back to article Wombats literally sh!t bricks – and now boffins reckon they know how

The year is 2018 and planet Earth is on the edge. Tensions between the great powers are at boiling point, fires ravage the western United States, and the European Union is in disarray. But yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia, the world's finest minds gathered to answer the question on everyone's lips. How do wombats poo cubes? A …

  1. Killfalcon Bronze badge
    Pint

    I'll raise a glass to scientists willing to get their hands dirty, since I'm not in a hurry to shake their hands.

  2. Tikimon Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Only in Hollywood

    Gettin' your hands dirty ain't smart where pathogens are lurking. Only in movies do "scientists" dig around in piles of steaming poop barehanded. Yick! Real scientists wear impervious gloves!

    As do others who deal in icky substances. I saw a vet check a horse before sale to see if she was preggers. He put on a long vinyl sleeve thingie, then shoved his whole damn arm into the mare up to his shoulder. Stood there with a thoughtful look on his face, feeling around for a minute. He then declared her "clean" and removed the arm with the most godawful schlorping sound, and peeled off three feet of slimy glove. When I feel like IT is just too stupid for words, I think of that job and disk errors don't seem so bad.

  3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Re: Only in Hollywood

    Only in movies do "scientists" dig around in piles of steaming poop barehanded.

    I think you and I watch different sorts of movies.

  4. Semtex451 Silver badge

    Goes to show, you can fit square pegs in round holes

  5. Mycho Silver badge

    You can get funding for all kinds of crap these days.

  6. Timmy B Silver badge

    Actually very interesting to some people...

    I have several books on scat and use it in animal tracking. It's interesting in that UK animals that do the same (foxes for example) haven't evolved the same kind of thing. You do also see, in sheep, deer and other herbivores compacted scat at certain times of year being more compacted and square internally. I wonder if it's more an outcome of diet than not wanting them to roll away. Do they change in wombats by season, etc. I'll have to do some more reading.

    (From someone who actually has a collection of scat from many of the UKs mammal species - we all need a hobby!)

  7. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: Actually very interesting to some people...

    Fox shit seems to stick to raised areas like tree stumps perfectly adequately on account of it still being a bit moist. I'm assuming now that wombats, living in a drier climate than foxes, would benefit from absorbing as much water as possible from their faeces before they excrete it - and for that reason require a different technique (shape instead of texture) to keep their shit stationary.

  8. Symon Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Actually very interesting to some people...

    "we all need a hobby"

    If the scatman can do it, so can you. Ba-da-ba-da-ba-be bop bop bodda bope...

  9. Fungus Bob Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Actually very interesting to some people...

    Timmy B, you sure know your shit...

  10. Daedalus Silver badge

    Finally we know...

    ...what The Curse of the Flying Wombat was all about.

  11. Paul Kinsler

    Re: Finally we know...

    I was surprised by your comment. So surprised that I had to read it again!

    Sorry.

  12. Daedalus Silver badge

    Re: Finally we know...

    For the sake of the not-so-old-fogies, here is a link:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Curse_of_the_Flying_Wombat

    Sadly for many impressionable 1960's teenagers, myself included, this 13 part serial adventure, featured in "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again", fizzled out into silliness and we never did find the Green Eye of the Little Yellow Dog. We did get introduced to immortal characters, particularly the gargantuan Lady Constance de Coverlet, the oily Grimbling, and John Cleese's inner genius, Masher Wilkins. Long may they reign.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I pooped a cube once, more like a rectangular bar.

    Heavy session massive meal at the end and a long sitdown in the morning. Nobody was impressed by my crisp edges. but I didn't want to dispose of an impressive scat without showing someone.

  14. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    I didn't want to dispose of an impressive scat without showing someone.

    Was this at home or work?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    feacebook

    "I didn't want to dispose of an impressive scat without showing someone."

    Well post it to feacebook then.

  16. Paul Johnson 1
    Go

    IgNobel prize incoming

    Looks like this perfectly fits the IgNobel definition: first makes you laugh, then makes you think.

  17. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
    Boffin

    Re: IgNobel prize incoming

    You'd be amazed what has been researched over the years.

    Many, many years ago a chap by the name of Pickett did sterling work in the field of insect sex pheromones and how these might be used to control insect populations (if a male is flapping around with antennae full of sex pheromone, he isn't going to find many ladies).

