Posted in Science & Nature

Badass Weapons Of Nature: Long-tailed Weasel

Long-tailed weasels are ferocious predators found in North America that likes to stalk its prey and pounce it with lightning speed. With small prey such as mice, the weasel will wrap its long body around the prey and then crush the head with a strong bite. As the weasel is very slender and sleek, it can easily dig into burrows to hunt hiding animals by crushing its skull, or to add variety, ripping out the windpipe.

Although it usually preys on small rodents, the long-tailed weasel is also known to fearlessly attack much larger animals such as birds and rabbits. As wild rabbits tend to be bulkier (sometimes even ten times larger) than the weasel, it cannot use its characteristic hunting style. To overcome this difficulty, these weasels have developed a strange behaviour that zoologists have labelled the Weasel War Dance. The War Dance (NB: two videos on what it looks like) is a chaotic set of movements where the weasel runs left and right frantically, jumping and flipping upside-down and almost appearing insane. This type of behaviour is observed in other species of weasels and ferrets when they are excited, but few use it as a hunting tool.

It has been observed that when the long-tailed weasel performs a War Dance in front of a rabbit, the rabbit becomes dazed and enters a trance-like state. It is possible that the chaotic and confusing movements disorient the rabbit. Once the rabbit has been disabled, the weasel promptly jumps on the rabbit’s back and delivers a powerful bite to the back of the neck, instantly killing the rabbit.
Wild weasels and stoats practise this skill by playfully ambushing each other when they are young.

Long-tailed weasels, despite their cute appearance, are notorious for their vicious temper. Being a carnivore that prefers fresh meat, it actively hunts and collects food. Despite seeking fresh food, the weasel also exhibits a curious behaviour of storing carrions, which is often only eaten in times of food shortages. This behaviour leads to the weasel going on killing sprees just because they can. Long-tailed weasels have also been observed lapping up blood from the wounds they inflict, and enjoys making their nest from the fur of their victims.

Posted in History & Literature

En Passant

In chess, there are three special moves: castling, pawn promotion and en passant. The first two are quite well known, but the third is less recognised by amateurs and is more of a “secret move” for more experienced players. Thus, many beginners complain their opponent is cheating, when they are using a perfectly legal move.

En passant is French for in passing – the etymology becomes clear once one understands how the move works.
Although a pawn can usually only move one space forwards, it can move up to two spaces on its first move. En passant only applies to a pawn that has moved two spaces. For example, if a white pawn moves two spaces forward and a black pawn is positioned to its left or right, the black pawn can move diagonally behind the white pawn to take it. This is because if the white pawn had moved one space, it would have been in the normal attacking range of the black pawn. Ergo, en passant is a technique that can stop a pawn from penetrating the defensive line and charging forwards.

This move must be used the turn after the pawn moves two spaces. Otherwise, the right to en passant disappears (i.e. cannot wait a turn to use it). In chess, this is the only move where the attacking piece lands on a space other than the taken piece.

Why was the en passant created? The reason being, the two-space first move rule came into place around then, so the en passant was devised to balance it, while complementing the pawn’s short attack range and inability to move backwards.