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From “Findings” in the August 2009 Harper’s.
Scientists made graduate students provoke spitting cobras into attacking them, coordinated assaults on humans by mockingbirds, induced regret in monkeys, and tickled five young bonobos, four young chimpanzees, five young gorillas, seven young orangutans, and one young siamang. They cured floppy-baby syndrome in mice, prevented honeybees from forming long-term memories, and punished with quinine bees who made bad choices. They inaugurated a $2.6 million U.S. government study to see whether Chinese prostitutes can be less drunk while working, and reported that female ducks and geese acquire “wonderfully devious” vaginas, which include forbidding spirals and culs-de-sac, only if a species’ males have penises large enough for rape. They determined that spiderwebs have just the right amount of stickiness, but they still did not know why giraffes have long necks or what fingerprints are for. After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, they found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to. They made plans to suppress fire-ant populations by spreading parasitic flies whose larvae take control of and eventually eat the ants’ brains. They found that 34 percent of scientists admitted to questionable research practices.
Model Liskula Cohen sued Google in January in the hope of forcing the company to reveal the person responsible for allegedly defamatory comments on a blog called Skanks in NYC, which was hosted by Google’s Blogger service. “I would have to say the first-place award for ‘Skankiest in NYC’ would have to go to Liskula Gentile Cohen,” the anonymous blogger wrote. “How old is this skank? 40 something? She’s a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank.” Cohen, who is actually 37, believed the posts were defamatory but was forced to take action against Google in order to unmask the blogger’s identity before she could take further action. –“Model Forces Google to Reveal ‘Skank’ Blogger’s Identity,” Asher Moses, the Sydney Morning Herald (via)
In some respects, a zombie “plague” resembles a lethal, rapidly spreading infection. The researchers say the exercise could help scientists model the spread of unfamiliar diseases through human populations. In their study, the researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (also in Ottawa) posed a question: If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win? Professor Robert Smith? (the question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake) and colleagues wrote: “We model a zombie attack using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies. We introduce a basic model for zombie infection and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions.” –“Science Ponders ‘Zombie Attack’,” Pallab Ghosh, BBC News
Silver pocketwatch found 130 years later (via);
“it is estimated that between 95-99% of all Japanese silent films are lost (with almost none before 1923 owing to the destruction of the Nikkatsu film store in the Tokyo earthquake)”;
Roman punch, the summer refreshment of Popes
The ornate pharaonic tombs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings are doomed to disappear within 150 to 500 years if they remain open to tourists, the head of antiquities has warned. Zahi Hawass said humidity and fungus are eating into the walls of the royal tombs in the huge necropolis on the west bank of the Nile across from Luxor, which is swamped daily by several thousand tourists. Poor ventilation and the breath of the hordes of visitors are causing damage to the carvings and painted decorations inside the tombs, he told journalists on a tour of the royal necropolis yesterday. –“Pharaohs’ Tombs ‘Could Disappear’,” The Australian
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average number of new microwave food products introduced every day In 1987:
Cocaine addicts prefer $500 in cash now to $1,000 worth of cocaine later.
Scientists in the Galápagos Islands credited an endangered giant tortoise named Diego with saving his species by fathering more than 800 offspring.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”