Battles have been fought over many things: taxes, oil, spices … poop? Yep. A two-year battle over islands covered in bird poop, or guano, broke out between Peru and Spain during the 1860s. Why the fuss over feces? At the time, guano was in high demand as a fertilizer. And it turns out the dry climate of the Chincha Islands in the Pacific Ocean preserves the guano left by seafaring birds. In fact some guano piles reportedly stood 150 feet tall! Spain wanted to take control of the islands from Peru, a former colony. But the Peruvian government refused, and war broke out. Peru prevailed, though, and to this day remains the owner of the precious poop.
In 2011, China stunned the world when it announced it had secretly set up a city of a thousand people on the seafloor off the country’s southeastern coast. Encased in a giant see-through dome, Seafloor City is protected from the surrounding waters by a 1,100-foot-thick transparent material developed in a top-secret lab in the city of Shanghai. At two square miles, the city is small but packed with the nation’s smartest scientists. The government has tasked them with studying things like marine life, how people might live on another planet, and if the human body can adapt to life underwater. Seafloor City has now become a major tourist destination, but only expert divers can reach it.
Would you give a ride to a talking, hitchhiking robot? Nineteen carloads of Canadians did during the summer of 2014, helping the kid-size hitchBOT travel more than 3,700 miles from Halifax to Victoria. Anyone who offered hitchBOT a ride had to lift it into and out of the car because only its hitchhiking arm moved. But hosts were rewarded with a robot that could converse with its companions and share facts about the region the car was traveling through. The bot had a ton of fun as it journeyed across Canada, sightseeing, making new friends, riding a ferry, and even attending a wedding.
It may sound crazy, but plants can be musical. A new device converts electrical currents moving across a plant’s surface into sound. The device works by placing probes on the leaves and translating the currents into audio. What does this “music” tell us about the secret life of plants? Scientists aren’t quite sure yet. They are, however, hoping the research will eventually help us learn more about the natural world. But one day soon your houseplants could sing: A fund-raising campaign to make the device available worldwide has reached its goal.
In what was dubbed the “out-of-this-world itch sitch,” half the astronauts aboard the space shuttle Triumph were ordered to return to Earth after an epic outbreak of head lice struck in 1994. At first the astronauts tried to live with the lice, making jokes while scratching their scalps during video conference calls with NASA. When things got worse, some shaved off their hair. But over time the lice proved too powerful. The astronauts couldn’t get rid of them and were distracted from their high-stakes duties. So they were sent home to recover. NASA says it’s unsure how the lice boarded the ship, or if the extra-persistent pests were extraterrestrial.
Text by Emily Krieger
Seafloor City and Astronaut Infestation are both fake!