Following a lunchtime chat with microhylidae
, I have discovered:
Bees are really, really important. Most people know this: the honeybee population is dying out, and it has been for the past four years.
No bees, no pollination of our crops -- no crops, no food -- that's bad. But it's much more drastic than I realized: this article
says it's a 29 percent loss in 2009, 36 percent loss in 2008; clearly these are not sustainable losses.
What are we doing to our planet, with our pesticides and honeybee-suicides?
On a totally different note, I was wrong when I said I thought that HIV used to be a faster killer in the 1950s; it apparently was far less
virulent, and people could actually just eliminate it from their immune systems back then. (This is semi-anecdotal evidence from the 50s since formal HIV studies weren't around back then; they were actually looking at rates of the occurrence of deadly PCP pneumonia, which a normal immune system always keeps in check. It's only deadly if you have no immune system left.)
The tipping point in the 1980s was not about HIV becoming a slower-moving killer (as we were talking about when we discussed how it might be better if HIV were like Ebola and just killed people fast, so that it never got a chance to spread). The virus mutated to became a stronger killer, not a less-slow one.
Chickens are more mysterious than I thought.
The internet has no answer as to why a hen should go about the trouble of laying an unfertilized egg. Yes, an unfertilized egg is a (huge) cell that has gone to the trouble of forming a yolk and, worse yet, a shell
so that sperm can't possibly come in and fertilize it. Yes, that's a whole lot of work for chicken bodies for no reason that Google can name. People say things like, "But human women get rid of their unfertilized eggs," except that we don't have to also get rid of placental nutrients in the form of yolk when we do that, and we certainly don't do it once a day.
Apparently Mother Nature is ineffable.
And on a final, silly note, did you know that not only is there a plant called the Marsh Mallow, but that marshmallows were actually named after the pith of the marshy plant? Boil it in sugar syrup and you get a similar texture to the gelatinous fluffy candy we know today. (Wiki link
I do love learning and thinking about things with Bob.