Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

June 18, 2011

It’s amazing, what you learn by reading

Desperate for something to write about this week, I came across some old newspaper articles paperclipped together under the words, “What you can learn about the world without looking anything up.” And there they were — the answer to my despair.. (Yes, believe it or not, sometimes I do sweat over what in the world I’m going to come up with next for this 32-year old public record of my brainstorms. And you thought all this running off at the mouth just came naturally?)

Here are some facts of life out of clippings I have saved from as far back as 1995, confident that there would be a time when both of you would be ready to find them useful. I can’t vouch for them with you; all I know is that there was a time (when I read them) that I said to myself, “Hmmmmmmmmm.”

I hope you will both agree.

The hawksbill sea turtle forages near rocks or reefs in clear tropical shallows and it is particularly fond of sponges. Its absolute favorite kinds have hard silica spines on them that other animals leave strictly alone, and I would too. However, the hawksbill easily digests them, with the result that its feces appear close to the consistency of solid glass. Ouch. (National Geographic)

I have never been a particular fan of dinosaurs except in theory. (Dogs make better pets). Still, I found it interesting that there has apparently been some uncertainty about just how vicious a predator Tyranosurus Rex was, with some experts suspecting that he was acually maybe a bit of a pussycat in spite of his looks.     

Recent dental tests have strengthened that possibility by estimating the forces required to produce the bites found on unfortunate Triceratops’ bones. Using metal replicas of T. Rex teeth to munch on cow bones, scientists found that the mighty dinosaur bit no more forcefully than American alligators in our very own time. (They’re measured in newtons, not the fig ones, or Isaac either.). T.Rex come out at between 6,410 and 13,400 newtons. Contemporary American alligators can bite with a force of 13,300 newtons. Somehow, considering their larger size and appearance, not to mention their alleged roar and all, you kind of expect more from T. Rex.     

Humans? We can bite with a force of 749 newtons.  Dogs, surprisingly less, about 550 at their best. Lions, 4,168. (Washington Post)

You’ve heard of perfect pitch? That’s the ability to hear a tone and name it by its note. Not all musicians have it, but the ones who do have significantly larger left-brain regions called planum temporales. I just knew you wanted to know about that. (Washington Post)

Do you have any idea how much the earth weighs? The latest estimate: slightly down from the last official estimate: 5,972 000,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons. The original estimate was 5,978 000,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons. I would assume this includes the people on the planet so maybe  recent weight-loss campaigns are beginning to have some effect. No one can be absolutely sure about all this, of course, and I believe they are still looking for a scale that is big enough to do the job right. (Cumberland Times-News)

You win some, you lose some, that is, if you’re a horse. It seems that horses with white coats, while much prized among humans, are more susceptible to skin cancer and vision ailments than horses with brown or black coats. But then there’s the good side: blood-sucking beasties like flies, ticks, and other such bugs detect their prey by seeking out the polarized light reflected from the hair of their victims. And white hair reflects light differently than dark hair, more or less protecting the animal from the attacks of such predators — well, anyway, I guess, as long as Black Beauty’s around the farm. (Smithsonian)

Getting back to the brain; here’s a tip that might change your life — or your spouse’s. Did you know that the human brain processes emotions asymetrically? The left hemisphere of the brain, which is fed into by the right ear, specializes in positive feelings and “approach behavior,” while the right side of the brain is more susceptible to negative feelings and avoidance — and gets its messages from outside through the left ear. (Folks, I only know what I read.)            

Now try that paragraph over again and see if you can come to the same conclusion as the scientists did, in an Italian study recently. They found that if you ask your spouse in the right ear to do something, he/she is more likely to do it without as much fuss and bother, than if you ask him/her in the left ear.

Folks, would somebody please tell this to President Obama before he goes abroad to meet the big shots next time? This could well change the world that we live in.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.

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Maude McDaniel - Living
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