SciTech Briefs

Moonwalking brings on midlife crises

In his book Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth, British journalist Andrew Smith tracks down the nine surviving moonwalkers and comes to the startling realization that these individuals are going through a midlife crisis that billions of us will never understand: What do you do after you?ve walked on the moon? After experiencing significant melodrama (Richard Gordon?s partner was so exhausted he almost cut him loose to die during a Gemini spacewalk), the moonwalkers discuss the difficulty of adjusting to pedestrian life while constantly being looked upon to deliver profound philosophical insights at the drop of a hat. ?You feel inadequate that you can?t give people the answers they want,? says Gene Cernan, the commander of
Apollo 17. Maybe so. But you can always say you?ve walked on the moon.


Hairworms steal minds of grasshoppers

Somewhere, a crazed grasshopper is leaping through a field of grass. It wants a pool. Grasshoppers can?t swim. It needs a pool. Grasshoppers can?t swim. Eventually, it finds a pool, leaps in, and drowns.
This phenomenon baffled biologists from the French National Center for Scientific Research in Montpelier, France ?? but not as much as what happened next. Within minutes, the grasshopper?s body began to fall apart, and a hairworm emerged from its mouth.
The hairworm is a parasite that spends its early life gnawing on grasshopper and cricket innards. When fully grown, the hairworm must return to the water ?? a problem it has cleverly rectified by brainwashing its host to do it instead. By the time it reaches the water, the possessed grasshopper has been reduced to nothing more than a brainless shell. Investigators found that more than 100 grasshoppers infected by the hairworm obligingly found water and took the suicidal plunge. There are approximately 300 species of hairworm that infect everything from frogs to fish and snails. But don?t worry about Fido ?? while all the animals suffer, only grasshoppers and crickets lose their minds.

Source: The New York Times,
September 6, 2005

Robot butler solves home personnel needs

    Looking for a butler that won?t sneeze on your waffles, will never ask for a pay raise, and can?t possibly steal anything from your home? Enter Fujitsu?s Wi-Fi butler bot, the latest addition to a growing list of bizarre but useful gadgetry. In addition to eschewing all the modern day inconveniences that come with living, breathing humans, the butler bot also boasts an LCD touchscreen in its belly, allowing its owners to access the web and PC files from anywhere in their home. Let?s see Jeeves do that.


Bubonic mice disappear from New Jersey lab

Three mice disappeared from the Public Health Research Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). The mice are all infected with the bacterium responsible for bubonic plague. Officials cannot explain how the mice disappeared, proposing instead that they might have been misplaced in a paperwork error or stolen. Following the theft
allegation, the institute began conducting lie detector tests and interrogating
dozens of employees. Investigations are also being conducted by the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Star Ledger of Newark reported on Thursday. The plague is not contagious, but it can develop into pneumonic plague, which is
contagious if left untreated. Though the
researchers claim that the mice are probably dead from the disease already, do yourself a favor and watch where you step.

Source: Yahoo! News