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1,600-plus Florida beachgoers stung by jellyfish

 

More than 1,600 people within a 10-mile stretch of central Florida’s Atlantic beaches have been stung in the past week by a distinctive species of jellyfish not indigenous to North America, a rescue official said Tuesday.

Brevard County Ocean Rescue officials said they began flying warning flags at beaches from Cocoa Beach to Cape Canaveral last Tuesday, indicating either a medium or high hazard, along with another flag indicating dangerous marine life.

“From last Wednesday to Friday, we got about 600 reports. Saturday to (Tuesday), we got another thousand,” Chief Jeff Scabarozi said.

Monty Graham, a scientist at Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab, said the jellyfish appear to be what are known as mauve stingers, a species that often blooms in response to small climate cycles like El Niño.

“The interesting thing about these jellyfish is that they’re very sporadic. They occur in heavy numbers, but not every year,” he said.

Graham said the last time he had seen such a widespread outbreak in the United States was more than a decade ago. “They’re much more common in the Mediterranean,” he said. “Probably what we’re seeing is a large population bloom in the Gulf of Mexico transported by the Gulf Stream wrapping around the coast of Florida.”

All weekend long, countless numbers of jellyfish washed up on shores, standing out against the sand due to their characteristic purplish-reddish hue.

Graham said that although mauve stingers are smaller and much less familiar than the Portuguese man o’ war and cannonball jellyfish that often wash up on Florida shores, the ruddy-colored animal can pack a punch.

“While they might be small, they’re actually pretty potent. And unlike the others, these animals actually have stinging cells up on the top of their bells in addition to the stingers on their tentacles, which is uncommon.”

When stung, mauve stinger victims may see a discoloration on their skin where contact was made, Graham said. “These guys will leave actual marks on you sometimes. It may stay with you for quite some time, but over time it will go away.”

The stings cause itching, burning and rashes and can sometimes spur an allergic reaction. Although none of the stings reported in Brevard County was believed to be serious, officials said two people who were stung were taken to hospitals after suffering from respiratory distress. It was unclear whether the distress was directly caused by the stings or came from a pre-existing medical condition.

Most victims were being treated by a vinegar solution stocked at the various lifeguard stations.

Despite the abundance of visible jellyfish in the water, many trying to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend took their chances — and suffered the repercussions.

“We’ve already gone through about 25 gallons of vinegar. Even so, a lot of people didn’t go into the water,” Scabarozi said. “I just want to know when they’re going to leave.”

What Is Intelligence, Anyway?

By Isaac Asimov

What is intelligence, anyway?

When I was in the army, I received the kind of aptitude test that all soldiers took and, against a normal of 100, scored 160. No one at the base had ever seen a figure like that, and for two hours they made a big fuss over me.

(It didn’t mean anything. The next day I was still a buck private with KP – kitchen police – as my highest duty.)

All my life I’ve been registering scores like that, so that I have the complacent feeling that I’m highly intelligent, and I expect other people to think so too.

Actually, though, don’t such scores simply mean that I am very good at answering the type of academic questions that are considered worthy of answers by people who make up the intelligence tests – people with intellectual bents similar to mine?

For instance, I had an auto-repair man once, who, on these intelligence tests, could not possibly have scored more than 80, by my estimate. I always took it for granted that I was far more intelligent than he was.

Yet, when anything went wrong with my car I hastened to him with it, watched him anxiously as he explored its vitals, and listened to his pronouncements as though they were divine oracles – and he always fixed my car.

Well, then, suppose my auto-repair man devised questions for an intelligence test.

Or suppose a carpenter did, or a farmer, or, indeed, almost anyone but an academician. By every one of those tests, I’d prove myself a moron, and I’d be a moron, too.

In a world where I could not use my academic training and my verbal talents but had to do something intricate or hard, working with my hands, I would do poorly.

My intelligence, then, is not absolute but is a function of the society I live in and of the fact that a small subsection of that society has managed to foist itself on the rest as an arbiter of such matters.

Consider my auto-repair man, again.

He had a habit of telling me jokes whenever he saw me.

One time he raised his head from under the automobile hood to say: “Doc, a deaf-and-mute guy went into a hardware store to ask for some nails. He put two fingers together on the counter and made hammering motions with the other hand.

“The clerk brought him a hammer. He shook his head and pointed to the two fingers he was hammering. The clerk brought him nails. He picked out the sizes he wanted, and left. Well, doc, the next guy who came in was a blind man. He wanted scissors. How do you suppose he asked for them?”

Indulgently, I lifted by right hand and made scissoring motions with my first two fingers.

Whereupon my auto-repair man laughed raucously and said, “Why, you dumb jerk, He used his voice and asked for them.”

Then he said smugly, “I’ve been trying that on all my customers today.” “Did you catch many?” I asked. “Quite a few,” he said, “but I knew for sure I’d catch you.”

“Why is that?” I asked. “Because you’re so goddamned educated, doc, I knew you couldn’t be very smart.”

And I have an uneasy feeling he had something there.

Trick your brain into remembering what you study.

Ever wonder why you can go over a book again and again and still be completely lost when tested on what you read? It may be because you haven’t practiced remembering.

The traditional view of knowledge is that it is acquired and stored in the brain to be retrieved later. The acquisition and the storage is meant to be the difficult part. Once the knowledge is in the brain, yes we may forget it over time, but it has been transferred successfully and the learning process is complete.

To that end, educators develop many different methods to help students acquire that knowledge. Some people take new facts or concepts in best by listening to an informal lecture. Others learn best when they read or when they have a visual picture. Still others learn best when they have a chance to manipulate the concept in order to completely understand it. Schools try to incorporate many different techniques to get students to ‘download’ the concepts they’re trying to learn.

Some research, however, suggests that successful learning is more complicated than attaining information. The brain also needs practice in calling up the information at will. Students can go over a text, or understand and manipulate information as much as they need to, but in order to have learned something successfully, they need to have the information at the ready. A recent study followed two groups of students. They both learned something from a text.

One group made diagrams about the concepts and associations in the text, as a way of more firmly encoding information. The other group simply put the text away and tried recalling the concepts that they had just looked over.

Both groups did equally well on a test given immediately after their study period. However, when they returned a week later, the group that practiced remembering did much better than the one that had used the extra time to re-learn. Perhaps, just like the body, the mind has to practice moves over and over again to become good at them, even when it’s only recollecting memories.