Plastic Squid

By Scott LaFee

March 24, 2010 4 min read

Gunther von Hagens and his plastinizing engineers in Dalian, China are best known for preserving human bodies in various poses (playing cards, jumping rope) and displaying them in exhibits that travel the world. Less known is von Hagens' work with other animals, such as giraffes, horses and elephants.

Now von Hagens says he's plastinized a giant squid.

Plastination involves replacing water in tissues with silicone, which essentially renders the corpse as long-lived as, well, plastic. Squid are particularly challenging because they have fragile skin, no skeleton and largely consist of water. Von Hagens, though, says he's succeeded using two specimens donated by Steve O'Shea, a squid expert at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.

The first plasticized specimen goes back to O'Shea for display at the university. The second squid will join von Hagen's traveling circus of plastic animals.

Next up for von Hagens: He wants to plastinize the giant squid's mortal enemy: a sperm whale.

'TRUE FACTS'

A pair of white dwarf stars in a binary system, called HM Cancri, have been detected revolving around each other at a furious pace of just 5.4 minutes.

QUIRKS OF NATURE

Cold-blooded reptiles are typically slow moving in the morning until the sun and ambient temperatures rev up their metabolisms. One exception is the chameleon, which likes to eat breakfast. Researchers at the University of South Florida have determined that the lizards' lightning-quick tongue, which is used to snatch up unsuspecting prey, is equally fast whether it's warm or cold.

That's because the muscles coil the tongue into a sort of spring-loaded structure. On the other hand, if the lizard misses its breakfast meal, winding the tongue back into position takes a bit longer in cold weather.

BRAIN SWEAT

What number comes next in this sequence?

0 10 1110 3110 132110 1113122110 —?—

GEEK ATLAS

John M. Mossman Lock Collection

40 degrees, 45 minutes, 19.18 seconds N, 73 degrees, 58 minutes, 52.74 seconds W

Behind the doors of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen in downtown Manhattan exists a small museum of 370 bank and vault locks. The contraptions are unique, most built for a particular purpose. The 19th century Parautopic lock, for example, was supposedly unpickable until Linus Yale, Jr. did just that. Yale went on to help invent the pin tumbler lock.

Visitors are advised to call ahead to make sure someone's there to unlock the doors.

BRAIN SWEAT ANSWER

311311222110. Each group of numbers describes the previous group. For example, we start with 0, which is described as one zero or 10. 10 is one 1, one zero or 1110. 1110 is three ones, one zero (equals) 3110, and so on.

SCIFAIKU

detached

a scientist examines

zombie limbs

— Tom Brinck

WHAT IS IT? ANSWER

Fomes fomentarius is a kind of bracket fungus that grows on tree trunks in North America and Europe. It is inedible, but the tissue was used by early nomadic peoples as a means of transporting fire because it will smolder for hours.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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