NEANDERTHALS walk among us. Geneticists who successfully reconstructed the entire Neanderthal genome claim nearly all modern humans carry two to four percent of their genetic makeup derived from that early hominid. That can only be explained by interbreeding between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon people. Moreover, researchers believe the genetic traits that allowed Neanderthals to store fat to survive a cold climate show up today in our tendency toward obesity and diabetes. The only modern humans without Neanderthal genes are those from sub-Saharan Africa, whose remote ancestors never crossed paths with Neanderthals
MALARIA, mankind’s ancient foe, has been largely suppressed in the U.S. and Europe. America’s Centers for Disease Control reports the vast majority of the 1,700 cases of malaria addressed each year comes from immigrants and travelers, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease continues to run rampant. Few people are killed by this disease today, but during World War II, over 100,000 U.S. troops were killed by malaria.
FLAMMABLE OR INFLAMMABLE - Both words mean the same thing – susceptible to catching fire. Dating from the 15th century, inflammable was the common usage. Things were fine until 1813, when a scholar translating a Latin text coined the English word flammable from the Latin flammare, and now we had a problem: two words that look like antonyms but are actually synonyms. There has been confusion between the two words ever since.
To avoid confusion, choose flammable when you are referring to something that catches fire and burns easily, and use the relatively recent nonflammable when referring to something that doesn’t catch fire and burn easily. Poor old inflammable appears to be headed for the trash heap.
THE PULASKI, the combination axe and mattock that is the unquestioned go-to implement for today’s forest fire fighters, is the invention of Edward “Big Ed” Pulaski, fire fighter and sometime blacksmith. When Pulaski presented his invention to his superiors in the Forest Service, they were initially unimpressed. The tool is an ungainly-looking implement, but what Edward Pulaski’s creation lacks in finesse, it more than makes up for in sheer utility. The hybrid axe-hoe has an excellent balance to it. You can swing it all day and, with a flick of the wrist, you can go from chopping through roots to digging trenches. Firefighters in the field immediately took to it and by 1920 the Forest Service was issuing thousands of Pulaskis to their crews. Unable to secure a patent for his invention, Pulaski never saw a cent from its universal adoption.
It takes 100 pounds of rain water to produce a single pound of food from the earth. Between 10 and 20 tons of water must pass through the roots of an acre of corn before one bushel of corn will be produced.
BACK IN 1971, at Memorial Hospital in New York City, a woman ran a fever of 114 degrees and survived without brain damage or physiological after effects. Fevers are almost always evidence the body is fighting off an infection. The high temperatures tend to kill viruses and to activate the immune system. Oral temperatures in excess of 103 degrees and lasting for more than three days are cause for alarm. A trip to the ER is in order.
LEGENDARY ROCK N ROLL musician Bo Diddley died while giving a thumbs-up. He was listening to the song “Walk Around Heaven,” and his very last word was “Wow.”
THE INCAS and certain other pre-Columbian tribes in Peru developed the decimal system hundreds of years before it was used in Europe.
TWO out of three adults in America have hemorrhoids.
MEN are twice as likely to contract leprosy as women.
DEAR OLD Jack the Ripper, subject of so many lurid accounts and wild speculation, may have been finally unmasked. British investigator Russell Edwards now claims DNA evidence collected from a shawl found at one of the Ripper’s crime scenes has been conclusively linked to Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski. Likely a paranoid schizophrenic, Kosminski was admitted into an asylum in 1891 after attacking his sister with a knife.
He remained institutionalized until his death in 1919 from gangrene. At the time of the Whitechapel slayings, Kosminski was said to be working as a hairdresser in the area.
INTERESTING HOLIDAYS THIS WEEK: August 12, Middle Child’s Day; 16th, Tell A Joke Day; 18th, Bad Poetry Day. Enjoy.