A Brief History of Melancholy
“My mum told me that if I didn’t want to get pregnant, I should put a potato up there. I believed her.”
After complaining to physicians about abdominal pain, doctors found a sprouting potato deep inside a 22-year-old Colombian girl, which she had been using as some type of backwoods contraception device. Apparently, Mother does not always know best.
The size of this year’s “giant’s penis” blossom at the University of Basel’s botanical garden. Officially known as the titan arum or “corpse flower,” the plant is native to the rainforests of Sumatra and is the largest flower in the plant kingdom. This is the third time that this specific flower has blossomed in its 20 years of cultivation in Basel, and is the biggest yet.
Japanese construction giant Obayashi announced earlier this week that they will have an elevator to space constructed by 2050. Reaching almost 60,000 miles off the earth’s surface, transport time for humans and cargo up the space elevator will be roughly 7 days, which is really nothing at all in light years. According to the company, it is because of the development of carbon nanotechnology that “fantasy can now become a reality.” Bring down the mothership.
“Imagine being on your knees at your father’s funeral beside his casket, saying goodbye to him — and then you have nine orgasms right there,”
Just imagine that. Dale Decker is a Wisconsin man who suffers from a condition called Persistent Genital Arousal Syndrome, which causes him to have upwards of 100 orgasms per day. While the lazy may think that the condition would be amazing, according to Decker “It makes you never want to have another orgasm for as long as you live.” That’s no fun.
Klaus Kemp is a master at placing single cell algae in cool patterns, or as the scholars call it, “the Victorian art of diatom arrangement.”
Unless you’ve been living under a delivery box, you should already know that bending a slice is the best way to gorge on pizza. But if you need further proof, here’s the math.
Chip n’ Dale were some dirty rodents.
A random benefit from last month’s earthquake in Napa Valley? Water. Lots of it. Seems all that shaking in the earth opened up fissures in the rocks that have allowed massive deposits of groundwater to reach the surface, turning once parched land into pockets of green. At one creek north of Vallejo, an estimated 200,000 gallons of water are flowing daily down the tiny waterway into the bay. Like all good earthly things though, the surplus is bound to stop. As one hydrogeologist said: “There is only so much water in there. As the water table lowers, the water flow diminishes. It’s like a bank account. You’ve just reached into the bank account and borrowed some money, but the spending spree will eventually end.”
“Like a piece of intestine with legs on it,” according to British naturalist and TV presenter Nick Barker, there’s nothing in the world quite like a Mexican mole lizard.
Neither mole nor lizard, the Mexican mole lizard (Bipes biporus) lives up to a third of its name by being a native of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico. Not a whole lot is known about this very secretive animal, but what we do know of the Mexican mole lizard is that everything you see here makes this little guy perfectly suited to a life lived in the dirt.
Mexican mole lizards live almost exclusively in a shallow underground environment made of loose or sandy soil, but can dig burrows up to 15 centimetres below the surface in search of food, a good place to mate, or just some valuable time away from all that desert heat. They belong to a lgenus called Bipes, which means “two legs”, and yep, all four species within this genus have them. These legs are extremely special adaptations – within a larger group of legless reptiles called Amphisbaenia, the four Bipes are the only species out of almost 200 close relatives to have ended up with them. At first glance, those rather disproportionately stumpy limbs might not look like much, but wait till you get a look at these very impressive digging claws.
Mexican mole lizards are so good at adapting, they once had two back legs, but got rid of them because they weren’t using them. We know this because when you X-ray a Mexican mole lizard, you can see the remnants of its missing legs poking out in its bone structure.
The tube-like body of the Mexican mole lizard tends to reach around 20 cm long and less than 1cm wide, and its scales are a rather pretty shade of pastel pink. And not only do these guys have scales on their bellies to help propel themselves through the soil the same way snakes do, but their bodies are highly segmented, which means they also move along just like earthworms.
If, like me, you think Mexican mole worms are adorable – just look at that face – then we have no problems, but if you think they’re creepy, let me put creepy in perspective for you. This is a caecilian, which basically looks like a Mexican mole lizard, except that it’s purple, has no legs, and looks like its face has been stuffed into a condom, nice and tight. Caecilians they move their segmented worm-like bodies around like, well, worms; they live their entire lives underground; and are only found in warm environments – all of which isn’t so different from the Mexican mole worm.
Except that when certain species of caecilians are born, they spend the first few weeks of their lives eating their mums alive. One newly discovered species of caecilian that engages in this practice has been named Microcaecilia dermatophaga (which literally means “little skin-feeding caecilian”), and investigations into the species’ behaviour in French Guiana last year revealed that the babies are born with little razer-sharp teeth, specifically designed to tear the flesh off their doting mother until they’re big enough to go out on their own and find less disgusting food. How great is our little Mexican friend looking now? All it eats is insects.
—Bec Crew / @BecCrew
15-year-old Fu Wengui of China has 10 vertebrae in his neck instead of the normal 7. Thanks to a Beijing-based charity, he will undergo surgery in hopes of reducing its length, which causes him nonstop pain and attention.
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