293: Sheep and Mummies

293: Sheep and Mummies

Brain Junk
Brain Junk
293: Sheep and Mummies

From Sugar the long lost Australian sheep to an unfortunate Bulgarian man who became mummified way faster than scientists would expect, Amy’s bringing it with a fact double header!

P.S. Sugar the sheep had 28 pounds of wool shorn off. That’d make a lot of sweaters!

Show Notes:

Brain Junk Merch

Sugar the Sheep article on UPI with a great link to an Instagram video of Sugar getting sheared

LittleCreekMontana.com history of why sheep need to be sheared

Trigger warning on this scholarly article on precocious mummification; there are full on color photos of an autopsy. Cureus article: A Rare Phenomenon of Natural Precocious Mummification

A less juicy review of the Cureus paper on IFLscience.com


[00:00:03] Speaker A: Welcome to Brain Junk. I’m Trace Kerr.

[00:00:05] Speaker B: And I’m Amy Barton. And today on brain junk, we are going to talk about a couple little shorties that I’m just excited about and that have absolutely no relationship to one another. Oh, I feel like this is the true spirit of brain junk. Like, just, I’m interested in this and you might be, too.

[00:00:26] Speaker A: Okay, I’m ready.

[00:00:27] Speaker B: I have one very tenuous connection, but we’ll let you decide at the end. Our first one is about sheep or a sheep. This fall, late fall, a sheep was found in Australia to be living with a herd of kangaroos. Are they a herd? What’s a group of kangaroos called?

[00:00:44] Speaker A: Isn’t it a mob?

[00:00:46] Speaker B: Probably. That sounds about right there. Yes, it’s a mob.

[00:00:50] Speaker A: Aha.

[00:00:51] Speaker B: Okay, so let’s get back on track here. A sheep was observed, and actually it’s been for about a year. This sheep has been observed with a mob of kangaroos in the sugarloaf reservoir nature area in Australia. And for those of you who want to know where it’s at on the map, it’s a little northeast of Melbourne. Looks like maybe about an hour from the bay. Oh, southern central Australia is where this guy is hanging out. And they think sugar ran away about five years ago and has been living with this mob of kangaroos that whole time. And so somebody finally corralled sugar and brought him in because these modern sheep need to be sheared.

[00:01:35] Speaker A: I was going to say, how much wool was on that sheep?

[00:01:38] Speaker B: Quite a lot. But if you look at pictures, that was one of the noteworthy things is sugar was actually in pretty good shape. They sheared him and his skin looked good still, and he seemed to be in good health underneath his overgrown coat. And so apparently, the kangaroo life was good for sugar. And now sugar’s living out his days in peace on a sanctuary, joined by other rescue farm animals. So he will still have community. It just won’t be kangaroos anymore.

[00:02:13] Speaker A: Wow, that is so much I’m watching.

I don’t know where I am. I’m on instagram. So much wool.

[00:02:21] Speaker B: Yeah, it looks so thick. And so that got me to wondering, what did sheep do before modern farming when we sheared the sheep? And the answer to that is pretty simple, that we, over time, have bred shaggy sheep, and that has been purposeful because we want that wool. And so natural selection has led towards these breeds of sheep that we now have that need us to shear them. But in past, they would just not have as much wool and they would naturally shed their own coats by scratching their bodies against trees and rubbing their fluff away as the weather warms up. So that’s the fun answer to what did sheep do before humans were around? They were just fine.

[00:03:08] Speaker A: Okay, but I’m just thinking of this sheep in Australia, it’s not cold. And that sheep was wearing so much of a sweater. And how did we not have our first instance of spontaneous combustion?

[00:03:22] Speaker B: Well, in theory, wool is wonderful for trapping air, and so maybe it had plenty of cool air trapped in that nice layer of fur. No, it’s wool, not fur. But I don’t know. Or it just adapted, maybe.

[00:03:37] Speaker A: And then they cut it off. And that poor sheep is like, put it back.

[00:03:40] Speaker A: Put it back. Yeah.

[00:03:42] Speaker B: It’s walking around like a 90 year old where the temperature is 68 in the house now.

[00:03:46] Speaker A: Oh, God.

[00:03:47] Speaker A: I did that over thanksgiving. I almost died. Love them. But holy cow.

[00:03:52] Speaker B: Yes. At my grandparents house, they had a wood burning stove, and so they would charge that thing up so that then they’d have hours of warm before they had to do it again. And they were good at it then.

[00:04:04] Speaker A: It’s dry. It’s a dry heat.

[00:04:06] Speaker B: It’s a dry heat.

[00:04:10] Speaker B: Probably enjoyed the dry heat, too.

[00:04:11] Speaker A: Oh, that’s true. Yeah.

[00:04:12] Speaker B: So my other subject, precocious mummification.

This one is amazing. And if you go and click, I found the article that I use for most of my information on IFL science, and they have a link to the original article. If you go cruising and clicking, please know the original article has graphic pictures of a mummified person and it still looks like a person.

That’s my cautionary warning. I wasn’t expecting that when I clicked, but they’re right there, so you’ve been warned. I considered it a little bit. I wasn’t expecting it.

[00:04:51] Speaker A: Oh, that’s the worst, though, when you’re like, do. Yeah, cross section.

