If you want to know whether a whale is healthy, it helps to know what bacteria are normally found in said beast. But scientists rarely get to sample healthy whales in the wild. The solution? Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse of the Zoological Society of London and her colleagues have come up with a novel idea. A whale's spout is a bit like a human's blowing his or her nose: the normal bacteria exist in the mucous exhaled along with stale air and whatever else. So they have a small remote-controlled helicopter they guide through the exhalations of whales to catch droplets on Petri dishes.
COMMENT: Human ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. It's what gives me hope for our species.