A 143-Ton Fatberg is Clogging a London Sewer

❝ An 820 foot long fatberg has been found blocking a sewer in East London, and it is taking a lot of man power to get it out of the way.

The fatberg, a solid mass of congealed fat, wet wipes, diapers, oil, and condoms was found in a Victorian-era tunnel in Whitechapel. The Thames Water company said it was the largest they had ever seen and estimated the removal time at three weeks.

The fatberg weighs about 143 tons and is 820 feet long. For reference, that’s 20 feet longer than London’s Tower Bridge. It’s also about the same weight as a blue whale, earth’s largest animal.

❝ Matt Rimmel, the head of the Thames Water’s waste network, expressed his shock at the fatberg and reminded everyone of how easily-avoided they are. Most fatbergs are caused by people putting things down their sinks and toilets that should be thrown in the garbage.

“It’s frustrating, as these situations are totally avoidable and caused by fat, oil, and grease being washed down sinks and wipes flushed down the loo,” he said.

This is not how you keep Britain tidy!

How long does it take to poop 1.5 lbs of cocaine?

Yes, that is a slightly strained look

Five days. That’s how long 28-year-old Regis Walker spent in a hospital “passing” the drug pellets after she was arrested last week at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Walker, a U.S. citizen, arrived on a flight from Jamaica. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials took her aside for a baggage search and interview. She was taken to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale after agreeing to be X-rayed. The X-ray revealed that Walker appeared to be carrying approximately 54 pellets filled with cocaine within her body.


Thanks, Ursarodinia

iPotty…now with added iPad [sold separately]

One of the more bizarre products on show at CES, the base of the iPotty looks like a traditional potty with a removable bowl, seat and a pee-guard for the boys. But at the front it all gets a little weird, because there’s a stand designed specifically to hold an iPad.

The iPotty has been designed to help children learn to use the potty by keeping them entertained when nature calls. The idea is that they won’t mind sitting there for longer if they’re watching a favorite cartoon or playing Angry Birds. And we’ve seen enough iPad toy add-ons – from the Mattel Apptivity Play to the iTikes range – to know kids love playing with an iPad…

Currently, there are no specific apps for the iPotty…There are plenty of potty training apps in the Apple App store though, and obviously there’s no shortage of other apps which could be used to distract/entertain children while they sit on the potty.

Maker CTA Digital says there’s also a seat cover which means the iPotty can be used as a traditional seat when your little one is not peeing or pooping. The iPad stand can also be removed completely … which could come in handy if you’ve got guests coming round and you don’t want them to know you’re the sort of parents who would buy an iPad potty.

I believe you will be exempt from patent lawsuits by Samsung.

California cove filled to overflowing with nature’s beauty – and way too much bird poop!

Yes – the white stuff on the rock is bird poop
Photo by brianne.leary

Come here for the sights. (There is not a more majestic spot to watch the sun set over the Pacific.) Or come for the sounds. (The waves crash against the rocks, and the sea lions bark at one another on the bluffs.)

But don’t come for the smell.

In beautiful La Jolla Cove, art galleries and coffee shops meet a stretch of unspoiled cliffs and Pacific Ocean. Home to former presidential candidates (Mitt Romney has been spotted pumping his own gas here in recent days) and seal colonies alike, the neighborhood provides one of this city’s primary tourist draws.

But the smell, a pungent stench that emanates from the accumulation of bird feces on the rocks, has become a growing problem. And strict environmental regulations in the cove have stymied the city’s efforts to address the problem before it drives tourists and businesses away, effectively roping the rocks off with red tape.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the smell from the birds has never, ever been as bad as it is now,” said Megan Heine, the owner of Brockton Villa Restaurant, which overlooks the cove from a historic building that has been on the cliffs for more than 100 years. She said guests asked about the stench so frequently that her wait staff had become adept at explaining its cause…

Until a few years ago, the smell was never a problem because the bluffs were open for people to walk on. But since the rocks were closed off, partly because of safety concerns, sea gulls and cormorants have taken over, their droppings have piled up and the smell has grown more acrid by the day.

…Because the waters in the cove are part of a coastal area specially protected by the state, multiple state regulatory agencies would have to issue permits before the agents could be used, a process that regulators have indicated would probably take at least two years

For the moment anyway, there seems to be little city officials can do except hope for winter rainstorms, which in years past have washed the rocks and alleviated some of the smell.

