Home Science & Technology Black swans in threes? It’s more likely than you think

Black swans in threes? It’s more likely than you think


What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you’ll get an even more amazing answer when you listen PopSciknocked podcast. Weirdest thing I learned this week hits an apple, Anchor, and wherever you listen to podcasts every other Wednesday morning. This is your new favorite source for the most amazing science-related facts, figures and Wikipedia Popular science can collect. If you like the stories in this post, we guarantee you’ll love the show.

Fact: The technology that powers E-ZPass comes from Soviet-era spy gadgets.

Written by Purbit Saha

I live in the suburbs of New Jersey near the Garden State Parkway. I flash my E-ZPass far more than I pump my own gas. So, probably, to me too millions of other drivers in the eastern US who use this electronic payment system, E-ZPass is a daily necessity. And while the technology itself isn’t cool enough for a Weirdest Thing yarn, the story behind it is surprisingly juicy.

In accordance with 2016 episode of NPR’s All Things Considered The origins of E-ZPass and electronic toll booths date back to the invention of RFID transponders. Credit goes to two inventors: a Soviet intelligence officer and a NASA rocket scientist. In the 1920s, a Russian cellist Leon Termain was experimenting with microwaves and gases when he figured it out he could make sounds of different volume and pitch by simply moving the two antennas. (His tool was mass produced by RCA, and and today has a cult.) This attracted the attention of Vladimir Lenin, who promoted Termen as a representative of Soviet science in Europe and the United States.

When Termen returned to the Soviet Union during the reign of Joseph Stalin, he was imprisoned for his foreign forays and forced to work for the state. In his new role, he developed a wireless bug that runs on the same electromagnetic waves as his device listened to the US ambassador in Moscow. Legend has it that it was hidden in the seal of the embassy throughout the First World War.

Let’s move to the 1960s, when Mario Cardula, a NASA space flight engineer in New York, began tinkering with primitive versions of anti-theft RFID tags. Cardula tried Termen’s approach by launching a small transponder using microwaves, but added a memory chip that could store a group of information and share it with the appropriate receiver. The prototype was about the size of Galaxy Z Fold4, which was too large for a window or car window. Several decades passed before Cardula landed his invention in a real foothold (in Scandinavia). It began in Europe and Asia and finally began to transform bridges and highways in the United States in the 1990s. Today, Cardul’s dream of decorating the George Washington Bridge with Soviet spy technology has come true.

Fact: A bisexual goose raising a family with two black swans is not as strange as it sounds.

Rachel Feltman

Here’s a fact from my recent book “Been There, Done That: The Fascinating Story of Sex” which you can buy as an audiobook told your way! Yes, in the early 90s. black swan flew into New Zealand’s Waimana Lagoon. Locals christened her Henrietta after a wing injury prevented her from leaving with the rest of the flock, and she took in a white goose named Thomas. For nearly two decades, they were commonly seen together, with Thomas protecting Henrietta from dogs and other mischief.

Then another black swan appeared and things got… more complicated. Henrietta began to spend more time with her new girlfriend, and Thomas became aggressive towards the swans. Then the newly arrived black swan laid her eggs, and Henrietta began to care for them as you might expect a papa swan to care for his chicks. Plot twist: Henrietta was a boy all along!

It is very confusing that the guides who worked in the lagoon where all this happened decided to call the newcomer: actually female bird Henrietta, while the artist formerly known as Henrietta was rechristened Henry.

The good news is that Thomas didn’t take offense for long and took on the third parental role once the chicks hatched and went on to care for all 68 of Henry and Henrietta’s babies over the next six years. Thomas became an icon for tourists from all over the world who were simply fascinated by his affection for the little black swans. He even helped teach them to fly.

Here’s the cool thing: For Henry and Henrietta, these family arrangements wouldn’t have seemed unusual at all. Studies of the species show that male black swans often gather together, both in captivity and in the wild. Sometimes they give birth to chicks by bonding briefly with a female black swan before chasing her away, but they have also been known to simply take over an existing nest full of eggs to raise as their own. Henry may have spent most of the 90s wondering why his beloved Thomas wasn’t robbing the nest to start their family!

Black swans it is possible too set up long term throuples, where all three birds—two males and one female—participate in mating displays, with the males taking turns mounting the female and parading around protectively. In this situation, if the female is not chased away as soon as she finishes laying, the males actually take over the care of the nest so she can immediately go lay some more.

The New Zealand triad remained steadfast until Henry died of old age in 2009, prompting Henrietta to go in search of others of her ilk. Geese and swans can reproduce and create variegated hybrids known as suzou (Sweese?), but Thomas just wasn’t Henrietta’s type, it seems.

Ironically, a few years earlier, when Thomas finally met a female goose that he liked to settle down with, another goose stole the chicks for his own. No word on whether that goose was gay, but I’m sure the BBC would have mentioned it, so we have to assume their motives were less touchy. Apparently, geese sometimes steal goslings from less powerful birds around them “lay out” your brood-literally adding extra young to the outer edge of the nest so that predators will grab the adopted rather than the better protected natural young. Nature is not always cute! But for now we do not know the fates of Thomas’s biological chicksI think we can all agree that he experienced the joy of fatherhood at least 68 times.

When Thomas died in 2018, he was loved by tourists from all over the world – and at the age of 40, he was very old. May he live long in our hearts!

Fact: The louse feeder was a job during World War II as well as part of the Nazi resistance.

Erin Welsh and Erin Allman Updike

So, it all starts with typhus. Typhoid fever, specifically typhoid fever, is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium known as Rickettsia prowazekii. Granted, this is a disease spread by lice that often rears its head when times get tough and lice thrive. Things like famine, displacement, war were usually conditions where body lice were easily transmitted from person to person, carrying this little Rickettsia and typhus is thus spread.

But simply knowing these two things, what causes the disease and how it is transmitted, was not enough to stop the spread of the disease. Because even with an effective treatment for the disease, you will not be able to get rid of typhus unless you can wash your clothes in hot water and then not wear them for five days. If you are on the move during a war or you are displaced, how are you going to do it? The main thing was prevention. And how to prevent the disease? Vaccines.

Enter: Dr. Rudolf Weigel. Dr. Weigl came up with the brilliant idea of ​​using lice themselves as a support animal to create large quantities of the typhus pathogen for vaccine research. But how do you get enough lice to make enough vaccines? Well, you need a colony of lice and a way to feed them. And since lice are very specific to humans…humans had to supply the food. In the form of blood. Yes, humans were the feeders of the louse.

As World War II approached and the Nazis feared typhoid fever, they used this fear as an excuse to implement horrible policies. Because typhus was not seen as a universal threat that could affect anyone, the Nazis blamed Jews for its spread.

Under the German occupation, the Weigl Institute grew rapidly, where it served as the only means of survival for many Poles who were threatened with death, starvation or deportation. Weigl did his best to hire hundreds of people as lice feeders, often Polish intellectuals or Jews, people who were under incredible threat from the Nazi occupation. While feeding the louse, people often sat and chatted, exchanged thoughts about philosophy, mathematics, and even actively participated in the resistance to the German troops.

For more, listen to this week’s episode of Weirdest Thing and watch This podcast will kill you wherever you get podcasts. Also, you can learn more about Dr. Weigl in the book Dr. Weigl’s Fantastic Laboratory Arthur Allen.

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