May 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
In case you haven’t heard it yet, we are swimming in shit.
Don’t take my word for it: This comes straight from the mouth of the Centers for Disease Control which, according to its most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, spent a chunk of last summer bottling filter gunk at 161 Atlanta-area public pools. Results? Fecal matter, as identified by gastrointestinal-loving bacteria E. coli, showed up in 93 of them (58 percent).
Now, yes, it’s true: these are only a few pools around Atlanta, GA, so no one can guarantee for sure that national public pools bear this cocoa letter. However, the growing number of recreational water-related illnesses across the country suggests that they do. The CDC would like to remind us all to not crap in the pool and to please start cleaning both themselves* and the pool water more thoroughly.
Are you freaked out? Relax—it’s not all bad. For one thing, none of the E. coli was of the sort to make anyone sick (that’s only the O157:H7 strain), and only two pools out of the whole 161 had any sign of other diarrhea-causing bacteria, like cryptosporidium and giardia. By and large, you see, though we swim in shit, we swim in safe shit.
Besides, it’s not like this is the only shit we deal with everyday. We’re already covered in it and so is everything else—and for the most part, we’ve been handling it pretty well. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the Chinese government’s crackdown on a 63+ person crime ring that has spent the past few years selling the citizens of Shanghai and neighboring areas $1.6 million dollars’ worth of lamb that was, in fact, rat.*
Now, the Chinese officials appear to have made this announcement to assure their residents that the problem was being forcefully addressed, and that the government had its eye on this sort of thing, etc, etc. But the effect was to alert anyone in the region who’d eaten lamb in recent history that they probably ate rodent instead, and isn’t that a delightful thought from which there’s really no going back.
I have so many questions. Where did the rats come from? Was nobody suspicious about how very, very tiny their legs of lamb had become? What is the nutritional content of a rat anyway?
The first question I leave to the Chinese government. The second—no, probably not: according to the Daily Mail, at least one vendor was selling the stuff as “lamb rolls,” i.e., not necessarily sheep-shaped at all, which I suggest you try to not think about next time you’re in a mystery meat situation. But as far as nutritional content goes, turns out I’m not the first one who’s ever asked this. Rat calories are in fact, an important point of concern for the conscientious ophidiophile who doesn’t want his snake’s dinner going straight to its not-exactly-waistline. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
“It is a farewell gift from the dolphins,” said Wonko in a low, quiet voice, “the dolphins whom I loved and studied, and swam with, and fed with fish, and even tried to learn their language, a task which they seemed to make impossibly difficult, considering the fact that I now realize they were perfectly capable of communicating in ours if they decided they wanted to.” — Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, 1985.
Boy howdy have there been a lot of talking animals lately. And by a lot, I mean two, which is still a lot when we’re talking human imitations by animals. First came Noc, the burbling beluga whale who told his trainer to get out of the pool. A week later, we have Koshik, the Asian elephant who takes Noc’s burbles and raises him a very understandable six-word Korean vocabulary. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
There are so many hazards that come with life in a city. Fender benders, high cost of living, pigeon droppings, and acorn bombardments from the squirrels overhead.
For those of us here in the Northeast (and parts of NY and some of the Midwest), that last is probably going to get worse thanks to our mild winter and early spring, according to an AP news report that popped around the dailies last week.
But, just as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is also more than one way to deal with an explosion of squirrels. Each comes with their own quirks, however. Poisoning, for instance, is the most straightforward solution but it’s also very frowned up by the public—we’re very fond of our fluffy-tailed tree rats (that’s a term of endearment. I like them too. Except the one that broke my window once). Another option is translocation: picking’em up and putting them down somewhere less problematic. But that not only doesn’t solve the overall problem, but some states like South Carolina prohibit it.
Option number three? Put’em on birth control. Yep. That’s not only a thing, but there’s some very serious research going into it right now, especially at squirrel-ridden Clemson University, where the little mammals have already taken out over 100-some mature trees.
I get into the actually science on this over on National Geographic’s daily news, so head on over and check it out!
October 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
If there’s one thing that’s probably not going to happen this Halloween, it’s a zombie outbreak.
Okay, background: as we all know, the fictitious disease that is zombieness is a highly complex one. It has a very short incubation period, results in widespread chaos, and is transmitted by a population so wholly unconcerned with our well-being that not only will they not wash their hands after blowing their noses, but they’ll actively try to bite healthy people—which results, by the way, in guaranteed infection. According to most movies I have seen, there is also no cure and no spontaneous recovery.
Zombies are also very fashionable lately, both in popular entertainment and in science. Several papers have already mapped out the theoretical spread of a zombie outbreak. The CDC once cheerfully attempted to use it as a preparedness example—and later, when several incidents of face-eating broke out, issued a warning that no, really, zombie attacks were definitely not happening.
But there was something about all this, particularly about the models, that gave the authors of this new study pause: the simulations didn’t account for human emotions. Where was the panic? The herd-like stampede into what inevitably proves to be an untimely death? How can we possibly take such cold-hearted zombie simulations seriously? « Read the rest of this entry »