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One of the joys of being a scientist — particularly in a field that’s exploding — is that you get to name the things you discover. Maybe if I’d lingered longer in the lab before fleeing to a writerly career there would be a Jocelynetensium ricensis bacterium flagella-whipping its way across some bio student’s glass slide. But alas. Now my only option is to hound some generous scientist and make him like me so much that he wants to name something after me. Something really important.
In the meantime, here’s a roundup of scientific whatnots with names — some eponymous, some not — that make you stop and ask, really? They got away with that?
The list of asteroid names reads, for the most part, like a mashup between a phone book, a history of science textbook, and an encyclopedia of Greek and Roman mythology. But nestled in among the Aphrodites and Persephones, the Fouriers and Feynmans, the 52 names starting with “David,” “Dave,” or “Davy” and the 20 starting with “Bob,” are a few odd nuggets:
- Adamcarolla and Drewpinsky. These two dispensed raunchy advice that I found both riotously funny and Very Important… when I was 13. But I’m not sure any of it — or even all of it combined — is worth an asteroid.
- Bacon. Okay wait. Are we talking Sir Francis Bacon? Kevin Bacon? Or greasy sizzling strips of porky goodness? If it’s the latter, I’m completely on board.
- Forbes. Can an asteroid be sponsored? What if that asteroid then collides with earth? Is the sponsor held resposible?
- GNU. All hail recursive acronyms. What about ASTEROID, for Asteroids Still Terrify Everyone Regardless Of Improbable Destruction?
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I’m too lazy to write a useful new post because I just spent 3 hours going through a messy divorce with iWeb and moving all my furniture and possessions to the house of my rebound boyfriend, WordPress. So here, instead, is a half-wet elephant. Or maybe it’s two-thirds wet. Wait, are we talking volume or surface area? What’s the surface area of an elephant, anyway?
(Photo by Jeremy Tucker, who has a whole website full of gorgeous photographs: check it out.)
EDIT: Er, it looks like someone (okay, two someones: K.P. Sreekumar and G. Nirmalan) has actually published scholarly research on how to estimate the surface area of an elephant. The paper is called “Estimation of the total surface area in Indian elephants” and it ran in a 1990 issue of Veterinary Research Communications. Their formula is:
S = -8.245 + 6.807H + 7.073FFC
Where S is surface area in square meters, H is shoulder height in meters, and FFC is forefoot circumference in meters. The BBC tells us that Indian elephants have a shoulder height of 2.5 to 3 meters — let’s go with 2.75. And a PBS classroom resource tells us that forefoot circumference is equal to about half of an elephant’s height, so we’ll call it 1.375. That works out to about 20 square meters, or 215 square feet.
So I guess that’s my answer. An average Indian elephant has a surface area (albeit crudely estimated) of 215 square feet.
ANOTHER EDIT: My tape measure says that’s twice the size of my bedroom.
It was the spring of 1977, and New Englanders had monsters on their minds. In Dover, Massachusetts, three high-school boys spotted a creature with orange eyes and a melon-shaped head. Meanwhile, in Hollis, New Hampshire, a father driving with his two sons encountered a nine-foot-tall hairy behemoth.
Arnold Vellucci, mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, took notice when the Boston Herald-American reported these mysterious sightings in side-by-side articles. But he wasn’t worried about aliens or Bigfoot, the usual suspects in paranormal sightings. Vellucci worried instead that the peculiar beings had escaped from a molecular biology lab at either Harvard or MIT.
On the same day that the Herald-American articles were published, Vellucci penned a letter to Philip Handler, president of the National Academy of Sciences. Vellucci politely requested that the NAS investigate the matter. “I would hope as well,” he added, “that you might check to see whether or not these ‘strange creatures,’ (should they in fact exist) are in any way connected to recombinant DNA experiments taking place in the New England area.” Read the rest of this entry »