07 June 2012

Local Delicacies

Giant spiders invade Upper Assam, killing two:
It all happened in the evening on May 8. Most of the inhabitants of Chaulkhowa Nagaon village had been to a Bihu function. When the programme drew to a close, swarms of spiders suddenly descended from nowhere and started biting the people. The festive mood soon turned into one of panic with people bumping into each other and tripping over empty benches in their frantic bid to egress. 
I nearly ignored this story, on the assumption giant spiders routinely invade India’s Upper Assam, usually when the venomous snakes are taking the day off, but that’s not the case:
Assam doesn't have venomous spiders, it never had any throughout history, or there would have been some document, text or art that depicted this spider.
An entomologist, speaking “ on condition of anonymity”, points out:
The place was notorious for human sacrifice until the mid-19th century when the British stopped this barbaric practice. The place also suffered immensely during the 1897 and 1950 earthquakes. Then came insurgency. There were brutal gun battles in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park a few years ago between the Army and insurgents. Recently, four suspected Maoists were gunned down here. 
 As for what the spiders were, he doesn't know.

UPDATE: After investigating, a “ team of experts” says it did not find “any evidence of swarms of…spider invading human settlement” (the testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses are not evidence, apparently). The team attributes one of the two deaths to the bite of “some animal”, and says the other occurred after the victim “put his hand into a hole in the paddy field when he was looking for mole cricket, a local delicacy”. The cover up continues.

Don't Worry, It's Only History Again

Less Elephantine, More Blimpesque

Experts on dinosaur bulk at the University of Manchester say dinosaurs are “much lighter than previously thought”, while emphasizing the fact dinosaurs are “still huge”. Obviously, that could change at any moment.

Some other things previously thought:

Protons are much smaller than previously thought.

Oldies are far more durable than previously thought.

Giant pandas are more numerous than previously thought.

Much of the past is more recent than previously thought.