Oh well, shit happens. And I will tell you that shit is happening in the world…this situation with Russia and Georgia seems to be building up. You know when the dick speaks (Dick Cheney) that things are getting out of control.
On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney told Georgia’s pro-American president that “Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States,
Bush when asked about Russia and Georgia said that he didn’t know the Bulldogs were competing in the olympics but expected them to win the gold for football although he said the Russians were getting better under their new coach.
The president was to end his weeklong Asia trip by attending a baseball game and other events Monday at the Beijing Olympics. The Beijing stay was mostly for fun and games, but the fast-moving conflict in Georgia has grabbed his attention even as he cheered from the stands as American Michael Phelps claimed the first of an expected string of gold medals by smashing his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley.
“God, what a thrill to cheer for you!” Bush told Phelps.
Meanwhile guess who is in charge back in the U.S….uh-oh! It’s the Dick. And he has no strange ideas about being best friends with good old Vlad. The aggression is spread out even as far as the United Nations between the cold war rivals.
“This is completely unacceptable and crosses a line,” said the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, who made the allegation.
In a crackling exchange of a type rarely seen since the end of the Cold War, Khalilzad asked Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin whether the Russians were seeking “regime change” in Georgia with the military operation they launched Friday.
In response, Churkin objected to the disclosure of a confidential phone call between top diplomats and said “regime change” was “an American expression.”
And in the meantime, allied Georgia troops are pulling out of Iraq where they are part of Bush’s coalition of the willing and heading back to fight the Russians…seems like it would be a little ungrateful to not help them out with a few weapons, some material support, maybe some troops, I mean after all, they have been helping the U.S. and even on the verge of joining NATO…
As the third largest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the United States and Britain, the departure of the Georgian troops entails adjustments for the US military.
“We had already been shuffling forces around in Wassit province before the recent events, so despite the loss of the Georgian units, although unexpected, we can and are accommodating the changes,” said Hall.
As a staunch ally of the United States the Georgians arrived in August 2003, about five months after the American-led invasion toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Huessein.
The majority of Georgian soldiers were deployed near Kut, 175 kilometres (109 miles) south of Baghdad in the province of Wasit, a hotbed of smuggling near the Iranian border.
They have provided training to Iraq’s fledgling military, and manned border checkpoints.
The Georgian brigade has also faced powerful Shiite militias in the south and al-Qaeda forces in the Diyala region, northeast of Baghdad, regarded as the most dangerous area in Iraq.
We’ve established that the universe is made up of nothing but energy in many different forms and that much of what we think we see is arguably illusion, however, that doesn’t change the fact that we are forced to live in this world of maya (illusion) and that we have to make the best choices that we can for the greatest good of our collective selves. That being said, we can begin to talk about questionable energy.
Sen. John McCain called Wednesday for the construction of 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 and pledged $2 billion a year in federal funds “to make clean coal a reality,” measures designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
President George W Bush has called on Congress to end a 27-year ban on drilling for oil in US coastal waters, to reduce dependence on imports. Mr Bush said existing restrictions on offshore drilling were “outdated and counter-productive”.
These guys are trying to step backwards to a time when it was okay to have a barbecue with your favorite oil baron at your ranch in Texas.
While we are speaking of expensive choices, Burger King’s new Whopper includes Japanese-style Wagyu beef, Italian truffles, Spanish cured ham, aged balsamic vinegar and Champagne onions on a saffron- and truffle-dusted bun for just $200. Would you like fries with that?
Experts have confirmed “Rembrandt Laughing” — bought for a bargain price of $4.5 million at an English auction house in October — is a self-portrait by the Dutch master himself, depicted with his head tilted back in easygoing laughter.
William Noortman from Noortman Master Paintings, specializing in Dutch and Flemish masters, said it’s worth $30 million to $40 million.
I suspect Rembrandt was laughing because he has herpes and suspects that a quarter of adults living in New York City are infected with the genital herpes virus. This was somehow just shown to be true. Lots of us have herpes, it’s time to let go of the shame. Personally, I think the herpes are an intelligent organism that interact symbiotically with those of us lucky enough to have them and gives us incredible healing and mental powers. If you have them, you know what I mean. (Yes, I refer to them in the plural). If you don’t have them, well, you will eventually…if you get lucky.
