Stories tagged ducks

Dec
23
2009

Better safe than sorry, eh?: Modified from the original for decency's sake.
Better safe than sorry, eh?: Modified from the original for decency's sake.Courtesy BaylorBear78
My psychological jargon might be a little mixed up, but Freud was the one who would deteriorate into fits of frightened giggling at any mention of sex organs, right? If so, this research is totally Freudian.

(I’m pretty sure Freud died of an aneurysm while watching a butcher make sausage links. So yeah, kids, I think you’re safe using this as a resource for your 10th grade psych class.)

Here’s the rub, as it were: duck penises are off the hook! And not just duck penises, duck vaginas too! Despite the questionable wardrobe choices of certain popular cartoon characters, I’ve never seen a duck’s penis. But I suppose that the hunters and duck enthusiasts among you might already know that ducks, unlike most birds, have penises, and that said penises are about 8 inches long and remarkably flexible. The reason we aren’t constantly being assaulted by the sight of duck genitals is that they usually keep the organs tucked inside their bodies. When the need arises, the appendages can be extended, or "everted," in less than a second, an act described (not by me) as “explosive.”

Here’s some footage of it happening. Be warned, though—it’s not for the more sensitive among you.

But, okay, so duck penises are crazy. What about the rest?

Well, ducks have crazy penises because it gives them an advantage in “forced mating.” But if male ducks could evolve a feature that increases their chances of a successful forced mating, mused some researchers at Yale, couldn’t female ducks evolve penis-confounding features that would protect them from unwanted attempts at mating?

Duck penises, it turns out, are somewhat corkscrew-shaped. The researchers tested their ability to evert into a set of glass tubes of varying shapes. They found that eversion was quickly and easily done in straight tubes, and tubes that spiraled counter-clockwise. A tube spiraled clockwise, however, or one with a sharp bend in it, could stop eversion altogether. It turns out that duck vaginas have evolved structures like the second set of glass tubes, with the purpose of thwarting wandering duck penises.

How strange. Apparently it’s one of the rare occasions when the evolutionary consequences of the battle of the sexes are so “dramatic.” Dramatic and bizarre.

Now pick yourself up and continue on with your day. That wasn’t so bad, was it? And now you have something to talk about at your family holiday party!

Sep
25
2008

Rubber ducky you're the one...
Rubber ducky you're the one...Courtesy Mark Ryan
Boy, times must be getting tough if NASA’s latest endeavor is any indication. Researchers from the space agency recently dropped a whole slew of rubber ducks into openings in Greenland's Jakobshaven Glacier in hopes of understanding how and where melt waters from the ice sheet ends up in Baffin Bay. They’re also trying to understand why glaciers increase their speed during the summer months. The Jakobshaven Glacier, which is suspected of calving the iceberg that sank the Titanic in 1912, is Greenland’s fastest moving glacier. The current thinking is that melt water forming on top of the ice flow during the summer months travels down narrow tubes called moulins to the glaciers base where it acts as a lubricant thus speeding up the ice sheet's movement. This isn’t exactly rocket science, is it? Anyway, each little ducky carries a label with the words "science experiment" and "reward" printed on it in three languages, along with an email address. The researchers hope that those who come across the toy quackers will contact them with information about when and where they found them. So far no one has gotten back to NASA but agency officials are confidant when they do it will add to our understanding of glaciers and their role in rising sea levels. So why has NASA has resorted to using such a low-tech approach? One source claims it's because a previous test using a metallic probe failed to return any data. Another source claims the probe is being used in conjunction with the rubber bath toys. Whatever the case it looks duck hunting season has opened.

SOURCES and LINKS

CNN story
NetworkWorld story
Discovery Channel story
Animation about Jakobshaven Glacier

Jan
07
2008

Yep, he's pretty wet: But what could have done this to him?
Yep, he's pretty wet: But what could have done this to him?Courtesy ShazzMack
I can’t decide – are dead ducks funny?

I suppose not. But what if the duck died in a really funny way, like from falling in a volcano? Or what if it meant that human kind has finally beaten the expression, and gotten water to stay on a duck’s back?

Because that’s what has happened.

The water thing, not the volcano thing.

Dead ducks have been turning up at Colorado wastewater treatment plants. What’s remarkable about these dead ducks is that their feathers seem to have lost their waterproofing, something that probably lead to their deaths in the first place. You’d think that finally getting water to stay on ducks’ backs would be a cause for celebration, but, unfortunately, wildlife biologists still aren’t sure of exactly what caused the condition. There doesn’t appear to be anything in the water treatment plants themselves that would have taken off the waterproofing, and scientists have ruled out diseases like avian influenza and botulism as potential causes.

Division of Wildlife officials plan to begin an investigation into the Unsettling Case of the Soggy Ducks sometime this week

Oct
14
2007

We couldn’t get the rights to a photo of Woody Allen as a robot in Sleeper, so instead here’s a picture of some cute baby ducks: Photo by Mattay from Flickr.com
We couldn’t get the rights to a photo of Woody Allen as a robot in Sleeper, so instead here’s a picture of some cute baby ducks: Photo by Mattay from Flickr.com

Researchers working on adding emotion to the artificial intelligence in computer games found that the most successful software was slightly neurotic, and could not be counted on to act rationally in all cases. The next best approach was the aggressive software, which won about as often as the neurotic ware, but took longer to do so.

Now, if only someone could invent a neurotic robot by the year 2173…