Scienceline Staff Picks

Wandering whales, millipede mating, and sightseeing sauropods

Our favorites from the week

October 28, 2011

Each week, the Scienceline staff combs through the web to find the smartest, coolest, and newest stuff for you to read. See what we’ve got this week!

From Emma Bryce:

Scientists tracking the unfortunately named ‘hagfish’ have filmed it for the first time, squirting heaps of slime at a shark. This, apparently, is what the hagfish does. It squirts slime. To choke its attackers. Who retreat with gills full of goo. How exactly this happens seems like science fiction, but there are a couple of charming videos that lodge it firmly in reality.

The Northern Lights pitched up in Atlanta on Monday night, magnified by a gas cloud ejected by the sun – something called a Coronal Mass Ejection. Here are some magnificent pictures.

Then there’s the tale of the wandering whale – a tagged killer whale which left Antarctic waters for a rapid stint in the tropical waters of Brazil. Scientists think this has something to do with skin regeneration and the shedding of accumulated algae, which is much easier in warmer waters. Five thousand miles for a healthy epidermis? That’s one motivated whale…

From Jonathan Chang:

I don’t have an eye for interior design. Thankfully, a new computer program designed by a grad student at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign could help me better visualize how my furniture and tchochkes look in my living room. Kevin Karsch’s program allows its users to insert any object into a still photograph while accounting for shadows, reflections, and other lighting effects. If you’re computer graphics savvy, his SIGGRAPH paper is available for download. If not, at least there’s a pretty video that demonstrates the program at work.

Catch a glimpse at unicellular life, no microscope necessary. Xenophyophores are massive critters measuring up to 10 cm across for a single cell. Popular Science reports on a recent trek to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, spotting both Xenophyophores and other creatures over 6.5 miles below sea level.

The crazy things we do for a mate. Even though millipedes don’t have a sense of hearing, the males continue to sing. Wired looks into a recent paper that hypothesizes why the bugs behave the way they do.

From Justine Hausheer:

Using oxygen isotopes encased in dinosaur teeth, paleontologist Henry Fricke is reconstructing migration patterns of Camarasaurus, a large North American sauropod from the late Jurassic. Here are links to the paper, and to Ed Yong’s great coverage.

Mt. Etna erupts for the 17th time this year. Head over to the Wired Science Eruptions blog for some great night images of the eruption.

A fantastic grey wolf hunt was caught on camera by BBC film-makers. The accompanying article details the challenges of shooting in the cold Canadian winter.

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