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.

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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.




Wow, That’s Actually Not the Worst Thing She Said

I’ve posted before about how deeply annoyed I get with people who flippantly dismiss illnesses like depression as if they are not real, or in need of medicine. I made it clear that it is close to the top of my list of pet peeves, and so of course when I saw this exchange on my FB feed I shared it immediately, taking heart that it had gone viral not for the pseudoscientific drivel, but for the epic response underneath.

Spoken like a true Gryffindor good sir/madam. I shared it, then I sort of forgot about it.

After a few days of likes and a revisiting of the post, I realized that I had no idea who Katie Hopkins was. I figured she must be a celebrity, or her name and picture would have been redacted from the meme, but I wanted to be sure. While I agree with vehemently educating anyone who perpetuates such ignorant and dangerous ideas, if she was just a private person with a minor following of friends and family who then became infamous because of a viral takedown, I might feel a little sorry for her. So, to be sure, I googled Katie Hopkins.

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This Week in Zoology: Out of Sci-Fi and Into a Journal

I’m sure you’ve come across the phrase “stranger than fiction” before. This week, I came across a paper that I think fits this description perfectly. If you had seen this in a movie you would probably roll your eyes at it, unless it was the most wild of sci-fi.

And yet, it seems as though it happened.

Scientists decided to send some planarian worms to space. After 5 weeks at the international space station they returned to Earth.

And one of them came back with two heads. They tried chopping them off, but they just grew back. That worm has decided to remain a two-headed for the rest of its life now. So… that happened.

OK, we’re going to need a little more context here I think. Why did they do this in the first place? What is a planarian worm, and what is the relevance of all of this?

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Alone, It’s Interesting. With Context…

It is absolutely horrifying.

I came across this picture on IFLScience. It was in the thumbnail of the article, and I thought to myself… hmmm. That’s an interesting picture. It’s clearly an X-ray of an adult’s head. But… what’s that extra stuff? An artefact? Something from an item of clothing that he or she had not removed before taking the X-ray?

The image I am referring to is this one.

Which was then followed by this one.

You see it, right? There is something off about this X-ray.

So, what is this image really of? Do you really want to know?

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