    Somewhat later, I did the same only for potato cyst nematodes. For a mercifully short time (until the videotapes were recycled by my PhD supervisor for recording Eastenders, or Pobl Y Cwm or something), I was the proud owner of the world's most boring sex-related videos.

    Sex-related because this was film of male nematodes responding to scent gradients of sex pheromone on agar plates. Boring, because a male nematode in a hurry with love on his mind (and since males don't eat as adults, they always have love on their minds) travels at a few millimetres per minute, and to see any real speed the videos had to be watched on fast forward.

    The research, whilst worthy of an igNobel, never got the publicity it deserved through not being around in the days of Youtube, not that this prevented the famous TCP Sliding Window video becoming famous (this was also recorded around this time).

  18. JetSetJim Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Re: IgNobel prize incoming

    > perfectly fits the IgNobel definition

    So much so, I've submitted a nomination

    ~~~~~~

    EDIT: They're following this scientific research already here

  19. herman Silver badge

    Re: IgNobel prize incoming

    "then makes you stink" - TFIFY

  20. Jay Lenovo
    WTF?

    Kinda macabre, but alright

    Just one of the many fun things you can do with roadkill in Georgia

  21. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: Kinda macabre, but alright

    Only you can't - the roadkill would have been in Australia where wombats are found. It was the researchers who were from Georgia Tech.

    If a car hit a wombat in Australia so fast that the wombat's body ended up in the USA, how fast was the car travelling?

  22. Dabooka Silver badge
    Boffin

    Re: Kinda macabre, but alright

    Sounds like a new Reg Unit right there, something about parabolic arcs and wombats?

  23. Borg.King
    Coat

    Re: Kinda macabre, but alright

    I think speeds of this nature need to be expressed as a factor of Viss, the velocity of the international space station.

    (Mines the one with the table of sines/cosines/tangents & logarithms in the pocket)

  24. Fungus Bob Silver badge

    Re: Kinda macabre, but alright

    "If a car hit a wombat in Australia so fast that the wombat's body ended up in the USA, how fast was the car travelling?"

    Fast enough to knock the shit out of a wombat and into a different time zone.

  25. Oengus Silver badge

    Re: Kinda macabre, but alright

    If a car hit a wombat in Australia so fast that the wombat's body ended up in the USA, how fast was the car travelling?

    Another question would be where did the car end up. Hitting a wombat at speed does serious damage to a car. If It could launch the wombat all the way to the US, the car would probably end up in orbit.

  26. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: Kinda macabre, but alright

    "If It could launch the wombat all the way to the US, the car would probably end up in orbit."

    Was it, by any chance, a red Tesla Roadster?

  27. Ghostman
    Headmaster

    Re: Kinda macabre, but alright

    If the car, or even a land train, were traveling northwest, it would really have be going fast, having to go over Africa, the Atlantic, and have to miss all the planes around Harstfield.

    Northeast? Not so hard.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Kinda macabre, but alright

    "If a car hit a wombat in Australia so fast that the wombat's body ended up in the USA, how fast was the car travelling?"

    Depends on which direction the wombat was facing during flight.

    Shirley you must account for the significant drag caused by the square arsehole.

  29. Semtex451 Silver badge

    El Reg articles

    were always a bit of a crapshoot

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I salute the boffin that came up with the idea of sticking a balloon up it's ass.

  31. 0laf Silver badge
    Gimp

    Once again "everyone needs a hobby" seems to fit there.

  32. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "Once again "everyone needs a hobby" seems to fit there."

    Just don't do it with a serif font though. Too many sharp pointy bits.

  33. Sixtysix
    Pint

    0laf

    Well played

  34. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Wombats shit bricks?

    Are they like LEGO bricks? Can you build with them? Do they come in prepackaged assortments with bright & colourful diagram instructions on how to build each model? Can they then be disassembled & put together any way we wish to make things of our own imaginative creation? Do they come in extra large sizes for children like Duplo, extra tiny like the advanced stuff, & with controller systems that allow us to motorize & cyberize the different creations? Can we buy them at the local Tesco/Walmart? Can we buy them in bulk from various resellers? Is there an Ebay market of used bricks? Can we buy specialty sets?

    Last but not least, do I need to refill my dried frog pills?

  35. John 110

    Re: Wombats shit bricks?

