Brain-Eating Amoeba, Wasted Food, and Other News Items

This installment of an ongoing news items feature includes a story about a brain-eating amoeba that lives in freshwater lagoons and a report about the large quantity of wasted food in the U.S.


Naegleria fowleri, a freshwater amoeba which devours human brain cells, is responsible for 123 deaths worldwide.


Content Tools

The following short news items were drawn from multiple sources.  

Brain Eating Amoeba

The Center for Disease Control reports 123 deaths worldwide caused by Naegleria fowleri, a strain of freshwater amoeba which devours human brain cells (only three people have, so far, recovered from such attacks). Although there've been fewer than 35 victims in the United States in the past 12 years, the CDC cautions against extended underwater swimming.

Wasted Food

While millions starve, the government estimates that 20% of all food produced in the U.S. (an amount which adds up to about 137 million tons and is worth some $31 billion) is wasted. In one year alone, our nation's production and distribution systems lose enough food to keep 49 million people alive. Another 60 million tons of edibles (worth $5 billion) are simply left in fields and orchards for lack of commercial markets.

Drowning Fire Ants

Water quenches fire ants, according to Florida State University insect ecologist Dr. Walter Tschinkel. Just choose a cool, sunny day when most of the ants are close to the surface, break open the tops of all of the colony's hard mounds, and pour about three gallons of scalding water into each "hill." One or two additional applications of the hot liquid may be necessary, but any survivors will stay (where they can be re-treated) rather than merely relocating and building up their strength again, as they often do after chemical treatments.

New Light Bulb

A $10 light bulb,  made by General Electric, will be on the market in early 1981. The lamp will fit into existing sockets, should last four times longer than—and use about one-third the energy of—normal bulbs, and is expected to save the consumer about $20 over its projected life. Illumination in the new bulb is produced by an arc of electricity in a quarts-tube-enclosed metal halide vapor.

Electrified Beef

Electrified beef will soon be on the market, as the packing industry rapidly adopts a new process that tenderises meat with a series of 600-volt shocks administered to a carcass for about one minute before it's hung up to age. The treated meat is said to produce steaks that are 50% more tender than are untreated cuts, which will upgrade more beef to the "USDA Choice" class.

Goat Lawn Mower

Shortly after his rent-a-goat ad appeared in a San Diego newspaper, Harold Norris was swamped with calls for the service ... which many homeowners saw as a means of preventing the brush fires that often sweep southern California's overgrown canyon residential areas. Harold charges a $7.50 rental rate for one sure-footed weed-eater per week, or $11 for two.

Sinking Land

Since 1915, approximately 35 trillion gallons of irrigation water have been pumped from beneath the surface of the broad valley between Arizona's Picacho and Santa Rosa mountains. As a result, a 120-square-mile area between Phoenix and Tucson has dropped from 7 to 12 feet below its former level and created at least 800 earth fissures (some chasms are as much as 25 feet wide, and one is a full nine miles long).

Non-Digestion Technology

Eat it but don't digest it is the theory behind a whole new line of food preservatives, sweeteners, and colorings that's being developed by California's Dynapol Company. This non-absorption technology leashes small molecules—such as those in food additives—to much larger molecules that can't pass through the intestinal walls to be metabolized by the body!

Anti-Radar Device

An anti-radar device which enabled Israeli pilots to carry out their secret Entebbe rescue mission emits rays that alter the magnetic fields and centers of gravity of instrument dials, and confuse the aiming devices on many weapons as well. Though the details of the "ray" are still among Israel's best-kept military secrets, its inventor, Sydney Hurwich of Toronto, once staged a demonstration—reminiscent of the reports often given by flying saucer sighters—that stopped watches and jammed the guns of Canadian police.

Stop Smoking With Spinach

Preliminary studies indicate that simple sodium bicarbonate may enable smokers to drastically cut down their use of (or abstain from) cigarettes. It seems that people with high acid levels in their urine are more likely to crave nicotine than are men or women with low levels. Though researchers used four grams of bicarbonate to aid smoker withdrawal in their tests, they suggest that beet and spinach greens—and other alkalizing foods—may have "much more profound effects".

Eating Earthworms

A worm farmer, who points out that his wrigglers are 70% protein, offers this recipe for their preparation: "Boil them for five minutes, then change the water and reboil four or five times until the meat is 'purified'. Put the worms on a cookie sheet and bake in a 380°F oven for about 15 minutes. They come out crisp and tasty, like french fries or bits of bacon."

In Brief

SURVIVAL OF THE FURRIEST : Mice in a London meat market have developed long fur coats as protection against the chill inside cold-storage units .... While serfs in the middle ages paid 20% of their earnings to their masters, the average worker today hands over 40% of his or her pay to MILORD, UNCLE SAM .... GOLD FRANKLINS, the new troy-ounce, half-ounce, and quarter-ounce gold pieces from the Franklin Mint (sculptured by Gilroy Roberts, designer of the U.S. Kennedy half dollar) are an American alternative to South Africa's Krugerrands . . . . NEW YORK'S SUPER RATS , oversized rodents that are impervious to most kinds of poisons, are being snared by the city in mesh cages baited with peanut butter sandwiches.