I’m going to help you shine at the next soirée you attend. Not with make-up or fashion tips – you’re on your own on those counts. I’m going to share with you the sort of stuff that will make everybody wonder about your high level of curiosity and intellect. Or, they might just think you’re kinda awesomely weird. Either way, your presence will be noted and remembered. So, lets get started.
I’m always on the look out for simple yet brilliant problem solving information. Out of the box thinking excites me. You’ll see what I mean:
First up is the use of moles in archaeological digs. That’s right, the much reviled creature is being put to proper work! A museum in northern Denmark is using the velvety creatures to gather information at a site where it is thought the remains of a fort from the Middle Ages are hidden below. The contents of the mole hills left behind by the animals are analyzed so the underground locations of the buildings can be determined. Bits of pottery and such are brought up in the mix of soil. The more the content of these, the closer they are to the buildings. How about that?!!
“Moleology”can be as effective as more technical research methods. The big bonus is that it doesn’t destroy anything at the historical mounds in order to get a lot of important information.
Understandably, the Danish culture agency initially thought the application by Viborg Museum was a joke. But after realizing the idea was legitimate they approved it. Ha.
We now come to my second nugget of brilliance. Dandelions, another object of disdain in many lawn loving circles, might be the future producers of rubber. To ensure the steady supply of natural rubber for tires, manufacturers are hoping to harness flower power in a big way.
Although rubber can be manufactured in a lab, tires require a large portion of natural rubber as it is more superior in flexibility and hardiness. Natural rubber is made from the milky latex of the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis. However, this comes at a high ecological cost. Not the least is that the rubber trees in Asia are vulnerable to the same fungal diseases that decimated those in Brazil.
So there has been a need to come up with alternatives. Enter the humble dandelion. Scientists are working to improve the Central Asian strain of this weed that can supply latex sap on a large enough scale. Imagine! One day, there could be dandelion rubber farms!
My own fondness for these cheerful plants is vindicated.
Finally, there is good news from Europe in the fight against the bee-killing Asian hornets. Asian hornets ( not the European hornets) are a menace to bee hives and are spreading across Europe. They now face a natural enemy that lures them to destruction – a carnivorous North American plant, French experts say. Our own pitcher plant from Massachusetts is trapping the alien hornets but not the native wasps. Pheromone specific! Hot damn.
Each Sarracenia plant has up to 15 pitchers, and can attract as many as 50 hornets. But a typical hornet’s nest houses 4,000 insects – so the plants by themselves cannot deal with the problem. Clearly, much more research is required. A super-pitcher plant in the future? In any case, once again, Americans might have to save Europe. It is deja-vu all over again.
You see? You now have some priceless ice-breakers for your next party. Have fun.
(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar