Recently I stumbled upon an unusual documentary from the 80s about the giant American toads (Bufo Marinus) of Queensland, Australia. That’s correct. Who would have thought that this 50 minute movie (embedded at the end of this article) with songs of the toad’s praise would turn out to be one of those surprisingly informative and strangely funny movies.
Well, it was certainly fun to watch. Here’s a gist of all interesting things I got from it and some reading which ensued.
Cane toads were never native to northern Australia before the 1930s. Raquel Dexter an entomologist, during the 1932 world conference of sugar technology in Puerto Rico, suggested that the cane toad was the ultimate solution to deal with a native Australian cane beetle. This beetle had decimated the output of sugarcane crop of North Queensland cane farmers.
So, Mungomery Reginald William brought in 102 cane toads into the freshwaters of little Mulgrave river in Gordonvale from Hawaii to tackle the problem of beetle infestation. Mungomery’s intention to make the toads travel for two weeks from Hawaii to Sydney and for another two days to Gordonvale was a noble yet arduous one:
“We have got these bloody grubs by the balls this time and we will go on to bigger and brighter things”
Wildfires are often associated with destruction. It wipes out homes, wildlife habitat, and of course trees. Areas that are damaged to that extent take time to regrow. Also, all that burning has another side effect. It releases a burst of greenhouse gasses into the air. The smoke and ash from the fire can make it difficult to breathe, especially for those prone to respiratory problems like asthma.
It goes without saying that property damage is an issue with wildfires. As long as people have enough warning, there should be no casualties. However, as climate change continues to make weather increasingly severe, human safety becomes less reliable.
However, one of the main issues comes from the lack of vegetation. After intense wildfires, there is a risk of soil erosion. If the fire is small, it may not be a big deal, but for fires that burn thousands of acres can pose serious hazards.
Think Angelina Jolie shooting curved trajectory shots with her gun in the movie Wanted. Well, the end result is not exactly fictional anymore (the technique is). I recently stumbled upon the following video demonstrating DARPA’s new self-steering bullet technology and it blew my mind.Here’s the video:
The video shows new missile-like self-steering projectiles hitting a moving target, only this time these are not missiles but 0.5 caliber sized sniper bullets (0.5 inches internal diameter of the gun’s barrel). As seen in the video, enabled by technology, a novice-sniper seems to be able to make a fairly good shot. On a funnier note, I see it like the autotune technology that helps music artists to fit their out of tune recording to a perfect tune.
Jokes aside, watching this smart bullet change its path mid-air, stirred up the curious cat that lives in my head. I would have had a tough time sleeping without knowing how DARPA’s self-steering bullet actually works. So, armed with free journal access (being a Ph.D. student has its perks), I fired up my google scholar and started looking for white papers with some mention of these keywords. With this technology being developed under DARPA, it’s of course one of those hush-hush things and was sure I won’t find much. Still, I was happy to glean a tiny hint of its inner workings.