The town of Palmerston, Australia is now the unwilling host of a parrot frat party. Hundreds of lorikeets appear to be drunk: The disoriented birds are passing out cold and falling from tree branches.
Though seemingly inebriated parrots have been spotted before in Palmerston, never has the town seen this many at once. The situation concerns veterinarians, since the birds are injuring themselves, and, untreated, could die.
About eight lorikeets arrive each day to the Ark Animal Hospital, which cares for about thirty at a time. “They definitely seem like they’re drunk,” Lisa Hansen, a veterinary surgeon at the hospital told the the AFP. “They fall out of trees… and they’re not so coordinated as they would normally be. They go to jump and they miss the next perch.” Hansen and colleagues nurses them to health by feeding them a “hangover” broth that includes sweet fruit.
Literally drunk parrots have appeared in other parts of the world, for example in Austria in 2006, when birds ate rotting, fermenting berries. This time the inebriated birds remain a mystery: Some locals speculate that the birds are feasting on something something alcoholic, but others fear they have caught an unknown illness.
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Image: Wikimedia Commons / Mats Lindh
Imagine dropping a few hundred dollars for a bottle of “premium wine” only to discover it tastes like plonk! For years, collectors of fine wines have gone to great lengths to ensure that the wine they buy is indeed of the advertised quality and age. From tamper-proof caps to prevent the dilution of a premium wine with cheap stuff to an electric tongue that can distinguish fine wines, connoisseurs have tried their best not to get ripped off. Now, they have another trick at their disposal, and this one involves an atom bomb.
According to new research, collectors can avoid purchasing a faked bottle of an old vintage by running the wine through a “bomb pulse” test, which uses the radioactive material present in air to date the wine. The system is accurate enough, say scientists, to date your wine’s vintage up to a year of its production–so that a collector can be certain, for example, that a Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982 isn’t actually a child of the aughts.
Oh, St. Patrick’s Day! Somehow it has become the day of binge drinking, day of doing shots, and the day before contemplating why you spent the last 24 hours drinking your head off. Nonetheless, St. Paddy must be honored, and honor him we shall—with alcohol and some science.
We decided to reach into the past and pull out the wondrous mystery of the Guinness beer bubbles. For years, the mysterious downward flowing Guinness bubbles have confounded both professional scientists and drinkers. When the bartender pulls a pint of most any beer, the bubbles can clearly be seen gushing to the top. When a pint of Guinness is poured, however, the bubbles slyly cascade down the sides of the glass, while the beer mysteriously maintains its frothy layer on top.
So in 2004, scientists Andy Alexander from the Royal Society of Chemistry and Dick Zare of Stanford University decided to find out why the bubbles act the way they do. After preliminary research trips to the local pub proved unfruitful, they decided to move the scene to a lab where they rigged a high-speed camera to take pictures of the Guinness being poured. The camera could zoom in and magnify the images ten times.
The next time, you’re taking shots straight out of a bottle of mezcal, the potent Mexican alcohol made from the agave or a maguey plant, remember what you’re drinking. Swirling in your mouth is not just the strong smoky alcohol guaranteed to knock you out, but also caterpillar DNA from the “worm” that is often found at the bottom of the bottle.
The worm is actually the larval form of the moth Hypopta agavis that lives on the agave plant and really has no business being in the bottle except to serve as a marketing gimmick. Still, many a drinker has set out to prove his iron will and iron stomach by swallowing the booze-soaked insect at the bottom. Turns out there’s no need for such dramatic gestures. Researchers have found that DNA from the caterpillar can be extracted from the alcohol it’s preserved in.
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• Nonja the Orangutan can update her own Facebook page. Apparently, she’s also a fan of the camera-phone-too-close-to-the-face profile pic.
• The Iron Curtain not only isolated Eastern Europe, it also kept alien bird species from colonizing it.
• Nepal’s cabinet met today to discuss climate change’s effect on the Himalayas—5,242 meters high at the base of Mount Everest.
• Finally, it’s Friday. Time to kick back, crack open a few space beers, and enjoy the weekend.
New Zealand explorers are Antarctica-bound to rescue a cache of rare whiskey left on the continent by British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton during his journey in 1909.
Buried under the floorboards of a hut where his crew spent a long, dark winter are two crates of an extinct brand of McKinlay and Co. whiskey. Experts say the historic booze has been preserved in ice, according to Stuff.co.az:
The New Zealanders will use special drills to free the trapped crates and rescue a bottle from the crates, discarded near the Cape Royds hut used by the Nimrod expedition, or at least draw off a sample using a syringe.
However, they won’t be sipping the whiskey if they can remove it. International protocols say the crates can be removed from Antarctica for conservation only. Whyte & Mackay, the distillery that owns McKinlay and Co., says if they can draw a sample, the blend could be replicated and put back into production. So one day soon, you too could be sipping on Shackleton’s preferred hooch.
Let’s hope their drilling adventure goes more smoothly than other recent trips to Antarctica…
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Discoblog: Antarctica and the American Southwest: Former Neighbors?
Discoblog: Using Nuclear Tests on “Aged” Whiskey Could Save You $30,000
Image: flickr / individuo
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People who take their Scotch seriously—and many should, if they’re paying up to $38,000 a bottle for it—may have just made some new, unexpected friends: archaeologists. Whiskey connoisseurs will want to borrow an archaeological technique now that scientists have learned that radiocarbon dating can weed out counterfeit whiskey.
Ohio resident Kile Wygle certainly gets points for creativity. He not only converted an old lawnmower into a motorized bar stool, but also drove it drunk, attempting to avoid the associated charges by saying he was driving a bar stool—not a vehicle. But under state law, unfortunately for him, operating any motorized vehicle except for wheelchairs and mobility scooters is prohibited while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
So how did this particular vehicle come about? Wygle’s homemade stool was powered by a 5-horsepower motorcycle engine, which controlled a chain drive attached to a rear wheel. The front wheels were controlled by an old lawnmower steering wheel. The stool could reach up to 38 miles per hour, and at that speed, comfort is sure to be important—enter the padded seat, which had been welded to the frame.
Most people, even without refined taste for wine, probably could taste the difference between vino from a box and a $50 chardonnay. But perhaps few of us have the palette to tell a really good wine from a really, really good wine. Well, fear not—the machines are coming to do the job for us.
Two different groups have recently announced new designs that could help consumers know whether they’re guzzling the good stuff or imbibing a fraud. First, scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory created a counterfeit-resistant cap. Roger Johnston and Jon Warner’s design fits over the cork, and once it’s attached to the wine bottle, it completes a circuit.