Fantastically Wrong: Why People Used to Think Beavers Bit Off Their Own Testicles

Ah, the thrill of the hunt. The trusty hounds at your side, howling and panting and dragging you toward your quarry: a lumbering beaver not accustomed to moving on land. You close in. You raise your spear. The beaver suddenly stops, looks over its shoulder at you, and lifts a back leg. It bears its teeth, stares you right in the eye, and proceeds to chew off its own testicles. Then it throws them at you.

Perhaps a bit taken aback by this gesture, you let it scurry away sans gonads, because a medieval hunter like you is only after the precious oil, known as castoreum, those organs bear. The beaver has quite cleverly just saved its own life.

Or at least according to any number of medieval bestiaries, often gorgeously illustrated tomes that cataloged nature’s critters—the real, the totally imagined, or the slightly embellished.”

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First Female Cosmonaut Arrives on Station as Part of Expedition 41/42

The ISS saw the arrival of three new crew members this week. Russian cosmonauts Elena Serova and Alexander Samojutyaev, along with NASA astronaut Bruce Wilmore joined NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev on station. 

Serova is only the fourth female cosmonaut to fly inspace and one of only 18 females to be selected as cosmonauts since 1961. These numbers are in stark contrast to the United States, who has had over 40 women selected as astronauts, and even had two female commanders of the space station — Peggy Whitson (2007-2008) and Sunny Williams (2012). 

Elena tried to make light of her historic mission, by saying she thought of this as just work, her job is space. However, she did recognize its significance and what it means for Russian women. 

Elena is an accomplished engineer and even worked in Russian Mission Control prior to being selected for the cosmonaut corps in 2006. She is a graduate of the esteemed Moscow Aviation Institute and was selected as part of the Expedition 41/42 crew back in 2011.

Serova is described as being the first female cosmonaut selected based on her skills and merits, and boy is she qualified. Hopefully, she will have a long history with the space program. 

Despite being highly qualified, Elena had to suffer through countless questions at pre-launch briefings about what her hair and make-up regime would be on station. She was quick to fire back at reporters, asking them why don’t ask her male comrades what they were going to do with their hair. 

Serova joins a small club of high-flying Russian women. This groups includes the first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova (1963); the first woman to perform a space walk, Sveltlana Savitskaya (1992, 1994); and the first woman to fly a long-duration mission and the only female cosmonaut to fly on shuttle, Yelena Kondakova (1994-1995).

In November, Serova will be joined by another female astronaut, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoferetti. Samantha is Europe’s third female astronaut behind Helen Sharman in 1991, and Claudie Haignere in 2001.

Image & Source Credit: NASA/ESA/Roscosmos

Officials confirm first Ebola case diagnosed in US

A patient being treated at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.

Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital say the unidentified patient is being kept in isolation and that the hospital is following Centers for Disease Control recommendations to keep doctors, staff and patients safe.”

Aral Sea’s Eastern Basin Has Dried Out, NASA Photos Show

"For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has completely dried."

That’s the word from NASA, which has released images showing the progressive decline of the water levels in the Aral Sea, which straddles the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia. The space agency captured the striking photographs via its Terra satellite.”

Learn more from NPR.

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