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186. The Melted Caterpillar

by GollyGForce

For over a century scientists have been observing caterpillars engaging in strange migrations. This condition affects many different species of caterpillar, but the virus specialising in the Gypsy Moth caterpillar has a few extra surprises.

These normally nocturnal creatures would starts venturing out in broad daylight, leaving their normal grazing and reaching up into the open canopy. The change was not a choice, it was forced by an invader. The caterpillars were sick, and a virus was in control.

One single gene has been isolated in the virus which is thought to be the ‘caterpillar control,’ it deactivates the caterpillar’s will to moult, sending the caterpillar on a constant feeding cycle. Making one very hungry caterpillar.

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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Articles

 

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178. Bat Bombs

–This Article comes courtesy of my good friend Jack Evans.–

In 1942,  American dental surgeon Lytle S. Adams was contemplating bats. As World War II raged on around him he looked into bats as a possible weapon, some kind of animal attack that could no doubt be harnessed in the fight, specifically the Empire of Japan. Four potentially useful biological features of bats were noted, each of which was essential to producing one of the least known, yet most deadly products of the war.

Firstly, they could be found in huge numbers in Texas. This would mean they could easily be ‘mass produced’ as a weapon. Secondly, they could carry more than their own weight in-flight – females can even fly whilst carrying twins. Thirdly, bats can hibernate and during this do not need food or indeed any kind of sustenance or maintenance. If this could be harnessed, they could be made dormant and stored for large lengths of time, then awakened and unleashed on an unsuspecting enemy. Lastly, they fly in darkness and seek out buildings in the day time, meaning that they are both a stealth weapon and would home in on vulnerable buildings. Along with this, bats held other natural advantages. They could defy conventional detection systems. They were difficult to destroy using existing air defences and could easily navigate the confines of cities. With these advantages, he came up with the perfect way to weaponise bats; and so he created the bat-bomb.

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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Articles

 

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166. ‘Clever Hans’ the Mathematical Horse

In the early twentieth century there was a spectacle, a horse called ‘Clever Hans,’ whom the owner claimed could add, subtract, multiply, divide, work with fractions, tell time, keep track of the calendar, differentiate musical tones, and read, spell, and understand German. Truly a spectacle, bolstered by the sudden interest in animal intelligence thanks to the then fairly recent publication of Darwin’s, ‘On The Origin Of Species.’

Propelled by this interest ‘Clever Hans’ quickly gained repute and fame for both himself and his trainer, Wilhelm Van Osten, a mathematics teacher and an amateur, but in this case successful, horse trainer. Van Osten held spectacles for which he never charged entry, he would gather a crowd, ask Hans a question and Hans would tap the answer out until the right number was reached. For example he would ask,’If the eighth day of the month comes on a Tuesday, what is the date of the following Friday?’ The Hans would tap his hoof the requisite number of times(in this case 11).

Question could be submitted either verbally or in written form. The success of the spectacle allowed ‘Hans’ and van Osten to travel widely across Germany and in fact the whole event was featured at one point on page six of the New York Times. Then came queries, exactly how did the horse do it? Due tot he popularity and wide speculation the German board of education put together a committee of 13 people in order to test the scientific claims being made. They were known as the Hans committee. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Articles, Misconceptions, Trivia

 

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158. The Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

Molasses is not the most pleasant substance, a thick and dark brown sugary syrup which clings on to anything it touches. On the hottest days in Boston, locals claim that the streets bleed it. This local folklore is descended from local fact. For at the edge of living memory, a good 90 years ago there was a catastrophic and bizarre flood. A flood of molasses, a thick brown sugary flood which devastated a small area of Boston, killing several horses, 21 people and at least one cat.

January 15, 1919 – a more than sizeable storage tank 25 metres in height was brimming, holding near its full complement of two-and-a-half million gallons of molasses. During the day there was a sudden rise in temperature of approximately 2°C, this caused fermentation in the molasses. The substances produced increased the pressure inside the tank. To add to the strain, the ethyl-alcohol produced was a potent substance used in both rum and munitions at that time. This all led to a reaction slightly less sedate than fermentation.

The sound was described afterwards as a muffled roar; rivets popped with sounds akin to those pf machine gun fire. Then the pressure became too much. The explosion tore apart the half-inch-thick iron surrounds, splitting it into three pieces which were launched through the air.

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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Articles

 

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155. AC/DC Sharks

RRROOOOOOCCKKK!!What is the best way to lure a great white shark? The typical response was ‘chum’ – essentially chopped up fish. It turns out the answer may be hard rock classics, such as those from AC/DC. The most effective song is the aptly named – ‘If You Want Blood’.

The use of sound is not totally new, it has been known for a long time that certain sounds can drive off sharks and other animals: in fact sonar from ships is so painful for animals that it is a big factor in causing the beaching of whales. What wasn’t known extensively until now was which sounds were liked by animals.It turns out that, after extensive trial and error, lower frequencies preferred by great white sharks. In particular AC/DC is their favourite, fitting in with their aggressive reputations.

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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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138. Why 5 Doesn’t Make Sense

Sight, Taste, Hearing, Touch, Smell. Those 5 things are significant. They are the traditional senses. Put “Sense of …” in front of any single one of them and it makes sense, if you’ll pardon the pun. This view was proposed first by Aristotle, a great Greek philosopher of some note. However great he may be though this is very untrue. We have 5 senses yes, but we also happen to have at least 4 more, depending on what you think constitutes a sense. Most experts in the field think we have at least 21.

What is a sense though? – A system with specialised cells which respond to a specific physical phenomenon and correspond to specific regions of the brain where they are received and interpreted. So with that out-of-the-way, what are the other senses?

Thermoception – Sense of heat. Feel cold? That’s thanks to thermoception. This sense depends upon specialised nerves in the skin. It also links into the sense of pain, which is useful, unless you happen to want to boil or freeze parts of your body.

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Posted by on June 7, 2011 in Articles, Misconceptions

 

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137. Goat Eyes

Unlike most creatures with eyes, goats have horizontal rectangular pupils in their eyes. This wider pupil gives them the advantage of having a much wider periphery and it lets them see the edges of their vision in full 3D, a big advantage. Also it mean goats can nearly see behind themselves thanks to the evolutionary advantage.

You may of course believe that horizontal slit pupils are rare, but they are more common than you may think. They are more common with animals which often fall prey to other animals such as cows and many species of bird. We just notice them more in goats because they have paler eyes.

Also, wether is the term for a castrated male goat; if you need to know. To conclude, if you think you are sneaking up behind a goat, you are not. They can see you, and it’s all because of those odd eyes. So stop sneaking up on goats. I won’t tell you twice.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Trivia

 

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