Posts Tagged ‘Video’

Vampire squid on Occupy Wall Street, biology of Vampyroteuthis infernalis

// December 14th, 2011 // Comments Off on Vampire squid on Occupy Wall Street, biology of Vampyroteuthis infernalis // The Realm of Bizzare

Occupy Wall Street protesters took up arms – eight of them – in their march on Monday. Carrying craftastic models of vampire squid high above their heads, in homage to Matt Taibbi’s description of the bank as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” in Rolling Stones, 2008.

Harsh words, right? I mean, vampire squids are totally awesome!

The vampire squid inhabits the cold, high-pressure environment of the deep sea. Light is absorbed by the water, making it perpetually twilight. A vampire in twilight, that’s not horrifying, that’s dreamy, amiright? Don’t hit your head if you swoon.

We don’t know much about these little dudes because they dwell in that most mysterious of spots, the deep sea. Vampyroteuthis infernalis means vampire squid from hell, but it’s not even technically a squid. Or an octopus. It’s got an order all of it’s own.

They have a consistency similar to a jellyfish, quite gelatinous. Like many jellyfish, it swims by shooting out a jet of water behind it to propel it forward, but it has a couple of fins for manouvering. It has eight arms and two extra arms which hide in its ‘pockets’ and can extend the length of its body when needed.

This National Geographic vid is pure pirate gold for high quality images of the creature.

They hold the title for the largest eyes relative to their body. An individual about six inches long has an eye an inch across, about the same as a full-grown dog. All the better to see you with, my dear. They also have a receptacle behind their eye for spermatangia, the tough sac of sperm ejaculated from the specialised arms of a lover. Just imagine date night

The most brilliant behaviour is their bioluminescence. These guys glow!

When startled, squid may shoot out ink to confuse predators. That’s not much good when you live in twilight, so instead the vampire squid shoots out glowing balls that dazzle and confuse. Over a thousand discrete bright particles within a matrix of mucous. Picture that, you’re out looking for a snack late at night, feeling pretty hungry, you think you smell something good and suddenly there’s some wacko waving glowsticks and snot in your face!

Another defensive ploy is to go into pineapple pose. Turning their bell-shaped tentacles over them, they completely change their shape (going kind of inside out). They light up some spots on their head which animals may take for eyes, which glow and then shrink as if the animal has swum away. Even if you didn’t buy that the animal was gone, looking at the videos, you wouldn’t want to eat that.

Stephen Fry gave respect to these sweet deep sea entities in this clip from QI. Hat tip to Dr M at Deep Sea News.

Oh… and about that quote Occupy Wall Street are marching for. The vampire squid’s diet seems to consist of molluscs, fish and crustaceans. As far as we know, it’s not a blood sucker, and Tree of Life. describes the funnel as absent. That must make it hard to stick said metaphorical blood funnel into anything, whether it smells like money or not.

Recommended links

In the QI link, they say the bioluminescence explosion is like John Barrowman! You might know Barrowman as the immortal Captain Jack Harkness from Dr Who and Torchwood, but blow me down, that captain can dance!

Still got time for more videos? Here’s David Attenborough talking about the deep ocean.

The majority of this info was from Tree of Life.

Did I hear you right? McGurk and other illusions

// November 4th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Science at Home

The other day I was chatting about muddled senses. Do we really see what’s around us, or do we just assume it’s the same as yesterday and fill in the blanks. How do we understand half-uttered mumblings we don’t properly hear, and when we think we’ve understood, have we actually listened to the other person or just heard what we want to hear?

It lead us to talk about some illusions that show how intertwined and untrustworthy our senses can be.

Case one: The McGurk Effect

What you see changes how you hear. Take the sound “ba”. When an audio recording of “ba” is dubbed over a silent video of someone saying “fa” – then “fa” is what you hear.

If the video silently mouths “ga” or “da”, while playing a “ba” audio – it turns into the harder sound “da.”

Close your eyes and the effect stops. Open them and it starts right back up again. No matter how much you try to hear “ba”, the visual information overrides the audio. Check it out.

Try it with your eyes open, then watch it again with them shut. Whaaaaa???

This BBC video has more of an explanation and the ba/fa illusion.

Nice, but what are the applications? Firstly, I should move my mouth more clearly when I talk to people instead of my usual pirate mumble-slur.

Second, if speech recognition software uses video as well, it could possibly become more accurate.

DeforestACTION Orangutan Outreach

// March 25th, 2011 // Comments Off on DeforestACTION Orangutan Outreach // Science Communication

I’d like to draw your attention to an exciting global action project against deforestation and saving orangutan habitats.

DeforestACTION are sending ten young adults to Borneo to raise awareness about habitat destruction. They will be living in the jungle for five months, saving apes, replanting trees, basically making a phenomenal difference to a struggling ecosystem. Then they’re making a 3D movie about it, I hope it’s as cool as Avatar.

My friend Amelia is applying for the job, and I wanted to share her video with you. I just love the music and animation.