The History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less
History_of_the_universe Quantum fluctuation. Inflation. Expansion. Strong nuclear interaction. Particle-antiparticle annihilation. Deuterium and helium production. Density perturbations. Recombination. Blackbody radiation. Local contraction. Cluster formation. Reionization? Violent relaxation. Virialization. Biased galaxy formation? Turbulent fragmentation. Contraction. Ionization. Compression. Opaque hydrogen. Massive star formation. Deuterium ignition. Hydrogen fusion. Hydrogen depletion. Core contraction. Envelope expansion. Helium fusion. Carbon, oxygen, and silicon fusion. Iron production. Implosion. Supernova explosion. Metals injection. Star formation. Supernova explosions. Star formation. Condensation. Planetesimal accretion. Planetary differentiation. Crust solidification. Volatile gas expulsion. Water condensation. Water dissociation. Ozone production. Ultraviolet absorption. Photosynthetic unicellular organisms. Oxidation. Mutation. Natural selection and evolution. Respiration. Cell differentiation. Sexual reproduction. Fossilization. Land exploration. Dinosaur extinction. Mammal expansion. Glaciation. Homo sapiens manifestation. Animal domestication. Food surplus production. Civilization! Innovation. Exploration. Religion. Warring nations. Empire creation and destruction. Exploration. Colonization. Taxation without representation. Revolution. Constitution. Election. Expansion. Industrialization. Rebellion. Emancipation Proclamation. Invention. Mass production. Urbanization. Immigration. World conflagration. League of Nations. Suffrage extension. Depression. World conflagration. Fission explosions. United Nations. Space exploration. Assassinations. Lunar excursions. Resignation. Computerization. World Trade Organization. Terrorism. Internet expansion. Reunification. Dissolution. World-Wide Web creation. Composition. Extrapolation?
This was composed by astronomer and science humorist Eric Schulman, a member of the editorial board of the Annals of Improbable Researc. He later expanded this piece into a book, A Briefer History of Time. So far as we know he is not the jogger listed below.
Lincoln police have a message for local joggers with exhibitionist tendencies: The thong is wrong. Police arrested a man on Saturday night for running on a Lincoln bike trail in his thong underwear.
And Sheriff Joe Arpaio is making headlines again in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Maricopa County was spending approx. $18 million dollars a year on stray animals, like cats and dogs.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio offered to take the department over, and the County Supervisors said okay.
The animal shelters are now all staffed and operated by prisoners. They feed and care for the strays. Every animal in his care is taken out and walked twice daily. He now has prisoners who are experts in animal nutrition and behavior. They give great classes for anyone who’d like to adopt an animal. He has literally taken stray dogs off the street, given them to the care of prisoners, and had them place in dog shows. The best part? His budget for the entire department is now under $3 million.
The prisoners get the benefit of about $0.28 an hour for working, but most would work for free, just to be out of their cells for the day. Most of his budget is for utilities, building maintenance, etc. He pays the prisoners out of the fees collected for adopted animals. I have long wondered when the rest of the country would take a look at the way he runs the jail system, and copy some of his ideas.
He has a huge farm, donated to the county years ago, where inmates can work, and they grow most of their own fresh vegetables and food, doing all the work and harvesting by hand. He has a pretty good sized hog farm, which provides meat, and fertilizer. It fertilizes the Christmas tree nursery, where prisoners work, and you can buy a living Christmas tree for $6 – $8 for the Holi days, and plant it later. He was reelected last year with 83% of the vote.
On the small mountainous island of La Gomera, one of the Canaries, the children speak to each other from miles apart using one of the most unusual languages in the world. Known as Silbo, the whistling language of Gomero Island has a vocabulary of over 4,000 words, and is used by “Silbadors” to send messages across the island’s deep valleys. Though Silbo was on the verge of extinction in the 1990s, the Gomerans have made a concerted effort to revive their language by adding it to the public school curriculum. Today 3,000 schoolchildren are in the process of learning it.
