By the time he was 6, the chimpanzee known as Bobby was psychotic. Born in a research lab in 1983, he was a subject in eight research projects — “anesthetized more than 250 times, his liver biopsied on at least 34 occasions,” writes Gary Ferguson in a new book about the efforts of the woman who saved him.
Dana was one of 141 pioneer chimps of the U.S. space program who were eventually considered “surplus federal property” and housed on an Air Force base; her two-inch thick medical file included information about her having “donated” a kidney that was transplanted into a baboon. Phyllis had also been strapped into a metal seat for “chair training”: When the chimp learned to pull the right lever, she got a banana pellet, and if she pulled the wrong one she got an electric shock. And she was a test subject for studies on gonorrhea and hepatitis.
The chimps are among many who benefited from a passionate crusade by the late primatologist Carole Noon, who founded the Save the Chimps organization. Ferguson tells the story of Noon and the 200-acre Florida sanctuary she created to give more than 250 chimpanzees a home for their final years. Extensively illustrated with photographs of the chimps and the refuge, the book makes a poignant case for one of Noon’s favorite sayings: “Chimpanzees are amazing people.”
No American has won a gold Olympic medal in the men’s two-person bobsled since 1936, Popular Science notes in its current issue. As the Sochi games approached, the frustrated U.S. team recruited BMW engineers and created a new sled made of the same carbon fiber used in the new BMW i3. “That freed up about 15 pounds, which the engineers redistributed to lower the sled’s gravity, making it faster,” the article notes.
The bobsled overhaul is one of several Olympic technological advances described in the article. New body armor for crash survival includes neck guards and a wearable air bag. Skiers are getting redesigned suits made with a fabric that’s textured like sharkskin to manipulate airflow; its zippers and seams are positioned to minimize drag in a manner specifically calibrated to Sochi’s environment. The skeleton sled has a new, super-maneuverable saddle that one athlete says makes her “feel like I have a secret weapon.”
The magazine also describes Sochi’s technical preparations — including storing 28 million cubic feet of snow so it can be deployed to the competition site if ski jumps need more coverage.