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Script Notes: Ending

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160423.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:51 am Reply with quote

Frederick The Monk wrote:

Q5: So what is unusual about these animals? [Harlequin Frog/ The Ivory-billed Woodpecker/ Almiqui/ Sumatran Ground Cuckoo etc]

The ivory-billed woodpecker probably needs to come out of that, according to this week's New Scientist:


The best evidence for the continued existence of the ivory-billed woodpecker, believed extinct for decades until 'captured' on video two years ago, has been discredited. A video analysis of the common pileated woodpecker to be published in BMC Biology shows it has the colour, pattern and wingbeat frequency thought to be unique to the ivory-bill.

160425.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:03 am Reply with quote

Q2 What did the world health Organisation parachute into Borneo in 1959 to end an epidemic?

Here's the note. As I mentioned to you, I think it'd be better to get the comedy image of the parachuting cats into the question, eg

How were the Dayaks saved by parachuting cats?

with a picture of a cat in a parachute harness (or, better still, film of a cat parachuting if Helen can figure out a way to fake it - or do it for real, I suppose) for the panel to work with.

Picture researchers - Helen, see above. If too difficult, best give it to the Photoshoppers.

Parachuting Cats into Sarawak

In 1959 a British / WHO anti-malaria campaign sprayed northern Borneo with DDT to kill mosquitos. An unintended side-effect was that the DDT was eaten by cockroaches which were in turn eaten by cats - and once all the cats were dead, the rat population exploded. So the WHO team collected up all the cats they could beg along the coast and shipped them to the Dayak communities inland. Because it's a jungle, many of the cats were sent in by parachute, in boxes primed to spring open on landing.

DDT was developed in the 1940s and won its developer Paul Hermann Muller a Nobel in 1948, but its use has been widely curtailed since 1962, when its ability to impact on higher organisms through biological magnification became apparent. It also became apparent that indiscriminate usage just promoted the growth of resistant strains of mosquito, so was self-defeating. Anti-environmentalists sometimes use the case of DDT as an example of environmentalism gone mad (to save wildlife we're killing babies). This stance can't be justified; DDT is still used in targeted circumstances, and the reason it isn't used as a crop spray is the practical one that it doesn't work, for the reason given above.

Mosquitoes are estimated to transmit diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and elephantiasis to 69 million people annually, causing over 5 million deaths, and rates of malarial infection in Africa are now higher than they have ever been. Although they're associated with the Tropics it isn't the case that mosquitos can exist only in hot places; in fact some of the worst outbreaks of malaria have occurred in cold climates.

The word February seems to come from Febris, Roman god of malaria.

160451.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 11:04 am Reply with quote

And here are the notes on fish-drops:

Cats aren't the only creatures to get dropped from aeroplanes. Fishing lakes in remote areas of California are stocked by the simple method of chucking baby trout - “fingerlings” - out of planes flying over the water at 200mph.

They've tried various containers - such as ice cream cartons- and found that the best results come from the “freefall” method. Trout up to 4” in length apparently have a 100% survival rate.

Giving the fish a small dose of barbiturates puts them into a state of almost suspended animation, so that they can be packed into small amounts of water in the plane.

Only one problem: because the planes can’t fly slowly without falling out of the sky, the fish-drops sometimes miss the lakes and they end up with trees full of trout.

160458.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 11:14 am Reply with quote

Maybe they could have just dropped the cats from a little lower without a parachute? According to at least some cats survive falls from high buildings - and in fact are more likely to survive if they fall more than seven stories than if they fall less.

160479.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:31 pm Reply with quote

Yes, we ran that one. Maybe I should add a line to the note, though.

160547.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:29 pm Reply with quote

One thing Rasputin did with his dying breath, almost, was to write his will, which he addressed to the Tsar. This is a copy of it:

I write this letter, the last letter, which will be left after me in Saint Petersburg. I have a premonition that I will die before 1 January (1917)*. I speak to the Russian People, to Papa [he referred to Nikholai II as Papa and Aleksandra as Mama], to Mama and Children, to all of the Russian Land, what they should know and understand. If I will be killed by ordinary people, especially by my brothers–the Russian peasants, then you, the Russian Tsar, should not worry about Your Children, –they will lead in Russia another hundred years.

But if I am murdered by the boyars and noblemen**, if they spill my blood, and it stays upon their hands, then twenty five years will pass before they be able to wash my blood from their hands. They will have to flee from Russia. Brother will kill brother, everyone will kill each other and hate each other***, and at the end of twenty five years, not one nobleman will be left in Russia****. Tsar of the Russian Land, if You hear the ringing of the funeral bell at the death of Grigory, then know; if in my death are guilty someone of Your relatives, then I tell you, that none of Your Family, none of Your children and Relatives will live more than two years*****. And if they live, they will pray to God for death, for they will see the disgrace and shame of the Russian Land, the arrival of the antichrist, pestilence, poverty, desecrated temples of God, holy places spit upon, where everyone will become a corpse…******

Three times twenty five years******* will the black bandits, servants of the antichrist, destroy the people of Russia and the faith of the Orthodox (church). And the Russian Land will perish. And I perish, I have perished already, and I am no longer among the living. Pray, pray, be strong, think of Your Blessed Family.

