Cool story, bro

Every few years, stories of Organism 46-B rise up again, and of course, I’m starting to see it again in 2020. Organism 46-B is a mythical creature of extreme inaccessibility — it lives in Lake Vostok, the freshwater lake buried 2 miles beneath Antarctic ice. You’d think that would hamper the spreading of the tall tale, since you’re not going to have drunk tourists stumbling around the edge of the lake snapping blurry photos of phenomena they call the Lake Vostok Monster, but it also prevents skeptics from dissecting the claims. They think. Except this story has Russian scientists building an elevator and sending scuba divers down to visit. Not true and not possible! A couple of holes have been bored down to the surface, but no one is going for a swim.

The scary story claims that the Russians found a giant monster down there.

Organism 46b is a species of giant octopus, but with 14 arms rather than eight.

It also spits poison and can mimic human form. I think I see a bad B movie developing here.

I’m disappointed. It’s so implausible on every level, yet I think 2020 really needs a tentacled man-eating sea monster.


By the way, one truly cool story: the existence of deep Antarctic lakes was predicted by the great Peter Kropotkin.

Friday Cephalopod: Blinking lights! Wings! It’s an alien spacecraft!

I still dream about cephalopods, even if the arachnids are snaring most of my attention.

Don’t you love seeing how science is done?

I have a few fossil molluscs from the Devonian — they’re fairly common orthocerids, these cone-shaped shells that once housed mighty ancient cephalopods. Mine are small, but some of these shells get to be 5 or more meters long. We have to imagine big eyes and swarms of arms writhing out of the broad end of the cone, because those squishy bits don’t fossilize well. Well, not just imagine, because we do have data that lets us reasonably infer what the animal looked like. Here’s an excellent post that describes how this kind of reconstruction of Endoceras was done.

That’s not guesswork. Using trace fossils and phylogenetic bracketing and assembling bits of evidence from multiple specimens, you can make an informed estimation of the main features of the animal.

And it is awesome. Bring ’em back.

Don’t blame the octopus

This poor woman thought it would be funny to pose for a photo with a small octopus on her face. The octopus disagreed, and bit her.

“And I’m still in pain,” said Bisceglia. “I’m on three different antibiotics. This can come and go, the swelling, for months they say.” She says the whole painful experience taught her a valuable lesson about handling a live octopus.

“This was not a good idea,” said Bisceglia. “I will never do it again.”

That’s one reason they have venoms, you know, besides streamlining the killing of prey. Never do it again. Also, tell all your friends if you survive that they shouldn’t disturb the octopus.

Isn’t evolution grand?

Pulp artists needed cephalopod anatomy lessons

I am OFFENDED. There’s this collection of pulp magazine covers featuring cephalopods, and they’re terrible.

Look at this one: I have a thousand questions. Why are they exploring an alien planet in skimpy clothes? Why is the man wearing a space helmet, but the woman apparently doesn’t need one? Why does the cephalopod have its mouth in the wrong place, and why does it have teeth?

Nice headlights, octopus-man. Also, why is his human face a couple of stories tall? Does the artist know nothing of perspective?

This is the worst one of them all. It’s asymmetric, with some arms on the left improbably long, while the ones on the right looking different. It’s got this hunchbacked, bug-like look with appendages coming off the mantle. This was drawn by a person who apparently never saw a cephalopod.

I swear, I’m going to stop this time-machine and turn it back 70 years just so I can slap a couple of bad artists.