The Monkey Island

By Anupum Pant

Off the coast of South Carolina is an island, the Morgan island, which is home to about 4000 monkeys. Locals call it the monkey island. Approximately 750 new baby monkeys join the monkey army on Morgan island every year. However, all the monkeys living in that island  are there for a reason. These monkeys are medical test subjects – used by researchers for medical testing – for vaccine testing (Polio, AIDS etc..). That is the reason about 500 monkeys are taken away from the island every year.

No humans live on this 4000 acre remote island. Also the Monkey island is a protected area and no unauthorised people are allowed to enter it. Only authorised monkey caretakers can go in. Others who try to enter will be greeted with a monkey-shit storm – Yes, monkeys of the Monkey island pelt feces at strangers.

Thankfully, the research isn’t done at the island itself. The island is like a store for all the monkeys. So you can rest assured that you won’t run across any mutant monkeys on this island, if you some how end up there.

Where did they come from?

They were all put there by us humans. Back in the 70s the monkey colony was at La Parguera in Puerto Rico. When there were reports of infected monkeys escaping and reaching human settlements, the locals were stirred. As a result, the monkeys were all collected and had to be shifted to a remote island where no one lived – Morgan Island.


Up or Down – Cats in Space

By Anupum Pant

Cat’s righting reflex

Cat_fall_150x300_6fpsThanks to the Vestibular righting reflex, animals like cats are able to land on their feet after a fall. This is great because it helps them avoid injury. In fact, it helps them avoid injuries in a very counter-intuitive manner.

In a study done in the year 1987, researchers found that cats falling from 6 storeys or less usually have greater injuries than cats falling from places higher than 6 storeys. There have been cats who have survived a fall from as high as 32 storeys. It’s so absurd, I had to mention that.

Also cats have been often found falling from high rise buildings due to a phenomenon known as the high-rise syndrome. This happens because cats mostly have a natural attraction towards high places, often get distracted by a prey and fall.

Cats In Space?

All said, there’s no doubt that cats can right themselves pretty well. But to do it, they need to have a sense of what is up and what is down. That sense, of course comes from gravity. What happens to them in micro gravity? A little kid asked me that and I had no answer. Who would have tested that, I thought.

So I checked. To my surprise, cats-in-zero-gravity-tests (simulated weightlessness) have actually been done previously by the USAF medical division and Russian cosmonaut training centre. Here’s an interesting old video of how cat’s natural reflex to right itself by spinning longitudinally fails in a simulated zero-G environment. The video also has confused pigeons flying upside down in zero-G. The whole film can be seen here.

Through experimentation it has been found that when it comes to animals in space, there are three different kinds of behaviours seen among various animals.

The first ones are the kind of animals who freeze in zero-G and wait for the weightlessness to go away. There are others, like cats and pigeons, who start moving about madly, trying to figure out which side is up. In fact, pigeons in zero-G have been seen flying upside down too. And the third ones are who stay calm and find the best way to move around.

Geckos have been seen to take on a free-falling stance in zero-G. Fish and fruit flies are some of the creatures who can deal with zero-G very well.

And if you wish to see some long slender legs before you go, here is a video of frogs in space. The video also talks about aliens entering the earth – tadpoles born outside the earth were brought back. Technically they were aliens and they entered earth!

First Man-made Object in Space – A Manhole Cover?

By Anupum Pant

Edit: The first man-made object to cross the boundary of space (100 km above the sea level, or the karman line) a Nazi German V2 rocket on October 3, 1942. – As mentioned by Scott and Adolf in the comments.


Odd, I know. Teachers would say Sputnik was the first ever man-made object to orbit earth, but there is a slight possibility that Sputnik might not have been it – it could have been a humble manhole cover (not so humble, read on).

Back in the year 1956 (or summer of 1957, but definitely before the launch of Sputnik which happened on 4th October 1957), scientists at Los Alamos were learning to contain a nuclear explosion. To find out, they decided to do a much much larger version of the fire-cracker-in-a-can trick…
I’m not sure if they were doing it out of a desire to loft objects in space using a novel nuclear bomb propulsion, or it was something else, it sure was madness.

The mad experiment

In a 500 feet long and 4 feet wide vertical cylindrical tunnel, they put a nuclear bomb. The top of this tunnel was sealed using a 4 inch thick man hole cover (on steroids). The lid weighed about 2 tons! They were sure that even the 2 ton lid would blow off like feather due to the nuclear explosion. However, they weren’t sure on exactly how fast it’d travel up. To measure the speed, high-speed cameras were placed near the opening.

The bomb was detonated. Some say that the high speed cameras were only able to capture the image of the lid in a single frame. Which by the way could also contribute to an enormous error margin in the speed calculation. Nevertheless, the speed was of the lid at which it flew up in the air was calculated to be 41 miles per second – approximately 6 times the escape velocity! Never before had any man made objects moved at that speed inside the earth’s atmosphere. The lid went. It was never seen again. No one knows where it is now.

It’s highly likely that the lid was burned up and never reached Space. Or, may be it did reach some place and then dropped back. Again, must have got burnt during re-entry. Nothing can be said for sure.

Another thing that could have happened is that the lid went on and started orbiting the earth – highly unlikely, still. It’s probably still floating up there. And if things weren’t worse already, think of this – the first man-made object ever to orbit the earth was a manhole cover? Or, the fastest man-made object ever to travel inside the earth’s atmosphere was a manhole lid? Damn!

[Source 1] [Source 2]