Of all five fingers, to choose that one. And to keep it in the manner of a saintly medieval relic… Today it seems a loud gesture. Galileo Galilei’s middle finger is preserved in the History of Science Museum in Florence, Italy. From Curious Expeditions:
It is a remarkable bit of irony, that finger. Venerated, kept in reliquary, subjected to the same treatment as a Saint. But this finger belonged to no Saint. It is the long bony finger of an enemy of the church, a heretic. A man so dangerous to the religious institution he was made a prisoner in his own home. It sits in a small glass egg atop an inscribed marble base in the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, or the History of Science Museum in Florence, Italy. … As with a fine wine, it took some years for Galileo’s finger to age into something worth snapping off his skeletal hand. The finger was removed by one Anton Francesco Gori on March 12, 1737, 95 years after Galileo’s death. Passed around for a couple hundred years it finally came to rest in the Florence History of Science Museum. Today is sits among lodestones and telescopes, the only human fragment in a museum devoted entirely to scientific instruments. It is hard to know how Galileo would have felt about the final resting place of his finger. Whether the finger points upwards to the sky, where Galileo glimpsed the glory of the universe and saw God in mathematics, or if it sits eternally defiant to the church that condemned him, is for the viewer to decide.
I would just like to add one group to the list: zombies…let them die already.
Who should MDs let die in a pandemic? Report offers answers
By LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer
(AP) — Doctors know some patients needing lifesaving care won’t get it in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The gut-wrenching dilemma will be deciding who to let die.
Now, an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn’t be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia.
The suggested list was compiled by a task force whose members come from prestigious universities, medical groups, the military and government agencies. They include the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The proposed guidelines are designed to be a blueprint for hospitals “so that everybody will be thinking in the same way” when pandemic flu or another widespread health care disaster hits, said Dr. Asha Devereaux. She is a critical care specialist in San Diego and lead writer of the task force report.
The idea is to try to make sure that scarce resources – including ventilators, medicine and doctors and nurses – are used in a uniform, objective way, task force members said.
Their recommendations appear in a report appearing Monday in the May edition of Chest, the medical journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.
“If a mass casualty critical care event were to occur tomorrow, many people with clinical conditions that are survivable under usual health care system conditions may have to forgo life-sustaining interventions owing to deficiencies in supply or staffing,” the report states.
To prepare, hospitals should designate a triage team with the Godlike task of deciding who will and who won’t get lifesaving care, the task force wrote. Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:
-People older than 85.
-Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.
-Severely burned patients older than 60.
-Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
-Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes.
Dr. Kevin Yeskey, director of the preparedness and emergency operations office at the Department of Health and Human Services, was on the task force. He said the report would be among many the agency reviews as part of preparedness efforts.
Public health law expert Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University called the report an important initiative but also “a political minefield and a legal minefield.”
The recommendations would probably violate federal laws against age discrimination and disability discrimination, said Gostin, who was not on the task force.
If followed to a tee, such rules could exclude care for the poorest, most disadvantaged citizens who suffer disproportionately from chronic disease and disability, he said. While health care rationing will be necessary in a mass disaster, “there are some real ethical concerns here.”
James Bentley, a senior vice president at American Hospital Association, said the report will give guidance to hospitals in shaping their own preparedness plans even if they don’t follow all the suggestions.
He said the proposals resemble a battlefield approach in which limited health care resources are reserved for those most likely to survive.
Bentley said it’s not the first time this type of approach has been recommended for a catastrophic pandemic, but that “this is the most detailed one I have seen from a professional group.”
While the notion of rationing health care is unpleasant, the report could help the public understand that it will be necessary, Bentley said.
Devereaux said compiling the list “was emotionally difficult for everyone.”
That’s partly because members believe it’s just a matter of time before such a health care disaster hits, she said.
“You never know,” Devereaux said. “SARS took a lot of folks by surprise. We didn’t even know it existed.”
On the Net:
U.S. Govt.: http://www.pandemicflu.gov
Something to think about as you sit at your computer…
Some computer keyboards harbour more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat, research has suggested.
Consumer group Which? said tests at its London offices found equipment carrying bugs that could cause food poisoning.
Out of 33 keyboards swabbed, four were regarded as a potential health hazard and one harboured five times more germs than one of the office’s toilet seats.
Microbiologist Dr Peter Wilson said a keyboard was often “a reflection of what is in your nose and in your gut”.
