In another edition of “invasive species are a bad idea,” Australia is suffering a plague of feral camels (on top of the rabbit brouhaha, the cane toad fracas, and the red fox situation). Imported by those clever British settlers to work in the desert in the late 19th century, these dromedaries were released into the wild when trains and machinery took over the work. Now, there are more than a million kicking around the outback, and they are coming to eat your air conditioner. And your toilet. And anything else that might have water in it.
In a completely shocking and unexpected turn of events, the company behind Power Balance wristbands has officially admitted that the product isn’t backed by any scientific studies–and that the company’s advertisements were misleading. And right after the holographic technology to improve “balance, strength and energy” was named CNBC’s Sports Product of 2010!
Did you catch that? That was sarcasm. And while we here at DISCOVER may have our own opinions, the product was endorsed by SHAQ (whose name is also spelled in all caps). SHAQ, how could you lie to us after we supported you through the Kazaam! days?
Power Balance claims that the holograms (which are exactly like the ones in your credit cards) embedded in their wristbands or pendants have some sort of “energy flow” which can be manipulated to “resonate” with the body’s natural “energy flow.” In quotes in the Daily Mail, Power Balance co-founder Josh Rodarmel explains how they “work”:
“Everything in nature has a set frequency. The body has a frequency and things which cause negativity to the human body – like mobile phones and radio waves – break down its natural healing frequency. My brother and I worked out a way of putting good frequencies into our holograms so they balance out the body, making it stronger and more flexible. It works in different ways for different people. Athletes say they can last longer on the field, that they have better balance and that their muscles recover quicker. Non-athletes say it works for them, too, giving them that extra boost off the field, in many areas of life including the office and in the bedroom.”
We’ve caught that frequency before, Rodarmel–it’s the frequency of pseudoscientific hogwash. The company never provided any proof that the bands worked, or any logical reason why they should.
A very similar company’s product demonstration has also been debunked by the Australian skeptic Richard Saunders. See his video below:
Those “green UFOs” that caused a stir in Australia four years ago? Researchers say they definitely weren’t alien spaceships (not like they were going to say anything different), but they still aren’t sure what they actually were.
The three green fireballs were spotted by more than 100 people in the sky over Queensland, Australia on May 16th, 2006. The potential abductees said the lights were brighter than the moon, but not as bright as the sun. A single farmer claims to have seen one of the green balls bouncing down the side of a mountain after hitting the earth.
Stephen Hughes, a researcher at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, has just published a paper on the phenomenon in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A. He explained to LiveScience that the main fireballs were most likely caused by a meteor breaking up and burning in earth’s atmosphere:
In fact, a commercial airline pilot who landed in New Zealand that day reported seeing a meteor breaking up into fragments, which turned green as the bits descended in the direction of Australia. The timing of the fireballs suggests they might have been debris from Comet 73P/Schwassmann–Wachmann 3.
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.
DISCOVER: A New Source of Terror: Drunk Birds
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Alex the parrot and Snowball the cockatoo show that birds can dance
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Drunken monkeys reveal how binge-drinking harms the adolescent brain
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Tiny treeshrews chug alcoholic nectar without getting drunk
Discoblog: Animal Heroics: Parrot Honored for Saving Choking Baby
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Mats Lindh
Australia has a cane toad problem. The little leapers are devastating the Aussie ecosystem (Australia has no native toads). They’re gobbling up native insects and poising any animal that attempts to prey on them. One group thought they had a humane way to stop the toads’ spread—suffocate captured toads by putting them in bags filled with carbon dioxide. But now government officials are saying “not so fast,” and have declared that kill method inhumane. From The Scientist:
The Kimberley Toad Busters (KTB) have been using carbon dioxide exposure to euthanize the toads for five years, successfully eliminating more than half a million pests. But last year, after the cane toad populations made their way into Western Australia (WA), the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) — a department of the WA government — announced that they would not support the use of CO2 until further trials had been done, leaving the KTB nearly weaponless against the rapidly spreading invasion just as the first major wet season rains are starting to fall.
