Consolation Monday Video

Even at the microscopic level, we can get cute videos of animals.

To quote Asap SCIENCE:

These lil’ creatures are almost indestructible. They can withstand extreme temperatures like absolute zero to 150 degrees Celsius, survive pressures of more than 6000 atmospheres and spend prolonged exposure to the vacuum and radiation of space. During harsh conditions they can dehydrate to 1% of their water content and remain alive for an entire decade like that. When they’re not being mini superheros you can find them in moist environments, where they feed on algae and bacteria.

But if you’re watching the new Star Trek, you already knew most of that.

 

 

Favorite Invention Thursdays

I was recently discussing the water crisis in Cape Town with my colleagues, and how they are currently heavily restricted in the amount of water they can use per day for fear that the entire city will run dry very soon. We often hear about how certain cities and countries are the driest they have ever been, and how this will only get worse as climate change progresses.

The thing is, I remember the water cycle from primary school. If certain parts of the world get drier, it means that other parts of the world get wetter. The planet as a whole cannot lose water. So, if it doesn’t rain anymore in South Africa, or California, it means that in other parts of the world it is going to start raining far more than usual.

The problem isn’t that the planet “runs out” of water, the problem is getting the water to the appropriate places. Given the way that the Earth is made, alot of that excess water is probably getting dumped into the oceans.

So, how to we transport that water to the places that need it most?

I proposed some kind of barge that could collect rainwater in the ocean and ferry it back to land. My colleague instead proposed a proper desalination method which is run on renewable energy, which can reextract water from the ocean.

I started poking about online and would you know, that second proposal actually exists, and they have been around for quite some time.

[Read more…]

They Found Their Silver Lining, I Guess

Sure, climate change is happening at an allarming rate. Sure, for the first time ever, a gas tanker was able to cross the Arctic in witer without an icebreaker escort for the first time ever, but some scientists were able to find the tiniest of silver linings in such globally catastrophic events.

In July of last year, a gigantic piece of ice broke off of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. When I had heard of it, I felt enormously depressed. While scientists initially hesitated to link it directly and conclusively to climate change, I saw it is yet more proof that we are watching the devastating effects of climate change happen right before our eyes. If it collapses completely, it will simply be added to the list of irreversible consequences which will worsen our situation. I guess I’m just not enterprising enough though, because other scientists saw it also as an opportunity.

This Delaware-sized chunk of ice, by breaking off, also happened to render an ecosystem which had been hidden for over 120,000 years accessible to researchers.

 

“The calving of [iceberg] A-68 [from the Larsen C Ice Shelf] provides us with a unique opportunity to study marine life as it responds to a dramatic environmental change. It’s important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize,” Katrin Linse, of the British Antarctic Survey, said in a statement.

 

As a Zoology major, I am ashamed that I had not thought of that possibility. While I of course would have chosen for the ice shelf to remain intact, if I had such power, once it breaks off, let’s at least take the opportunity to add to our knowledge of our planet.

So, what could they find?

 

Scientists know little about the possibly alien-like life that has taken up residence beneath Antarctica’s ice shelf. […] n other icy realms around Antarctica, some bizarre creatures have turned up. For instance, a bristled marine worm that lives in the Southern Ocean, and Live Science previously reported as looking like a “Christmas ornament from hell,” has an extendable throat tipped with pointy teeth. And some creatures have made a living under extreme conditions, including a crustacean called Lyssianasid amphipod, which was found thriving beneath the Ross Ice Shelf in western Antarctica. One of the more famous Antarctic animals, the icefish has natural antifreeze in its blood and body fluids, allowing it to survive the frigid temperatures of Earth’s chilly bottom.

 

I’m officially jealous of the scientists on that expedition. As a child, my first dream was to become a marine biologist, and I would give anything to get to be a part of that exploration.

Instead, I’ll just have to wait and hear what lurks beneath the ice through the interwebs.