Bizarre and Eccentric: Weird People and Extraordinary Lives by Nigel Blundell

By Nigel Blundell

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In fact the very first massive fungus discovered in 1992—a 37-acre (15-hectare) Armillaria bulbosa, which was later renamed Armillaria gallica—is annually celebrated at a "fungus fest" in the nearby town of Crystal Falls, Mich. Myron Smith was a PhD candidate in botany at the University of Toronto when he and colleagues discovered this exclusive fungus in the hardwood forests near Crystal Falls. "This was kind of a side project," Smith recalls. " Next, the microbiologists developed a new way to tell an individual apart from a group of closely related siblings using a battery of molecular genetic techniques.

Pets Protect Children against Allergies by Melinda Wenner Pets do an awful lot for kids: they teach them about unconditional love, responsibility, death and, of course, pooper scoopers. But does a dog or cat also keep a child from developing allergies? " The idea that pets might provide an immune benefit stems from a controversial theory born in 1989 called the hygiene hypothesis. It postulates that the sharp rise in allergic diseases this century can be explained, at least in part, by our higher cleanliness standards.

A British medical treatise from the Middle Ages informs readers that ambergris can banish headaches, colds and epilepsy, among other ailments. And the Portuguese took over the Maldives in the sixteenth century in part to gain access to the island's rich bounty of the redolent stuff. The Arabic anbar refers to this very whale-based substance and is the root of the word amber. Centuries ago the French employed amber gris and amber jaune (gray amber and yellow amber) to distinguish between animal-based ambergris and what today has become the standard meaning: the golden-hued vegetal resin.

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