In response to yesterday’s review of Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench, Al Dove made a simple request via twitter:
Your next post should be “What would aquaman look like at different depths?”
This question is more complex than it first appears, and needs a little unpacking. Water is denser than air. When light passes through, the water acts as a filter, absorbing visible light in a predictable pattern from longest wavelengths (infrareds and reds) to shortest wavelengths (purples and ultraviolets). As Aquaman dives deeper, the brilliant colors of his orange and green costume will begin to fade.
Continue reading Epilogue to the Return of the Science of Aquaman: Costume Palettes at Depth
Seriously, is no one else bothered by the fact that his trident has five points? Aquaman: The Trench. From DC Comics.
After reducing Aquaman to a hypothermic, hyposmotic, constantly famished, case study in psychological trauma, I figure that I owe the king of Atlantis a second chance. After all, Aquaman was and still remains the most interesting hero in the DC universe. A generous fan sent me a copy of Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench, arguing that the New 52 version of everybody’s favorite aquatic hero is even more compelling than previous incarnations, with a stronger backstory, powers that make sense, and plenty of humor.
Last time I paid the hapless mariner a visit, many readers interpreted my incisive criticism of the science behind Aquaman as evidence that I had it out for our scale-clad hero. Since you all know that I’m going to take the misguided marine science in this volume to task, let’s start with all of the good stuff in this reimagination of DC’s oft-mocked champion.
The central conceit of New 52 Aquaman is that the comic book world has the same perception of Arthur Curry that we do–a hero with oddly specific and mostly useless powers that talks to fish. In addition, the citizens of the DC Universe believe that Atlantis is a fairy tale, so Aquaman’s kingly status is meaningless to the surface dwellers. The hybrid of a human father and Atlantean mother, Aquaman feels out of place in Atlantis and chooses to return to the surface with his wife, Mera. Comparing himself to his lighthouse-keeper father, he explains that even though he loves the sea, someone must protect the shore.
Continue reading Return of the Science of Aquaman: Welcome to the Trench
Aquaman has an unpleasant lunch. From New 52 Aquaman #1 DC Comics.
Two weeks ago, I challenged the world to consider how the greatest hero in the DC Universe would fair if forced to survive in the real world. The result was a hypothermic, brain-dead lump of jerky with brittle bones forced to suffer through constant screams of agony even as he consumes sea life at a rate that would impress Galactus. In short, the ocean is a rough place, even for Aquaman.
Since that post made its way across the internet, several people have asked me to discuss what adaptations Aquaman would need to survive in this, science-based, ocean. So I went back to my comic books and my textbooks to assemble an Aquaman with a suite of evolutionary adaptations that would allow a largely humanoid organism to rule the waves, trident triumphantly raised.
Continue reading The importance of being Aquaman, or how to save the Atlantean from his briny fate
Aquaman. DC Comics. A rational response to seal poaching is to lob a polar bear at the aggressors.
Aquaman may not be everybody’s favorite superhero, but since his creation in 1941, he has been among DC’s most enduring icons. During the Golden Age of comic books, he held his own against Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Silver Age Aquaman was a founding member of the Justice League. His powers, tied to the ocean, forced writers to create a compelling, complex hero with explicit limitations. In the early days, when Superman’s strength was practically infinite, and Batman’s brilliance was unmatched, Aquaman had to become more than just a superhero, he had to be a person.
If Superman existed to show us how high the human spirit could fly, and Batman to show us the darkness within even our most noble, Aquaman is here to show us the world that triumphs in our absence. The ocean is not ours, and no matter how great our technology, we will never master it as we have mastered land, but Aquaman has. Through this lonely ocean wanderer, we can experience a world that we can never truly command. In many ways, Aquaman was stronger than the Man of Steel and darker than the Dark Knight. He knew loneliness that the orphan and the alien exile never could.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean – roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin – his control
Stops with the shore; — upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, not does remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d, and unknown.
Even though Aquaman had to fight harder, endure the jokes of other, less limited heroes, and find relevance in an ecosystem hostile to the humans that had to empathize with him, Aquaman was never forced to confront the truly horrifying consequences of life in the ocean.
Continue reading The horrifying physiological and psychological consequences of being Aquaman
A few of my colleagues recently came to me looking for advice on how to get started on twitter. Even for seasoned marine scientists who grew up during the internet revolution, establishing a twitter presence can be a daunting task. When used well, it provides a steady stream of news, commentary, and discussion that can provide broad insight into the current state of marine science and conservation. When used poorly, twitter can become a continuous, unrelenting torrent of irrelevant nonsense, punditry, and manufactured controversy. I put this guide together to provide a foundation for those interested in using twitter to engage with the Ocean Community.
