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Nathan Hansen's: The science of gecko sex

Science is a funny thing, and not just because of the safety goggles. Sometimes to prove something useful you have to conduct experiments that seem a little strange to the untrained observer. And sometimes, trapped alone in a laboratory for hours on end, you start to do experiments that actually are a little beyond the ordinary. What is known in official scientific lingo as “kookoobananas.”

Consider a few of these examples, provided by the totally legitimate-sounding website

• In 1969, a Spanish neurologist named Jose Delgado used a remote control to command a bull during a bull fight. It was actually going pretty well until the bull hit a curb and flipped onto its back.

• In 1962, a man named Walter Pahnke who apparently got into science only for the access it granted him to illicit substances, gave 10 theology students mind-altering drugs before a Good Friday church service. His theory was, I don’t know, that drugs make everything better? Or that it’s fun to mess with people? Or something? Whatever his original purpose, some of the test’s subjects claimed even 25 later that the experience was a high point of their theological life and that they could “totally see the hymns, man!”

• In 2003, researchers decided to see if real live dogs would accept a toy robot dog as one of their own. This wasn’t so much hard science as something that anybody with both a real dog and a robot dog has done.

• In 1986, in Russia, 11 men got into bed and didn’t get out for the next 370 days. This experiment seems particularly cruel, considering they didn’t even have Netflix then.

The science experiment that has gotten the most attention in recent weeks also started in Russia. In this case, it was the Russian space agency, which apparently gets its research ideas from late-night Cinemax movies.

The Russians, you see, launched a satellite into space on July 19. On board, among other things, were five geckos. Their job: get it on in zero-G while a bunch of lab-coated Russkies watched to see what happened.

This is reasonable. The scientists were studying mating habits in space. They probably want to know what might happen if humans are eventually able to reproduce outside our Earth atmosphere. Presumably we will use our suction-tipped fingers and toes in much the same way the geckos use theirs.

There were four female geckos on the satellite and only one male. I don’t know if there was a reason for that imbalance. I’m not going to ask questions. It sure seems like exploring the motivations of people who get worked up about blasting a bunch of horny reptiles into space could lead you to some pretty frightening places.

The world might never have known about this potential scientific breakthrough if Russia hadn’t promptly lost contact with its orbiting lizard love nest.

Suddenly, media outlets were full of stories about this interstellar lizard orgy. Might this menage a cinq, set free from its earthly tether, be spinning uncontrolled and, presumably, rockin’, into the deeper reaches of space? And if so, is that really such a bad way to go?

There is a happy ending to this story, so to speak. Earlier this week the Russians regained control of their extraterrestrial love shack. The geckos are once again free to go about their business secure in the knowledge Vladimir Putin might very well have a live stream running on his laptop.

God speed, sexy geckos.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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