Whale Oil

The fine machine lubricating oil for which the sperm whales were hunted was mostly in their heads – up to 500 gallons (1,800 liters) of it in one whale. Until modern chemical technology, nothing lubricated as well as whale oil. Now there is even more valuable stuff that forms in their intestines – ambergris. This foul-smelling grayish-black stuff is used by the perfume industry, not for its smell, but because it has been found to cause other smells to last longer.


In the new science of zoopharmacognosy, scientists patiently watch animals to learn about how they medicate themselves. In the most profound case, chimpanzees who are not feeling well seek out a plant called aspilia and eat one of its leaves whole. Upon studying this plant, scientists have found a chemical in it that is a strong antibiotic which may even reduce some cancers. Elephants and bears also treat themselves pharmacologically.


From all our exposure to unnecessary penicillin through medication as well as through treatment of cattle and pork, life-threatening bacteria have grown resistant to our number-one line of defense. In 1960, 13 percent of staphylococci infections were resistant to penicillin. Now, 91 percent are resistant to penicillin.

Where Our Emotions Come From

In the times of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, around 350 BC, people thought that the liver, not the heart, was the center of emotion. Now we know that it is not the heart, either.

You may have trouble believing that your thoughts and emotions could reside anywhere but in your brain. That’s what you were taught. But what if you were taught that your thoughts came from your belly? Might that seem just as real as what you believe now?

Mattress Gaining Weight

You may have heard that an ordinary mattress can weigh twice as much after eight or ten years. While that’s not true, you may be alarmed to discover the actual truth.

A mattress will weigh somewhat more after several years. It may even amount to several pounds. And what is the matter that is added to the mattress? Much of it is dust mites, up to a million of them in a single bed. But more than the mites, it is also their discarded bodies and excremet. In many cases, mattress can also absorb various bodily fluids, such as urine, semen, and sweat. Not all of the fluid will soak through sheets, but some will. Discarded skin cells are small enough that some will work their way through layers of cloth and into your mattress.

Beating a mattress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons