Feb 29,2008 00:00
Being fairly nomadic and almost constantly on the move for new forage, African elephants (Loxodontia africana) don't really keep house. But don't tell that to the Kenya dwarf gecko (Lygodactylus keniensis), which probably thinks the big, gray, lumbering pachyderms are wonderful homemakers.
At least for Kenya dwarf geckos. In a new study published in the journal Ecology, Robert Pringle of Stanford University reports that dwarf geckos show a strong preference for trees visited by elephants. The reason, it seems, is that browsing elephants are none too gentle with trees, damaging them as they strip off leaves and bark.
These trees, with their cracked and broken branches, provide numerous hiding places for geckos to live and breed. In contrast, Pringle said he could find almost no geckos in nearby trees not visited by elephants.
"The ripped-up trees are like labyrinths compared to the pristine trees, which helps boost lizard densities," Pringle said.
In ancient times, they had no statistics, so they had to fall back on lies.
- Canadian writer Stephen Leacock (1869-1944)
Think fast. After you fill your car's gas tank, which happens first:
A. The tank becomes three-fourths empty
B. The tank becomes two-thirds full
BRAIN SWEAT ANSWER
In the late 1920s, the Galvin Manufacturing Corp. in Chicago set out to develop a commercial radio that could be installed in automobiles. At the time, the best-known music players were called Victrolas, so the company decided to play off that name and the idea of sound in motion, dubbing their new product, the "Motorola."
The radio became so popular that the Galvin company eventually adopted the name for itself.
In 1971, Japanese researchers designed an experiment to study landslides. They set up fire hoses at the bottom of a hill, then drenched it to mimic a massive rainstorm.
Not surprisingly, the hill collapsed on the watching researchers. Four scientists and 11 observers were killed.
If quitters never win and winners never quit, why should you "quit while you're ahead?"
CARTOON LAWS OF PHYSICS
Any biological organism passing through solid matter will leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter. Also known as the law of "the silhouette of passage." The phenomenon is most often observed in victims of directed-pressure explosions and in reckless cowards so eager to escape that they exit directly through a wall or closed door, leaving behind a perfect cookie-cutout hole. The threat of skunks or matrimony often catalyzes this reaction.
WHAT IS IT ANSWER
A red-lipped batfish. Found in tropical seas, batfish have broad heads and slight bodies. They are poor swimmers, preferring to use their pectoral fins to "walk" on the ocean floor, collecting shrimp, small fish, crabs, worms and mollusks along the way.
OUR IGNOBEL HISTORY
The 1991 Ig Nobel Prize for education was awarded to J. Danforth Quayle, who served as vice president of the United States under President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993). While the son and current president, George W. Bush is quite (in)famous for his various and sundry convolutions of human speech, Quayle is fondly remembered as a distinguished mangler of logic and grammar in his own right.
Three enduring, science-related examples:
"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."
"It's time for the human race to enter the solar system."
"Space is almost infinite. As a matter of fact, we think it is infinite."
ANTHROPOLOGY 101In Victorian England, proper library etiquette demanded that books written by women not be shelved next to books written by men, unless the authors were married to each other.