She is the perfect person for the job. I studied Science Communication with her last year, as we traveled around Australia performing science outreach shows for school kids. Like me, she’s done interactive video conferencing with schools. While I was grooving as Anna Tomy, a model skeleton with a Russian accent, she was a savvy crime-solving forensic detective. I lived with her for a month on the road, until we were pretty much the same person. So if you vote for her, you’re really voting for me. Thanks buddy!

She’s even been to Borneo before to help at an orangutan sanctuary. I remember her describing one morning, running with her arms full of bananas while the apes followed, swinging behind and above. When she deposited the food on the platform, trying to minimize human interaction, one of the little ones walked up and put his hand in hers. I swear, she’s like an earth spirit.

View all the applicants here, scroll down to the login section and vote for your fav. It’s a good year for it, 2011 being the International Year of Forests and all. Here’s your chance to make a difference (by voting for Amelia Swan.)

So many baby octopuses

// March 8th, 2011 // Comments Off on So many baby octopuses // How Things Work, Just for Fun

One of my guilty pleasures is my RSS subscription to Zooborns, a blog all about baby animals. When I check Google Reader, I read sensible, serious blog posts about science until I finally cave and look at the cuteness.

Amongst the treasure trove of nursing giraffes and clinging baby apes was a clutch of baby octopuses! Perhaps clutch isn’t the right word… a handful? An armful! An armful of baby octopuses. Check it out.

Baby octopus at California Academy of Sciences

Baby octopus at California Academy of Sciences

Conception occurs when a male octopus inserts a modified sperm-containing arm into the female’s oviduct, though sometimes he removes his arm and she stores it in her mantel for later. Each egg, as it is laid, contains a long thread which the octopus uses to hold them all together like a bunch of grapes. A thoughtful mother, she protects them from predators and blows water currents across them for cleaning.

Biologist Richard Ross caught the hatching of the eggs on video, and described it as a waterfall flowing upwards towards the surface.

It’s an exciting event, but unfortunately a mother octopus stops eating to care for the eggs and dies which is a total bummer. With millions of tiny planktonic octopus young born, some should survive, though they are hard to feed and raise.

On a lighter note, Zooborns recently posted pictures of a Snow Leopard cub born in Chattanooga Zoo. Snow Leopards happen to be my favourite animal and the cub is so exceedingly cute I might die. A less attractive addition in Australia is the first palm cockatoo zoo bred in 40 years which has passed through the awkward teenage stage and is starting to fly.

Damn I want to work at a zoo.

Physics of lapping lets cats drink without mess

// November 24th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // How Things Work, Recent Research, Science at Home

First up, apologies on the lateness of my post. A whole week has gone past! Oh me! I humbly do beseech you to forgive this old salt and do throw myself upon the deck in penance. Me only defense is that I have just moved from Canberra to Adelaide, and me Schooner does need an awful lot of bubble wrap. To distract you from me own slackness, I have scoured the nets for the cutest science story evah. I ply you with kittens thusly:

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Cats are a more delicate and refined animal than messy, smelly and drooly dogs. I’ve always been a cat person. I think they have higher standards. Turns out they also drink better than dogs.

Both dogs and cats lack the complete cheeks that humans have, which means they can’t drink water by suction like we can. Dogs get around this by using their tongues as a ladle, cupping the water from bowl to throat.

Cat’s do it differently. They lap water briskly, but not like a ladle. Instead, they DEFY GRAVITY and make the water lift up into the air like a glorious floating blob of refreshment.

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. When they dip into the dish, water adheres to the dorsal (top) side of their tongue. The surface tension (sweet, sweet hydrogen bondage) of the water drags a column of water into the air. The cat can thus pull water into its mouth using inertia.

The competition between inertia moving water up and gravity pulling it down sets the lapping frequency of the cat. Smaller cats with smaller tongues lap faster to drink, large cats lap slower. Observation of lapping frequency in big cats like lions shows the same kind of trend, suggesting they use the same physics as the household feline.

Cats might do this because it’s a neater, cleaner way to drink and it keeps their whiskers nice and dry. Whiskers have an important sensory function, so it’s worth the effort to keep them tidy.

The research was published in Science, and began when a researcher was watching his own cat drink. A video of the researcher and cat is below, and shows in super slow mo exactly how water defies gravity when a cat enters the equation.

Did you hear that? Did you? Not only is it physics, hydrogen bonding and gravity defying, plus, PLUS, the tongue could have implications for robotics of the future. Yeah. Robot cat tongues. It’s going to happen.

Actually tongues are very interesting. They obviously have no bones for support, so instead they have a muscular hydrostat system where support comes from muscles. The same thing happens in octopus tentacles, where muscles stretch in one of three directions: Along the tentacle (longitudinal), across the tentacle (transverse) or wrapping around the tentacle (helical.) When an octopus moves, one muscle contracts to become shorter which forces the muscles around to stretch, supporting the movement like a skeleton.

Cats and octopus. You know this post was worth the wait.

ResearchBlogging.orgReis, P., Jung, S., Aristoff, J., & Stocker, R. (2010). How Cats Lap: Water Uptake by Felis catus Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1195421






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