The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.

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A juvenile yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) pecks at a ginkgo tree at BBG. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
by Joe Giunta.
What do the wolf, the beaver, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker have in common? Each is a keystone species, that is, a species that by its actions may affect a whole community. In many cases, other species greatly depend upon their actions for food, shelter, and habitat.
As a predator, the wolf keeps certain animal populations, like deer, from becoming overabundant and destructive to the surrounding habitat. The beaver creates habitat for songbirds, ducks, and muskrats by building dams.
The yellow-bellied sapsucker provides not only habitat but also food for other species.
This medium-sized woodpecker is what’s known as a primary cavity-nesting bird. It makes—by drilling into a somewhat decayed tree—a cavity where it can build a nest and raise young.
The next year, secondary cavity-nesting birds like swallows, chickadees, and bluebirds can then move in to nest there and raise their own young.
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The yellow-bellied sapsucker is also a great provider of food. It drills many “wells” in living trees that bleed throughout the year. The sap attracts insects, and the sapsucker feeds on those as well as the sap itself.
Other small birds like warblers and hummingbirds, as well as butterflies and bats, also come to these sap wells to feed.
Sapsucker wells have been found in over a hundred species of trees, but the sapsucker seems to prefer trees that bleed more than others, such as red maple and birch.
Read further via Birds of Brooklyn: Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker – Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The Zippo Lighter, invented by George Blaisdell in 1932.

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When it comes to reliable products, they don’t come more hardy than Zippo lighters, a device so insanely well made that the company that makes them guarantee to repair it for free, forever.
Basically, if you ever break a Zippo lighter (a considerable feat in of itself) Zippo will repair and/replace it free of charge, a guarantee that the company has had in place almost since the day the company was founded.
George G. Blaisdell invented the Zippo lighter in 1932, and got his idea after discovering a large and bulky Austrian made pocket lighter. Blaisdell was an oil engineer who saw a audience for a good looking lighter that would function even in windy conditions.
He produced the first Zippo lighter in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
And yes, before anyone asks, this guarantee still applies to lighters from 70 years ago. As noted on their own website:
“Whether a lighter is five years, 25 years, or 50 years old, it will serve as a dependable source of flame for years to come. We guarantee it.”
To date there has never been a known case of Zippo ever charging for a repair, hell, this guy sent Zippo his 53 year old lighter and they sent it back repaired with money for the stamps he’d used to post it.
How many companies can you name who’d repair a product older than 70% of the population and then refuse to ask for payment for doing so?
That’s not a sarcastic question by the way, we’re genuinely curious if there’s another company out there this awesome because we want to write about them.
Check out the Video shared by EfiSoul63 in the Comments Section.
Read on via Zippo Lighters are Literally Guaranteed for Life | Fact Fiend.

The Coalminer’s Canary Resuscitator.

This peculiar device, in the collection of the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, looks like a tiny gas chamber a movie villain would use.
Throw in your enemy—in this case, a small innocent canary—close the hatch, turn open the valve to let in poisonous gas from the cylinder above, and then laugh manically as the bird suffocates and dies.
In reality, it’s the opposite. This device is used not to kill canaries, but to revive them. The cylinder attached to the top of the metal box contains life giving oxygen.
They are known as Canary Resuscitators. Coal miners used to go down to work carrying canaries with them in glass chambers such as these.
Underground mines can contain potentially deadly gases such as carbon monoxide that can form during an accident such as fire or an explosion.
The colorless gas is equally deadly to both humans and canaries alike, but canaries are much more susceptible to the gas, and react more quickly and visibly than humans do, thus alerting miners to the presence of the poisonous gas.
When a disaster strikes inside a mine, rescue workers would descend into the mine carrying a canary in a Resuscitator.
The glass and metal box has a circular open door in the front to let air in, but a grill prevents the canary from escaping.
If there is carbon monoxide in the air, the canary would show signs of distress. It would start swaying noticeably on its perch and eventually fall of it.
If the canary loses consciousness, the door to the box would be closed and the valve opened, allowing oxygen from the tank on top to be released and revive the canary.
The miners would then evacuate the danger area.
Source: Canaries As Poisonous Gas Detectors | Amusing Planet

Disney and the Myth of Lemming Suicide 1958.