During the Which? tests in January this year, a microbiologist deemed one of the office’s keyboards to be so dirty he ordered it to be removed, quarantined and cleaned.
The production of one of Italy’s best known exports, mozzarella, is under threat from an infection spreading through herds of water buffalo.
The Italian government has set up an emergency commission to try and stop the spread of the disease, which affects milk production.
The plains of Campania, around Naples, are home to large buffalo herds.
As much as 30% of the herd who live in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius are reported to be infected.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 — Researchers have found a surprising diversity of hardy bacteria in a seemingly unlikely place — the so-called sterile clean rooms where NASA assembles its spacecraft and prepares them for launching.
Samples of air and surfaces in the clean rooms at three National Aeronautics and Space Administration centers revealed surprising numbers and types of robust bacteria that appear to resist normal sterilization procedures, according to a newly published study.
The findings are significant, the researchers report, because they can help reduce the chances of stowaway microbes contaminating planets and other bodies visited by the spacecraft and confounding efforts to discover new life elsewhere.
“These findings will advance the search for life on Mars and other worlds both by sparking improved cleaning and sterilization methods and by preventing false-positive results in future experiments to detect extraterrestrial life,” said the leader of the study, Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, a microbiologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Samples taken from clean rooms at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston revealed almost 100 types of bacteria, about 45 percent of which were previously unknown to science, the study said. While some were common types that thrive on human skin, such as Staphylococcus species, others were oligotrophs, rarer microorganisms that have adapted to grow under extreme conditions by absorbing trace nutrients from the air or from unlikely surfaces like paint.
PHOENIX – It sounds like science fiction but it’s true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.
Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it’s killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.
“This is definitely something we need to track,” said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better,” Beach said. “In future decades, as temperatures rise, we’d expect to see more cases.”
According to the CDC, the amoeba called Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL’-erh-eye) killed 23 people in the United States, from 1995 to 2004. This year health officials noticed a spike with six cases — three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona. The CDC knows of only several hundred cases worldwide since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.
In Arizona, David Evans said nobody knew his son, Aaron, was infected with the amoeba until after the 14-year-old died on Sept. 17. At first, the teen seemed to be suffering from nothing more than a headache.
“We didn’t know,” Evans said. “And here I am: I come home and I’m burying him.”
After doing more tests, doctors said Aaron probably picked up the amoeba a week before while swimming in the balmy shallows of Lake Havasu, a popular man-made lake on the Colorado River between Arizona and California.
Though infections tend to be found in southern states, Naegleria lives almost everywhere in lakes, hot springs, even dirty swimming pools, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment.
Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose — say, by doing a somersault in chest-deep water — the amoeba can latch onto the olfactory nerve.
The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up into the brain, where it continues the damage, “basically feeding on the brain cells,” Beach said.
People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers. In the later stages, they’ll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes, he said.
Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have stopped the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said.
“Usually, from initial exposure it’s fatal within two weeks,” he said.
Researchers still have much to learn about Naegleria. They don’t know why, for example, children are more likely to be infected, and boys are more often victims than girls.
“Boys tend to have more boisterous activities (in water), but we’re not clear,” Beach said.
In central Florida, authorities started an amoeba phone hot line advising people to avoid warm, standing water and areas with algae blooms. Texas health officials also have issued warnings.
People “seem to think that everything can be made safe, including any river, any creek, but that’s just not the case,” said Doug McBride, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Officials in the town of Lake Havasu City are discussing whether to take action. “Some folks think we should be putting up signs. Some people think we should close the lake,” city spokesman Charlie Cassens said.
Beach cautioned that people shouldn’t panic about the dangers of the brain-eating bug. Cases are still extremely rare considering the number of people swimming in lakes. The easiest way to prevent infection, Beach said, is to use nose clips when swimming or diving in fresh water.
“You’d have to have water going way up in your nose to begin with” to be infected, he said.
David Evans has tried to learn as much as possible about the amoeba over the past month. But it still doesn’t make much sense to him. His family had gone to Lake Havasu countless times. Have people always been in danger? Did city officials know about the amoeba? Can they do anything to kill them off?
