Notes and shorts from around the world


The battle of the bulge
J
ohn Thomas’s retirement required him to halve his calorie intake. As a star offensive lineman for 11 seasons with the Cleveland Browns in the American National Football League, Thomas had to binge eat 10,000 calories daily to maintain his weight of 141kg. A typical day included a breakfast of four pieces of bacon, four sausages, eight eggs, three pancakes, and porridge with peanut butter; a lunch of pasta and meatballs; a dinner of an entire pizza plus a packet of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies and
a bowl of ice cream, then a protein shake before bed. “If I went two hours without eating, I literally would have cut your arm off and started eating it,” he said. “I felt if I missed a meal after two hours, I was going to lose weight, and I was going to get in trouble. We got weighed on Mondays, and if I lost five pounds (2.3 kg), my coach was going to give me hell.” Offensive linemen today weigh 27kg more on average than in 1970, using the extra inertia as road blocks to slow down pass rushers. After Thomas retired in 2017, he eventually learnt to eat healthily and lost 22.5kg. “You’re training yourself to have an eating disorder when you’re in the NFL,” he said. “Trying to deprogram that is a real challenge.”
A beetle’s Houdini act
When one animal eats another, the prey’s life is usually over, but a species of water beetle has developed a cunning survival strategy when swallowed whole by a frog. It finds its way through its host’s gut, forces the frog to defecate, and safely makes its exit. In multiple lab tests to examine this unlikely escape act, researchers presented a Pelophylax nigromaculatus pond frog with a Regimbartia attenuata beetle. The swallowed beetles re-emerged from the frog’s back end 93% of the time, typically making their getaway within four hours – though the fastest managed it in just six minutes. “The beetles were frequently entangled in faecal pellets,” said lead author Shinji Sugiura, from Kobe University in Japan, “but they recovered immediately and survived for at least two weeks afterwards.” Frogs typically do not defecate so soon after eating, suggesting that R. attenuata has evolved a way to stimulate its host’s faecal vent into opening.
Monuments to great achievers
Unknown arsonists burnt a crude wooden statue of Melania Trump in her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia. “I want to know why they did it,” said Brad Downey, the American conceptual artist who commissioned the statue.
Bons mots
“Money is mourned with deeper sorrow than friends or kindred.” – Roman poet Juvenal


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