lemmingLemmings do not commit mass suicide. It’s a myth, but it’s remarkable how many people believe it. Ask a few.
“It’s a complete urban legend,” said state wildlife biologist Thomas McDonough. “I think it blew out of proportion based on a Disney documentary in the ’50s, and that brought it to the mainstream.”
Lemmings are a kind of short tailed vole, a mouse-like rodent that favors tundra and open grasslands.
Three kinds are found in Alaska, including the collared lemming, the only rodent that turns white in winter.
In 1958 Walt Disney produced “White Wilderness,” part of the studio’s “True Life Adventure” series. “White Wilderness” featured a segment on lemmings, detailing their strange compulsion to commit mass suicide.
According to a 1983 investigation by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation producer Brian Vallee, the lemming scenes were faked.
The lemmings supposedly committing mass suicide by leaping into the ocean were actually thrown off a cliff by the Disney filmmakers.
The epic “lemming migration” was staged using careful editing, tight camera angles and a few dozen lemmings running on snow covered lazy-Susan style turntable.
“White Wilderness” was filmed in Alberta, Canada, a landlocked province, and not on location in lemmings’ natural habitat.
There are about 20 lemming species found in the circumpolar north – but evidently not in that area of Alberta. So the Disney people bought lemmings from Inuit children a couple provinces away in Manitoba and staged the whole sequence.
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In the lemming segment, the little rodents assemble for a mass migration, scamper across the tundra and ford a tiny stream as narrator Winston Hibbler explains that,
“A kind of compulsion seizes each tiny rodent and, carried along by an unreasoning hysteria, each falls into step for a march that will take them to a strange destiny.”
That destiny is to jump into the ocean. As they approach the “sea,” (actually a river -more tight cropping) Hibbler continues, “They’ve become victims of an obsession — a one-track thought: Move on! Move on!”
The “pack of lemmings” reaches the final precipice. “This is the last chance to turn back,” Hibbler states. “Yet over they go, casting themselves out bodily into space.”
via Lemming Suicide Myth, Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The Flying Bum, Bedfordshire.

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Full of gas: The world’s longest aircraft – part airship, plane and helicopter – has been unveiled in Cardington, Bedfordshire.
It will be used for surveillance and aid missions… and resembles something very familiar. The 300ft-long ‘airship’ unveiled in Britain is the world’s longest aircraft.
Known as the HAV304, aircraft is being displayed at a Hangar in Bedfordshire, United Kingdom.
It is 302ft (91m) long making it 60ft (18m) longer than the biggest airliners.
long-aircraft
It can stay in the air for 3 weeks and will be vital to delivering humanitarian aid.
Its funders include Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson.
The aircraft is 70 per cent more environmentally friendly than a cargo plane and doesn’t need a runway to take off.
via HAV304 300ft-long ‘airship’ unveiled in Britain is world’s longest aircraft | Mail Online.

No Free Loading Ants wanted Here.

antsResearchers have long been fascinated with ant rafts. These floating mats form during rain storms and floods and are composed of thousands of individual insects.
Scientists have found that the living rafts possess their own unique material properties, displaying buoyancy and behaving, alternately, like a solid and like a liquid.
How the ants manage to create such engineering masterpieces, however, has remained largely unknown.
Now, researchers have discovered one architectural secret behind the ant rafts. The ants, it turns out, cling to one another using all six of their legs—a single ant can have up to 20 of its comrades’ legs grabbing its body.
The Georgia Institute of Technology researchers found that 99 percent of ant legs are gripping another ant, meaning “there’s no free loaders” when it comes to hitching a ride on the rafts, they said in a statement.
Scientists didn’t discover this trick earlier because it’s exceedingly difficult to look inside those dense balls of insects.

To get around this problem, the team first created a number of ant rafts by swirling 110 insects in a beaker full of water. After the rafts formed, the researchers froze them with liquid nitrogen and used super glue to ensure the ants stayed in place.
CT scans allowed the researchers to examine how the rafts’ individual components were related.
Ed Yong elaborates on the findings for National Geographic:
They don’t just stick their pads to the nearest thing they can find; they typically attach to their neighbours legs and feet, rather than their bodies.
These connections allow the ants to change the shape of their structures by bending or stretching their legs. That explains why the structures are so elastic, and why they can absorb incoming forces more effectively.
The foot-to-foot connections also suggest that the ants actively control the nature of their balls. The team found other such clues. For example, a ball of living ants is less densely packed than a ball of dead ones, implying that they are actively pushing their neighbours away.
This presumably helps to create the air pockets that keep the rafts afloat.
While constructing the rafts does not involve intelligence, the team told Yong, the nature of those balls does turn out to be much more complex than scientists expected.
Read on via When Fire Ants Build Rafts, There Are No Free Loaders | Smart News | Smithsonian.