The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Front.cheers
    MACEE BEERS joins other Fayette Elementary School students for the annual Mini-Cheer performance during the half-time break at the basketball game.
  • Family.3.wide
    CHILDREN at Stair District Library’s Family Story Time toss scarves into the air during an activity. The evening program provided a mix of stories, songs, dancing, crafts and snacks Monday evening. The program is offered at 5:30 p.m. every Monday for five more weeks. The program is designed for three to five year olds and their family.
  • Front.newpaper.2
    THE INTERVIEW—Evelyn Joughin (right) records the interaction with an iPad while Jack Varga, next to her, asks questions of Morenci Elementary School principal Gail Frey. Morenci senior Sam Cool (standing) listens. Cool serves as the editor for the newspaper written by members of Mrs. Barrett’s second grade class.
  • Front.code.2
    WRITING CODE—Brock Christle (left), a Morenci fifth grade student, takes a look at the progress being made by fourth grader Anthony Lewis. Libby Rorick, a sixth grade student, is next in a line of girls trying out the coding tutorials. This year marked Morenci’s second year of participation in the Hour of Code project.
  • Front.gym.new
    REMIE RYAN (left) tries to dodge the foam wand held by Hayden Bays during physical education class at Morenci Elementary School. In the background, Lauryn Dominique and Brooklyn Williams stay clear of the tag. Second grade students were working on cardiovascular health on the first day back from vacation. For the record, Safety Tag is a very difficult sport to photograph.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.library.books
    MACK DICKSON takes a book off the “blind date” cart at the Fayette library. Patrons can choose a book without knowing what’s inside other than a general category. The books are among those designated for removal so patrons can consider them gifts. In Morenci, new books and staff favorites were chosen from the stacks and must be returned. Patrons get a piece of chocolate, too, to take on their date, but no clue about their “date.” One reader said she really enjoyed her book for a few pages, but then lost interest—so typical for a blind date.

2008.10.15 Picking fleas off Sam

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

If you travel the same news routes followed by me, you already know about this year’s Ig Nobel awards. Each year, researchers are “honored” for their odd research.

The ceremony is actually closer to dishonoring. The presenters are making fun of how some scientists are spending their research time.

For example, a couple of people in California proved mathematically that heaps of string or hair or other objects will almost invariably end up in a tangle of knots.

There was some drama in this year’s awards, and not only in the opening ceremony when a sword was pulled from a man’s throat (a winner from the previous year studied the side effects of sword swallowing). There was also some competing research.

Three scientists from the northeast U.S. discovered that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide; a team of researchers in Taiwan proved it isn’t, nor is Pepsi-Cola.

I haven’t had any experience with this use of cola, nor is my hair long enough to tangle overnight, nor have I had any experience with armadillos messing up my archeological dig site, etc.

No, it was the flea study that caught my attention and had some personal meaning.

A pair of French scientists from Toulouse discovered that fleas who live on dogs can jump higher than fleas who live on cats.

This study brought back warm, fuzzy memories of my sister’s weird dog, Sam, who joined our family in the 1960s as a gift from Lenny Dietrich. What a legacy that dog left behind.

Although the dog officially belonged to Diane, I think brother Dan and I were much closer to Sam. I wonder how many times Diane cleaned up the living room carpet after Sam suddenly choked up a dead bird that didn’t sit right with his usually strong stomach. How many fleas did Diane remove from his body?

I actually look back with fondness to Sam’s flea-ridden condition. I recall him lying asleep on my bed, his leg twitching  as he dreamed. Suddenly all four legs would break into an unconscious  gallop as his dream carried him after a mailman or a cat. He certainly didn’t have to run fast to subdue a dead bird.

As he lay there in repose, every now and then a flea would run across his spotted belly where the hair grew thin. I would try to capture the annoying little pest and crush it between fingernails. They’re not easy to subdue, and more often than not, the little fellow would jump away, only to eventually reunite with Sam.

The French study might have arose from a similar situation. Perhaps Marie-Christine Cadiergues watched fleas jump from her sleeping mutt and wondered if they were as good as those jumping from her sleeping cat.

Why study this stuff? Why not? I’ve learned from it. When I saw the title of the study, I figured there must be something in dog blood to give a flea a bigger boost. Or maybe it’s easier to get good footing on a dog.

Little did I know that dog fleas and cat fleas are two different beasts. I thought they were one and the same.

The cat flea jump averages 7.8 inches in distance while dog fleas average 12 inches. The record jump recorded was 19.6 inches. Cat fleas average 5.2 inches in height and dogs average 6 inches, so you can see there’s a significant difference. The highest jump observed was 9.8 inches.

I think I saw better off Sam, but it’s been many years and I never recorded my observations.

I’ve also learned that humans are much more likely to be bitten by cat fleas. I’ve learned that fleas generally just walk around, but when they’re in search of a host, they’ll jump butt-first and grab onto the host much like a Velco dart.

Cadiergues completed her research in 2000 and four years later Boris Krasnov and his Israeli team went much, much further. They studied eight different species of desert flea and compared jumping ability.

They even came up with a conclusion: Fleas that live on sandy ground are better jumpers than those living on rocky ground.

Sam spent a lot of time on a human’s bed and his fleas did just fine. I’m itching all over just writing about this topic, so let’s move on to more Ig Nobel research: the puzzle solving abilities of slime mold.

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