My grandfather, who was on board Marine ships from 1928 through the Korean War, used to suggest eating pickles for seasickness. During my recent cruise in the Sargasso Sea, I finally had a chance to test his theory and it worked. Was it just a placebo effect, was it the vitamin C, or something else in this mysterious remedy?
In 1939, an article in the British Medical Journal suggested corned beef and pickles as a comfort food for those on the edge of seasickness. Maybe pickles are a World War II remedy, because I found this quote in a book called Tales from a Tin Can: the USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay:
“My Amish mom wrote me a letter about my seasickness and said I needed something to sour my stomach. So I made up sandwiches from dill pickles and bread, and lived on them for a few days. It worked. I no longer had any seasickness! My dill pickle sandwiches cured thirty-five other guys on the Dale of their seasickness too!”
~Bluegrass Blue Crab
We’re halfway through our first ever Ocean of Pseudoscience Week. Many great blogs have decided to enter the fray, tackling pseudoscience in their own fields. If anyone wants to join in, either as a guest post on our blog or as a post on your own blog, let me know. Below are all the blogs who have joined us on this adventure so far.
Blogs from the Southern Fried Science Network:
Blogs from the Bliggity-Blag-O-Sphere:
~Southern Fried Scientist
Though the Aspidochelone is not as well known as some other sea monsters, the story surrounding it is so awesome that we had to include it on our list of favorites.
According to legend, this crafty turtle/whale/fish (the story varies between cultures on this point) is so big that sailors think it is an island. Excited to see land after so much time out on the water, sailors make landfall on the Aspidochelone. The beast then submerges, taking the unsuspecting sailors with it to the depths.
Continue reading Our favorite sea monsters – Aspidochelone (#3)
One of the often cited causes for ships that mysteriously and quickly disappear are methane bubbles, released from sub-seafloor gas pockets. The story goes that as methane rises to the surface, the bubbles cause the density of seawater to drop, and any ships in the area suddenly lose buoyancy and spontaneously sink. This effect has been describe as so powerful that it can even knock aircraft out of the sky. Is it true? Can methane bubbles really sink ships?
The short answer is yes, under very specific conditions, but not in the way proposed. At least two studies have been conducted to determine if methane can really sink ships. In a static system with no current, a bubble that rises close to a ship, but not immediately underneath it, can force the ship into a trough created by the bubble, swamp it, and cause it to sink. If multiple bubbles are present in an unconfined system, as is likely in the ocean, ships do not sink.
So while it is conceivable that some sinkings could be caused by methane gas release, the conditions are so specific that it is unlikely that this phenomenon can account for all but a handful of disappearances.
~Southern Fried Scientist
May, D., & Monaghan, J. (2003). Can a single bubble sink a ship? American Journal of Physics, 71 (9) DOI: 10.1119/1.1582187
Hueschen, M. (2010). Can bubbles sink ships? American Journal of Physics, 78 (2) DOI: 10.1119/1.3263819
After several days spent trying to fake the moon landing, Charlie concludes that it’s probably cheaper just to go there.
Below are all the other blogs that have joined in on our week long adventure into an Ocean of Pseudoscience.
Mammoth Tales - Antarctica Made Large
Ya Like Dags – “Voracious Beyond Belief”
Sea turtle research is unique in that many if not most of the people actually out in the field taking data are volunteers. By day, they are teachers, librarians, business owners, lifeguards, firefighters, students, retirees, you name it. If you’re curious, check out the network’s website. Sea turtles are the classic cute endangered animals that can really make someone care about marine conservation. And all of this data has gone to help produce population assessments such as this that confirm that while overall population is declining, some areas are actually increasing. But no where is back to the populations on which people could walk out to sea on the backs of turtles.
Continue reading “You Could Walk On The Backs of Sea Turtles”
Our oceans have always been full of mystery, and those mysteries have inspired many fascinating stories over the centuries. We tend to think of sea monster stories as ancient superstitions, but the tale of the Bloop is less than 15 years old. In 1997, some US Navy hydrophones that had been in place for decades to detect Soviet submarines picked up a strange noise. According to some experts, the noise was biological in origin, though it was many times louder than the loudest animal sound ever detected. Hydrophones several thousand miles apart detected the sound.
Bloop! Image from DamnInteresting.com
To date, there has been no satisfactory explanation for the Bloop. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a previously-unknown giant sea monster. Brian Dunning of Skeptoid has posted a thorough comparison of the Bloop and other strange underewater sounds if you are interested in learning more. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with Brian’s closing words – “I don’t know… yet”.
I tend to avoid the creationist blogs. Every time I get sucked into that vortex of pseudoscience, I find the exact same debunked claims that were bunk when I was 12. There are better bloggers out there who have the energy and patience to systematically dissect the same tired old rubbish day after day, but I’m not one of them.
This claim, however, is special. There’s nothing new in the rhetoric behind it, it’s just another “how could this commensalism/symbiosis/mutualism evolve? It must be magic!” mantra. And the analysis isn’t terribly sophisticated, anyone could do the basic googling to find out why every argument in it is either wrong or deceptive. What’s special is that it’s about one of my favorite critters, Osedax – the bone eating worm.
Continue reading Bone-eating worms and contorted creationist thinking
The Great Big Blue looks like it contains nothing but water and maybe a little salt, especially out in the open ocean. However, this kind of sparse environment is exactly where the chemistry matters the most – it’s a fine line between not enough, too much, and just right. Given this, there’s no distinct myth here but an underlying unresolved question: what is the limiting factor that keeps the open ocean at low productivity?
Continue reading Chemistry of the Great Big Blue: Nutrients