The southern sand octopus (Octopus kaurna) whips up some seafloor "quicksand" lined with mucus and burrows into it to rest during the daytime. From New Scientist:
(University of Melbourne researcher Jasper) Montana and his team first caught the octopus in the act of burrowing in 2008 when they were scuba diving at night in Port Philip Bay, south of Melbourne, Australia. When they shone a light on the octopus, the startled animal spread out its arms and repeatedly injected high-powered jets of water into the sediment using its funnel. This caused grains of sand to be temporarily suspended in water, making it like sandy water.
“The sediment became fluid like quicksand,” Montana says. The octopus put its arms into the sand while still pumping out water and eventually dived down into the sediment. The liquefied sand is likely to reduce drag and so allow the animal to burrow more quickly, using less energy, Montana’s team speculates....
They (later) found that the animal used its arms and mantle to push the sand away and form a burrow. It also extended two arms to the surface to create a narrow chimney to breathe through. Finally, it secured the walls of its new home with a layer of mucus that kept the grains of sand together so the entire thing maintained its shape.
"Zoologger: Octopus makes own quicksand to build burrow on seabed" (New Scientist via Laughing Squid)
Dude. When there's a shark hanging out, humans like you are supposed to go inside, not on top of, the cage. Read the rest
Thalassophobes and NSFW-phobes will want to skip this beautiful short about deepwater free diver Guillaume Néry and the kinds of hypoxia-induced hallucinations he experiences when free diving to depths beyond 100 meters. Thalassophiles who love beautiful underwater cinematography and trippy dream sequences will find the underwater footage hypnotic. Read the rest
Jeff writes, "Recently, Ada's Technical Books opened a newly remodeled space with a wonderful cafe on 15th Street in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. It's quite beautiful, light, airy and yummy food options. Each table in the cafe is actually its own artwork, with various scientifically-themed installations in a glass display. In a day and age where bookstores are failing left and right, it's neat to see a specialty bookstore succeed with a cafe model." Read the rest
Icelandic news outlets are reporting that an Icelandic whaling company, Hvalur hf, "caught its first fin whale yesterday evening," after sailing out yesterday with two boats, both due back in port today.
Seattle's police force were very hot-to-trot for a pair of new surveillance drones, an issue that became a lightning rod for criticism of the scandal-haunted force. After public outcry, the city's mayor simply returned the UAVs to their manufacturer
Later this afternoon, Mayor Mike McGinn will announce that he is grounding the Seattle Police Department's controversial drone program and returning the two remotely controlled planes to the vendor, according to sources at City Hall who asked not to be named. "The mayor and chief had a conversation and agreed it was time to end the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program," one of the sources tells us. "It had become a distraction to the two things the department is working hard on, general public safety and community-building work."
The news comes on the heels of—and largely in response to—an angry hearing yesterday held by Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell, who was considering legislation to restrict the use of the drones for police investigations. The program has created a slowly burning outcry since 2010, when the city purchased the units for intelligence gathering with the help of a federal Homeland Security grant.
Crime Mayor Will Kill SPD's Drone Program [Dominic Holden/The Stranger]
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest
Correction: The Borderlands event is on Feb 7, not Feb 8.
As this post goes live, I am on a plane from London to Seattle to kick off the tour for Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother. My first stop is tomorrow (Feb 5) night, at the Seattle Public Library, and then I head to Portland for Feb 6, where I'll be at Powell's in Beaverton. Then it's off to San Francisco, where I'll be at Booksmith on Feb 7, and Borderlands on Feb 8.
There's a lot more cities on this US tour, mostly in the warm spots (we're trying to minimize weather delays, because the schedule is so tight). And though it's not on the calendar yet, I'll be Lawrence, KS on Feb 28 at the Kansas Union's Alderson Auditorium at 7:30 and in Toronto on Mar 1 for a presentation at the Merril Collection at 7PM.
If you're wondering what the book's all about, The Oregonian ran an interview with me this weekend about the book:
Read the rest
A couple of years ago, it occurred to me that the emergency had become permanent. Declaring war on an abstract noun like "terror" meant that we would forever be on a war footing, where any dissent was characterized as treason, where justice was rough and unaccountable, where the relationship of the state to its citizens would grow ever more militarized.
But this permanent emergency didn't have any visible battlefront -- it was a series of largely invisible crises in the form of brutal prosecutorial overreach, police crackdowns, ubiquitous surveillance, merciless debt-hounding and repossession.
This Washington Post article by Ian Shapira is the most comprehensive account I've seen of what happened to HMS Bounty, a replica of the 18th century tall ship which starred in the 1962 Marlon Brando "Mutiny on the Bounty" film, and various Pirates of the Caribbean movies. No definitive word on exactly what caused the accident, but many theories.
In the LA Times today, a remembrance of Ms. Christian.
Even other sea captains are mystified.
Above, a Coast Guard photo of the foundering HMS Bounty.
(thanks, Andrew Thaler)
Rescue video: Sandy sinks tall ship HMS Bounty replica off NC Read the rest
Hey, Seattle! I'll be in town for one day only today, making a pair of public appearances -- first at the University Bookstore at 1230h, then at Elliot Bay Books at 1900h. Both are free! From Seattle, I go east for the last two cities in my Pirate Cinema tour: first a pair of evening gigs at the Toronto Harbourfront International Festival of Authors (Oct 25: a joint reading with Larissa Andrusyshyn, Stuart Clark, Corey Redekop and Robert J. Sawyer; Oct 26, a double-interview with China Mieville); then a Boston Book Festival appearance on Oct 27 at 1615h. After that, I get to go home and see my family for the first time in six weeks (and belatedly celebrate my fourth anniversary, yikes!) (I have a very, very patient wife). Here's the full tour schedule, come on out and witness the miracle of my still being able to walk and talk after eighteen cities and six weeks! (PS: the Humble Ebook Bundle runs out in ten hours!) Read the rest
Dropped into the Atlantic Ocean's North Sea on June 10, 1914, this is the oldest message in a bottle ever found. A fellow plucked it from the sea last year. The bottle was part of a study of ocean currents conducted by the Glasgow School of Navigation nearly a century ago. From National Geographic:
According to (Marine Scotland Science's Bill) Turrell, Leaper's discovery -- plucked just 9 miles (15 kilometers) from where (Captain C. Hunter) Brown released it -- is the 315th bottle recovered from that experiment. Each one, Turrell explained, was "specially weighted to bob along the seabed," hopefully to be scooped up by a trawler or to eventually wash up on shore.
Turrell's Aberdeen-based government agency still keeps and updates Captain Brown's log. Oddly enough, the previous record—a message in a bottle dating to 1917—was set in 2006 by Mark Anderson, a friend of Leaper's who was sailing the same ship, the Copious. "It was an amazing coincidence," Leaper said in a statement. "It's like winning the lottery twice."
Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)
When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.
My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.
But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio. Read the rest
Today, Sir Richard Branson, American sailor, pilot and explorer Chris Welsh, and submarine designer Graham Hawkes launched Virgin Oceanic, a project to explore "the last frontiers of our own Blue Planet: the very bottom of our seas." .
The project includes a partnership with Google: "Using their mapping technology, Google hopes to chronicle the dives as they happen and share discoveries, footage and record breaking achievements with the world."
Full launch announcement follows, along with more artist's conceptual images of the submarine and accompanying catamaran. Click each image for large.