Monthly Archive: November 2013

The Single-Celled Organisms That Farm Bacteria

The Scottish anthropologist Arthur Keith said “the discovery of agriculture was the first big step toward a civilized life.” The revolution that gave birth to civilization is very human, so it’s not the sort of thing to be expected in other creatures. Yet scientists have found amoebae (single-celled organisms) that farm bacteria for food. They carry the bacteria, seed them, and harvest them. The farmers also guard their crops from amoebae that don’t do it themselves.

Bulldogs Are Walking Health Disasters

The English Bulldog has long been heralded as a symbol of strength and tenacity. Originally bred to do savage battle with bulls, these dogs are the mascots for dozens of schools and universities. Unfortunately, the bulldog has become a victim of its own popularity — its unique appearance causes it to suffer from a litany of health defects. Perhaps the most sickly of all dogs, the vast majority never make it to their 10th birthday.

‘Doctor Who’ Was Nearly Played In Blackface

“Doctor Who” celebrates its 50th anniversary today and is the longest-running sci-fi show in history — a TV series that has remained hugely popular in Britain since the days when color television was only a distant dream. So far, 12 actors have been cast in the title role, but in 1966, the second of those very nearly managed to destroy it forever. According to the BBC, Patrick Troughton came within an inch of playing the character in blackface.

Insects Don’t Feel Pain

Emotional and physical pain allow us to learn from our experiences and modify future behavior. Nocireceptors, responsible for the sensation of pain, are not present in insects — whose lifespans are too short for pain to be useful. Since insects lack nocireceptors, they cannot experience pain.

Japan’s Impending Killer Quake

The Tokai earthquake is an event that devastates East Japan around every 110 years. There’s an 87 percent chance another magnitude 8.0 or higher Tokai quake will hit in the next 30 years. (And a 70 percent chance it will happen before 2016.) It’s expected to cause upwards of 11,000 deaths and $1 trillion US dollars in damages.

The Ice Mallet That Won The West

Ben “The Tall Texan” Kilpatrick was an infamous outlaw who made his living robbing trains. When he held up the Southern Pacific Express, he met his match in David Trousdale, a Well Fargo manager armed with an ice mallet. Trousdale killed Kilpatrick with his hammer and was rewarded for his heroism.

The British Major And His Trusty Umbrella

Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter was a British officer who led “A” Company, Second Parachute Battalion during the failed World War II operation known as “Market Garden.” Tatham-Warter was known for his eccentric behavior and his trademark umbrella. The major used his umbrella as a countersign, to boost morale, and to take out enemy vehicles.

The Chief Mouser Of The British Government

“Humphrey” was the name of a cat that occupied Downing Street from the late ’80s to the mid-2000s who was an almost constant source of media fascination. When he disappeared in the mid-2000s, officials looking to disprove theories of Humphrey’s assassination showed reporters to the safe house where he was staying.

Driving In Summer Is More Deadly Than Driving In Winter

Driving in winter is pretty dangerous in the US, right? There’s snow and ice on the ground and a good chance of blizzards. It’s very dark, and when it’s not dark, the sun is still low in the sky. None of that’s as big a worry if you’re living somewhere like Orlando or Austin, but even those places have Christmas and Thanksgiving filling drivers with booze. Yet the most dangerous time to be on the roads is actually the summer—and worse, 92 percent of Americans get this wrong. It’s mainly due to two things: Youngsters being on the roads during summer vacation, and the Fourth of July.