Continuing the theme of finding weird facts in unexpected places, the raptor took me to a lecture tonight on a mix of science things ranging from making zombies to London in the Ice Age. I have no idea what, if anything, I would use any of the following facts for in a story but they are all things that would be hard to find elsewhere and made my writing muscle flex.
- The emerald cockroach wasp injects venom into the brains of cockroaches, so they don’t want to run away. The wasp then lays its eggs inside the cockroach and leads it into a burrow. The cockroach, under the influence, stays put whilst the larvae eat their way out through its internal organs in an order designed to keep it alive as long as possible.
- Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite which is attracted to any warm-blooded creature. It gives off toxins in the brain which slow reactions and dampen fear responses. On a survey of car crash victims (who were not drunk / fell asleep at the wheel), 75% of them were found to have toxoplasma gondii. The parasite can also cross the placenta barrier into foetuses which, in livestock, triggers a natural abortion.
- Antarctica is the only continent with no human history and the ecosystem has therefore evolved in an alien way. It is also a huge hub for astronomy as it reaches out into parts of space we can’t access from anywhere else on the planet. In a brilliantly lyrical comment on the dangers of the environment, one researcher said ‘Antarctica isn’t hostile, it’s patient’.
- The Mayan forecast for the end of the world last December was actually forecasting the end of an era, called a baktun. We are now in the 13th baktun. Each one is 144,000 days long.
- Strangelets are hypothetical particles which as so stable that they convert all other matter to strangelets on contact. It would take only a few hours for one strangelet to convert the entire world and all life on it into entirely stable and lifeless matter.
- In 10¹ºº years, all the stars in the universe will have burned out and the black holes will have evaporated. The universe will have expanded to such an extent that any remaining photos are statistically never going to meet and form new bodies. This is called the Great Dark.
- In the last cold Ice Age, woolly rhinos and woolly mammoths were in London – their remains have been found as far south as Morden. In the last warm period of the Ice Age era, there were 4 metre tall elephants, hippo, hyenas, lions and bison all living in the Thames valley.
- To build new organs, you can put old ones in strong detergent which will dissolve the cells and muscles. Stem cells can then be grown on the remaining architecture. Or, if you don’t have an old organ handy, you can apparently ground seaweed into powder and use this in a 3D printer to print a new organ architecture!