Friday, May 4, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #37: Chicken Eyeglasses, Radioactive Glassware, and Other Amusing Things I Discovered Recently

So, I don't have a theme this week. That's okay, kids, cause if you've been paying really close attention, you will have noticed that I don't need one.

I do what I want.

1) In the course of attempting to discover the age, provenance and value of my late grandmother's hen-on-nest glass candy dish, I stumbled upon something known as“chicken eyeglasses.” Yes, these are eyeglasses for chickens. They're also called chicken specs or chicken goggles. Some of them have rose-colored lenses, so your chickens will be more optimistic.

Actually, if you read that old advertisement, you'll now know that the point of chicken specs is to keep the chickens from pecking each other to death or, presumably, at least keep them from pecking each others' eyes out since it's hard to peck someone's eyes out when he's wearing safety goggles. Some chicken eyeglasses strapped onto the chicken's head, while others were held on by a cotter pin through the nose. The rose-colored tinting was intended to stop chickens from recognizing blood on their fellows, since it seems chickens will peck to death anything that is bleeding.

They're like sharks that way. ~ Anrdei Niemaki

Chicken eyeglasses were invented by Andrew Jackson Jr. in 1903. They are no longer manufactured, but they remained in use until at least the early 1970s, and were outlawed in the UK in 1982.

2) Uranium glass is glass which contains uranium. Wikipedia tells us that it's “negligibly radioactive” and “considered to be harmless,” which just as comforting as hell, especially when you learn that some older pieces contain as much as 25 percent uranium in the glass mixture.

There's no way that is "negligibly radioactive."

Uranium glass dates back to Roman times, because honestly, what doesn't. In 1912, R.T. Gunter of the University of Oxford discovered a mosaic containing uranium glass in a villa on the Bay of Naples. At that time, many of the world's most fashionable place settings and other household goods were made from uranium glass. It's first major manufacturer was Josef Riedel, who a glassblower who produced uranium glass pieces in Bohemia from 1830 to 1848. Other glassmakers across Europe began manufacturing uranium glass, and it enjoyed a heyday of popularity lasting from about 1880 to about 1920. Manufacture of uranium glass in the United States ceased with uranium restrictions during the Cold War, and never really picked back up again, possibly due to Americans' inherent uneasiness about things that set off Geiger counters.

Just a little quirk we have.

3) Speaking of things that glow, on 6 April 1862, the Civil War Battle of Shiloh left 16,000 soldiers wounded. As the Civil War buffs in the group will know, soldiers of this period were especially prone to infection, which was odd since germs hadn't been invented yet. Nevertheless, as the soldiers sat in the rain and mud for two days and nights, awaiting medical care (you thought it was bad now), some of them noticed a strange phenomenon, namely, that their wounds glowed at night. As more time passed, it became obvious that those with the glowing wounds were enjoying higher survival rates and faster, cleaner recoveries than their non-illuminated brethren. The soldiers nicknamed the phenomenon “Angel's Glow.”

One hundred and thirty-odd years later, teenager Bill Martin visited the battlefield with his mother, a microbiologist. When Bill asked his mother if a bacteria could have been responsible for the Angel's Glow, she encouraged him to find out for himself by performing an experiment. With the help of a friend, Jon Curtis, Bill discovered that the bacteria Photorhabdus luminescens was responsible. These bacteria enjoy a symbiotic relationship with nematode worms. They live inside their digestive tract, coming out to play when the nematode worm burrows into the body of an insect larva. The bacteria's glowing secretions kill the insect and any other bacteria nearby, allowing both it and the nematode to feed greedily on the poor insect's flesh. When they're done, the nematode swallows up its regurgitated friends and emerges, where it finds a fresh selection of insects who came for the light show, but will stay for the agonizing death.


Bill and Jon concluded that the soldiers' glowing wounds were full of these worms and P. luminescens, which don't typically infect humans, but stopped other infections by killing off any other bacteria in the wounds. The kicker? The normal human body temperature is too high to allow these bacteria to survive, but that was okay, because these soldiers were experiencing severe hypothermia.

Oh. Good.

4) The other day, I saw a white deer. I had heard there were some around, but I'd never seen one before. At first I thought it was a goat.

Not a goat.

Accordingto Wikipedia and this girl I went to high school with, white deer are not albinos but are expressing a recessive genetic trait. Imperfect expression of this trait results in a piebald. Complete expression of the gene results in a fully white deer. Sadly, this requires quite a lot of inbreeding, at least in the white-tail deer species that we have around here. (The European red deer may express leucism, a genetic trait similar to albinism, that causes the deer's skin and coat to lose its natural reddish color).

According to this blogger with The Crazy Eyes, the sighting of a white deer is a prophecy of great things to come. It's a sign that I'm about to embark on a period of unprecedented and unpredictable spiritual growth.

Time will tell, I guess. ~ Dave Spicer

Interestingly enough, Seneca County, New York, there is a herd of about 700 deer, 300 of white are snow white, living on land that was formerly the Seneca Army Depot. About 60 years ago, the depot commander forbid the killing of any of the white deer prevalent in that area. He wound up creating a genetic bottleneck, and, inside the shelter of the depot fence, the white deer flourished – at least, as much as you can flourish when you're suffering from reduced fertility and deformities.

The herd of white deer is the largest in the world, but, since the depot's closure, its future has hung in the balance. White deer are especially vulnerable to predators, due to their visibility. The land they're living on is New York's largest swath of undeveloped real estate, and corporate interests have their eye on it. Conservationists want the white deer protected, presumably because they're messengers from the spirit world.

Or something.