Evans lives within eyesight of the lake. Temperatures hover in the triple digits all summer, and like almost everyone else in this desert region, the Evanses look to the lake to cool off.
It was on David Evans’ birthday Sept. 8 that he brought Aaron, his other two children, and his parents to Lake Havasu. They ate sandwiches and spent a few hours splashing around.
“For a week, everything was fine,” Evans said.
Then Aaron got the headache that wouldn’t go away. At the hospital, doctors first suspected meningitis. Aaron was rushed to another hospital in Las Vegas.
“He asked me at one time, ‘Can I die from this?'” David Evans said. “We said, ‘No, no.'”
On Sept. 17, Aaron stopped breathing as his father held him in his arms.
“He was brain dead,” Evans said. Only later did doctors and the CDC determine that the boy had been infected with Naegleria.
“My kids won’t ever swim on Lake Havasu again,” he said.
WASHINGTON – It sounds like the plot for a scary B-movie: Germs go into space on a rocket and come back stronger and deadlier than ever. Except, it really happened.
The germ: Salmonella, best known as a culprit of food poisoning. The trip: Space Shuttle STS-115, September 2006. The reason: Scientists wanted to see how space travel affects germs, so they took some along — carefully wrapped — for the ride. The result: Mice fed the space germs were three times more likely to get sick and died quicker than others fed identical germs that had remained behind on Earth.
“Wherever humans go, microbes go, you can’t sterilize humans. Wherever we go, under the oceans or orbiting the earth, the microbes go with us, and it’s important that we understand … how they’re going to change,” explained Cheryl Nickerson, an associate professor at the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at Arizona State University.
Nickerson added, in a telephone interview, that learning more about changes in germs has the potential to lead to novel new countermeasures for infectious disease.
She reports the results of the salmonella study in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers placed identical strains of salmonella in containers and sent one into space aboard the shuttle, while the second was kept on Earth, under similar temperature conditions to the one in space.
After the shuttle returned, mice were given varying oral doses of the salmonella and then were watched.
After 25 days, 40 percent of the mice given the Earth-bound salmonella were still alive, compared with just 10 percent of those dosed with the germs from space. And the researchers found it took about one-third as much of the space germs to kill half the mice, compared with the germs that had been on Earth.
The researchers found 167 genes had changed in the salmonella that went to space.
“That’s the 64 million dollar question,” Nickerson said. “We do not know with 100 percent certainty what the mechanism is of space flight that’s inducing these changes.”
However, they think it’s a force called fluid shear.
“Being cultured in microgravity means the force of the liquid passing over the cells is low.” The cells “are responding not to microgravity, but indirectly to microgravity in the low fluid shear effects.”
“There are areas in the body which are low shear, such as the gastrointestinal tract, where, obviously, salmonella finds itself,” she went on. “So, it’s clear this is an environment not just relevant to space flight, but to conditions here on Earth, including in the infected host.”
She said it is an example of a response to a changed environment.
“These bugs can sense where they are by changes in their environment. The minute they sense a different environment, they change their genetic machinery so they can survive,” she said.
The research was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Louisiana Board of Regents, Arizona Proteomics Consortium, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center, National Institutes of Health and the University of Arizona.
yeah…keep driving your car everywhere you go fatsos.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans are fatter than ever, with obesity rates up in most states and fewer people exercising, according to a study released on Monday.
Only a concerted effort by state and federal government, schools and individuals will make a dent in the growing epidemic, the Trust for Americas Health reported.
Obesity rates ranged from more than 17 percent in Colorado to more than 30 percent in Mississippi.
“No state is doing well. We have seen a dramatic increase throughout the country,” Jeff Levi, executive director of the nonprofit Trust, told reporters in a telephone briefing.
“Poor nutrition and physical inactivity are robbing America of our health and productivity.”
Adult obesity rates rose in 31 states last year and obesity rates did not fall in any states, the report said.
“Rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and 9 in 2005. In 1991, none of the states exceeded 20 percent,” the Trust said in a statement.
The group advocates a concerted effort to fight obesity in the United States, where more than 60 percent of adults are either obese or overweight.
This would include changes in laws, including mandates on school lunches, requiring insurers to pay for weight loss programs and restoring physical education programs to schools.
