Bone-eating worms have been munching on the skeletons of dead whales (and most likely the ancestors of whales) for tens of millions of years. But they were only discovered back in 2012. Robert Vrijenhoek was exploring the floor of Monterey Bay in a submarine when he came upon a whale carcass:
"One of the first things we noticed during that first dive were large white mats of bacteria that were decomposing tissue and other parts of the carcass. A little octopus had taken up residence in a ‘cave’ created by the hole in the back of the whale’s skull. Below the octopus’ lair was a pile of crab legs and other crab parts. He was having a great time picking off the bright red lithodid crabs that were crawling all over the carcass, bringing the crabs back to his home, and dropping the debris on his doorstep. So this dead whale had become a little self-contained ecosystem, complete with predators, decomposers, and bacteria."
"But the other thing we noticed was the proliferation of these little red worm-like creatures. They were all over the bones. They were growing like crazy, carpeting the remaining whale bones. The worms had short trunks topped by red plumes, and were about an inch or two in height. There were thousands of them waving in the current. It was really fascinating to watch."
A few of these worm species have been described now, all under the genus “Osedax” (which means bone-eater). They’re part of the final chapter in the after life of a whale — gathering up the last remaining nutrients and reducing the skeleton to dust.
Hair straightener, by Amber Kates
That hair isn’t on fire. And the hair straightener isn’t smoking. We’re actually seeing changes in air density caused by the rising heat. Our eyes wouldn’t pick up on any of this. We would just see clear air — in other words, nothing.
Candle, by Andrew Kempchinskey / Lighter, Shaun McConnaghy
Burning hand sanitizer, by Nick Neumann / Marshmallow, by Benjamin Davis
These last two visualize flow that isn’t caused by heat:
Golf ball, by Joseph DeMartino / Soda, by Jena Pedersen
Here’s how these images were made:
The technique has a fancy, partly-German name: Schlieren Flow Visualization. It can be used reveal any change in air density. Engineers use it to test the aerodynamics of different vehicles, like this YT-1300 light freighter:
Looking at these videos got me thinking: Sound is just a moving compression wave. It creates areas of more dense air and less dense air. Could I use this technique to SEE sound?
Stay tuned for the answer!
J. S. Bach - Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Glenn Gould, 1981 studio performance
Without music, life would be a mistake. —Friedrich Nietzsche
one of my faves!
These days, getting an aerial shot is as simple (although maybe illegal) as strapping a camera to a drone. Back in the day, though, it wasn’t so easy.
George R. Lawrence, a commercial photographer at the turn of the last century, was known to tinker. (His Chicago studio advertised “The hitherto impossible in photography is our specialty.”) He was often hired to photograph conventions and banquet halls with a specialized panoramic camera he had built himself. In 1901, he had a loftier idea: to lift his panoramic camera off the ground. And not just a few feet — but hundreds.
Photo Credit: George R. Lawrence/Library of Congress
Welcome to NPR’s brand spankin’ new science tumblr. Here, we’ll be sharing animations, explanatory videos, illustrations, science gifs, extras from radio stories, dispatches from the intersection of science and culture, home-made lava recipes, underwater operas, and fascinating graphs hastily scrawled on napkins. Some posts will come directly from NPR’s science coverage, some will come from the incredible bounty of the internet, and some, hopefully, will come from YOU.
A note about our (odd) name: Skunk bear is a nickname for the wolverine. It climbed to the top of the list of possible names with all the ferocious strength of the world’s largest terrestrial mustelid. Wolverines are known for their voracious appetites - they consume everything from voles to caribou. And … here comes the connection … this tumblr is a place for you to consume a diverse feast of science stories, ideas and images.
Dropping Science: Can rapping about science help minority students in New York City in the classroom. A Columbia University professor thinks so and has put together a city wide science rap battle to test his theory. Video by Adam Cole, Maggie Starbard and Ben de la Cruz / NPR.
Happy 80th, Michael Caine!
LIFE celebrates the man’s career with a series of previously unpublished photos from 1966, made by LIFE’s Bill Ray. Ray remembers that Caine “seemed to be a magnet, without ever lifting a finger. And that was another part of the laid-back thing. He seemed to have perfected a way to make things look easy, and so things became easy. See the photos here.
Pictured: Michael Caine lifts girlfriend Natalie Wood off the ground, 1966.
(Bill Ray—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Harvard’s RoboBees to Fill Pollination Gap Caused by Bee Die-off
The Robobees won’t just share the pollinating function of real bees; the team is also looking to imbue them with colony behaviors. Although they won’t have a queen, the Robobees will live in a hive, which functions as a refueling station. Coordination algorithms and communication methods are in the works as well, hopefully giving the Robobees the ability to inform and help one another—sadly, without dancing.
The Microrobotics lab seems a host of possible uses for the robotic insects, including military surveillance, search and rescue missions, exploration of hazardous environments, traffic surveillance, and weather and climate mapping. Unfortunately, though, it seems they won’t be taking over all of the bees’ regular duties. While these Robobees don’t come with stingers yet, they aren’t off making honey, either.
Am I the only one who finds the idea of bee-sized predator drones terrifying?