Bits and Pieces: Texan Rhinos, Cloth Diapers and Uranium-Alloy Shotgun Pellets

article image
Thirteen billion synthetic diapers are manufactured each year. 

Africa, Texas-Style

Texans used to talk about the thunder of buffalo. Now it’s the rumble of rhino. Rhinoceros specialists have released two male and three female black rhino onto private ranch land in Texas, hoping to establish a substantial breeding herd. The black rhino is threatened with extinction in Africa, where it suffers from poaching, drought, and reduced habitat … while attempts to mate the shy mammal in captivity have not been very successful. The specialists are hoping the rhino will feel a little more at home on the Texas range.

No More Rivers to Damn?

After decades of dredging, channelizing, and damming southeastern rivers, the Tennessee Valley Authority has apparently decided it has done all it can. Originally created to improve economic conditions in a severely depressed area of the Southeast, TVA became the object of pork barrel politics and the source of questionable policies that produced limited economic benefits and submerged thousands of acres of valuable forests and farmland. TVA’s new policy is to let the rivers run where they will, “except where significant public benefits are clearly established and environmental damage can be avoided.” If only the new policy could be made retroactive …

Scientists Seesaw on Sea Rise

Coastal inhabitants can unload the moving van … maybe. The possible rise in sea level that could result from the increased CO2 in the atmosphere is now being questioned by a number of experts. Early reports from the Environmental Protection Agency indicated that a CO2 induced warming trend might break up the polar ice caps. causing a significant rise in sea level. But a number of scientists argue, on the basis of new evidence, that the ice caps would remain stable through a warming period and, as a result of increased snowfall, might even expand. In short, no one can say with much certainty exactly what will be happening to the world’s oceans in two or three decades. (See the Plowboy Interview with W.O. Roberts for more information)

Bear-Fat Barometer

Since meteorologists cannot seem to agree on the precise effects of increased CO2 in the atmosphere, perhaps they should consult Gordon “Bear Fat” Wimsatt. Mr. Wimsatt, a resident of New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains, has been forecasting the weather in those parts for 50 years–by examining bear fat in glass bottles. Mr. Wimsatt collects his “meteorological mercury” from hunters and then makes his predictions on the basis of patterns in the grease, a technique he learned from an Apache friend. Local residents swear by his forecasts, and Wimsatt says he is at least as accurate as his high-tech competition on TV and radio.

Disposable Diaper Deluge

Calling the term “disposable diaper” the misnomer of the century, a spokeswoman for the Washington Environmental Council says that the “problems of disposing of plastic diapers are beyond comprehension and are getting worse every day.” Thirteen billion synthetic diapers are manufactured each year, and nobody knows what to do with the non-recyclable and non-biodegradable kiddie britches.

Meanwhile, figures from the cotton diaper service industry indicate that many moms and dads may no longer be favorably disposed toward disposable diapers. Cotton diaper sales are up 11 percent, in spite of a decline in the national birthrate. Well, nothing wears like cotton. Just ask the little ones.

Lost in Space

A new service called SpaceShot promises to “beam personal messages to specific planets or star systems in deep space” for just $5.00 per communication. Claiming to be the first astral telecommunications service, the company will transmit 25-words-or-less messages “directly” to any point in space via computer and radio transmission.

The company expects its services to appeal to people who wish to tap the energy fields of the planets or who would like to reach out to intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms. (However, SpaceShot’s promoters do not indicate whether facilities are set up to receive replies.)

A complete SpaceShot Launch Kit, which includes everything you need to know to communicate effectively in outer space and one “free” launch, can be purchased for just $9.98 from Teleplanet Services, Inc.

Duck Diet

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is testing the feasibility of substituting uranium for lead and steel in shotgun pellets. The Fish and Wildlife researchers fed varying doses of nonradioactive uranium to a group of black ducks. After six weeks, only one had died. The researchers conceded that the idea needed further testing before uranium-alloy shot becomes commercially available.