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The night is coming. The veil that separates the world of the living from the realm of the dead now grows thin. Spirits gather and soon will cross this dark divide to fill shadowy streets and abandoned yards with visions of the ghastly, the ghostly, and the ghoulish. Can’t wait! But while we do, here’s some news of the strange and the weird to mark the world’s spookiest holiday and the one of the its oldest pagan traditions…
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is back in the news with word that the feds want to study this maelstrom of muck with an eye toward a possible clean-up. Those familiar with the incredibly disconcerting and wholly freakish twice-Texas-sized patch of floating trash, however, say that not only is cleanup pretty much impossible even conducting basic research is likely to prove vexing. How about we just take the zillions of dollars and man-hours we might spend here and devote them to preventing garbage from entering ocean ecosystems in the first place?
Halloween marks the boundary between summer and winter, or light and dark, an important annual milestone given the impact we’ve learned light can have on human health. Indeed studies have shown that people who work out-of-sync with natural day-night cycles are at risk for all kinds of maladies from depression to breast cancer. The impact is so great that the World Health Organization will declare in December that shift work is a “probable carcinogen.” In other words, the graveyard shift could actually put you there. I think it’s time to shift our 24/7 economy back to something a little more civilized.
Tonight’s haunted sights may disappear come daylight, but boys are just plain disappearing. That’s the word from researchers who’ve noted that humanity’s traditonal 51-49 birth split of males to females is now skewing dramatically to females in some parts of the world. Chemical pollution is suspected, which makes sense given all the spooky developmental effects that toxin-induced endocrine disruption can cause. I’m thinking this is another issue we’re going to have to add to that list. Take some of the disquiet out of this news by inserting your own uneasy joke about how the world would be better off run by women anyway…
Now for a few strange tales from the animal kingdom…Treehugger reports that the oldest animal in the world has been located. It’s not an elephant or a turtle or your slightly ripe great great uncle Edmund. It is a clam. (Who knew?) Taken from the seabed off northern Iceland, the moldering mollusk was found to be about 405 years old (that’s people years not clam years). Unfortunatelty, in order to nail down this hugely impressive age, the chowder-headed scientists involved had to hammer open the bilvalve’s ancient shell thus turning it into the world’s oldest dead animal and the modern age’s greatest exhibit of thoroughly twisted scientific irony. Why do we need to know these things? What ever happened to the idea of mystery? Couldn’t we just say the clam was really really really really old and leave it alone and leave it at that?
From the dark and scary swamps come two frog related stories. Clever scientists have biomimicked the toes of tree frogs to create a new miracle on-demand adhesive that can provide the sticking power of a super glue yet peel gently off like a sticky note whenever you’re ready. I guess you could say that good things happen when we stick to nature…. And lastly some mad scientists in Japan have bred the world’s first see-through frog. Yes, it’s true, and what’s even weirder is that this development is actually not as incredibly bizarre and pointlessly creepy as you might think. Scientists who use frogs for research can now use these new transparenphibians instead. The only difference is that they’ll no longer have to kill their test subjects to see what’s happening inside. For frogs and people like me who greatly admire them, that’s a trick that’s a real treat.