* "I will die before 1 January…" He was killed Dec 30, 1916.

** "if I am murdered by the boyars and noblemen…" He was killed by two relatives of the royal family.

*** "Brother will kill brother, everyone will kill each other and hate each other" The Communist revolution was a bloodbath. Even after the revolution ended, the regime of fear created by Stalin continued the blood and hatred.

**** "at the end of twenty five years, not one nobleman will be left in Russia" Most of the royalty was either executed by the new regime, or fled Russia.

***** "none of Your Family, none of Your children and Relatives will live more than two years" The Romanov family was executed July 16th, 1918. His other family members will also executed. (Not all died in the course of 2 years. One of his Rasputin's murderers died in 1967, another died in 1942 of tuberculosis, a third in 1920.)

****** OK so these are a bit overstated, but Communism certainly didn't help out the Orthodox faith, Stalin destroyed lots of churches and they were used as barns etc., and there were certainly years of hunger and poverty after the revolution.

*******75 years after the Russian revolution would take us to 1992, and the ceding of power by Gorbachev to Yeltsin and Yeltsin's subsequent dismantling of the former Soviet Union.

Spooky, eh?

160602.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 7:18 pm Reply with quote

To go along with the Rapture Index, what about the Doomsday Clock, which is apparently ticking ever closer to midnight even as I wri

160620.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 2:49 am Reply with quote

Somehow, I always knew Maine would be the first to be 'taken up'.

There are lots of good Woody Allen lines about death, of course, but they've probably been repeated a bit too often. SQUIREing 'death' is quite fun if you're stuck...

160624.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 3:11 am Reply with quote

Spooky, eh?

No, just another example of how any excerpt of text can be interpreted to make it seem prescient.

160633.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 3:40 am Reply with quote

If, indeed, the text is bona fide in the first place...

160668.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 6:23 am Reply with quote


Some Extinction notes:

More species than you might expect are declared extinct - and then found to be alive, after all.

Some examples of formerly extinct species:
- The large-billed reed warbler, found in a sewage treatment site in Thailand.
- The painted frog - a type of harlequin frog - which was though to have died of a nasty fungus, turned up in a Colombian mountain range.
- The almiqui of Eastern Cuba has only been seen a handful of times since it was first noted by naturalists in the 19th century. The incredibly ugly, worm-eating, nocturnal creature was thought to be finally extinct a few years ago - until one was spotted by a farmer.
- A Mexican bird called the Cozumel Thrasher, thought to have been wiped out by a combination of hurricanes and predatory boa constrictors, is back.
- An animal thought to have been extinct for 11 million years, the Laotian rock rat, turned up last year: it looks like a squirrel and walks like a duck.

There are many, many more examples. According to one leading conservationist: “The real message of rediscoveries is that we didn't look hard enough in the first place."

On the other hand we should point out that some rediscoveries are disputed. The ivory-billed woodpecker (otherwise known as the Lord God Woodpecker, after the reaction that its extraordinary appearance prompts in observers) was extinct, and then was apparently rediscovered, until video analysis suggested that what had actually been filmed was probably a boring old common pileated woodpecker. So now Lord God is officially dead again.

So what does extinct actually mean? It’s all a matter of definition. The World Conservation Union used to use a fifty-year-rule - if a species hadn’t been recorded for half a century, it was gone; that led to too many embarrassing Lazarus acts, so now something is declared officially extinct when there is "no reasonable doubt" that the last individual is dead.

160702.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:00 am Reply with quote

Bunter wrote:
If, indeed, the text is bona fide in the first place...

You're right that the letter was given to the Tsarina after Rasputin's death by his secretary Simonovich, and Simonovich could certainly have forged it. However, it's an early document so either Rasputin or Simonovich had certainly worked out the likely course of events.

161342.  Thu Mar 29, 2007 5:08 pm Reply with quote

Fred, re dying breaths, you might like to look up post 7525, which I rediscovered while trawling through some early pages today.

Frederick The Monk
161411.  Fri Mar 30, 2007 3:08 am Reply with quote

Great stuff Jenny - It would be really good to nail that 'Hitler's Breathe' thing but the idea that everyone in London lives on urine recyc is simply spendid - particularly considering the squeamish response last week to news that NASA was putting a urine recyling facility on the International Space Station to save water.

166121.  Sat Apr 14, 2007 1:17 pm Reply with quote

Here's an almiqui, or 'Cuban Selenodon' to give it its proper name:


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