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Oregon Hires Goats to Combat Wildfires

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  • Don’t believe Smokey Bear’s lies. Goats can stop forest fires, too.

As you’re probably aware of, the US West Coast is kinda-sorta on fire at the moment. The gender reveal parties they’re throwing aren’t really helping, either.

In fact, the gender reveal fire – known officially as the El Dorado fire – has claimed the life of one firefighter, according to Associated Press.

With the blazes spreading and emergency services battling 50-hour shifts, exploding trees, and choking smoke, it’s no wonder the West Coast states are turning unorthodox solutions. Any solutions, as long as they work.

They’re so desperate that even to local fauna is being called upon to help. In Oregon, firefighters are going to be getting some baah-dly needed aid.

A herd of 230 goats has arrived in the city of Forest Grove, 25 miles from Portland. Over the next week, they will be eating the dry undergrowth in a 140-acre wood as a wildfire prevention measure, wrote Oregon Public Broadcasting.

It might sound a bit off, but using sheep and goats is a fairly well-established firefighting method. Excess of dry vegetation is often one of the primary sources of fuel that ends up feeding wildfires.

Feeding that brush to the goats instead of the fire could make the difference between an area getting slightly scorched and turning into an inferno.

Seems like a good chance to quote an old saying – it’s not dumb if it works.

Is he working or on a lunch break?

A Man and His Goats

The owner of the goat herd is a fellow by the name of Craig Madsen. He runs Healing Hooves, a Washington-based landscaping service relying on ungulate power.

Madsen used to be a federal office worker, but 18 years ago he was bitten by the goat bug. Well, maybe not literally, but he decided to quit his job and become a full-time shepherd.

In the summer months, he packs his herd into a trailer and drives around the northwest. He sells his goaty services at the request of public officials and private landowners.

It takes about two and a half minutes to get the entire herd out of Madsen’s trailer. Local onlookers have likened the scene to unpacking a clown car.

“I get a lot of requests from people who want [my goats] to do their backyards,” Madsen told OPB, explaining his business practices.

“And I say: ‘I don’t do those, because I can’t put 230 goats in your backyard.’ But there are people who’ll have a dozen or so goats. They’ll come out and do those projects.”

When he’s out on a gig, Madsen lives out of the back of his truck. While the goats chew on grass, his primary duty is putting up an electric fence to keep the herd where it’s supposed to be.

According to Madsen, the fence is needed because his animals can get mischievous. Goats live climbing, and sometimes the closest climbable thing might be someone’s brand new BMW or something.

Madsen also has two other employees – Irish wolf hound Gigi and Nessie, a miscellaneous herding dog. Gigi is the security officer who keeps coyotes and even cougars away, while Nessie is in charge of moving the goats in and out of the trailer in an orderly fashion.

Natural Solutions

According to the Healing Hooves website, the goats provide many other benefits in addition to cost savings. First of all, rough or rocky ground doesn’t deter them, and the goats happily munch away on plants that are harmful to humans, such as poison ivy.

The goats help protect both crews and local residents since they reduce the need to use toxic herbicide and potentially dangerous heavy machineries. Not only that, they often get rid of unwanted plants more effectively.

Some plants’ seed producing parts might escape lawn mower and weed whacker blades. The goats, on the other hand, will consume the plants down to ground level at the speed of roughly an acre per day.

“Goats will open up blackberry thickets, knock back scotch broom and eat a variety of other weeds. When the goats are done the area will not look mowed but they will have a significant impact,” Healing Hooves says.

A Goat-load of Fun

Last, but not least, the goats have a hidden bonus: they’re entertaining.

“They’re fun to watch. Your crew and your family will love watching the herd at work (to them, it’s play) and hearing their gentle bleats as they call to each other,” the company says.

Madsen’s firm is not exaggerating. In Forest Grove, he has been shower facilities and lodging by locals who know and love his goats.

Madsen, however, usually turns down the offers, though he might pop by occasionally to wash up. His work gets lonely, sometimes, but he likes to spend his time reading in the company of his dogs.

Once his goats are done in Forest Grove, Madsen will head over to Spokane.

“I’ll be doing some work in the city of Spokane, and the primary purpose is to reduce fuel loads. And second is to try and manage noxious weeds,” he said.

