Plastic Eating Worms and Scientists Running for Office: Thursday Afternoon Dredging, August 16th, 2018

Cuttings (short and sweet): 

Spoils (long reads and deep dives):

Plumbing the depths (discussion):

Please add your own cuttings and spoils in the comments!

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Shark Week 2018 overall thoughts and episode reviews

The 30th anniversary of Shark Week was the biggest ever, with 22 episodes. It was, as usual, a bit of a mixed bag, though nothing was anywhere near as bad as the bad old days of Megalodon, and there was some pretty good stuff. As has become tradition here at Southern Fried Science, here are some overall thoughts on this year’s Shark Week, as well as reviews for each episode (not counting the clip shows, which I didn’t watch- even I have limits).

Overall thoughts:

  • I heard more references to shark conservation this year, though almost exclusively offhand references to how the Bahamas is a Shark Sanctuary (there was one mention of shark fin trade bans in the Shark Tank show).
  • There were more women scientists and non-white scientists than I can remember, but still some major issues with diversity of scientists. (The white male scientists were still treated differently, including being given their full titles, and in one case a white male with a Masters was called Dr. while a woman with a Ph.D. was not called Dr.).
  • 22 shows is too many shows. I may be the only one in the world who actually tried to watch them all and I had to skip the clip shows because even I have limits.

Rather than organizing episode reviews in chronological order or air date, this year I’m going to organize them by theme.

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Eat hagfish, work at LUMCON, clone Vaquita, question floating trash collectors, and more! Monday Morning Mega-Salvage: August 13, 2018

Foghorn (A Call to Action!)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Hagfish (just Hagfish)

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Everything you need to know about conservation you can learn from Alien(s)

As a provider of advice on how to do effective conservation, Southern Fried Science has previously looked to such as The Game of Thrones for inspiration. Today we look at another famous source of conservation tips: Alien (and Aliens)…

A single charismatic animal can be a great motivator for action.

Jones the cat

Scientists sometimes have self interests that can derail a project.

Science officer Ash

Just when you think everything is going ok a crisis hits…

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Beware the ghost! The problem of conference ‘ghosting’

 

Ghosting – the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.

Have you ever seen a ghost at a conference? That’s when a presentation is in the program, and the audience is assembled expectantly, and the presenter never turns up. Ghosting is becoming increasingly common at conferences, and as a meeting organizer it’s incredibly frustrating. Conferences only have a limited number of presentation slots. So, if someone says they are going to attend, and then don’t, that’s a slot that could have been taken by someone else. For a student, or someone early in their career, having a conference presentation slot could make a huge difference. So for someone to ‘waste’ a presentation slot by simply not turning up, you are being unthinking towards colleagues as well as the meeting organizers.

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Resurrection

Life has unbelievably complex and diverse strategies to ensure survival. Organisms are able to go dormant during unfavorable conditions, and resuscitate once the environment becomes ideal again. This can play out over relatively short time periods such as when animals hibernate, or over longer periods where organisms can go into stasis, e.g. reviving bacteria from 250 million year old salt crystals.

Researchers in Russia recently thawed out permafrost sediment frozen for the past 42,000 years, and revealed once frozen and now living nematodes. Yes you heard that correctly, worms birthed and subsequently frozen during the Pleistocene (42,000 years earlier) were just resurrected in the 21st century. Frankenstein, eat your heart out.

Eophasma jurasicum, a fossilized nematode. (Photo credit: Ghedoghedo)

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Gregarious gars, surprising crocs, mustachioed monkeys, ocean wilderness, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: July 30, 2018

Logo for Monday Morning Salvage.

Foghorn (A Call to Action!)

A gar wearing a red cap.

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

 marine biologist Melissa Cristina Márquez

Marine biologist Melissa Cristina Márquez

The Gam (conversations from the ocean-podcasting world)

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How many nuclear weapons are at the bottom of the sea. An (almost certainly incomplete) census of broken arrows over water.

What’s the weirdest think you’ve found in the ocean?

Several week ago, we tackled this question while discussing the incredible shrinking cups the deep-sea scientists like to decorate and send into the wine-dark deep. While toilets and spam cans and beer bottles make for good headlines and shocking images of how extensive human impacts are on the deep sea, those are far from the strangest objects to grace the sea floor.

By most reasonable metrics, that honor has to go to the many nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon components that have been lost at sea over the last 70 years. While a few high-profile incidents have received tremendous coverage, most incidents remain largely shrouded in secrecy, with only sparse reports available. Which brings us to a question that’s been lodged in my brain for the last month: just how many nuclear weapons are sitting at the bottom of the sea?

A Mark-43 nuclear bomb. One of these is at the bottom of the sea.

A Mark-43 nuclear bomb. One of these is at the bottom of the sea.

This, of course, does not include the many, many, many times the United States has intentionally tested nuclear weapons throughout the Pacific, often while forcibly relocating local communities away for their now-test-site homes or, occasionally, not. This also doesn’t include the rare lost nuclear submarine, who’s payloads and whether or not they carried nuclear ordinance are mostly still classified. And, of course, it doesn’t include the Soviets or any other non-US nuclear nation.

For the most part, the 1950s and 60s were a hell of a time for losing track of nuclear weapons. By the time the 70s rolled around we had decide that maybe we should be a bit more careful with these things. But by then, we had accidentally dropped at least ten nukes into the ocean in eight different incidents. And we had lost one in a Carolina swamp. And we had almost accidentally nuked Greenland.

Who the heck thought these things were a good idea?

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I built a head-mounted LiDAR array that lets you see the world like a dolphin via vibrations sent through your jaw.

I’m Andrew Thaler and I build weird things.

Last month, while traveling to Kuching for Make for the Planet Borneo, I had an idea for the next strange ocean education project: what if we could use bone-conducting headphones to “see” the world like a dolphin might through echolocation?

The author wearing a head mounted LiDAR array, looking very pensive.

Spoilers: You can. Photo by A. Freitag.

Bone-conducting headphones use speakers or tiny motors to send vibrations directly into the bone of you skull. This works surprisingly well for listening to music or amplifying voices without obstructing the ear. The first time you try it, it’s an odd experience. Though you hear the sound just fine, it doesn’t feel like it’s coming through your ears. Bone conduction has been used for a while now in hearing aids as well as military- and industrial-grade communications systems, but the tech has recently cropped up in sports headphones for people who want to listen to music and podcasts on a run without tuning out the rest of the world. Rather than anchoring to the skull, the sports headphones sit just in front of the ear, where your lower jaw meets your skull.

This is not entirely unlike how dolphins (and at least 65 species of toothed whales) detect sound.  Read More

Gently jelly-nabbing bots, deep-coral under threat, albino stingrays, #JacquesWeek, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: July 23, 2018

Foghorn (A Call to Action!)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

The Levee (A featured project that emerged from Oceandotcomm)

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