Deadly presence of humans forcing many animals to a nocturnal schedule
Q. Sixty years ago, this iconic toy was imported from Australia to the United States by one Joan Anderson, whose distinctive movements inspired the name. Can you name it? A. It’s the hula hoop, of course, transformed by the Wham-O toy company from a cane hoop to a ring made of lightweight and inexpensive plastic and trademarked under “a name that evoked the still-exotic Territory of Hawaii and its kinda sexy but still family-friendly hula dance,” says Alec Scott in “Smithsonian” magazine. After an intense six-month marketing campaign, the company went on to sell more that 20 million hula hoops — at $1.98 per hoop.
Though sales never again matched these numbers, the toy re-emerged in the age of social media thanks in large part to Marawa Majorettes, a troupe of hyper hoopers that captivated their Instagram followers: Imagine the “pizza toss,” where a performer rotates a hoop around her thighs, then balances on one leg as she moves the circle up her torso and into the air. Also, the troupe has performed at the Olympics and set hooping world records.
Other world records set in 2017: most hula hoops caught and spun in one minute — 245 (China); fastest time to climb 60 stairs while hooping — 23.39 seconds (USA); and size of the largest hula hoop spun — 16 feet, 10 inches.
Marawa Ibrahim holds the record for the most hula hoops spun simultaneously — 200! Q. Let’s give a shout-out for the versatility and richness of the English language. From the category “I Didn’t Know There Was a Word for That,” are you familiar with “arachnophobia,” “orexigenic,” “palilogy,” “plunderbund” and “quincentenary”? A. If you wanted a single word for “fear of spiders,” you’d no doubt choose “arachnophobia,” knowing that a phobia is a fear; the Greek “arakhne” for “spider” fills in the rest, says Anu Garg on his A.Word.A.Day website. “Orexis” (longing) + “genic” (producing) combine to give us “orexigenic,” or “stimulating the appetite.” And “palilogy,” from “palin” for “again,” and “logy” for “words,” is “a repetition of words, especially for emphasis,” as in, “Oh, the agony, the agony of it all!”
Now “plunderbund” itself might suggest the meaning-“a group of political, business and financial interests engaged in exploiting the public,” from the German “plundern” (to loot) and “bund” (association). Finally, the single word “quincentenary” means “a 500th anniversary,” combining the English “centenary,” (100 years) with the Latin “quinque” (five). So now you do know. Q. With the demise of the dinosaurs, mammals left the cover of darkness and became active during the daytime, knowing that their fiercest foes were no longer a threat. Why are many mammals today reverting to the nocturnal habits of their ancestors? A. Humans are now “the ubiquitous terrifying force on the planet and we’re forcing all the other mammals back into the night,” says Kaitlyn Gaynor of the University of California, Berkeley, as reported by Michael Le Page in “New Scientist” magazine. When Gaynor and her colleagues reviewed 76 studies of 62 mammals all over the world, they found “almost all are shifting to the night to avoid us.” For instance, in areas with few people, the sun bear from Southeast Asia is active at night only 19% of the time, whereas the number climbs to 90% around a research camp in Sumatra, Indonesia. And “on average, animals with a 50/50 split between night and day activity in undisturbed areas have a 70/30 split in disturbed areas” (“Science”).
The consequences of this shift are still not clear: Animals forced into nocturnal activity might struggle more, but, on the other hand, it may actually be good for them. Says Gaynor, “It’s a way to share space on an increasingly crowded planet. ... We take the day and they take the night.”