Swimming inside whales and other facts to blow your mind

If it’s Friday, Andrew Howley probably has the National Geographic Digital Media fact-checkers reaching for their reference books.

Andrew Howley photo 2.jpg

Howley is the web producer in charge of daily updates on the Nat Geo website’s front pages, including for the site’s main landing page, the Daily News front page, and the National Geographic Society’s Facebook page.

Millions of people see his work every day. A gifted headline writer, he knows what makes them click.

Howley also manages the Friday Fact project. He scours the Nat Geo universe of film, television, books, and lectures and comes up, every Friday, with one startling National Geographic fact.

“The idea was the brainchild of [Nat Geo Social Media VP] Robert Michael Murray. I have been selecting facts based on my own experience with our material, tips from other NG staff and NG books, and the fruits of my own general wanderings through science, nature, and history,” Howley says.

“On the day Robert gave me the assignment, I wrote in my calendar ‘blow their minds’ and that has been the guiding thought. I’m loving both the search for the next fact every week and all the great comments, replies, and conversations that they kick off,” Howley added.

Friday Facts are posted on Facebook and Twitter. In the first three weeks 6,000 Facebook fans said they “liked” the facts and more than 1,000 commented on them. Facts have also been tweeted and retweeted to a combined audience of more than a million followers.

If you’ve missed the Friday Facts, here’s what’s been posted so far. Scroll down the page to find out how to get on to the Twitter and Facebook feeds for future Friday Facts.

Friday Fact 1
Blue whales are so enormous that a human being could swim through their largest veins and arteries.


NGS illustration of blue whale by Larry Foster

The largest animal ever to have lived, the blue whale lives in every ocean around the world, reaching their mind-boggling dimensions with a diet made up entirely of tiny krill. Explore blue whales’ size, weight, and behavior then learn what is threatening their survival: Blue Whale Interactive


Friday Fact 2
On a 12-inch (30-cm) globe, the International Space Station would orbit only as high as the thickness of your finger.


Photograph of International Space Station courtesy of NASA

The International Space Station is an orbiting laboratory and construction site that synthesizes the scientific expertise of 16 nations to maintain a permanent human outpost in space. The orbit that is as high as the thickness of a finger is actually about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the ground.

Explore our Earth Interactive


Friday Fact 3
A cloud can weigh more than a million pounds (450,000 kg)


How many tons of cloud are hanging over this man?

NGS stock photo by James P. Blair 

Photo Gallery: Clouds


New Cloud Type Discovered?
An apparently new class of clouds is still a mystery. But experts suspect asperatus clouds’ choppy undersides may be due to strong winds disturbing previously stable layers of warm and cold air.



Get the Friday Facts:


Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn