Links and Factoids is an anthology of fascinating historical and scientific facts and links to relevant Web sources.
There are 11,000 species of ants. The oldest ant fossil is more than 90 million years old. Ants are closely related to bees and wasps. They are so numerous that in some habitats - the Amazon forest, for instance - their combined weight is four times the combined weight of all other animals in the area. Ants have brains. The main nerve - similar to our spine - runs along the bottom of the ant's body. Ants smell, taste and touch with their antennas. Their cylinder-like heart pumps colorless blood throughout their body.
Ants digest only liquid food or food rendered liquid with their digestive juices. Ants share digested food with each other. They can carry 15-20 times their body weight.
Only the colony's queen breeds. Unfertilized eggs develop into males. The queen also lives much longer - up to 10 years, compared to worker ants which survive on average 50-150 days and up to 2 years in the tropics.
When President John F. Kennedy sought to impress the Germans in 1961 - then besieged by the Russians - he visited Germany and famously said, in a public speech: "Ich bin ein Berliner". Alas, "Berliner" in German is also a kind of yummy doughnut with jam filling and vanilla icing. This gave rise to the fallacy - adopted even by "The Economist" - that "Berliner" is wrong usage or gaffe.
It is not. "Berliner" in German means "that which belongs to Berlin or of Berlin". The Berlin Wall is the "Berliner Mauer", for instance. Berlinerin is the female form of Berliner. Kennedy was grammatically correct to have said "Ich bin ein Berliner".
Legend has it that Julius Caesar was cut out of his mother's womb through the abdomen. In Latin, "caedere" means "to cut".
Caesarean section was mandated in case of the mother's death in the "Roman Law" wrongly attributed to Numa Pompilius, the second of Rome's seven kings (said to have ruled 715-673 BC). Stories during the Renaissance describe "do it yourself" sections by anxious husbands. But the procedure was unknown to midwives and lithotomists (specialist removers of bladder stones). Scipione Mercurio (1540-1615) described the operation in his first text, published in 1596. Four strong assistants had to hold down the writhing mother while the incision was done. Another documented case - a failure - dates back to 1610.
Survival rates were, probably, abysmal. The next mention of the dreaded surgery was in 1793 in Manchester, England. Jane Foster's pelvis was crushed in an accident and then she survived a Caesarean section by one, Dr. James Barlow. The baby was less fortunate.
In the meantime, the French obstetrician Baudeloque published a book describing dozens of cases of successful caesarean section in the previous 50 years. The book was translated to English.