Harper’s Magazine isn’t on my regular reading list, but I ran across this and enjoyed it.


By Rafil Kroll-Zaidi

Entomologists re-created the chirping of the Jurassic bush cricket, and Russian soil cryologists cultivated a 31,800-year-old plant from a fossilized squirrel burrow in Siberia. It was determined that ancient Egyptians fed snails to dead ibises, and it was suggested that the guinea pigs of Elizabethan Europe were used primarily as pets rather than as food. In China, zookeepers married a ram and a doe. Chinese were found less likely than Britons to focus on the eyes when asked to evaluate the faces of sheep. In Portugal, Grupo Lobo was disbursing to goatherds such traditional dogs as cão de Castro Laboreiro, cão de gado transmontano, and cão da Serra da Estrela. Pygmy kids exhibit goat accents. Pygmies in Cameroon and Congo were being trained to track poachers using the program Blindate. Fish in the lakes of Switzerland were hybridizing themselves out of existence. Crew aboard the icebreaker Aurora Australis tricked Adélie penguins into grooming a plush-toy penguin chick. A U.S. District Court in San Diego threw out a slavery lawsuit filed against SeaWorld by orcas Corky, Kasatka, Katina, Tilikum, and Ulises. Stress-hormone levels in the feces of right whales were found to have dropped after 9/11.

An unidentified deep-sea quacking was attributed to species of fish with specialized structures likely used for vocalizing. Such fish, said an ichthyoneurologist not involved in the research, “aren’t going to have a frivolous organ that does nothing.” Scientists released photos of a brownbanded bamboo shark being swallowed whole by a tasseled wobbegong. The dwarf galaxy NGC 4449 was consuming a smaller dwarf galaxy. Stacks of solid buckyballs were observed around the binary star system XX Ophiuchi. Alan Turing was found to have correctly predicted the genetic mechanism whereby ridges form in the roof of a mouse’s mouth. Physicists succeeded in deriving the shape of any ponytail using the Ponytail Shape Equation and the Rapunzel Number. The cost-benefit calculations of a sea slug’s central nervous system were found to persist when it is removed from the slug, placed in a dish, and offered food. A seventeen-year-old English girl’s anemia was attributed to her having eaten primarily Chicken McNuggets, KFC chicken nuggets, and supermarket chicken nuggets since the age of two. Urologists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that children’s bedwetting is often due to constipation, but that the mild constipation often responsible is inadequately diagnosed under the guidelines of the International Children’s Continence Society.

Starlings can be fooled into making irrational choices, yawning is contagious among budgies, and ecologists observed a truce between jackdaws and lesser kestrels in Italy. Old male sparrows do not appear to feel threatened by the song of younger rivals. Australian ethologists confirmed that female great bowerbirds are fooled by the forced-perspective illusion whereby males construct their bowers to appear more impressively large. India’s government commissioned a study on the effect of cell phone radiation on birds. In Argentina, chalk-browed mockingbirds had stopped trying to rid their nests of shiny cowbirds’ parasitic eggs. Biologist Martin Burd suggested that the efficiency-dictated size limits observed in the colonies of Central American leaf-cutter ants may help predict the maximum size of human cities. The disproportionately large hippocampi of hummingbirds allow them to remember the location of every flower in their territory. The dense feathering of the wings of barn owls (who in Scotland were enjoying a glut of voles) enables the birds to fly silently. The discovery, suggested the lead researcher, may have aeronautical applications, but, he noted, “We are far away from that point…. Until then, we will conduct many more experiments on owl wings.”


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *