Monday, July 5, 2010

Everything is Connected

Our desks in the lab have hutches whose tops are just the right height that they are good storage space for anything which doesn't get accessed frequently. A project I was doing last year required me to collect pop cans for a few months, so I kept them there. The projecte ended up being a no-go, but the pop cans stayed – perhaps two-dozen in all. Eventually I was compelled to throw them out before a lab open house. I have since restarted my collection, but it is a paltry 3 or 4 cans at the moment. Since I'm not actually collecting them for any reason right now, I haven't asked anybody to help by adding their own cans. This is something I had done last year, but I made sure that every can was rinsed before going up there. This will become important.

So while I use the top of my hutch to hold decorative pop cans, many other students use the tops of their desks to hold manuals and catalogues which are never used. Why students don't simply recycle them is one of the great mysteries of science. Today in the mail, one fellow student got just such a pile of literature. Since we had recently participated in Spring Cleanup, these were to be the first new catalogues on his pristine hutch-top. I offered some of my pop cans to make them less lonely up there. Somehow it came up about how fastidious I was about the rinsing of my cans.

This, I explained, was due to a particular high-school incident. I used to spend a lot of time in my bedroom as a teenager. Brooding, mainly. Reading and watching TV. And drinking pop. And I would never bring the cans out to recycle them. They would just sit in my room. And sit. And I would add to the pile. One day I was reading and drinking pop and not really looking as I put down and then picked up again my can of pop. I put the can to my lips and took a big swig. The sensation was somehow different from the normal CO2 bubble tingle. It felt almost like thousands of tiny legs running around on my tongue. I had accidentally picked up one of my old cans which had become filled with -- ants! I spit the mouthful of live ants across the room and, after rinsing my mouth out in the bathroom sink, hauled every last can out of my room and into the recycling outside.

Everyone in the lab was pretty grossed out by my story, but I pointed out that there are places in the world where people eat ants on purpose. And somewhere down the lefthand side of that wikipedia page you will find a bowl of mealworms.*

This immediately reminded me of an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation which I remember seeing once. And only once. This is remarkable because I watched a lot of TNG as a broody, pop-drinking teenager and saw most episodes significantly more than once. I googled "star trek tng mealworms" and came up with a list of the worst episodes of all time. Bingo! The episode was called Conspiracy. If you remember the episode at all, and even if you don't, I highly recommend this youtube clip of the episode in brief. Which I never would have found if those useless catalogues hadn't come in the mail today.

*Somewhere else on the wikipedia page for Entomophagy you will find a link to the page for Casu Marzu, which is worth a read if you're feeling particularly adventurous.


Justin said...

The end of that one is still super gross.

HalesC said...

Ants AND Paint! You eat the weirdest things :)

terriblenews said...

I'm nothing if not adventurous. I wouldn't recommend ants and paint together, though -- the paint thinner really brings out the bitterness in the ants.