On June 5, 1995, Kees Moeliker, the curator of the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam, heard a loud bang just outside of his office. He went over to the window and discovered that a drake mallard had hit one of museum’s windows at full speed and died. Moeliker observed another male mallard came over and start picking at the dead duck’s head. The live mallard then proceeded to mount the corpse and forcefully rape it. This activity went on for a full seventy-five minutes, during which time the perpetrator took only two short breaks. Moeliker documented the entire event by taking notes and photos from safely behind the museum’s windows. When the necrophiliac mallard was finished, Moeliker secured the violated corpse and stashed it in a freezer for later examination. Continue reading
According to written records and supported by dendrochronology and archaeological evidence, for 12-18 months in AD 536-537, a thick, persistent dust veil or dry fog darkened the skies between Europe and Asia Minor. The climatic interruption brought by the thick, bluish fog extended as far east as China, where summer frosts and snow are recorded in historical records; tree ring data from Mongolia and Siberia to Argentina and Chile reflect decreased growing records from 536 and the subsequent decade.
The climatic effects of the dust veil brought decreased temperatures, drought and food shortages throughout the affected regions: in Europe two years later came the Justinian smallpox plague. The combination killed perhaps as much as 1/3 of the population of Europe; in China the famine killed perhaps 80% of people in some regions; in Scandinavia the losses may be been as much as 75-90% of the population, as evidenced by the numbers of deserted villages and cemeteries. Continue reading
SOME years ago, executives at a Houston airport faced a troubling customer-relations issue. Passengers were lodging an inordinate number of complaints about the long waits at baggage claim. In response, the executives increased the number of baggage handlers working that shift. The plan worked: the average wait fell to eight minutes, well within industry benchmarks. But the complaints persisted. Continue reading
Surgery is a profession defined by its authority to cure by means of bodily invasion. The brutality and risks of opening a living person’s body have long been apparent, the benefits only slowly and haltingly worked out. Nonetheless, over the past two centuries, surgery has become radically more effective, and its violence substantially reduced — changes that have proved central to the development of mankind’s abilities to heal the sick. Continue reading
Inside Science Minds presents an ongoing series of guest columnists and personal perspectives presented by scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and others in the science community showcasing some of the most interesting ideas in science today. Continue reading
As a young man, Peter Thiel competed to get into Stanford. Then he competed to get into Stanford Law School. Then he competed to become a clerk for a federal judge. Thiel won all those competitions. But then he competed to get a Supreme Court clerkship. Continue reading