So what does the DEC suggest as a humane way to kill the invasive toads? The agency requests that the Toad Busters use blunt trauma for brain destruction.
Guess it’s time for the Toad Busters to break out their whacking sticks.
Discoblog: Some Animals Need to be More Endangered
Discoblog: Crocs Chow Down on Invasive Toads, Instantly Regret It
Discoblog: To Fight Croc-Killing Toads, Australians Turn to “Cane Toad Golf”
Image: flickr / Sam Fraser-Smith
Trigona carbonaria is a bee without a stinger, one of the 10 or so out of 2,000 Australian bee species to lack the feature. This doesn’t appear to have been any concern… at least not until the hive beetle Aethina tumida showed up. This invasive insect may have reached the island continent along with a flock of athletes during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and as the name suggests, it like to invade beehives. But it hasn’t been very successful in this case, thanks to creative defensive tactics by the bees.
Since the worker can’t sting, they instead make the beetles into mummies. Workers swarm to the approaching beetle, which adopts the turtle defense–tucking in its head and legs, according to researcher Mark Greco, whose team used CT scans to see the action inside the hive. Then the construction onslaught starts. From BBC News:
If you’re planning a visit down under anytime soon, be careful what you eat. Australians are all kinds of annoyed about eating animals this week.
First, an Aussie company came out with chips flavored like emu and kangaroo. I have no idea what emu and kangaroo taste like; I do know that majestic versions of these two animals adorn the national coat-of-arms. That could partially explain why an Australian scientist’s proposal that people curb global warming by eating kangaroo (which don’t produce the methane that cows do through burping) hasn’t really taken hold. Devouring your national symbol just rubs some people the wrong way. From Reuters:
Soccer moms and Little League dads aren’t the only ones living the good life in the ‘burbs. Eastern long-necked turtles in the Australian suburbs are living fat and happy, according to new research in the journal Biological Conservation.
The finding came as a surprise to the research team. According to BBC News:
“We expected suburban turtles to move around less than those on the nature reserves in response to the many threats that suburban turtles could encounter, but we found the opposite,” says Dr John Roe, a member of the research team from the Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra, Australia. “Suburban turtles traveled longer distances and occupied home ranges nearly three times larger than turtles in the nature reserves.”
Seems like suburbanites are forcing McMansions and longer commutes on turtles now too.
Discoblog: Band of Turtles Takes Over JFK Tarmac, Delays Flights
Discoblog: Multibillion Ant “Megacolony” Set to Take Over the Globe
Discoblog: Bees on a Plane! 10,000 Bees Swarm an Airplane Wing in Massachusetts
Image: flickr / reggie35
No one is quite sure what caused bizarre 600-mile-long tubular clouds to form above a small Australian town. But because the fluffy white rods, known as Morning Glory clouds, can move up to 35 miles per hour, they can pose a problem for airplanes flying through the area.
A small number of pilots and tourists travel there each year in hopes of “cloud surfing” with the mysterious phenomenon.
Similar tubular shaped clouds called roll clouds appear in various places around the globe. But nobody has yet figured out what causes the Morning Glory clouds.
Discoblog: The Softer Side of Climate Control?
Discoblog: Pentagon’s New Plan to Rain Down Painful Beams From the Sky
Discoblog: It’s Raining Tadpoles? Fish, Frogs Shower Japanese Residents
Image courtesy of Mick Petroff
Thirteen-year-old Nicholas Rossi took a nasty fall off his bike and hit his head. After picking himself up, he felt fine, so he went home. But when his mom spotted a large bump forming on his cranium, she rushed him to the nearest hospital in their rural Australian town.
The general practitioner on call, Rob Carson, recognized that the boy had fractured his skull, causing a potentially fatal blood clot— the type of brain injury similar to what killed actress Natasha Richardson.
The hospital didn’t have the necessary tool for proper brain surgery, so Carson went to the closet and nabbed a standard power drill. Before drilling into the boy’s skull, he phoned a Melbourne-based neurosurgeon for advice. He then performed the surgery, relieving enough pressure to save Rossi’s life.