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Date of Issue: February 16, 2006

Sandscript

Bad news, good news from down south - stinky, too

Notice to mariners: Be careful just south of the Ringling Bridge in Sarasota.

Seems there’s a bit of a problem in the water a couple of hundred feet south of the new bridge, pretty much where the old Ringling Bridge used to be. Contractor PCL Civil Engineering Inc., charged by the Florida Department of Transportation with taking out the bridge three years ago, apparently missed a few pilings.

There’s a lot of finger-pointing involved in this controversy, of course, but a buddy with Sarasota County went out and did some diving and mapping and yep, there’s some "obstructions" out there, pretty close to the surface.

They’re also pretty close to the Intracoastal Waterway, which is supposed to be at least 9 feet deep. These "obstacles" are about six feet down, which isn’t that big a deal for small-boat owners, but a big deal for larger vessels, especially during winter low tides and when you kick the boat back up on plane.

To date, three boaters have ripped out the lower units of their vessels, one to the tune of about $25,000.

My anonymous source told me over the weekend that the problem with the obstructions could well be something called "scour protection" around the old pilings of the former bridge. As currents flow, he said, sediment around the pilings gets undermined, so to maintain the integrity of the structure, rubble or concrete or other heavy stuff gets dumped around the piles to keep them from swaying.

In a sort of guileless way, he said that greater minds than his were looking at contracts between the DOT and PCL to work out the matter. He also only grinned when the question came up about the contractural demand to remove the pilings to bottom-level for the old bridge - as in, did anybody think to add some words such as "other structures" beyond the pilings? Things like "scour protection?"

Anyway, there apparently are new buoys out there to alert boaters of the underwater hazards until the greater minds work out what to do about the matter, but regardless, be careful if you’re zipping through the Ringling Bridge heading south through Sarasota Bay.

 

Anna Maria Sport picNew lights at Lido protect turtles when exotics are removed

On more Sarasota news, a drive-through at South Lido Park the other day revealed some pretty nifty new lights. Come to find out, they are not only eco-friendly, but turtle-friendly as well.

As my buddy Bob Ardren from the Pelican Press newspaper found out, the lights are trend setters, of sorts, and they look really high tech.

As he put it, "Pretty revolutionary new solar and wind-powered lights, especially designed to not interfere with sea turtle nesting, are proving very successful in their first real-world test in Florida.

"Installed in the South Lido Park parking lot atop 12-foot-high poles, the fixtures emit a red light from low-emission diodes and, due to solar and wind power, are independent of the power grid. They've also now passed their one-year anniversary in the park, having survived the numerous storms of 2005.

"Sarasota County coastal resources project scientist Kenya Leonard explained that as exotic vegitation is removed from the park, more and more light from nearby parking lots was finding its way onto the beachs, disrupting turtle nesting actitivies. Hatchling turtles crawl toward the brightest light they see when they emerge from the nest - which is supposed to be the surface of the nearby water - instead are often drawn to their death in nearby parking lots or roads as a result of bright lights there.

"Thus far, Leonard said, the only problems they've had with the solar/wind-powered design were a few birds attempting to nest atop the solar panels.

"Leonard added the test of the experimental lights is funded entirely by the state's sea turtle license plate program."

Oh, and did I mention that the lights emit a bright red light?

Bradenton Beach at least has had some problems with lights in its historic old-town district around Bridge Street, and has been looking for some new designs.

Maybe a new "red-light" district could be established there? Seems like it could be like old times, don’t you know ....

 

Critter tales

You can make you own connections to the above and the below, but some new studies seem to indicate that rats, and perhaps other animals, smell in stereovision/stereosmellivision.

Some researchers in India have been testing the smelling capabilities of rats and have found that "rats can effectively smell in 'stereo': their two nostrils work independently in much the same way as our ears, with contrasting signals to the brain creating a spatial understanding of sensory information."

Seems that the research team, as reported in the journal "Nature," found that, "Such is the rodent's skill that, once trained, they required just 50 milliseconds to decide where the smell was coming from. The rats selected the correct side with at least 80-percent accuracy, regardless of the odor presented."

This is weird, though: When they covered one nostril, "the rats lost their ability, showing that they need both nostrils to locate smells. This suggests that the two different nasal passages send contrasting signals to the brain, despite the fact that a rat's nostrils are a mere 3 millimeters apart."

Perhaps more weird is the fact that these guys are measuring rat nostrils, but that’s probably not the point here.

The Indian scientists liken the rat stereosmell to what we do with human hearing, whereby we can differentiate from where a sound comes.

And it’s probably not just in those rats, the team has said.

"We don't know what other animals have this effect. But given the excellent odor-localization ability of dogs, they seem likely to have some such ability," one researcher said.

Can you smell me now, Spot?

 

Sandscript factoid

According to one of those Internet search engines, dogs can smell more than 25 times better - not the doggie-stinky-smell, but through-the-nose-smell - than humans.

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