In an editorial entitled "Ellenberger No Hero," The Albuquerque Tribune said, "If [Ellenberger] was a victim, it was of his own ambition, his lack of principle, and his own futile desire to pin the rap on someone else.... [Ellenberger] thought he could fool this jury into thinking that it was OK to fake airplane rides paid for by the University. Well, the jury didn't buy it.
"Norm Ellenberger has done this community a great disservice. He now has an opportunity to make some amends—by leaving town."
A DAY AT THE ROACHES
It has long been held in physiological circles that the stamina of a long-distance runner is directly related to the efficiency with which he consumes oxygen. Biologists believe that larger animals—say, horses—get better oxygen economy than smaller ones, like linebackers. But, until recently, the question of whether extra legs improve a runner's efficiency has never been fully explored.
To that end, Dr. Clyde F. Herreid II and two associates have been conducting miniature track meets in a lab at the State University of New York at Buffalo with an assortment of invertebrates, including tarantulas, centipedes and millipedes. The researchers started with land crabs, making them race on a foot-long motorized treadmill with tiny oxygen masks glued over their mouths. When the scientists raced hermit crabs, which house themselves in empty sea snail shells of varying sizes, it was found that the heavier the shell the crabs carried, the more oxygen they used. But once the shell got to be heavier than the crab, no greater amount of oxygen was used than if the shell was the same weight as the crab. "If we knew what they were doing," says Herreid, "it might have a great practical application for backpackers."
But most of Herreid's recent work has concerned your basic six-legged cockroach. "They're small and easy to find, and you don't need their permission," he says. The roaches ran in 20-minute heats, though sometimes Herreid would have the better endurance runners on the course for up to an hour. "After that," he says, "we got bored. Who wants to watch a cockroach jog for an hour?" A roach would be disqualified if it flipped over, became agitated, recalcitrant or got tangled up in the test apparatus. "Roaches are just like humans," says Herreid. "Some are wonderful sprinters, some are great at marathons, while others have trouble just crossing the starting line."
(Cockroach racing has a long and hoary tradition. The diversion was all the rage in the early '30s in France, where sportsmen would bet thousands of francs on each roach race at the swank Riviera resort of Juan-les-Pins.)
In the Buffalo lab, the research team clocked all the roaches' times, and of the three species used, the Periplaneta americana—the inner-city roach known to most of us by one of its less printable names—turned out to be the best athlete, several times faster then the runner-up, Gromphadorhina portentosa, the Third World entry from Madagascar.
Herreid's conclusion: "The number of legs doesn't seem to make much difference in terms of energy efficiency." Herreid plans to extend his studies to ants, grasshoppers and kangaroos, but he has yet to fully examine the problems of racing roaches. For instance, should they turn pro? And if so, how do they overcome their repugnant image and get endorsements? Then there is the age-old problem of the loneliness of the long-distance cockroach. But all this wonderment opens up another can of worms, which, of course, have no legs at all.