Short stuff

Female space tourist

Buckle up, space explorers: The galaxy is within reach, provided you can afford a round-trip ticket.

Anousheh Ansari recently became the first woman to blast off into space as an amateur astronaut.

Flying aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, Ms. Ansari, an Iranian-American businesswoman, accompanied two professional astronauts bringing supplies to the International Space Station.

The price of the ticket was undisclosed. But Space Adventures, the private company that arranges spaceflights, reportedly charges $20 million a ticket. The flight lasted 11 days.

The trip makes Ansari the fourth private space explorer to visit the station.

"By reaching this dream I've had since childhood, I hope to ... demonstrate to young people all over the world that there is no limit to what they can accomplish," she says on her website.

Web-slinging spiders

If Spider-Man were real, it's likely he'd shoot webs from his abdomen – as most spiders do – rather than from his hands. But a new finding gives Spidey a small dose of scientific credibility.

According to a recent article in the science journal Nature, the zebra tarantula from Costa Rica makes silk in its limbs. What's more, the spider uses the sticky webbing to help it scale steep surfaces, such as vertical pieces of glass. It's the first evidence of a spider species using its silk for locomotion.

But Spider-Man still has a leg up on the zebra tarantula: He has his own theme song and a cool costume!

New children's book

Have you ever gone to a children's museum and wished you could take home some of the exhibits because you enjoyed them so much?

Thanks to a new kid-friendly book of 400 experiments and explorations by San Francisco's Exploratorium, you can take home some of your favorite exhibits. Well, sort of.

"Exploratopia" (Little, Brown and Co., $29.99) is an interactive book filled with many hands-on activities. And while it may not be quite like spending a day at a children's museum, you'll find plenty of instructions for turning your kitchen, bedroom, or backyard into a "science lab."

The book covers such topics as how to plant a garden that will bring butterflies to your yard and why yeast makes bread rise.

The experiments are easy enough for younger kids and diverse enough to hold the attention of older children. There even are riddles and quizzes throughout the book (with answers in the back, in case you get stumped).

Berries that bounce

Know what happens when you drop a fresh cranberry? Small pockets of air inside the deep-red fruit cause them to bounce. Really!

The tiny air pockets also make the berries float in water, which is how many cranberries are harvested. However, contrary to popular belief, the tangy-tasting fruits do not grow in water.

A perennial plant, cranberries grow on low-running vines in sandy bogs and marshes. Because the fruit floats, some bogs are flooded with water when the berries are ready for harvesting.

Other berries are harvested using machines that resemble lawn mowers, which "comb" fresh berries from the vine.

The cranberry is only one of a handful of fruits native to North America. Others include the blueberry and the Concord grape.

Of the 400 million pounds of cranberries consumed by Americans each year, 20 percent are eaten around Thanksgiving. Will you eat cranberries this holiday, too?

Pet-friendly cities

If you think of your pet as a family member, it follows that he or she should come along on family vacations.

Three Texas cities – Houston, San Antonio, and Austin – top the list of North America's most accommodating cities for travelers with pets, according to "Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA PetBook."

Cities are graded on the number of pet-friendly lodgings they have. Here are the Top 10:

1. Houston
2. San Antonio
3. Austin, Texas
4. Albuquerque, N.M.
5. Phoenix
6. Dallas
7. New York
8. Orlando, Fla.
9. Nashville, Tenn.
10. Tucson, Ariz.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Short stuff
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today