“We need to consider a range of alternatives for cleaning the rocks, and one of those could be no project, just sit and wait for rain,” said Kanani Brown, an analyst for the California Coastal Commission, one of the regulatory agencies. “I know that’s not ideal for local businesses, but that’s historically been the approach.”

Got a smile from me. I had forgotten how strong seagull poop could smell; but, I surely remember it from my kidhood.

Growing up on the New England coast, we were a family that relied on subsistence fishing to supplement my father’s civil service paycheck. At least one day of each weekend, year-round was spent either on a certain local breakwater at the entrance to the city harbor – or at the end of a pier originally built to bring visitors in from a ferryboat to a nearby amusement park.

The park is long gone. Probably the pier, too. But that breakwater survived hurricanes and I imagine it’s still there. And on a sunny summer afternoon, the favorite places for seagulls to congregate and argue and poop – could wrinkle your nose hundreds of yards away.

Farmed seafood raised on pig poop approved for U.S. consumers

At Ngoc Sinh Seafoods Trading & Processing Export Enterprise, a seafood exporter on Vietnam’s southern coast, workers stand on a dirty floor sorting shrimp one hot September day. There’s trash on the floor, and flies crawl over baskets of processed shrimp stacked in an unchilled room in Ca Mau.

Elsewhere in Ca Mau, Nguyen Van Hoang packs shrimp headed for the U.S. in dirty plastic tubs. He covers them in ice made with tap water that the Vietnamese Health Ministry says should be boiled before drinking because of the risk of contamination with bacteria. Vietnam ships 100 million pounds of shrimp a year to the U.S. That’s almost 8 percent of the shrimp Americans eat.

Using ice made from tap water in Vietnam is dangerous because it can spread bacteria to the shrimp, microbiologist Mansour Samadpour says, “Those conditions — ice made from dirty water, animals near the farms, pigs — are unacceptable,” says Samadpour, whose company, IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group, specializes in testing water for shellfish farming.

Ngoc Sinh has been certified as safe by Geneva-based food auditor SGS SA, says Nguyen Trung Thanh, the company’s general director.

We are trying to meet international standards,” Thanh says…

SGS spokeswoman Jennifer Buckley says her company has no record of auditing Ngoc Sinh.

At Chen Qiang’s tilapia farm in Yangjiang city in China’s Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, Chen feeds fish partly with feces from hundreds of pigs and geese. That practice is dangerous for American consumers, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety.

“The manure the Chinese use to feed fish is frequently contaminated with microbes like salmonella,” says Doyle, who has studied foodborne diseases in China…

Kind of an incomplete story – even before the little editing I’ve done. Still – it’s enough to scare the crap out of me.

I buy Asian seafood occasionally, relying on retailers who perform their own checks on shipments from all of their suppliers. But, I think I’ll send them a link to this story and ask for a comment.

Unicorn Poop!

Magically Delicious!  Unicorns may manage their elusiveness but they left behind some fanciful evidence of their existence and I was able to recreate their leavings.  

This unicorn poop, in reality, has a funny story.  I told my mom that I was making some “Unicorn Sneezes” and she said “when are you going to make your unicorn sh*t?”  And then it hit me…Great idea, Mom!  It will take a dirty spin and become unicorn poop, instead!  She doesn’t want the credit for encouraging me,  but I still thank her…

The real deal – it’s made of sugar cookies, rainbow dragees, rainbow star sprinkles, white sparkle gel, and rainbow disco dust.

Thanks, Ursarodina – who, AFAIK, has never made or consumed any of these.

Pigeon poop causes roof collapse

Vacaville Fire Department officials are blaming pigeons for the collapse of a gas station awning Monday that nearly struck a woman who had just finished filling her tank. Vacaville resident Chris Doss had stopped at Quick Way Gas located in the 400 block of Merchant Street when a quarter of the station’s metal roofing came thundering down next to her under the weight of several inches of bird droppings.

“It just went ‘boom’ and then it all came down,” said Doss, who had just finished putting gas in her silver 2007 Mazda 3.

She had just gotten back into her car on one side of the island at about 2:21 p.m. and hadn’t even had a chance to put the key in the ignition when the entire roofing section on the other side of the island collapsed, giving way to an avalanche of bird droppings.

