Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Radiation & Roaches, Shortening & Oil

Hey, Matt: I have a question about cockroaches. You always hear that after we bomb everything else off the earth, all that will be left are cockroaches. Is this true? If it is true, how can that be? Atomic radiation is pretty powerful stuff. — Johnny Largo, via email

And Grandma Alice is pretty powerful stuff, too. She hates roaches so much, she made us take this question out into the back yard to answer it. Wouldn’t even let it in the house. “Might be one of those sneaky damn things in the envelope,” she says. “It’s an email, Grandma.” “Hey, I don’t care. Those things are tricky. Maybe they can come through the wires or something. Rats can do that. Get it out of the house!” When we hear that tone of voice, we know we’d better not ask Grandma for special pie.

But back to the nuke-roach story. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of this little factoid. And I mean factoid in its correct sense: a bit of information that is nonsense, but it has been published or passed off as true so often that everybody believes it. First cousin of an urban myth. Drop a nuke on a roach and it will die. Drop a nuke near a roach and it will die. Drop a nuke pretty far from a roach and it will stagger around for a while but probably survive.

The myth began with the publication of a paper about what was left in Hiroshima after we dropped the (relatively small 15-kiloton) bomb on it. Apparently the list of the living included cockroaches. (No indication of how far the bugs were from ground zero.) As a result, in the 1960s, anti-nuke writers popularized the factoid by saying often and loudly that after we wipe out ourselves, all that will be left are cockroaches. An exaggeration to make an icky point. But scientists with a sense of humor, I guess, have done some testing and here’s what they’ve found.

Roaches can withstand much more radiation than people can. But fruit flies and flour beetles and a particular kind of wasp will be around long after roaches are gone. Radiation damages DNA, which is what eventually kills things that haven’t already been frizzled by the heat released by a nuclear explosion. Humans have much more DNA than roaches, and human cells replicate faster, which is the point at which a cell is vulnerable to radiation. The slow-moving roach DNA is less likely to be damaged. DNA damage eventually does in the human. Humans also live longer than roaches, so there’s more time for bad DNA to have an effect.

The numbers? Humans die with 400 to 1000 rads beaming on them. Roaches, 6400. Fruit flies, 64,000 rads. Some amazing parasitic wasp, 180,000 rads. For comparison, a CT scan exposes people to 2 rads.

After all that bad-mouthing, let’s resuscitate the cockroach image. A cockroach can live up to one month without a head. Once again, they outrank people. A cockroach’s head is fairly useless. It doesn’t breathe through any head structure; it breathes through small holes in its body. Roaches have no blood pressure, so they wouldn’t lose all their blood if their heads were ripped off. And they can live for a month on a good, substantial meal, so they wouldn’t need their mouths. Hey, whadda bug.

So, if roaches won’t inherit the earth, what will? If we finally nuke the globe to shreds, we will nuke ourselves back to the age of protozoa, bacteria, mosses, and algae. They’ve been zapped with more than a million rads and survived. But it doesn’t sound half as alarming to say that after we drop the big one, the only thing left will be moss. And maybe Larry King.

Matthew: I do a lot of cooking, and just the other day I noticed something that seemed very strange. Maybe I’m not right about it, but anyway it seems that way to me. All the oils I have in my kitchen are from plants, like canola oil and sesame oil. All the solid shortening I have is from animals, like butter and lard. Is it true that plants produce liquid oils and animals produce hard shortening? Why would that be true since they’re both fatty substances? — LBK, Encinitas

Yeah, too bad human fat isn’t just big bags of oil. Instead of all that creepy liposuction vacuuming, we’d just have to stick in a tap and drain our thighs into a bucket. The difference has to do with the setup of the fat and oil molecules. Animal-fat molecules are full of neatly arranged hydrogen atoms that allow the molecules to lock together into a nice, solid mass. In plant oils, some of the hydrogen atoms are missing, so less bonding can take place and the fat remains liquid at room temp. Your homemade science observations are quite correct.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Oceanside Film Festival goes virtual

The Devil’s Road: A Baja Adventure, Bess Myerson: The One and Only Jewish Miss America, Becoming Lola
Next Article

Space Truckin’

