You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of
CreatureCast - Rhizocephala - a charmingly animated look at the lifecycle of rhizocephalan barnacles, one of the more horrifying (non-charming) parasitic crustaceans (likewise). NOT a practitioner of parasitic castration but still disturbing: The bobbit worm. Happy swimming!
seaQuest: what if we could learn to live on/underneath the oceans (or in orbit)? [previously(er)] [more inside]
When looking for inspiration, most songwriters to go well-used emotional wells – triumph or loss, love or heartbreak. But Peter Larsen, a biologist at Argonne National Laboratory, looked to the microbes of the English Channel. He used seven years’ worth of genetic and environmental data, converting geochemical and microbial abundance measurements into notes, beats, and chords.
"...by persisting in the false belief that coral reefs have a future, we grossly misallocate the funds needed to cope with the fallout from their collapse." In the New York Times, ecologist Roger Bradbury argues that it's too late to save a big chunk of the Earth's environment, and that we should instead spend our resources getting ready for the challenges we'll face once that part of the world is destroyed. Marine scientists offer varying opinions on how doomed the reefs are, ranging from "Yep, they're doomed" to "If we stopped increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere today, they would probably stick around in some more or less degraded form" to "it’s clear to me that corals as a group of living things will almost assuredly* construct glorious reefs in millenniums to come of unimaginable richness."
Introducing the 'Squid worm' - a new species in a new genus discovered 3,000 metres down off the Indonesian coast.
Meet three new species of Loricifera, the first multicellular forms of life found that can live entirely without oxygen (figures and full article, PDF). [more inside]
I am a giant squid. I swam up from the briny ocean depths. I have a computer, with a specially-modified tentacle-friendly interface. I have a fast internet connection. I seek to learn about humans and about the world. I have read much on the internet. Yet still, I have many unanswered questions. And you must have questions of me. We have much to learn from one another. To this end, I have developed the assortment of quizzes, games and activities you find before you. They form part of my ongoing campaign to facilitate improved human-squid relations. Try them out, you will most certainly learn something about squid.
The Polar Discovery team has documented science in action from pole to pole during the historic 2007-2009 International Polar Year, and covered five scientific expeditions. The science projects explored a range of topics from climate change and glaciers, to Earth’s geology, biology, ocean chemistry, circulation, and technology at the icy ends of the earth. Through photo essays and other multimedia, they explain how scientists collected data and what they discovered about the rapidly changing polar regions. From the awesome folks at WHOI.
The amazing story of the coelacanth is one of the wonders of the living world that inspires marine biologists such myself. Coelacanths, part of the offshoot lineage of fishes known as "lobed finned ", are very different from typical "ray finned" fishes that you usually think of. Their bizarre lobed fins are thought to be an intermediate step between fish fins and amphibian legs. Scientists had known that these weird fish existed because of fossils for over a century, but we believed that they went extinct 65 million years ago... until a South African fisherman caught one in 1938. [more inside]
By popular demand, your new resident marine biology nerd has compiled some cool information about the Giant Pacific Octopus.The Giant Pacific Octopus (Octopus dofleini) is one of the strangest animals in the sea- and one of the smartest. Though it is commonly believed that vertebrates are always "smarter" than invertebrates, these guys defy that convention. As this video shows, they are able to easily open jars and retrieve food from inside. They are also, as the "Giant" implies, enormous- the biggest one on record was 30 feet across (according to National Geographic) [more inside]
Altered Oceans: A Primeval Tide of Toxins The fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour. When fishermen touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos.
What are nudibranchs? Jewels of the sea. Page after page of photographs of these squishy hermaphrodites.
Eww, what's that smell? It's kind of sad, really, a poor little creature, velella, also known as "by-the-wind sailor" that spends its life cruising the wavetops, is unceremoniously stranded all along the west coast beaches, due to a shift in the spring winds. It happens in my town, Dillon Beach, every couple of years but they're really thick this year.