source. This has been known for a long time now, and has been used in forensics to determine where a victim was. It could also be used for volcanoes, if nobody saw which of the vents erupted due to running for their lives.

What the oval spatters didn't accurately point to was how high the source was.

Biodegrading ... into what?

"Biodegradable" is one of many words commonly used to indicate something is environmentally friendly, but like many technical terms, it often doesn't mean the same thing in common usage as it does to a scientist. To me, "biodegradable" just means that the substance in question can be processed by some biological route into some other, usually lower molecular weight, substance.

It says nothing about the toxicity or harm—or benefit—that might be caused by the new substance.

The Chocolate Process

Chocolate, as you probably know, comes from cocoa trees, but to get from the tree to edible chocolate takes a fair bit of processing. In short, the cocoa beans are removed from the pod, fermented, dried, roasted and shelled, ground, and sweetened.

I can understand why ancient people paid any attention at all to these seed pods; when you cut through the thick rind, the white pulp the seeds are embedded in is delicious straight off the tree. However, the seeds are pretty bitter and nasty tasting when raw. How did they ever go from "suck on this but don't crack the seed open" to "ferment+dry+roast+grind+sweeten = delicious"?

How much does a cloud weigh?

I was chatting with a friend not long ago, and he mentioned that he sometimes pictured clouds as these malevolant, multi-ton monstrosities hovering overhead, just waiting to smash down on us tiny humans. And by the way, how much does a cloud actually weigh?

Clearly, this calls for some math: I decided to calculate how much a cloud actually massed.

I started out by finding a cloud that I could measure reasonably well.