Answer: In Old Orchard Beach, Maine, Al strapped on a harness with 27 large hydrogen-filled balloons attached, then ran toward the house and took a leap, says Jearl Walker in "Flying Circus of Physics." He did manage 25 feet of altitude but not enough. So with darkness coming on, he ordered the crew to add five more balloons.
Now up, up and away he went, over the house and more, because his safety line snapped and he became airborne. With a storm brewing, he drifted toward the Atlantic Ocean, his father watching in horror and then jumping into a car to follow. A local priest joined him, toting a 22-caliber rifle.
An hour later they spotted Al, 750-800 feet up, and stopped the car. Careful aim now! Bam, bam, bam. How many balloons to shoot? Too many could have been tragic.
Answer: Knowing that Saharan desert ants can't follow an odor trail because the chemicals quickly fade in the heat, Harold Wolf of the University of Ulm, Germany, wondered how the insects found their way back to the nest from a food source, says "New Scientist" Magazine. Could they somehow estimate distance by keeping track of their number of steps? So Wolf's team removed about 1 mm from the tips of some ants' legs while adding 1 mm stilts (made of lightweight bristles) to the legs of others. These were all ants that had just visited a familiar food site.
Answer: "Instantaneous insensibility" via proper handling and stunning is the gold standard in humane operation of these facilities, says animal scientist and author Temple Grandin. This may be done with captive bolt, electrical or carbon dioxide euthanasia. Animal excitability and agitation are to be avoided using good equipment design and a well-trained staff.
For example, cattle and sheep will stay calm in conveyers that touch the animal in front and back; moving cattle through single file also helps.
Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org, coauthors of "Can a Guy Get Pregnant? Scientific Answers to Everyday (and Not-So- Everyday) Questions," from Pi Press.