Here are a few random bits to send you into the weekend!

Millipedes the Size of Alligators

I learned while watching Cosmos this week that ~350 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period, insects were much larger than they are presently. Can you imagine how frightening a dragonfly the size of an eagle would be? Or an alligator-sized millipede? Sheesh!

Instead of lungs, insects take their air in all around their bodies. With the current levels of oxygen in the air, larger insects wouldn’t be able to feed the gas to their vital organs. Back in the Carboniferous period, the oxygen in the atmosphere was the highest it’s ever been because trees filled the earth, but didn’t have a way to decompose. When they decompose, carbon dioxide is released, but without this process, there was nothing to balance the books. This process can’t be reversed until something evolves the capability of breaking down tough tree structures, which didn’t happen until much later.

Maybe I’m crazy, but does this remind anyone else of food products that claim they are “All Natural!”? I used to look for anything that was “natural” because the I like the science-y approach of the whole paleo idea: if we’ve spent most of our life as a species living off of the land, natural products only make sense.

But it’s cloudier than that.

“Natural” can mean so many things depending on how it is interpreted. It could mean it comes from nature or that a specific additive is found in nature. That additive, however, doesn’t have to be found in nature in the same quantity!

Take, for example, the decaffeination process. There are many ways to go about it, but one way spouted as the “natural decaffeination process” uses ethyl acetate as a solvent. This compound is found naturally in fruits and then used in a very unnatural way to decaffeinate your favorite coffee.

There’s a definite gray area here. Suffice to say that “all natural” isn’t always better.

 

Watch This Tiny Hamster Eat Tiny Burritos

 

You got a laugh and a learn today. Aren’t you glad you stopped by? Now go teach someone else about insects!