Mr. Madsen, we thank you and your goats for your service.

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Puppies Welcomed by Italian Farmer, and One That Stands Out

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  • You’ll never guess why this puppy was so easy to spot compared to the rest.

A farmer welcomed a litter of puppies earlier this month in Italy. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the puppies stands out against the rest, because it was a green puppy.

Yes, you read that right. A green pup.

Christian Mallocci was shocked when one of the puppies was born with green fur. Mallocci’s dog that gave birth, Spelacchia, gave birth to four puppies with white fur, the same color as Mama.

But that puppy with the green fur? Even Spelacchia being a mixed-breed doesn’t explain why the puppy was born green. 

The strange pigmentation could be from the biliverdin  that puppies sometimes come into contact with in the womb. Biliverdin is also the pigment that sometimes creates a green color in bruises. 

This puppy won’t always be green though. Eventually, with time, the pup will essentially grow out of its coloring as it gets older. 

Even so, Mallocci’s farm on the Island of Sardinia quickly decided on a name for the cute little peanut, I mean puppy. They’ve named their green puppy, Pistachio. 

Well it is rare for a puppy to be born with green fur, it does happen. In Massachusetts in 2017, a green puppy was born.

A little boy with his own rare condition adopted the puppy, with its own rare condition. Aww.

And of course 2020 brought a green puppy “into the world” when it was born in Asheville, North Carolina. The family named him, The Hulk.

Pistachio lucked out as the green pup, and will stay to live on the farm. Mallocci plans to raise Pistachio like his mother, and will soon train him to look after the sheep.

“Green is a symbol of luck and hope, so it may have been meant to be that the dog could make people smile amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mallocci said.

 

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The Ultimate Challenge: World’s First Microrobot to Operate Inside Living Butthole

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  • Clench you cheeks all you want, but this is the future of medicine.

Have you ever heard of a band called Butthole Surfers? They’re an offbeat alternative rock group, perhaps best known for their 1996 song Pepper, in addition to their… Shall we say, imaginative name.

But why are we bringing up inappropriately named 30-year-old rock bands, you might be wondering. The answer is – for science!

It seems a group of researchers from Purdue University have taken a page out of the Butthole Surfers’ playbook. They’ve developed a microrobot – or microbot – that can effortlessly surf right up your butthole.

Well, it’s really more of a tumbling motion, and they tested it on animals. But the point is, it’s the first successful robot of its kind in the world.

No larger than the width of a few human hairs, the microbot has proven itself in both artificial test environments and inside a mouse’s and a pig’s colon. This is the first time in known human history that such a device, that is a tumbling microbot, has performed successfully in a living organism.

We’re witnessing history here, folks. And it’s all taking place inside a colon.

Photo courtesy of Purdue University/Georges Adam.

A Tiny Acrobat

When we say that the robot moves by tumbling, what we mean is that it propels itself forward by performing a series of tiny somersaults. If it helps, you can picture a tiny gymnast doing their routine inside your butt.

Fine, we just wanted to get you to think about that. You can check out Purdue University’s video about the robot to see it in action.

Since the microbot is so ridiculously tiny, it can’t really carry any kind of battery with it. At least not one we can make with current technology. Instead, it is controlled and powered wirelessly from outside of the host body with a magnetic field.

“When we apply a rotating external magnetic field to these robots, they rotate just like a car tire would to go over rough terrain,” said Purdue associate professor of mechanical engineering David Cappelleri, who worked on the project.

“The magnetic field also safely penetrates different types of mediums, which is important for using these robots in the human body.”

Difficult Terrain

While the scientist performed their in vivo – or within a living body – testing in the butt, that’s not the only place they intend the machine to go. In their own words, they chose the colon as a test track due to “ease of access”.

They’re talking about the butthole, in case that wasn’t clear.

But that wasn’t the only reason the researchers reached for the colon. The second was that this particular environment is messy. Yes, they considered that a good thing.

“Moving a robot around the colon is like using the people-walker at an airport to get to a terminal faster. Not only is the floor moving, but also the people around you,” said Luis Solorio, assistant professor at Purdue Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.

“In the colon, you have all these fluids and materials that are following along the path, but the robot is moving in the opposite direction. It’s just not an easy voyage.”

