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6 bizarrely important bulk operations hidden around you


A factory makes millions of man-eating worms (to save us from man-eating worms)

In the 1950s, the southern United States had a problem: worms that fed on meat. Sometimes human flesh – their scientific name, Coohliomyia hominivoraxliterally means “snail fly that consumes man”. But at least if people notice maggots in an open wound or smell their injured legs decaying, they call their doctor and get it sorted out. However, animals are more likely to let these parasites eat freely and kill their host. Because of this, this pest, commonly known as screwworm, killed millions of dollars’ worth of cattle every year. They killed pets and deer too, but it was their impact on our burger supply that really got us to sit up and find a way out.

They don't play with our cows.
John Kucharski
They don’t play with our cows.

Using comic book logic, the scientists tried to treat the worms with radiation and discovered something promising. Radiated male worms grow up healthy but sterile. If we release a fair amount of these sterile worms, they’ll beat fertile men when it comes to snapping women. Each woman only mates once. So if she teams up with a guy who doesn’t shoot shots, she won’t lay eggs. Over the course of a decade, the Department of Agriculture was released more and more of these sterilized worms and, amazingly, exterminated these Hamburg residents from the USA

In 1991 Mexico was also free of the worm, and Central America followed suit. However, South America proved more difficult to break free. And as long as the worm exists down there, it can crawl back north and reproduce – unless we put some kind of barrier in its way. If you think of “Grenzmauer”, we have already built it. It’s called the Panama Canal. But channels and walls are of no use to the screwworm because it flies through the air in its final form. What we really needed was a living barrier out of these sterilized men. And since they cannot reproduce, we would have to keep filling the barrier with more insects emitted.

Just a few million more of that every Tuesday and we should be good.
Peggy Greb
Just a few million more of that every Tuesday and we should be good.

So that’s what we did. We had these worms made in Texas and then in Mexico, and now we’ve built a facility in Panama to make more worms around the clock. The brood chamber simulates the conditions of an infected animal, the sterilization chamber emits radioactive cobalt and the worms swarm between the two and feed them. We originally fed them meat, but it costs too much, so we switched to milk, egg … and … Thousands of gallons of blood.

Those of you who have heard of other insane interventions in nature know two ways this story ends. We either give up when the entire operation fails, or the operation fails and creates tiny Dracula flies. But so far this story doesn’t end at all. We are still sticking to the worm barrier today and are doing very well. The facility produces 20 million worms each week, and US planes dump them into the buffer zone.

It costs about $ 15 million a year, but saves American farmers $ 1.3 billion in losses. And whenever a few worms come by and seem ready to take over (say in Florida)We have prepared defenses to wipe them out. Can we try the same thing to get rid of other insects – such as Florida mosquitoes? Definitely worth a try.


Britain must constantly monitor the kilotons of explosives on a sunken ship

The United States boosted a lot of ammunition during World War II. And so in August 1944 a ship called the SS Richard Montgomery Make your way across the Atlantic with a massive supply of explosives. It was en route to France but made a quick stopover in England (probably to do some sightseeing and have dinner with Reginald). It was in an estuary of the Thames that was much shallower than it used to be and got stuck on a sandbar. When the tide went out, the heavy ship that was still sitting on that tiny spot broke in two. It’s still there today … and so is the explosives.

These are his masts.  As I said, this is shallow water. 
Clem Rutter
These are his masts. As I said, this is shallow water.

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