[00:04:59] Speaker B: The article caught my attention because apparently a person in Bulgaria was seen, I believe it was August 31, and then by September 23 was found fully mummified. Whatever the date range was that August, early September, and 16 days from the last sighting of the person to the finding of a fully mummified body. What? Yeah. Which. That natural mummification can happen. Normally it takes several weeks on the short end, up to six to twelve months. It’s not a fast process. We are a lot of liquid scientists, of course, are fascinated by this because 16 days is crazy. Even in optimal conditions, however. And organs, everything. It’s not like just his skin. Everything was mummified. Normal conditions for mummification would be 86 degrees or higher, an average humidity below 50%. They consider solar radiation, which I hadn’t considered, but that needs to be 600 watts per meter squared. And wind speeds need to be 20 to 30 miles an hour to create a mummy, the bulgarian mummy. The temperature was between 60 and 91 degrees. And if you remember, 86 is the necessary. And it didn’t stay there. So temperature was out of range. The relative humidity was 52%, which is 2% above the max. The solar radiation was less than half. It was 257.9 watts. And the wind speeds were far below the needed level. So none of the things needed, except for some occasional temperature days, were in place for this mummification, and yet it happened in such a rapid time.

[00:06:45] Speaker A: Aliens.

[00:06:46] Speaker B: Aliens. It was found in a rail yard. So maybe something.

[00:06:53] Speaker A: Sorry, hobo aliens.

[00:06:56] Speaker B: He ran into the wrong crowd. I don’t know, maybe some of the materials, because, you know, rail yards have a very. I think they have a lot of gravel and rock, so maybe. But right now it’s a big shoulder shrug for the scientists because in general, precocious mummifications aren’t particularly common. There’s just a few reported cases in literature with rapid precocious mummification, so it’s extremely rare. So they’re very excited to study this. And he’s completely out of spec, so.

[00:07:28] Speaker A: They don’t have any ideas at all.

[00:07:31] Speaker B: No. Body was only discovered in September, so they haven’t had a long time to study. So right now they’re in that. This is wild, you guys. Let’s get our list together and be strategic about this so we could learn a lot more. If you follow this story, there may be more scientific reporting on it in the coming months and certainly years.

[00:07:49] Speaker A: Wow.

[00:07:50] Speaker B: And this is a scientist at the University of Sofia in Bulgaria is heading this study, so we’ll see what we find out.

[00:07:58] Speaker A: Wow. I have so many questions and you’re not giving me any answers.

[00:08:02] Speaker B: No, that was part of the draw of these subjects. I’m like, oh, these are really interesting. And I don’t have to get into scientific details, so I’m sorry, everybody. These are sort of like, now we can go and revisit and have an updated edition in a year or two. I’ll tell you more.

[00:08:22] Speaker A: I’m trying to keep trying to look. I’m going to look on my phone because when I try to look on it on the computer, the computer is like, too much happening.

[00:08:30] Speaker B: Yeah. For those of you that enjoy medical images and don’t mind a little entomology, you’ll enjoy this.

[00:08:37] Speaker A: His guts, brain, and other organs had shriveled up to structureless masses. How the heck?

[00:08:43] Speaker B: Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s really interesting.

[00:08:46] Speaker A: Wow. People stay hydrated.

[00:08:49] Speaker B: Yeah. Don’t hang around in the train yards. That’s just good common sense for several reasons. Wow, that’s precocious mummification.

[00:08:59] Speaker A: That’s spooky. Where’s the paper? Where’s the paper?

[00:09:03] Speaker B: The link that’s labeled curious.

[00:09:05] Speaker A: I hate these websites that have all these commercials that pop up and so.

[00:09:09] Speaker B: You’re trying to scroll, especially on mobile. You’ve got like a centimeter of open screen that has the article on it and the little x’s to close. The articles are tiny.

[00:09:18] Speaker A: Yeah. And the stuff, I feel like they.

Frustrating. I feel like they track where your fingers are.

[00:09:28] Speaker B: And they move the x.


[00:09:32] Speaker A: And you’re like, I would like to not.

[00:09:34] Speaker B: I clicked on it.

[00:09:37] Speaker A: Wow, that’s shocking. Well, okay. Stay tuned for precocious mummification part two. Someday in the not so distant future, hopefully.

Well, if you are interested in staying hydrated, go to our merch shop at brainjunkpodcast.com. We have cups. You can drink water so you can keep from becoming a precocious mummy in your office.

[00:10:01] Speaker B: I am drinking lemon tea from the mug right now.

[00:10:05] Speaker A: Oh, and it tastes better, doesn’t it?

[00:10:07] Speaker B: Does.

[00:10:08] Speaker A: Do you feel smarter?

[00:10:09] Speaker B: You feel smarter? I absolutely do. There was even a chart in my notes just now. Oh, that’s noteworthy for me. Everyone.


[00:10:20] Speaker A: So this is what brain junk merch could do for you. Also, we have the new shirt with the rant, the rat ant. I have one. I’ve posted about it. She’s super cute. I was in the grocery store checkout line and the checker was like, what is that awesome? You know, changing lives. That’s what we’re here for. Also, leave your reviews and comments wherever you listen because we love hearing from you and we do read them. If you’d like to hear more episodes, ask that smart speaker to play Brain junk podcast. Wherever you listen, please like and subscribe. Amy and I will catch you next time when we share more of everything you never knew you wanted to know, and I guarantee you will not be bored.

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