Category:
Nature

Blue Jay Emetic Unit

As defined by biologist Lincoln Brower, a "blue jay emetic unit" is the amount of cardiac glycosides (a type of poison found in plants such as milkweeds) that will make one blue jay vomit. Brower determined the exact amount by putting cardiac glycosides into gelatin capsules which he force-fed to blue jays.

The point of this was that various butterflies ate milkweeds and then became poisonous to the blue jays which, in turn, ate them. Knowing the exact amount of poison needed to make a blue jay vomit allowed Brower to rank each butterfly by its number of blue jay emetic units:

The experiments showed that a monarch that has eaten Asclepias humistrata contains enough poison to make approximately eight blue jays vomit; a butterfly reared on Calotropis procera contains 4.8 blue jay emetic units; one that has eaten A. Curassavica, 3.8 units, and one that has eaten Gomphocarpus, .8 unit. In other words, there is a palatibility spectrum, and the most unpalatable butterfly is at least 10 times as emetic as the most palatable one.

Source: Brower LP (Feb 1969). "Ecological Chemistry." Scientific American 220(2): 22-29.

"barfing blue jay" (picture by Lincoln Brower. Source: ScienceFriday.com)

Posted By: Alex - Wed Oct 03, 2018 - Comments (3)
Category: Nature, Science, Experiments

Follies of the Madmen #384



How the heck did that tub get out there, and how's that naked gal going to get home?

And without plumbing, will she fill it, pail by pail, with seawater?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Original ad here.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Sep 18, 2018 - Comments (5)
Category: Business, Advertising, Nature, Baths, Showers and Other Cleansing Methods, 1950s

Does seltzer water help plants grow?

In 1980, Canfield's natural seltzer launched a campaign to promote its product as being great for watering house plants. It printed on its labels: "We recommend our natural seltzer for house plants."

Could there have been any truth to this claim? Is seltzer water actually good for plants? Well, the only vaguely scientific study I can find addressing this claim (after, admittedly, only a brief search) was a student project conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2002. The student researchers concluded, "Plants given carbonated water not only grew faster but also developed a healthier shade of green in comparison to plants given tap water."

So, maybe Canfield's was onto something. However, if you're thinking of treating your plants to some seltzer water, I imagine you'd want to use water at room temperature, not refrigerated. Cold water might shock their systems.

Marysville Journal-Tribune - June 9, 1980



Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer - May 19, 1980

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jul 19, 2018 - Comments (12)
Category: Nature, Science, Environmentalism and Ecology, Experiments, 1980s

Follies of the Madmen #374



Advertising trumps Nature every time!

From The American Legion Magazine for June 1947.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Jul 14, 2018 - Comments (1)
Category: Business, Advertising, Nature, 1940s, Alcohol

Propellor-Driven Snowmobiles

This notion goes way back.

The Russians tried them at the start of the 20th century, with the Aerosani.

Here's one from the 1930s.



And finally, one from 2016.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Jul 08, 2018 - Comments (1)
Category: Motor Vehicles, Nature, Weather, Twentieth Century, Twenty-first Century

Church of the holy lawn

In 1994, Jeff Goldstein, who described himself as a “semi-active pagan-Jewish minister,” got into trouble with the city of Madison, Wisconsin because he refused to mow his lawn. He claimed that to do so would violate his religious beliefs since he worshipped plants. He said he actually prayed to his lawn, and that to mow it would be a “holocaust against the green creatures.”

Goldstein explained that he had formed his beliefs after reading The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird. I’ve read that book. If you like strange science, it’s a good read, full of plant-science weirdness. Though I didn't come away from it believing plants are sacred.

The court didn't buy Goldstein's argument, but I don't know if he ever ended up mowing the lawn.

Seems that Jeff died recently, in 2015. You can read his online obituary here.

Appleton Post-Crescent - Mar 13, 1994



Louisville Courier-Journal - Aug 30, 1994



Jeff Goldstein



Available from Amazon

Posted By: Alex - Fri Feb 23, 2018 - Comments (7)
Category: Nature, Religion, 1990s

A Rose and a Baby Ruth



Apology on the cheap.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Nov 30, 2017 - Comments (0)
Category: Music, Nature, Teenagers, Candy, 1950s, Love & Romance

The Atmos Clock

If only you had invested in an Atmos Clock in 1982, the date of the B&W ad, you could have saved a bundle!







Posted By: Paul - Wed Nov 08, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Excess, Overkill, Hyperbole and Too Much Is Not Enough, Nature, Technology, 1980s

Oyster Flatulence

I didn't even realize that oysters produced flatulence, but I guess this is now something new to worry about.

A study published in the Scientific Reports journal shows that clams, mussels and oysters produce one-tenth of methane and nitrous oxide gases in the Baltic Sea as a result of digestion. Therefore, researchers have warned that shellfish “may play an important but overlooked role in regulating greenhouse gas production”.


More info: euractiv.com
Original study: nature.com

Posted By: Alex - Wed Oct 18, 2017 - Comments (6)
Category: Nature, Natural Resources

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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