Really, I don’t even need to make jokes here. This story just writes itself.

This marvel of miniature engineering performed incredibly well even in the challenging conditions of the butt. What a little trooper.

Not Just for Fun

The research team is not doing this all just get to shove tiny robots up animal bottoms, though. It’s intended uses are purely medical, they assure you.

The final, planned end use of the microbot is delivering drugs directly to impacted areas inside a living body. While the testing is done on animals, they will eventually move on to human subjects.

That’s also the reason they chose pigs for the trials. Pig guts are apparently very similar to a human’s, according to the scientists.

“Moving up to large animals or humans may require dozens of robots, but that also means you can target multiple sites with multiple drug payloads,” explained Craig Georgen, Purdue Leslie A. Geddes associate professor of biomedical engineering.

The research team coated the microbot with a fluorescent fake drug mixture to observe whether it could deliver it successfully. After it reached its intended destination, the drug slowly released from the robot over the following hour.

“We were able to get a nice, controlled release of the drug payload. This means that we could potentially steer the microrobot to a location in the body, leave it there, and then allow the drug to slowly come out,” Solorio speculated.

“And because the microrobot has a polymer coating, the drug wouldn’t fall off before reaching a target location.”

The Future is Today

Speaking of the robot’s coating, the scientists found that there was no reason to worry about it staying in the host body after its filled its purpose. They are manufactured from non-toxic, biocompatible polymers and metals.

That’s good. Nobody would want a potentially toxic, drug-loaded machine flipping around in their butt.

The microbots are also cheap to produce. According to Cappelleri, a regular roll-to-roll manufacturing machine can produce hundreds of the tiny things at once.

The researchers also think that the device could be used not only as a drug transporter, but also as a diagnostic tool.

“From a diagnostic perspective, these microrobots might prevent the need for minimally invasive colonoscopies by helping to collect tissue. Or they could deliver payloads without having to do the prep work that’s needed for traditional colonoscopies,” Goergen mused.

While we strongly believe in the principle of “whatever floats your boat”, we at least welcome any technology that reduces the need for doctors to probe our butts.

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102-Year-Old WWII Vet Goes Skydiving

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  • Vivian “Millie” Bailey was inspired by President George W.’s jump at 90.
  • She doesn’t have current plans for. a second jump.

What’s on your bucket list? It’s an ironic time to be thinking about the things you want to do before you die. Amid a pandemic, death has never been closer for many of us. Still, we’re not allowed to go anywhere or do anything. Right now, my bucket list involves going into a coffee shop and sitting down with an overpriced latte rather than sitting masked in a drive-thru getting an overpriced latte. 

Unstoppable at Over a Century Old

Photo by Sean Mungur on Unsplash

But some people, those with indomitable spirits, aren’t brought down by a little pandemic depression, like 102-year-old Maryland resident Vivian “Mille” Bailey. She served in the Women’s Corp in World War II as a first lieutenant in a segregated army. She dreamed of skydiving after seeing President George W. do it at 90. 

 

“I was inspired by the fact that a person at that age could do the jump,” she told a local news station

 

Photo by Kamil Pietrzak on Unsplash

But Bailey could only dream; the $300 cost for a tandem jump was out of her budget until she took part in American Heroes Channel’s Honor Flight Heroes program. The producers asked if, at over a century old, there were things in her life she hadn’t yet accomplished. Some people, like me, would take offense and respond, ‘Haven’t I done enough? Like, live to 102?’ 

 

Not Millie Bailey, though. She mentioned wanting to skydive, and the producers picked up the tab so they could close the show with the footage. Her tandem partner, Cornelius, guided the jump and offered to take a second time after they landed safely. 

Photo by Filip Havlik on Unsplash

 

 

“Just once is enough,” Bailey quipped. 

 

 

Millie Bailey is a remarkable woman for many reasons. She’s in good health and stays active even through COVID. She lives at an assisted living facility in Maryland, where she puts together care packages for overseas military. Her nephew, Martin Johnson, takes the care packages to the post office for her, “I estimate she has sent over 14 tons of care packages for soldiers overseas.”

 

Here’s hoping that Millie can accomplish everything on her bucket list, even during COVID. 

 

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