Doss sat there in shock for a moment, not knowing what to do, she said…

According to Vacaville Fire Battalion Chief Brian Moore, the section of the roof was brought down by the weight of the pigeon droppings that had accumulated over the years…

For Chris Doss though, it was definitely her lucky day.

I’m glad that I parked on that side,” she said. “I should go get a lotto ticket.”

Get two!

Predict your infant’s sexuality – by checking their poop!

With the help of babies and more than 5,000 of their diapers, Emory University researchers have developed an accurate, noninvasive method to determine estrogen levels in infants.

The method, previously used in nonhuman primates, will allow researchers to learn more about the association between estrogen levels in human infants and their long-term reproductive development as well as the development of sex-specific behaviors, such as toy preference or cognitive differences. What’s more, the method will also allow researchers to look at how early disruption of the endocrine system affects long-term maturation, a growing concern among researchers and physicians.

Surprisingly little is known about hormone levels during human infancy. Previous human research has focused on the measurement of hormones in blood, urine and saliva. The new data are the result of using fecal samples collected from cotton diapers. With this novel approach, the researchers successfully measured the fecal levels of estradiol, a type of estrogen…

“The development of an assay to measure estrogen from diapers might initially strike one as unnecessary or strange, but the need is real,” says Sara Berga, MD…

“These observations are the first report of human infant fecal estradiol levels and they provide a new tool for investigating early human development”, says Michelle Lampl, PhD, MD. “Because infant diapers are plentiful, fecal samples can be collected frequently and over a long period of time. Future longitudinal studies will allow the association between fecal levels of steroids and physiological measures to be assessed, and expand our understanding independent of serum measures.”

And moms will love you for taking the samples away.

French government using GPS to track dog poop

Public officials are to use satnav devices to log the coordinates of dog mess on the streets of Toulouse, southern France.

Police and council staff will use hand-held computers to position and photograph the offending pile – then email the location to street cleaners.

The experiment, which Toulouse council says is a world first, comes after a flood of complaints about the increasingly dog-fouled streets.

A town hall spokesman said the project would be tested for six months next year. He added: “While reports of the dirty state of our roads are often exaggerated, no one can now say we are not on top of the problem.”

The scheme comes after a council chief in Paris claimed this summer that dog mess on the capital’s streets was to blame for not winning the 2012 Olympics…

Staff working at the city hall claim the situation has now improved, with motorised ‘pooper scoopers’ and higher fines combating the problem.


That great story about Rock Hyrax urine you’ve been waiting for

Those aren’t fangs – they’re tusks!

The Rock Hyrax is a remarkable animal. Native to dry, rocky environments throughout Africa, you would be forgiven for assuming that it is a large rodent, with its short legs, short neck, rounded ears and overall resemblance to a particularly large guinea pig or a coypu minus a tail.

And yet, in defiance of expectations, the creature’s nearest living relatives are elephants and manatees. This in itself should be enough to make any research involving Rock Hyraxes worth reading.

But these furry fellows have a distinctive behaviour which, by good fortune, enables climatologists to study the environmental history of rocky areas where traditional techniques – such as taking a core – are not viable. Rock Hyraxes, it seems, are very particular about where they urinate and defecate. They like specific locations underneath rocky overhangs and generation after generation of Hyraxes will use that same spot – called a midden – over and over again. For literally thousands of years.

Some of these middens can date back 30,000 years or more. That’s the Stone Age. That’s actually the Upper Palaeolithic period!

The urine crystallises and what you end up with is a block of solid, stratified material which provides the sort of historical record that is otherwise impossible to find in these dry, rocky parts of the world. Within the midden is a record of Hyrax metabolytes as well as particles which have passed undigested through their systems (and the occasional bit of organic material that just happened to get blown there). These can be accurately dated, giving an indication of how the vegetation – and hence the climate – has changed over the millenia. And that’s what some researchers in our Department of Geography are looking into…

Paleaoenvironmental knowledge of southern Africa, which encompasses countries such as Botswana and Namibia, has always been very fragmentary and largely reliant on ocean core records. The data from the Hyrax middens open up a whole new realm of research into how some of these dynamic environments have changed over 30,000 years or so. The next step is to compare this data with established models of climate change.

We’re anxiously awaiting the next regular news bulletin from the research team.