Tag: Mental Floss

The science behind the angel’s glow that saved civil war soliders

by on Jan.08, 2014, under Articles, Science

I read an interesting article on Mental Floss about a pair of kids who seem likely to be apart of our next generation of scientists. Back in 2001, a then seven-year old Bill Martin went on a school field trip and learned about a phenomena  during the American Civil War where some soldiers after a battle, who waited days in the cold and mud, reported that their wounds glowed faintly in the dark. It was noted that the soldiers who exhibited this glowing had a higher survival rate than others who didn’t, and it was named Angel’s Glow.

Some hundred and forty years later, the child of a microbiologist, asked the question if perhaps it was glowing bacteria. Together with his friend Jon Curtis, they did research, and experiments, and won the 2001 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

What were their results? The answer, as it is with anything to do with real science, is that it is complicated. The glowing was due to bacteria, however the bacteria in question lived inside the stomach of parasitic worms. The two had a semi-symbiotic relationship where the worm would burrow itself into an insect and puke out the bacteria. The bacteria would then kill and break down the insect as well as any other microorganisms. The worm would then eat the remains of the insect, as well as the bacteria, where the bacteria would then continue to grow in the worm’s stomach.

However the bacteria and worm in question are normally killed by a human’s internal body heat, which ruled them out as a possibility, until the kids hypothesized that the soldiers, after spending days in the cold and mud, actually had hypothermia which would lower core body temperature enough to allow these worms to survive, and once the humans were well, would be cleared by the human immune system.

So the ultimate result was that a combination of hypothermia, parasitic worms, and glowing bacteria saved many soldiers lives.

Want more details? Click here to read the source article.

Source [Mental Floss]

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