Rotate your milk

mullet over

Likely you know that your heart stops momentarily whenever you sneeze. The problem with this “fact” is that it is not true. The rate of your heartbeat may change, but all normal movements and cardiac activities continue during sneezes. Another urban legend is that no one can keep his/her eyes open during a sneeze – also untrue. That would seem to be sufficient sternutation discourse for this week.

– Cattle drives out of Texas provided Hollywood with fodder for hundreds of stories and stimulated millions of young children with aspirations for playing cowboy/cowgirl. I was one of the millions. I still watch Roy Rogers and John Wayne reruns. America’s last major classic cattle drive originated on Texas’ XIT Ranch in the year 1897. That drive ended in Montana.

– In 1648, a European diarist was in South America and noted the healing effects of a plant commonly known as the Brazilian Pepper Tree. Recently a team of scientists from Emory University studied historical accounts of traditional folk medicines in S. America and focused on said plant. They were amazed when sap extracts destructively affected a virulent type of Staphylococcus. Most anti-bacterial treatments allow the attacked bacteria to develop a defensive resistance, but fluids from the Pepper Tree seem to kill the Staphylococcus and obliterate the bacteria’s ability to develop resistant offspring.

–  In The Netherlands at a site named Siberia B.V. (Besloten Vennootschap – surely you knew that), botanists have been developing very efficient greenhouses. The project has been particularly successful in growing lettuce and beets. Inside 22 acre buildings, farming plots have typically produced what should normally be grown on 220 acres of outdoor farmland. Insecticides and other chemical consumptions have been cut by 97%. Tomato cultivation was on trial a few years back. Since then the Dutch tomato industry has quietly become the # 1 tomato producer (per acre) in the world. Not bad for growing under glass.

– Last year (2016), more than 15 million human babies were born prematurely. Often the lungs of premature babies are too fragile to efficiently breathe air, dramatically lessening chances for survival. In the spring of 2017, physicians and scientists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported that they had developed a very promising artificial womb that could be filled with life-giving amniotic fluid. Special attachments aided in the pumping of infants’ blood as well as removing carbon dioxide and other body wastes. This invention could better enable hundreds of thousands of babies to survive, develop and enjoy productive lives.

– Meanwhile, efficiency experts at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) have set up a rotary milking machine that enables one operator to milk 150 cows in 60 minutes. Mucha leche. Have a great week.

James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at