The August Almanac


This month Florida fishermen will turn the tables on the cannonball jellyfish, notorious for clogging shrimp nets and stinging swimmers along the Gulf coast, as the first commercial batch of American jellyfish is processed and shipped to Korea. Dried jellyfish is a delicacy in Asia; American cannonball samples introduced in China. Japan, and Malaysia last year were lauded for their crispness and color. The Florida jellyfish industry is the brainchild of the author and environmentalist Jack Rudloe. who hopes in time to develop the domestic market as well: Asian-Americans currently spend some $6 million a year on jellyfish imported from China and Malaysia. Rudloe also envisions developing a snack version aimed at campers. In the meantime, Rudloe’s Marine Collagen Corporation hopes to secure a grant from Florida for the production of jellyfish collagen, a substance with a variety of cosmetic and medicinal uses, including soft-tissue restoration and bone healing.

Expiring Patent

No. 4,107,947. Finger Tip Ornament. “A finger tip ornament comprising at least one generally C-shaped bridge . . . adapted to extend around a portion of a fingertip in the transverse direction of the linger. . . a pair of elongated supporting members connected to respective ends of said. . . bridge. . .and at least one gem mounted on said. . .bridge.”

Health& Safety

Nationwide clinical trials for the controversial French abortion pill RU486 (also known as mifepristone) are coming to a close this month. Since last fall more than 2,000 U.S. women seeking abortions have tried the method, which can be used earlier than surgery— as soon as pregnancy is confirmed —and more closely resembles a spontaneous miscarriage. Minor pain, cramps, and prolonged bleeding are reported side effects of the drug, but many women have found the process more natural than surgical abortion. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration. RU486 is likely to go on the market next year. It has been available in France since 1989 and accounts for a third of the abortions there.


Two regulatory actions this month could be good news for telephone users. On August 1 the maximum fees that the largest local telephone companies may charge long-distance carriers for interstate calls will be reduced, by order of the Federal Communications Commission. The reduction is expected to save long-distance companies a total of $1.2 billion in the coming year. Only AT&T is required to pass the savings along to consumers, but competition may force other companies to follow suit. And on August 16 the Federal Trade Commission is scheduled to issue final rules defining and prohibiting deceptive and abusive telemarketing and restricting other actions by telemarketers. The rules will require that unsolicited sales callers promptly disclose the nature of the call and will limit their hours of operation.

The Skies

August 5, the waxing quarter Moon passes just north of Jupiter. 10, Full Moon, also known this month as the Sturgeon or Green Corn Moon. 12. the Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight, although shooting stars from it can be seen from mid-July through the end of August. Ordinarily one of the year’s best displays, the Perseids will be obscured tonight by the nearly full Moon. 29, reddish Mars and the bright star Spica he close to the crescent Moon.


When a house is lit at night only by a television, why does the television give off a bine glow, especially as seen by someone walking past outside ?

In the 1950s television manufacturers increased their use of blue phosphors to sharpen the whites on black-and-white television screens. They were taking their cue from the makers of laundry detergents, who used bluish phosphors (which fluoresce, or brighten, when exposed to light) to make clothes look “whiter than white.” The practice carried over to color televisions, in which blue phosphors usually predominate: blue phosphors emit a good deal more light and are more efficient than phosphors of red or green, the other colors used to create while light in television pictures, and thus provide a brighter overall picture as well as brighter whites. When ihe main source of light is

something other than the television (either indoor lights or the sun), that light becomes the eye’s reference and the eye does not acknowledge the color of the blue light from the dimmer source, the TV. However, when there is no other significant light source, the eye sees the light emitted from the television in its true color. And as one moves farther from the light source, the eye begins to perceive the screen mostly in terms of light and dark. Since most of the light is blue, blue is what someone outside sees.

125 Years Ago

William Dean Howells, writing in the August, 1870. issue of The Atlantic Monthly: “It is noticeable how many people there are in the world that seem bent always upon the same purpose of amusement or business as one’s self. If you keep quietly about your accustomed affairs, there are all your neighbors and acquaintance hard at it too; if you go on a journey, choose what train you will, the cars are filled with travellers in your direction. You take a day’s pleasure, and everybody abandons his usual occupation to crowd upon your boat. . . . It is very hard to believe that, from whatever channel of life you abstract yourself, still the great sum of it presses forward as before: that business is carried on though you are idle,. . . that every train is as crowded as that you travel on. that the theatre or the church fills its boxes or pews without you perfectly well. I suppose it would not be quite agreeable to believe all this; the opposite illusion is far more flattering; for if each one of us did not take the world with him now at every turn, should he not have to leave it behind him when he died?”