Danger Is a Diet, Not a Middle Name

A female great bustard studies the backside of a male in full courtship display. (Photo by Franz-Josef Kovacs)

Maybe there is something to it. How’s this for a lede?

The lengths we go to for love can sometimes be dramatic—and so it is for male great bustards (Otis tarda), whose daredevil diet of poisonous beetles may actually help them get a date, a new study reveals.

(Bittel)

Jason Bittel’s headline for National Geographic News calls the discovery a first. And perhaps the lede overstates things; the behavior is already known to help reduce parasite infestation. But a first? Then again, the question of just who finds who or what attractive as a symptom of alcohol poisoning through binge drinking is probably a little less clear.

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Bittel, Jason. “Male Birds Poison Themselves to Appear Sexier—a First”. National Geographic News. 24 October 2014.

Image credit: Detail of photograph by Franz-Josef Kovacs.

Linkadelica

File under Whoops: I somehow managed to kill my Linkadelica template. No worries, I guess. I still haven’t figured out exactly what to do with it.

Abell 68 Space Invader (detail)Space Invaders! Or, a note on gravitational lensing.

Helicoprion! Or, the mysterious, spiral-toothed, squid-eating fish of antiquity.

Zen Pencils! Or, an ode to Chris Hadfield.

Dolighan! Or, as long as we’re speaking of Cmdr. Hadfield.

Tim Dolighan, March 1, 2013Thunder! Or, what Cmdr. Hadfield sees.

Physics! Or, Rhett Allain uses Neil deGrasse Tyson complaining about The Daily Show logo to teach us some science.

Heat! Fascinating and philosophical. Yes, really.

Dreams in Martian Red

To the one, it’s always worth a try ….

Candor Chasma detail (ESA, 2008(Wanted: A man and a woman in their early to mid-50s, preferably married. Must enjoy adventure, spending long periods of time together, and sharing space—as in 501 days in a 1166-cubic-foot (33-cubic-meter) capsule and habitat. Interest in the planet Mars also a prerequisite.

Warning to applicants: You will be exposed to unprecedented risks and your long-term health could be compromised. But if the effort goes ahead and succeeds as planned, you will become the first humans in history to journey into deep space and see Mars up close.

Multimillionaire Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, announced today in Washington, D.C., that his newly formed nonprofit organization has taken up the challenge of sending the first humans to Mars.

“We’ve not sent humans beyond the moon in 40 years,” Tito said at a press conference. “… And I think it’s time to put an end to that lapse.”

What’s that? A trip to Mars? With people? Marc Kaufman explains, for National Geographic News, the latest buzz in the human cosmos:

The Inspiration Mars Foundation aims to launch the mission in January 2018, when Mars and Earth are at an especially close point in their 15-year cycle. The plan is to send a man and a woman in a capsule around Mars for a flyby mission similar to the one that surveyed the moon before the Apollo landings ….Inspiration Mars

…. The Mars project is extremely ambitious, but it is at least plausible because it is simple—at least in terms of rocket science.

According to a paper Tito will present this weekend at an aerospace conference in Montana, if the launch is on target, then the spaceship will need only one rocket burn to change course. With the right trajectory, it will fly to Mars, will pass within a few hundred miles of the surface, and then will be pulled around the planet and given a gravity-assisted fling back toward Earth.

Under the current flight trajectory, the capsule would spend about ten hours within 65,000 miles of Mars.

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