Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 21, 2005



Sci Zone

By Tawsif Saleheen

The beauty of life is in knowing that you can die any minute. That's why you never study chemistry. After all, what's the point in memorizing the god-awful gibberish of some Haber's Process or something just the minute before you die. You are better off watching Bay Watch in Star World, because that's about the only way to make sure that the angels of death are too scared to come near you. And if you fail in your chemistry exam, you can always blame it on the new budget. It's a trendy excuse.

I'm back, folks! The A-Level hell is finally over and some how I'm still alive. I wouldn't be, once the results are out; but there's still a month to go in between. For the time being, I'm trying to master the habit of waking up early in the morning and running in the local park, so as to make sure that I get to maintain a maximum distance from my beloved mother (and whatever kitchen utensil she might be carrying) once my results come out; I'm feeling pious all of a sudden! Hemingway might have been too daft to make an epic novel out of it, but the life of a nineteen-year-old awaiting his A-Level result is tragic indeed. Having a mother, who's way too inspired by the Tarantino action-flicks, only makes the pain worse…

Back to sci zone, I've come to hear that animals are capable of sharing a similar kind of emotion with the human beings - stress. Scientists claim that baboons in East Africa are capable of being 'stressed out'. Apparently, baboons are highly social animals, and sometimes feel stressed out due to their position in the society. In other words, a baboon can be seriously frustrated with his life and even consider opening his own gothic-metal band, just because his best friend lives in a taller tree. Considering the no-hopers we have in our country nowadays, a baboon might still end up making a better singer, but unfortunately the increased amount of stress in baboons can damage their hippocampus, a region of the brain central to learning and memory.

Surprising as it sounds, baboons with higher ranks in the society devote a large part of each day to making the others absolutely miserable with social stress. Gets you wondering where the hindi soap operas draw inspirations from!

Baboons are luckier than toads, though. Thousands of toads have been reported to swell up in gases and explode, propelling their innards upto a distance of one metre, in the Altona district of Hamburg in April 2005. These toads are the only animals in the history of evolution to explode while alive. Ironically, it's supposed to be a self-defense mechanism!

According to scientists, the toads in Hamburg might have exploded because of being poked around too much by the predator crows. It kind of gets you wondering whether all the thousands of toads were indeed exploded by the crows, or after a while the locals themselves got bored and started poking the toads with pencils and forks, just for the fun of it! Well, at last no one's blaming the Al Quaida for the explosions this time…

According to Berlin veterinarian Franz Mutschmann the cause might be a combination of crow attacks and the natural puff-up defense mechanism of the toads. Apparently, toad lever happens to be a rather mouth watering delicacy for the crows in Hamburg. As a result, crows tend to attack the toads to pick through their chest and abdominal cavity. The toads tend to puff-up in a defensive move which in turn, due to a hole in the body and a missing liver, results into an explosion of blood vessels and internal organs!

Other scientists have blamed the explosion on viral and fungal infections. Some have even gone as far as to blame it on increased ultra-violet radiation, while others are still grumbling about pesticides. Whatever the cause is, toad explosion is definitely one of the most macabre phenomena one can ever witness!

Wee bit of an advice before concluding today's column. Stay away from Adnan Sami; you never know when he explodes! And even if he doesn't, stay away from Adnan Sami anyway. He might be just hungry.

(Feel free to drop your suggestions at sighzone@gmail.com.)





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