Children are especially at risk, the group said.
“The rate of childhood obesity more than tripled from 1980 to 2004. Approximately 25 million children are now either obese or overweight,” the report said.
FUTURE HEALTH IMPACTS
Obesity and overweight are defined using body mass index, a measure of height versus weight that is accepted by health experts. A body mass index of 25 or above is considered overweight, while 30 or above constitutes obesity, with a greater risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
“Particularly when looking at kids, there are health impacts now. There are going to be even greater health impacts later,” Levi said. “If we aren’t addressing the childhood obesity problem now, there is not going to be affordable health care reform.”
There is little dispute over what is causing the epidemic.
“It seems that the cheapest foods are those that are the worst for you,” Dr. James Marks, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which helped pay for the report.
“People are eating more and being less active. About a quarter of people eat fast food every day. The amount of calories has gone up. The quality of lunches in schools has gone down.”
Fewer children walk to school or play outside after school and people find it more difficult to exercise, Levi and Marks noted.
According to the report, the three states with the most obese residents are:
* Mississippi – 30 percent obese
* West Virginia – 29.8 percent
* Alabama – 29.4 percent
The leanest states are:
* Colorado – 17.6 percent obese
* Massachusetts – 19.8 percent obese
* Vermont – 20 percent obese.
The group used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which interviews tens of thousands of people every year in various health surveys.
Cheese, toes, and mosquitoes
A whiff on the evening train announces that the person opposite you has sweaty feet. In a delicatessen, the same smell can be both wholesome and welcome–an indication that you are approaching the cheese counter. Bart Knols and Ruurd De Jong have another use for the reek that emanates alike from unwashed feet and delectable cheese. The Dutch entomologists think they can exploit it to trap mosquitoes and thus help to combat malaria.
Working at Wageningen Agricultural University, they have been investigating the chemical features of humans that attract vectors of malaria, especially Anopheles gambiae. Carbon dioxide in the breath is one powerful attractant. But there are others. Confronted by what Knols and De Jong call a naked, motionless human host, mosquitoes tend to go for the feet and ankles. Their intense interest in those regions correlates well with particular combinations of skin temperature and density of eccrine sweat glands.
However, the researchers have found that washing the subjects’ feet and ankles with non-perfumed but bactericidal soap diverts the mosquitoes to other parts of the body. This has prompted them to investigate odours, especially those that can emanate strongly from the feet and ankles, which may account for A gambiae’s predilection.
For whatever reason, the people of Holland have always been particularly conscious of the similarity between pedal pongs and the aroma of a fine cheese. Their language even has a word, “Tenenkaas” (literally “toes-cheese”), to describe the effluvia generated by perspiring phalanges. And one of the most powerful foot-like stinks of all is produced by a particular pride of the Netherlands–Limburger cheese.
The origin of that characteristic smell is microbial. Limburger is ripened by coryneform bacteria such as Brevibacterium linens, close relatives of which form part of the normal bacterial flora of the feet. The cheese contains short-chain fatty acids, which also occur in human sweat. And among the substances produced by coryneform bacteria in cheese and on sweaty feet is methanethiol, a peculiarly pungent molecule that contributes powerfully to the stink of both.
Maybe Limburger cheese could be used as a bait to attract and trap A gambiae–especially the blood-seeking females that transmit malarial parasites to humans. As they report in Parasitology Today (1996;12:159), Knols and De Jong have now tested the idea. They constructed traps, with or without air blown over Limburger, and exposed them to hungry mosquitoes. In the same period of time, the smelly traps caught more than twice as many A gambiae as those without the smell.
Knols and De Jong caution against too ready an acceptance of the idea that the cheesy odour worked because of its similarity to sweaty feet. But this does seem to be the most likely explanation of their results. As they observe, it is remarkable that mosquitoes so strongly drawn to the human body are also attracted towards an odour from something distinctly non-human.
Unless the two pongs had a common origin. Could some of the bacteria in cheese have come, long ago, from its early makers, sweating over their work? And is today’s concern for scrupulous cleanliness in the dairy depriving future gourmets of delicious aromas still confined to the crevices of the human body?–BERNARD DIXON, European contributing editor, Biotechnology