Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On the Underappreciated Properties of Penguin Poop

Among the many things I've never really had much reason to think about is the problem of locating and counting colonies of emperor penguins.

I suppose, on reflection, that it's not easy. Penguins do, after all, look pretty much alike. They blend into their primarily black-and-white background. They don't have fixed addresses and tend not to return census forms. And because of the way they're built, traditional ways of counting them (like the cowboy's rule of thumb for measuring the size of the herd - count the legs and divide by four) don't work very well. Scientists who wanted to find, count, and study colonies of emperor penguins were at their wits end.

But help has come from an unlikely source, according to this article in yesterday's news: Scientists Track Penguin Poop From Space.

Yes, friends, the same satellites that provide those nifty Google Earth images, monitor North Korean missile tests, and track hurricanes have provided scientists with a new tool to find penguin colonies: the ability to see poop from space. It seems that penguin poop is brown in color, making it stand out against ice fields that are mainly black and white. A helpful photo is provided with the article, in case you're having trouble visualizing the concept. Being able to see poop from space has already allowed interested scientists to locate ten previously-undiscovered colonies of emperor penguins.

Let's think about this for a minute.

If we can locate poop from space, the days of Osama bin Laden and his pet snake Ayman al Zawahiri are clearly numbered...if we can find penguins via their poop, we certainly should be able to find two murderous fiends as full of poop as those two with relative ease. I hope the CIA has taken note of this and is moving forward to operationalize (isn't that a great word?) this capability. The project name would probably need a little finessing, though - Operation Seek Poop doesn't have quite the right ring to it.

Of course, the cameras would have to be properly protected with appropriate filters in case they should accidentally image Capitol Hill, thereby overloading their systems, but I'm sure that if we can service the Hubble telescope, we can fix this minor problem.

The many uses of humble poop. Who knew?

Have a good day. Don't take any crap from anybody.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Leslie David said...

The article says they can identify where the colonies are, they still don't know how many penguins there are since they can't identify how much poop each penguin produces. I guess you could say the same about Capital Hill, source of more methane gas than anyplace but a stockyard.

allenwoodhaven said...

Scatological survey from space...


Mike said...

Sounds like a bunch of poop to me. Which brings up the question, what does poop sound like?

SusieQ said...

An informal synonym for news is "poop." Another is "scoop."

Let it be known that Bilbo is now our official "poop scooper."

I'm just waiting for somebody to make a movie of this. I'm sure it has something to do with global warming and that it is George Bush's fault.

Amanda said...

LOL! How did they even think of doing this in the first place?

fiona said...

LOL GREAT post..."poop scooper"