Knock on wood

mullet over

The meaning of the term “rodeo” has changed over the years. For decades, the Spanish word simply meant “roundup,” which was often a seasonal event wherein cattle were gathered, partitioned into owners’ groups and branded. Records indicate that “rodeo” was first used as a reference to a cowboy-skills competition in 1916. Actual competitions came about much earlier, but were not generally called rodeos. More than one location claims to be the site of Earth’s first rodeo. Some assertions are of somewhat suspicious provenance – like that Cro-Magnon vs. Neanderthal event in 96,000 B.C.

I suppose this is not top secret since I read about it in a December 2018 magazine: The U.S. Navy has new mini-subs stored inside some full-sized submarines. Those smaller vehicles can detach and deliver 6 scuba-equipped SEALS to desired locations. Dubbed Proteus, the mini-subs have autonomous modes that can be used to do surveillance, deposit explosive devices or pick-up/deliver payloads weighing up to 3600 pounds. The Proteus can then return to a mother sub and re-attach. The innovative devices are battery-powered with an undisclosed travel range. Wow or something.

In California at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), one can find the world’s largest laser. The megalaser is approximately the size of three football fields and can be used to release energy equivalent to two pounds of TNT onto a target the size of an English pea. Currently, the apparatus is being designed to trigger nuclear fusion reactions, combining nuclei of hydrogen atoms to form helium atoms while releasing really big bunches of energy (not a commonly used technical phrase) much the same way stars do.

Knock on wood. One recent survey released by Harvard University shows that one group of people with an average age of 19 was significantly more superstitious than a similar-sized group with an average age of 70.

Are you a devotee of Olea europaea (olives)? I have news that might cause you to become alarmed: Olive trees over most of Europe are under serious attacks from a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa. The infection is spread by sap-sucking insects which have been recently been discovered in the Americas.

There seems to be no scientific consensus on which is the strongest muscle in the human body. The five contenders are: heart, masseter (on jaw), soleus (on calf), gluteus maximus and uterus. Part of the problem involved in ranking is how to measure strength – maximum power, endurance, or some complex combination of those two traits. Well, enjoy a rodeo if you have the opportunity – and have a great day.
James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at