Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Odd, The Strange And The Macabre

By Kristy McCaffrey

In honor of Halloween...

There are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells, according to Carolyn Bohach, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho. Despite vast numbers, bacteria don't take up much space because they are far smaller than human cells.

Drinking too much water can kill you.
Hyponatremia, or dilution of the blood caused by drinking too much water, can lead to water intoxication, an illness whose symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination, mental disorientation, and in some cases, death.

Insect wings are made of the same material as human fingernail cuticles.

Survival in space unprotected is possible...briefly.
A 1965 study by researchers at the Brooks Air Force Base in Texas showed that dogs exposed to near vacuum--one three-hundred-eightieth of atmospheric pressure at sea level--for up to 90 seconds always survived. During their exposure, they were unconscious and paralyzed. Gas expelled from their bowels and stomachs caused simultaneous defecation, projectile vomiting and urination. They suffered massive seizures. Their tongues were often coated in ice and the dogs swelled to resemble "an inflated goatskin bag," the authors wrote. But after slight repressurization the dogs shrank back down, began to breathe, and after 10 to 15 minutes at sea level pressure, they managed to walk, though it took a few more minutes for their apparent blindness to wear off.

A hemispherectomy--where half the brain is removed--is usually perfomed on patients who suffer dozens of seizures every day that resist all medication. Amazingly memory and personality are unaffected.

Beginning in 1800 and continuing until the 1960's, the isolated Fugate family living near Troublesome Creek, Kentucky were so incestuous they developed a blood condition called methemoglobinemia, which turned their skin blue.

In 1994, on the Greek island of Lesbos, near the city of Mytilene, archaeologists investigating an old Turkish cemetery found a medieval skeleton buried in a crypt hollowed out of an ancient city wall. This was not an unusual discovery; however, the post-mortem treatment of this body was very much unexpected. The corpse had been literally nailed down in its grave, with heavy iron spikes driven through the neck, pelvis and ankle. The use of iron and the practice of staking down a corpse are both well-attested in vampire folklore. The body was almost certainly that of a Muslim, believed to be the first time a corpse of a person other than a Christian had been found treated in this fashion.

Virginia Macdonald lived in New York City and became ill, died, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn in 1851. After the burial, her mother declared her belief that her daughter wasn't dead so the body was exhumed. To everyone's horror, the body was discovered lying on its side, the hands badly bitten, and every indication of a premature burial.

Interesting Fact: When the Les Innocents Cemetery in Paris, France was moved from the center of the city to the suburbs the number of skeletons found face down convinced many people and several doctors that premature burial was very common.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Adventures With Scorpions

By Kristy McCaffrey

I live in the Arizona desert north of Phoenix and we have an abundance of scorpions. I liken them to roaches—they’re everywhere, impervious to environment changes, and plain creepy to witness.

Bark Scorpion
There are many types in the area but the most common is the Bark Scorpion, which is poisonous but luckily the sting only causes great discomfort. They inhabit our garage and at times our house, and come in all sizes, from as small as a fingernail to 4-5 inches long. Two effective means of attempting to control the population are the pest guy and sticky pads placed in strategic locations (door thresholds and along walls). Still, we encounter them, with high volume in the hot summer months. 

A sticky pad inside our house.
One afternoon I retrieved the mail and sat again in my car when a scorpion scurried from the letters and onto my lap. Much screaming and hyperventilating ensued, resulting in a squished scorpion. One ran between my feet while I stood in the laundry room in an attempt to escape my chocolate labs. I found a big one in my daughter’s hamper (which she never used again). One got his tail stuck on a sticky pad under my son’s dresser and was slowly making his way into the room, dragging the sticky pad behind him. One morning I entered the laundry room to discover a sticky pad that had migrated to the center of the floor. Two creatures were immobile upon it—a scorpion and the bull snake that was obviously chasing it. Clearly the steel wool we’d stuffed into cabinet crevices wasn’t doing its job to deter critters from entering the house. But probably the most shocking incident was the scorpion that went on vacation with us to California. He wasn’t discovered until we returned home, hanging out in the middle of our suitcase full of clothes. We speculate he’d hitched a ride on a pair of my husband’s shoes, which sat in a grocery bag inside the luggage during our two-day visit to Monterey.

Scorpions can have many young
and will carry them on their back.
I’ve never been stung but suspect my husband (and possibly one of our dogs) has, as evidenced by a strange sore on his hand (and near the dog’s eye) that oozed pus for several days. He eventually recovered, as did the dog.

A giant desert hairy scorpion I saw while hiking near
my house. He was dead when I found him. They
aren't very poisonous.

I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten used to them, but I’ve certainly learned to live with the creatures.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Facts About Arizona

By Kristy McCaffrey

Some interesting facts about my native Arizona.

Arizona is the 6th largest state in the U.S.
Arizona has more mountainous country than Switzerland.
Arizona has more sunshine than Florida.
Arizona’s No. 1 tourist attraction is the Grand Canyon.
Arizona has the largest Native American population in the U.S with the largest percentage of Indian land set aside among all states.
Arizona has the nation’s southernmost ski resort—Mt. Lemmon near Tucson.
Arizona has the largest stand of Ponderosa pine in the world.
Arizona produces more copper than the rest of the nation combined.
The Four Corners region of northeast Arizona is the only place in the nation where 4 states have a common meeting point.
Arizona has more cacti than any place in the world.
The name Arizona is derived from Papago Indian words “Aleh Zon,” which means “small Spring,” and describes the site of a fabulous silver strike near Nogales in 1736.
The highest point in Arizona is Mt. Humphrey in the San Francisco Peaks (near Flagstaff) at 12,637 feet. The lowest point is near Yuma (138 feet above sea level).
Arizona became a separate territory in 1863 and a state in 1912.
The state flower is the saguaro cactus bloom.
The state tree is the Palo Verde, which blooms a brilliant yellow-gold in April or May.
The state bird is the cactus wren.
Oraibi, on the Hopi Mesas, is reputed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in America.
The best preserved meteor crater in the world is located near Winslow, Arizona. The impact was about 22,000 years ago.
Meteor Crater

Phoenix originated in 1866 as a hay camp to supply Camp McDowell.

The Phoenix area rapidly expanded in growth after World War II, due in part to the invention of air conditioning.

A person from Arizona is called an Arizonan.
Grand Canyon

Arizona’s nickname is “the Grand Canyon State.”