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June 2000 Vol. 15, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the June, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

PELAGIC PLACEBO: In recent years shark cartilage has been a popular nutritional supplement touted as a protection against cancer, much of its appeal based on the belief that antiangiogenetic compounds in the cartilage starve the blood cells that feed tumors, rendering sharks immune to the disease. Not true, says researcher John Harshbarger, director of the Registry of Tumors in Lower Animals at George Washington University. His registry documents six different malignancies in sharks, including squamous-cell carcinoma, melanoma, lymphoma, and kidney and liver cancers. In humans, a 1998 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology said powdered shark cartilage failed to halt tumor growth in patients with advanced cancers.

MOSQUITO PERFUME: Given a choice, mosquitoes prefer men to women, adults to children, dark colors to light colors, and sweaty skin to dry. Theyre also lured by CO2 and lactic acid on human skin, but scientists have recently learned that humans give off hundreds of other scents the pests find irresistible. Efforts to create the ultimate mosquito perfume have produced a blend that will lure 90% of the bugs in a cage, compared to about 70% for testers arms. Scientists hope the process will produce attractant-enhanced traps, repellent devices, and even repellent pills that folks can swallow to make themselves well, smell lousy, to put it bluntly. Of course, some of the research gets a little weird. Entomologist Daniel Kline discovered that mosquitoes love, of all things, dirty socks. He says he wore the same pair for days on end, just to make sure.

NO BRAINER: While we all have had brainless idiots forced on us as dive buddies at one time or another, we expect the worlds underwater denizens to keep their wits about them. Author Daniel Dennett knows better, as he explains in his insightful tome, Consciousness Explained: The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesnt need its brain anymore so it eats it! (Its rather like getting tenure.) Obviously, what you dont know wont hurt you.

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