Saturday Shorts: September 13


When Ike was a Good Thing Coming  Watch this presidential ad from 1956 sponsored by Women Voters. Pay special attention to the hair of the day. OMG. And note that in those times, apparently, the role of men was simply to read the paper on the couch and be a sperm donor to make more females to run the world.

The Eensy-weensy Spider Now, arachnids at the click of a button. Get yours while supplies last

And the World’s Largest Spider   Computer-controlled, fifty feet across, as a matter of fact, and about to eat Liverpool.

And a Smaller Gentler Robot  This is for real–from Husqvarna: the Autobot–for a mere $4000. However, if you watch the video of the random path this thing takes, it seems like for that kind of coinage you’d at least get a robot with a better sense of mission.

Big Bang Machine Hacked A monkey-wrench in the world’s biggest atom smasher–the computer network infiltrated on Day 1 .

The scientists behind the £4.4bn atom smasher had already received threatening emails and been besieged by telephone calls from worried members of the public concerned by speculation that the machine could trigger a black hole to swallow the earth, or earthquakes and tsunamis, despite endless reassurances to the contrary from the likes of Prof Stephen Hawking.

Now it has emerged that, as the first particles were circulating in the machine near Geneva, a Greek group had hacked into the facility and displayed a page with the headline “GST: Greek Security Team.”

The people responsible signed off: “We are 2600 – dont mess with us. (sic)”

Five Loaves and NO FISHES  Freshwater fish (I watch them every day in Goose Creek and wonder if they will be back next year) are experiencing precipitous declines. Keep in mind these creatures live in the water we drink. So…

Fishes that once were abundant in North American streams, rivers and lakes are now disappearing, with nearly 40 percent of all species in jeopardy, according to the most detailed assessment of the conservation status of freshwater fishes in the last 20 years.The report shows that 61 fishes are presumed extinct, and 280 species are classed as endangered. In addition 190 are considered threatened, and 230 fishes are listed as vulnerable to extinction.

The 700 fishes now listed as imperiled for this report by the Endangered Species Committee of the American Fisheries Society are a 92 percent increase over the 364 listed in the previous 1989 study.

Fish families important for sport or commercial fisheries are also vulnerable to extinction. One of the most popular game species in the United States, striped bass, has populations on the list.Twenty-two percent of sunfishes, a family which includes the well-known species such as black bass, bluegill and rock bass, are listed as at risk.

“Fish are not the only aquatic organisms undergoing precipitous declines,” said USGS researcher Noel Burkhead, a lead author on the report and the chair of the AFS Endangered Species Committee. “Freshwater crayfishes, snails and mussels are exhibiting similar or even greater levels of decline and extinction.”

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. The spiders are terrific! Thanks! I could play with that little crawly guy all day… very fun. And the 50-foot Liverpudlian is awesome; how do people come up with these ideas.

    As always, Fred, thanks for sharing!