Weird Universe Blog — June 22, 2024

The Tarantula Wronged

In 1972, arachnidist John A. L. Cooke undertook to defend the reputation of tarantulas. Text from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix (Nov 2, 1972):

Like many arachnidists, Cooke is upset about public attitudes toward spiders, particularly tarantulas. In an interview, conducted in the presence of several very large live and hairy tarantulas, he pointed out that while they can inflict a moderately painful bite when angry, they are not venomous.

"I wouldn't let my 4-year-old son keep one as a pet if they were," he said.

Their bad name, he added, can be traced to the region around Taranto, in southern Italy, from which they take their name. This is the habitat of the true, or European Tarantul, whose bite was said to induce tarantism.

Webster's New International Dictionary defines tarantism as: "A nervous affection characterized by melancholy, stupor, and an uncontrollable desire to dance."

The traditional treatment was to encourage the victim to dance wildly until the effects of the poison wore off. Thus evolved the wild Neapolitan folk dance, the tarantella. According to Cooke, who is writing an article on the subject for Natural History magazine, musicians wandered through the fields at harvest time, ready to offer their services to a victim of tarantula bite.

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix - Nov 2, 1972



In his subsequent Natural History article, Cooke then revealed that it was probably black widows that had been biting the people around Taranto back in the Middle Ages. The tarantulas had been unfairly maligned:

Interestingly, it has recently been shown that even the European tarantula has been wrongly accused, that it does not inflict the dreaded bite attributed to it but is quite harmless. The real culprit in tarantism is none other than the famous black widow spider. The black widow, Latrodectus mactans, is a comparatively small, inconspicuous, and secretive member of the family Theridiidae, the comb-footed spiders. These include several common cobweb-spinning spiders found in buildings. Latrodectus, whose name comes from the Greek and means "secret biter," is a genus of world-wide distribution containing several species. Although all are highly venomous, only L. mactans is synanthropic, posing a serious threat to people.

"Despite their formidable appearance, North American tarantulas are a serious threat only to their prey—beetles and grasshoppers."

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jun 22, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: Insects and Spiders

June 21, 2024

A case of food poisoning in Peru

Louisville Courier-Journal - Dec 4, 1972

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jun 21, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: Food | Poisons and Other Injurious Substances | 1970s | South America

The Musky Queen

These charming ladies do not smell strange. Their title simply honors a certain fish. The 2024 festival begins today, if you want to fly out to Hayward, WI.







Posted By: Paul - Fri Jun 21, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests | Beauty, Ugliness and Other Aesthetic Issues | Parades and Festivals | Regionalism | Fish

June 20, 2024

Making a dead dog bark

1909: Dr. Marage of the Paris Academy of Sciences removed the larynx from a dog and made it bark outside of its body. The larynx produced "barks and howls in every note of the canine register, from the deep baying of a mastiff to the shrill pipe of a terrier."

I haven't been able to find out what Dr. Marage's first name was. All the sources I can find simply refer to him as 'Dr. Marage'.

The Sketch - Dec 15, 1909



Scientific American - Feb 5, 1910



Text from Scientific American (Feb 5, 1910):

Marage employed, in his experiments, the larynx of the dog. In order to spare the animal useless suffering, morphine was first administered hypodermically and, three hours later, the dog was put under the influence of chloroform, and the larynx, with five or six rings of the trachea, was excised. A rubber tube of the diameter of the trachea was then connected with the latter by means of a short tube of thing glass, so that a current of cold air could be forced through the extirpated larynx. The pressure of the air was measured with a very sensitive metallic manometer graduated in millimeters of water pressure. The compressed air was stored in a rubber bag similar to those which are employed for inhalations of oxygen, and was kept at the temperature of 98.6 deg. F. The muscles of the larynx were stimulated by the current of a small induction coil, which was energized by a storage battery, and the sounds emitted by the larynx were recorded by a phonograph. The following conclusions were reached:

When the larynx of a dog is removed during chloroform anesthesia, the laryngeal muscles retain their ability to contract for a short period, which varies from 3 to 10 minutes, but no contraction can be produced in the muscles of a dead larynx, even if it is removed immediately after the death of an animal, because the arterial blood has escapes.

In order to produce the vibrations, the current of air should be impelled by a pressure of from 6 to 8 inches of water, as it is in the normal production of the human voice. In these conditions the excised larynx of the dog barks and howls in every note of the canine register, from the deep baying of a mastiff to the shrill pipe of a terrier. These various notes are obtained at will by causing various muscles to contract.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jun 20, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: Experiments | Dogs | 1900s

Dog Star Man

Let us know when you bail.

The creator's Wikipedia page.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Jun 20, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: Movies | Chaos, Entropy, Messiness and General Disorder | Avant Garde | Surrealism | 1960s

June 19, 2024

Inflatable Dumbbells

Frewoini Kassa of Sausalito, California was recently granted a patent (No. 12,005,293) for inflatable dumbbells. In the patent description, Kassa makes the claim that, "Users can inflate the dumbbell devices to a desired weight for customized workouts."

In fact, Kassa makes this claim repeatedly. But how would that work?

A pound of dry air occupies about 13 cubic feet at sea level. So to add 5 pounds to a dumbbell you would need to compress 65 cubic feet of air into it.

By comparison, the air in a tire, compressed to 30 psi, doesn't even add up to a pound.

I'd like to see a working example of one of Kassa's inflatable dumbbells!







via Jeff Steck

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 19, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: Exercise and Fitness | Patents

The Ether Orchestra



Source.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jun 19, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: Inventions | Music | 1930s | Europe

June 18, 2024

Pop-Topping

Back in the old days, cans were opened by pulling on an aluminum ring, or "pop top," that would come completely off the can. Now these have been replaced by stay-tabs.

Most people threw away the pop-tops, but a few turned them into wearable art. The leader of this movement was Gonzalo Chavez, aka Pop-Top Terp. From Time magazine (Sep 21, 1970):

In his San Juan workshop, Designer Gonzalo Chavez, 36, a native New Yorker who calls himself Mr. Terp, has been painstakingly assembling pop-top rings into glittering dresses, vests, stoles, belts, miniskirts and maxiskirts—all resembling the mailed armor worn by warriors of the Middle Ages to ward off sword blows. Collecting the rings from rubbish heaps behind San Juan bars, Chavez files down their rough edges and crochets them together with silver thread...

The first pop-top garments were almost as stiff as their medieval counterparts. But Chavez has made them much more supple. "They fit like a second skin," he claims. "As you wear them, they change shape a little and mold themselves to the contours of the body." Rings differ too. Budweiser's rings are light and flexible, Miller High Life's are "soft," and Pepsi's provide a heavier, stiffer garment.

In 1975, Pop-Top Terp published a book, Pop-Topping, that gave detailed instructions on how to make your own pop-top clothes. But since pop tops have now vanished, it's become a guide to a lost form of art. You can read it online at archive.org.









Posted By: Alex - Tue Jun 18, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: Fashion | Soda, Pop, Soft Drinks and other Non-Alcoholic Beverages | 1970s

June 17, 2024

Woman dropped down manhole

Welcome to America!

Modesto Bee - July 2, 1972

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jun 17, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: Crime | 1970s

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