Ace Frehley, Travis Barker, Tolan Shaw, Andy Robinson, Thousand Below

Hey, Matt: I have a question about cockroaches. You always hear that after we bomb everything else off the earth, all that will be left are cockroaches. Is this true? If it is true, how can that be? Atomic radiation is pretty powerful stuff. — Johnny Largo, via email

And Grandma Alice is pretty powerful stuff, too. She hates roaches so much, she made us take this question out into the back yard to answer it. Wouldn’t even let it in the house. “Might be one of those sneaky damn things in the envelope,” she says. “It’s an email, Grandma.” “Hey, I don’t care. Those things are tricky. Maybe they can come through the wires or something. Rats can do that. Get it out of the house!” When we hear that tone of voice, we know we’d better not ask Grandma for special pie.

But back to the nuke-roach story. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of this little factoid. And I mean factoid in its correct sense: a bit of information that is nonsense, but it has been published or passed off as true so often that everybody believes it. First cousin of an urban myth. Drop a nuke on a roach and it will die. Drop a nuke near a roach and it will die. Drop a nuke pretty far from a roach and it will stagger around for a while but probably survive.

The myth began with the publication of a paper about what was left in Hiroshima after we dropped the (relatively small 15-kiloton) bomb on it. Apparently the list of the living included cockroaches. (No indication of how far the bugs were from ground zero.) As a result, in the 1960s, anti-nuke writers popularized the factoid by saying often and loudly that after we wipe out ourselves, all that will be left are cockroaches. An exaggeration to make an icky point. But scientists with a sense of humor, I guess, have done some testing and here’s what they’ve found.

Roaches can withstand much more radiation than people can. But fruit flies and flour beetles and a particular kind of wasp will be around long after roaches are gone. Radiation damages DNA, which is what eventually kills things that haven’t already been frizzled by the heat released by a nuclear explosion. Humans have much more DNA than roaches, and human cells replicate faster, which is the point at which a cell is vulnerable to radiation. The slow-moving roach DNA is less likely to be damaged. DNA damage eventually does in the human. Humans also live longer than roaches, so there’s more time for bad DNA to have an effect.

The numbers? Humans die with 400 to 1000 rads beaming on them. Roaches, 6400. Fruit flies, 64,000 rads. Some amazing parasitic wasp, 180,000 rads. For comparison, a CT scan exposes people to 2 rads.

After all that bad-mouthing, let’s resuscitate the cockroach image. A cockroach can live up to one month without a head. Once again, they outrank people. A cockroach’s head is fairly useless. It doesn’t breathe through any head structure; it breathes through small holes in its body. Roaches have no blood pressure, so they wouldn’t lose all their blood if their heads were ripped off. And they can live for a month on a good, substantial meal, so they wouldn’t need their mouths. Hey, whadda bug.

So, if roaches won’t inherit the earth, what will? If we finally nuke the globe to shreds, we will nuke ourselves back to the age of protozoa, bacteria, mosses, and algae. They’ve been zapped with more than a million rads and survived. But it doesn’t sound half as alarming to say that after we drop the big one, the only thing left will be moss. And maybe Larry King.

Matthew: I do a lot of cooking, and just the other day I noticed something that seemed very strange. Maybe I’m not right about it, but anyway it seems that way to me. All the oils I have in my kitchen are from plants, like canola oil and sesame oil. All the solid shortening I have is from animals, like butter and lard. Is it true that plants produce liquid oils and animals produce hard shortening? Why would that be true since they’re both fatty substances? — LBK, Encinitas

Yeah, too bad human fat isn’t just big bags of oil. Instead of all that creepy liposuction vacuuming, we’d just have to stick in a tap and drain our thighs into a bucket. The difference has to do with the setup of the fat and oil molecules. Animal-fat molecules are full of neatly arranged hydrogen atoms that allow the molecules to lock together into a nice, solid mass. In plant oils, some of the hydrogen atoms are missing, so less bonding can take place and the fat remains liquid at room temp. Your homemade science observations are quite correct.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Morgan Freeman as an extraterrestrial diplomat

You know the aliens have seen The Shawshank Redemption
Next Article

Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies, uncovered

Nudity does more to advance an actress’s career than it does the plot
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close