There are several great basic guides on how to get started on twitter, so, rather than reinventing the wheel, here are a few of my favorite resources:
All of these guides have some good advice, but really, the best thing you can to get a feel for twitter is to create a personal account and play around for a week or two. Always start with a personal account. You’re going to make mistakes, faux pas, or perhaps accidentally tweet something that you’d wish you hadn’t. You don’t learn to ride a bike on a Pinarello Dogma 60.1 and you shouldn’t learn to use a new social media tool on an account that will be permenently linked to your online reputation.
Continue reading A field guide to ocean science and conservation on twitter
James Bond had them. Baltimore’s inner harbor has them. Mitt Romney is probably building one for each of his moon mansions. From the Alligator Tug to the Boston Duck Boats, amphibious vehicles have been with us for more than a century. Which is why it’s strange to see a headline, dated June 21st, 2012, touting “WORLD’S FIRST AMPHIBIOUS CAR REVEALED“.
Now, if we want to strictly limit ourselves to production line, non-military, non-commercial vehicles (so no decommissioned beach landers or custom fanboat VW bugs), than the first amphibious vehicle was probably the Amphibicar, way back in 1965:
Notoriously leaky, not entirely stable, but still pretty swank. If Romney ever finishes building his moon mansion’s moon ocean pool for amphibious moon cars, he’ll join the ranks of former president Lyndon Johnson, who also owned an Amphibicar.
Continue reading A brief, poorly researched, history of amphibious vehicles
A red wolf. Photo credit: DeLene Beland
The recently-released movie “The Grey” tells the story of a pack of wolves that hunts the survivors of a plane crash. In addition to both being the subject of inaccurate and negative media portrayals, wolves and sharks share many ecological similarities (sharks have been called “the wolves of the sea”). A panel of wolf scientists and conservation experts agreed to answer my questions about these animals and their thoughts on how “The Grey” might impact their conservation.
Dr. Sylvia Fallon is a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She has worked for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Park Service.
DeLene Beland is an independent science writer whose work has been featured by the Charlotte Observer, Earth Magazine, and Wildlife in North Carolina. She blogs at Wild Muse, and is the author of an upcoming book about wolves in the Eastern United States.
Cristina Eisenberg is a Ph.D. student at Oregon State University. Her dissertation focuses on the ecological effects of the loss of wolves from forest ecosystems.
Continue reading Wolf conservation and negative media portrayals: A panel discussion about “The Grey” with wolf experts
The last few weeks have seen a groundswell of support for Kevin Zelnio’s #IamScience movement, what began as a single, incredibly heartfelt post and twitter hashtag evolved into a series of personal reflections, a somber music video, and a tumbler and Facebook page, all with the unifying message that there is no traditional path through science, only your path through science. In the spirit of the #IamScience and This is What a Scientist looks like movement, I’d like to present two photographs, taken more than fifty years apart, of the Duke University Marine Lab’s Marine Invertebrate Zoology class.
The first photograph, taken sometime in the mid-1950′s, features legendary marine biologist and director of the Marine Laboratory Cazlyn Green ‘Bookie’ Bookhout teaching his Marine Invertebrate Zoology class.
Marine Invertebrate Zoology Class, circa 1950
The second photograph*, taken in 2009, features legendary marine biologist and directory of the Marine Laboratory Cindy Lee ‘first scientist to pilot the DSV Alvin‘ Van Dover teaching her Marine Invertebrate Zoology class.
Marine Invertebrate Zoology Class, circa 2009. photo by Katie Wood
This is what a scientist looks like. These are what future marine biologists look like.
*Obviously we staged the second photograph to look like the first photograph (and I’m pretty sure that ring stand hasn’t left the lab in 60 years). We did bring in a few ringers (notably myself, Kevin Zelnio, William Saleu, and another lab tech) to match the 1950′s photo.
Ever since we started tackling marine cryptids (not to be confused with real cryptic species) during our annual Week of Ocean Pseudoscience, people occasionally e-mail me with new “rotting rodent” style monsters. This news story - Behold: The San Diego Demonoid - has been making the twitter and e-mails rounds today. Like the Montauk Monster a few years back, a waterlogged, decomposed critter washed up on a beach, this time in San Diego, and people unfamiliar with what decomposing varmints look like branded it some sort of cryptid. To the right is the uncredited photo (now credited to Josh Menard) that’s been cropping up in various corners of the internet. Like many “cryptic critter” photos leaked to the press, the ones associated with this story fail to show the entire animal or provide any sense of scale. That should be red flag #1 that it is, in fact, a common local resident that is being dressed up to appear more monstrous than it really is.
Now, I’m not a marsupial specialists, but I’ve seen my fair share of possums (Opposums for our non-southern readers) in all states of decay, so those nasty teeth immediately clued me in. Here’s a possum skull (from a Virginia possum) for comparisons:
Continue reading San Diego Demon? This ain’t my first trip down Possum Trot Road