National Geographic : 1966 May
In the endless quest to make space travel safe for man, George Hoover has played some unusual roles. Once, he ran a study on weightlessness with the help of six live Maine lobsters. "Our purchasing department thought I was crazy when I ordered them flown across the country," George said. "But New England lobsters are very special beasts-quite differ ent from our Pacific spiny lobster. For one thing, they stick grains of sand in their heads to tell them which way is up." I looked skeptical, and George explained that in its nearly weightless state in water, Homarus americanus has trouble keeping its bearings. To solve the problem, the lobster inserts a grain of sand in an opening near the base of each of its two feelers. Gravity exerts a faint but constant downward pull on the grain, giving the lobster what amounts to a built-in plumb line. "When the lobsters got here," George ex plained, "we substituted iron filings for the grains of sand in their heads, and then tried to confuse them with magnets. "We confused them, all right. When we put a magnet against the side of the tank, the lobsters mistook the side for the bottom they crawled right up and tried to hang on. "It was interesting work, and we might have learned a thing or two, but we called it off. Another company was studying the same thing with human subjects in a centrifuge." "What happened to the lobsters?" I asked. George gave me a wink. "We ran a final experiment with boiling water and some melted butter. Scientifically, it was a great success." Dazzling Crop Creates a Traffic Hazard From Space Age Los Angeles I turned to California's past, by driving along magnifi cent coastal Route 1, roughly following his toric El Camino Real, or King's Highway. El Camino dates back to the early days of Spanish settlement of California, when the great Franciscan from Majorca, Father Ju nipero Serra, helped to colonize the new land with his chain of missions. The missions, eventually 21 in all, still span California's coast, from San Diego north to Sonoma, with their graceful names, most of them commem orating saints-Juan Capistrano, Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Juan Bautista, Rafael Arcangel.... Beyond Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside, I came to what surely is one of the world's most charming traffic hazards Mr. Edwin Frazee's seed and bulb flower farm. 606 High-tailing through the blue, a new DC 9 short-haul jet completes a test. Twenty eight airlines have ordered the plane, built by Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., on the same Long Beach assembly line that pro duces its big brother, the four-engine DC-8. Aircraft manufacturers led California in to the space business; last year, 45 percent of the four billion dollars in prime contracts signed by NASA went to the Golden State. From its workshops come the Apollo ships to carry men to the moon, the Mariners to peer at Mars and Venus, the Rangers that photographed the moon close up, and the Surveyors to search out later landing sites.