Wednesday, March 17, 2010

BAIL OUT!!! (Special Saint Patrick's Day post)

As he dropped the first bomb in the bombing raid he was assigned to go on, the pilot couldn’t help but think how this would help his reputation: He would be hailed as a war hero, fearlessly swooping over the enemy territory putting them in their place. But halfway through the mission, an enemy plane suddenly appears out of nowhere behind him! Try as he might to shake him, the enemy’s plane is a superior model and stays within striking range. The enemy pilot gets a lock and blasts off the tail fin with ease. Our hero’s plane careens out of control, plummeting down to earth towards his imminent doom.
But our hero has one last trick up his sleeve: his ejector seat. Even though his adversary was technically superior, this useful trick allows him to escape, living to fight another day.

What could this possibly have to do with science, you ask?
Well, lean back and grab a cold one; it’s story time.

While we’re on the subject of bailing out, I would like to thank Nikki for being the only friend who DIDN’T bail on me on Saint Patrick’s Day.
I love Saint Patrick's Day!  First of all, it's a great excuse to quality test the green spirits.  Second, since my name is Patrick, I feel a certain obligation to be extra thorough in that testing.  (The first two shots may have been fine, but we all know that only having two data points does not constitute a trend.)

As I sat there all by my lonesome wondering if anyone would show up, naturally my mind wandered to science. (Even when I’m drinking, I’m still incredibly nerdy apparently.)

Anyway, there is a parallel to the ejector seat in the animal world, which allows escape from otherwise deadly situations.

That’s right: some lizards can “bail out” from a predator attack. For the relatively small price of a tail, it can escape to live another day.

How is this possible? Easy: they just add stuff to turn the shot green.

Oh, you meant the lizard? Well, they have special "fracture planes" spaced regularly down the length of the tail that allow it to snap right off. After it falls to the ground, the tail starts to wiggle and move on the ground, giving the lizard a chance to escape while the predator is focused on the moving tail.

Of course, the lizard does have to spend resources and energy into growing the tail back. Until it does, the lizard will be off balance and more vulnerable to predators, since it no longer has a tail it can drop.

[1] Lizard tail loss - Autotomy


  1. A) I'm doing homework...that's due NEXT Wednesday because I didn't have St. Patty's Day plans *cough cough no invite cough*

    B) LOVE the IRL pics of your alcohol

    C) Happy St. Patrick's Day.

  2. Oh no Kelly! I’m so sorry, please please don’t hate me!
    I thought about it, but wasn’t sure how high I would measure on the Creeper Scale by asking you to get hammered with me. I will invite you the next time I go out, I promise!

  3. HAHAHA I read this...slowly and just read, "how High I" and my head went straight to "...would have to be to invite you."


  4. Patrick...hahaha how funny!! Green beer gave you inspiration on your blog post about lizards..I totally thought it would have been the guy's table we stole (you know, Tooling Dock?).