The Ant Mill

By Anupum Pant

We’re talking about a deadly circle of ants today – deadly to the same ants which make up the circle. There’s a funny software bug in army ants which makes their instincts act wrong and makes them go round in circles till they exhaust and collapse.

These ants are blind. So, to move around they are programmed to follow the scent trail left by the ant walking ahead of it. When an ant is alone and is made to move around in a circle, it can often keep circling for sometime and will eventually find it’s own scent. This now acts as the guiding line and it keeps following it indefinitely.

In fact doing this to army ants is as easy as enclosing it in a circle, or making it go round at the edge of a dinner plate. It’d pick up it’s own scent and start making indefinite circles. It’s funny, but you shouldn’t trouble these poor little creatures with this. Plus, it’s not just a harmless prank on them. It is a prank that kills them because the ants keep circling, hoping to reach their destination, and collapse out of exhaustion eventually.

That’s just one ant. This might happen to a massive bunch of ants too. And they are all caught up in a deadly circle of death.

A circle of about 1200 feet is the largest indefinite circle that has been ever seen. It was so huge that it took each ant two hours to complete the circle.

Halitosis Never Existed

By Anupum Pant

Halitosis is a medical term today for a symptom in which extremely bad breath comes out of someone’s mouth. It is usually a sign of tooth decay or gum disease. Usually the origin of bad breath is in the mouth when there’s bad bacteria below the gumline or at the back of the tongue. But can also come from the  nasal cavity, sinuses, throat, lungs, esophagus, stomach or elsewhere.

Initially when the word was coined, it was done only for the bad breath coming from the mouth and it wasn’t even a medical symptom then. In fact, where the word came from is a funny story.

Halitosis was invented by the Lambert company to sell one of their products that was invented in the 1880s. Back then, Listerine wasn’t very popular. It was only an antiseptic that was a prescription medicine used for, well, killing bacteria everywhere. Since this is something which didn’t attract a lot of attention, the company knew they weren’t marketing their product well.

Gerard, son of Jordan Wheat Lambert, owner of the company came up with a word by twisting latin to sound like a medical condition. Halitus meant breath and osis made it sound like a medical condition that would get people’s attention. Now, about 20% of the people had a medical condition that they had been concerned about for a long time (without a name before) and had access to a cure for it. Who would have not bought this!

At that time listerine wasn’t even a normal bottle of mouthwash you could pick up from the grocery store. You needed to have a prescription for it. But as their medical symptom caught people’s attention, its popularity exploded and it started selling without prescription.

via [io9] [Listerine]

Your Pet Might not Be Dead

By Anupum Pant

Ok, so you have a hamster as a pet, a Syrian Hamster maybe. One fine winter morning you wake up and find your pet frozen to death. Is it really dead? That shouldn’t have happened, it wasn’t even a month old, right? Right.

If you stumble upon a hamster, especially a Syrian hamster that looks like it has died, it probably hasn’t. Before starting its funeral process, please check well.

Hamsters have a nice furry coat but they feel the cold too. And come on people, Syrian ones are from a warm part of the world. They haven’t already evolved to adjust to the seasonal changes in your part of the world. When it’s too cold, it can be dangerous for them and their bodies can react in a very odd manner.

When it gets cold hamsters, like many other animals are hard-wired to go into a power saving mode where their metabolism slows down. This is called hibernation. Most of you already know what hibernation is, but it’s important to connect the extremely slow heart beat and breathing rate and dead-body-like features of your pet to this phenomenon. Or you’d be all sad on that unfortunate winter morning when you find your pet is “dead”.

Even lack of food can trigger hibernation. And hamsters can move into this state in a matter of few hours. What you could do if you have a hamster is to keep it in a heated room during winters, or invest in cage heating, or use a heating pad at least. If it still falls into hibernation, just warm it up a bit. Get it rehydrated and wait for it to wake up.

Remember, it will not be in full working mode the instant it wakes up. It will slowly start moving and then limp around for a while. That’s normal. Hamsterific says…

As his body temperature rises closer to normal, the muscle tissue begins to twitch or spasm awake. It may take as much as an hour to get to this point, but as long as some progress is being made, and you continue with the constant warming, rubbing, and feeding, he should continue to improve. It may take three hours or more before he is able to walk around again, but rest assured, he will be himself again very soon, as if nothing had happened.

For the next few days, just make sure it gets a lot of water and food. And keep checking it every hour or so…


Being a Better Human Through Science