Stories tagged Germany

First it was Knute the polar bear. Then Paul the soccer match predicting octopus. Now meat Heidi, the cross-eyed possum who's taken German zoo visitors' imaginations by storm.

Jun
12
2009

Not to be trusted
Not to be trustedCourtesy superbomba
Hey, so a little German lad was hit on his little German paw by a meteorite traveling in the neighborhood of 30,000 miles per hour. No doubt he cried, and said something funny in German, but things are working out for him now.

Here are two problems I would like y’all to address:

Problem one: The article says that the bullet-sized meteorite “bounced off” the boy’s hand, before gouging a foot-long crater in the pavement beneath him. Mm-kay… awesome. But answer this, Augustus Gloop: a rifle bullet travels at about 1000 meters per second, or 2,237 miles per hour. A rifle bullet wouldn’t bounce off your hand. Your hand wouldn’t even bounce off the bullet. This bullet-sized space rock was traveling more than 13 times faster than a bullet, and it just “bounced off” your hand? I think you’re lying, Augustus! What really happened to your hand, Augustus?!

Also, the article says that the chances of being struck by a meteorite are about 1 in 100 million. Doesn’t that seem really high? Most meteorites totally burn up in the atmosphere, and the ones that do reach Earth almost always fall in the water. (The article says that about 6 out of 7 meteorites hit the water… but where does that come from? You’d think that would mean that about 86% of the Earth is covered by water, but the actual area is closer to 70%. Anyway…) So, still, the chances of getting hit by a meteorite are 1 in 100 million? But the odds of winning the jackpot in the lottery are about 1 in 200 million, and that seems to happen more often than human meteor strikes. If there are 6.7 billion people on the planet, 67 of those people should be hit by meteorites at some point in their lives, but I’m not ever hearing about it. Someone explain this to me. Why doesn’t the world share its hilarious and disgusting meteorite-strike stories? Is this a conspiracy? Augustus Gloop, are you behind this too? Are you?!

You've probably never thought about this before, but catfish and soccer balls don't mix well. Read this to find out why.

Jan
13
2008

An old German graveyard: Probably swimming with grave wax.
An old German graveyard: Probably swimming with grave wax.Courtesy whimsical truth
Check this out: Germany’s dead bodies have stopped rotting, and are instead turning into gross, waxy corpses. Not all the bodies, I suppose, but enough that it’s becoming a serious problem.

Now this alone would be pretty unsettling anywhere, because who wants waxy corpses just stacking up everywhere, but it’s even more of an issue with the Germans, because German cemeteries often have the practice of “recycling” cemetery plots every 15 to 20 years. In the past 15 to 20 years was plenty of time for a body to more or less completely decompose. Unfortunately, that formula doesn’t quite work for the graveyards of today.

For a body to decompose quickly and fully, it needs oxygen to be present, and a little moisture (but not too much). The problem in Germany is that when many communities created their newest cemeteries, they purchased cheap soil with high clay content from local farmers. This clay-heavy soil drains very poorly, keeps the bodies cool, and prevents oxygen from reaching them. And what happens then? Instead of rotting into good old-fashioned grave dirt, the bodies turn into a “gray-white, paste-like, soft mass.” Oh, man, yuckers! But that’s not all – given time, the pasty bodies eventually solidify into a hard, durable, wax-like substance that “when knocked with a spade… sound hollow.”

As fun as it must be for them to go around whacking dead bodies with spades, Germany obviously can’t allow this problem to continue (although I noticed that the most serious potential problem, zombie uprising, was entirely ignored by the article, I expect this factors heavily into the German government’s concern over the situation). The best solution would be to undertake some serious soil reconditioning, and recreate graveyards as decomposition friendly areas. There happens to be a Swiss company that offers just such a service, replacing the poor quality earth with a “custom mixture of topsoil, woodchips and gravel.” This is awfully expensive however, and pretty messy, what with the digging up whole graveyards thing, and so other solutions are being sought simultaneously. Cement burial chambers, for instance, are becoming a hot selling item with Germany’s wealthier dead. These pre-fab sarcophagi are meant to allow for the sort of decomposition prohibited by the poor soil, but studies have shown that they generally don’t work out as intended. The chambers are made to be watertight, and when the “contents” are later examined, researchers have found that not even the flower arrangements rot inside them. What ends up happening is that the bodies just dry out and “take on the leathery consistency of mummies.” As one researcher describes it, “The soft tissue of the corpses was partially still very recognizable, although its volume was significantly reduced.”

The Swiss have offered yet another solution as well – a fungal extract called “Rapid Rot” designed to accelerate decomposition. While Rapid Rot has obvious potential for practical jokes, cemetery officials remain skeptical, preferring to wait a few years to see if the product really works.

What about all that? Did I already write “yuckers”? Oh, I did? And it’s not a real word? Fair enough – then what about all this: I got bored writing that last paragraph and looked up “grave wax.” Apparently grave wax, or “adipocere,” is made up of insoluble fatty acids left over from our fatty dead bodies. These fats have saponified, which is to say, turned to soap! Awesome! The German bodies are essentially huge, disgusting, person-shaped bars of death soap! That would give you a clean feeling like nothing else.

There’s apparently a museum in Pennsylvania with the adipocere body of an extremely obese woman, called “The Soap Lady,” who, let’s see… yes! I found a picture of her! You’re probably already looking at her. Oh, man.

The Soap Lady: Looking horrified, horrifying.
The Soap Lady: Looking horrified, horrifying.Courtesy Mendrakis
If you’re up for it after ol’ Soap Lady, here’s a site completely dedicated to all things adipocere. I honestly don’t want to, but I’m going to look at the site first, to see if it’s safe. Ok…

Well, the site uses phrases like “cheese-like substance,” “pungent odor similar to ammonia,” and “rank and cheesy, or sweet smelling” (I like to think my adipocere would be sweet smelling). There are kind of a lot of references to cheese, unfortunately. And the photos are… checking… eh, pretty gross. Very Dawn of the Dead, actually.

Have at it, Buzzketeers, and remember that, when you die, there’s a chance that your body could be “heated to a plastic-like state, melted, clarified, or burned,” and that your consistency may vary, “from being gooey as with a mushy bar of soap, to semi-soft like with a young cheddar cheese, to hard and grainy, as with candle wax.”

Jul
03
2006

Magic Nano: The "Magic Nano" cleaning spray.
Magic Nano: The "Magic Nano" cleaning spray.

When "Magic Nano" cleaning spray went on the market in March, it got yanked almost immediately after over 100 people reported coughing fits and breathing problems. So was this the first health disaster for nanotechnology? No, considering the product didn’t contain any nanotechnology or nanoscale particles, just a nano marketing ploy.

The product used the name because it created a thin film on the surface you were cleaning but didn't use any nanoscale properties. The problem with the product was more about a poorly tested traditional aerosol.

We should keep this story in mind as nanotechnology finds its way into more and more products. Nanotechnology product expert, Neil McClelland, puts it well when he says,

"People are just starting to hear about nanotechnology and this issue will just help to bring the issue to the fore. But it would be disastrous for all concerned if the nature of nano is destroyed. Imagine if we had had a bad batch of penicillin at the beginning and wrote it off - that would have been a tragedy. The implications of nanotechnology in healthcare are massive. We have a moral obligation that this technology will do well."

The Pan American Health Organization is so alarmed that it has warned fans from the Americas to get immunised before leaving for Germany. New Scientist magazine