Science: The Unsociable Nettle

The nettle's little stinger is one of nature's meanest masterpieces. In a recent issue of Britain's Journal of Physiology, Physiologists N. Emmelin and W. Feldberg of Cambridge University explained just how mean a nettle is.

Each hair, say Emmelin & Feldberg, has a flexible bladder at its base. The hair itself is hollow and stiffened with silica. At the tip is a tiny bulb like a cork stuck on the end of a hypodermic needle. When the hair touches a victim, the bulb breaks off, exposing a point so exquisitely sharp that it slips right through the skin. Pressure on the hair...

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