Happy Birthday, NASA – I got you a gnarly worm

I enjoy the smattering of science articles in the back of The Economist. Last week’s issue has an article about the future of NASA as it celebrates its 50th birthday.  What really caught my eye was the gnarly photo of a ragworm on the next page. Unfortunately, that worm isn’t in the online version of the article.

The gnarliest pic I could find online.

The gnarliest photo of ragworm teeth I could find online. (The Economist's photo is cooler.)

Please be patient with a brief digression. Let’s call it a drum solo. A recent post referred to a Skeptical Inquirer that wasn’t available at all on line. I guess some folks think we should still buy magazines. Let’s call them treeware-huggers. Thanks, Ron.

Ragworms are used as bait in commercial fishing. They are also known as sandworms in the US and might remind one of the giant sandworms in Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi series Dune.

Why would NASA care? The researchers, Drs. Chris Broomell and Herbert Waite, discovered that ragworms’ jaws are very strong and very light. This is because their jaws contain a lot of zinc, instead of the calcium salts that most other animals use to make their bones, shells, and teeth. Drs. Bromell and Watie realized their fiindings might help NASA discover ways to make lighter spacecraft parts, so they passed along the info to NASA. Happy 50th, NASA.

Four Lemmys. It would have been five if the Economist had posted the awesome scary ragworm photo on their website.