    "...Are they like LEGO bricks? Can you build with them?..."

    Some bright geneticist could probably genetically-engineer one to produce bright, colourful bricks. I'll email the university now, they're always looking for PhD theses suggestions.

  36. Daedalus Silver badge

    Re: Wombats shit bricks?

    Try the guy who made bunnies poop jelly beans.

  37. mt_head

    Re: Wombats shit bricks?

    >> I'll email the university now, they're always looking for PhD theses suggestions.

    Surely you meant "feces suggestions"?

  38. Pennsyjohn
    Facepalm

    Re: Wombats shit bricks?

    Sounds like a good idea. Then get Professor Rincewind to catch some of the little beggars.

  39. phuzz Silver badge
    Boffin

    Re: Wombats shit bricks?

    Presumably if one fed the wombats on different things, then the shit bricks would come out different colours.

    Quick, someone start feeding beetroot to a wombat!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are they suitable for the barby?

    Look like little charcoal brickets to me...

  41. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
    Flame

    Re: Are they suitable for the barby?

    Probably usable as charcoal -- they look dry enough -- if you can tolerate the smell; I wouldn't cook food with it!

    Side note: Had the first flames in the fireplace for this "wintery season". It's amazing how the wood basically burns/converts into charcoal then burns the charcoal (but smells up the house appropriately). I'm getting quite efficient lighting and stoking it without a lot of unburnt fuel, a full loss of flame, or using liquid accelerants, especially since I had only one fire total last year after a long hiatus due to the safety of the babies (now all age 4 and up). But in my defense, I do a fair bit of charcoal cooking outside in a classic 22" Weber kettle and we've been having more small "campfires" for s'mores in a separate metal patio firebowl (not a full stationary pit made from brick).

  42. Pete 2 Silver badge

    No place in the larder

    We all know that it is wise to store the instant coffee a long way away from the gravy powder (some of us discover this the hard way - student days .... ahhh!). It now looks like Wombat owners should make sure that the OXO cubes are always kept in their foil wrappers.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: No place in the larder

    We all know that it is wise to store the instant coffee a long way away from the gravy powder (some of us discover this the hard way - student days .... ahhh!).

    My parents once had a well-lubricated dinner party, and at the end of the meal one of the visitors volunteered to make Irish coffees. They looked really good...

    My Dad said that the worst part was pouring all that whiskey & cream down the sink...

  44. mt_head

    Tumbling dice

    Our dog used to poop roughly-cubical, extremely dense turds whenever he'd had bones to chew on. Since he was a fairly tall dog, they'd be released from a height of a foot or so, and would bounce in a satisfying manner when they hit the grass.

    Needless to say, we began to refer to these artifacts as "dice", and many craps-related jokes ensued.

    Miss that boy something fierce, we do.

  45. GBE

    Will there be a VMS Datatrieve update?

    Was datatrieve released as part of OpenVMS?

    If so, has anybody submitted a patch for the Wombat help info with this important update?

  46. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: Will there be a VMS Datatrieve update?

    VMS? I thought the Sharepoint book was the Wombat one.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wombat

    These interesting critters have the curious properties of firstly no eye-shine under headlights, and a density approaching that of a collapsed star. It is possible to destroy a car hitting one only to have it waddle off into the undergrowth to die.

    The damage they can do to a vehicle cannot be exaggerated. Additionally they have a funny practice of following the same path each day to the point of absurdity. I saw a property where an individual built a B&B on the edge of their farm, the wombat used to walk a path that was now obscured by the corner of a house. It dug under the corner rather than walk 4 feet to the right.

    They are rather cute to watch in action, snuffling around and waddling along. Very fascinating.

  48. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Re: Wombat

    These interesting critters have the curious properties of firstly no eye-shine under headlights, and a density approaching that of a collapsed star.

    Research conducted by C. Rossetti notes that they are also obtuse and furry.

    The damage they can do to a vehicle cannot be exaggerated.

    It might well be worse if they were acute rather than obtuse.

  49. kneedragon

    It's nice to know Australia still produces something unique, which captures the attention of scientists in the U$...

    I feel better now. Our PM just matched wits (careful how you spell that) with Pamela Anderson. He lost. He is also pretty sure to lose the next general election, but what is less certain, is how closely the two are related...

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