How Chicken Heads Saved Switzerland From Rabid Foxes

By Anupum Pant

It’s believed that rabies first arrived on the mainland of Europe in the year 1947. As years passed, the disease steadily started spreading westwards at a rough rate of about 50 km per year. From Poland, towards the west, it started moving into Austria, Germany and Parts of Italy by the year 1970. Now it was Switzerland’s turn to see the deadly disease attack their place. The decided to do something to prevent that from happening. Of course it wasn’t easy. There were problems…

Sad, they had to deal with a couple of problems first.

First, to prevent rabies from reaching the upper reaches of Rhode valley, scientists knew that vaccines composed of artificial or dead viruses would just not work. Doctors at the university of Berne tried testing a weakened live virus vaccines in field tests. These field trials were indeed successful. Still, they knew it could be extremely dangerous if the live virus vaccines started propagating the disease instead of stopping it. So there was a widespread ban on using live virus vaccines.

There was a second problem too. The chief carriers of rabies virus were foxes and to spread the vaccine among them was a pain because if the vaccine went into their stomach, the juices there would make it completely ineffective. To deal with that problem they knew they had to administer a live virus through the lining of the fox’s mouth. It didn’t seem like a possible idea.

And then there was a talk to keep the virus alive inside an egg till the fox finds it. Alas, foxes didn’t like eggs that much. They preferred storing the eggs somewhere, which killed the live virus, making it ineffective.

Alexander Wandeler, the chief organiser of the vaccine trials had a better idea for the future.

To the relief of Swiss vets, the ban on using live and weakened viruses in vaccines was lifted in the year 1983 (I suppose).  Now they knew exactly what to do to prevent rabies from spreading into their country. Alexander’s idea was to hide the vaccine and the egg yolk inside a chicken head (something which the foxes like a lot). So the chicken heads became makeshift syringes to administer the rabies vaccine to foxes. And it worked.

Now if that was too long to read, I’ve decided to include a shorter 10-second version at the end of relatively bigger stories. Tell me if it works for you in the comments section. It’s important to me that you do. Thanks.

Chicken heads laced with weakened virus, which foxes ate to immunize themselves, saved Switzerland. As a result Rabies was virtually eradicated from the country.

via [New Scientist – Jan 13, 1983]

A Book That Filters 4 Years of Drinkable Water

By Anupum Pant

I’ve written a lot about water in the past. No wonder drinking water is such a precious commodity. Still, not many have access to clean water. About a 7th of the whole world’s population don’t have clean water to drink. Every year about 3.4 Million people die out of water borne diseases.

A group of people who go by the name WaterisLife are putting in everything to change that. By working with a group of scientists from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia, they have been able to come up with a novel idea that could change this. They call it the drinkable book. 

Drinkable book is a book full of cards that have been coated with silver nanoparticles. These cards bear the ability to filter dirty water and reduce the count of bacteria in it by about 99.9%. It can kill the bacteria that causes diseases like cholera, typhoid and E. coli., producing drinkable water that is as pure as tap water used in the US. Each page of this book can filter about 30 days of drinkable water. In fact, each page contains the instructions to filter water properly too. The whole book can provide 4 years of potable water. Definitely a boon to the developing countries.

The Evil Powdered Alcohol or Palcohol

By Anupum Pant

As if liquid alcohol wasn’t itself causing enough menace, now we have this futuristic powdered alcohol. They call it “Palcohol”.

All you need is, to mix a little of it with water, and there, you have your doze for the day. Other way to consume it would be to snort it for an “instantaneous high”, which by the way, is nothing less than deadly.

On an unrelated note, I find the host of this show is so adorable.


  • Palcohol certainly makes it easy for kids (and others) to carry alcohol around, and also to move it into places where it isn’t allowed (football games and concerts), which is definitely not desirable.
  • Also, the powder is highly flammable. Who wants a bomb in their pocket?
  • Another really bad thing about it is that it can easily kill you. Snorting can damage your mucous membrane. Also, since it is alcohol in high concentration, you can easily overdose on powdered alcohol and pass out.
  • The nightmare of every person, date rape, well, that just got a lot easier. Scary! How easy would it be for a creep to slip this powder into a drink of an unsuspecting victim – This is also Lacy’s primary concern (watch the video below).
  • So many new laws need to be in place before it gets available for public.

The patent to create powdered alcohol was published long back, in the 70s, but it is only now that they have got a federal approval. However, the Fed’s approval was taken back due to some issues. It is interesting to note that several other countries like Japan, Netherlands and Germany already have such products that are being sold in the market. How do the authorities in those countries  deal with this menace!

Nevertheless, Palcohol, a new and improved way to get drunk is here. It’s not going back.

Good news (?) is that it can be made at home. Read this PopSci article for the recipe.

I see only problems with Palcohol. I don’t think it needs to be in the retail market. What do you say?