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Science Chamber of Horrors

The Arctic is full of toxic mercury, and climate change is going to release it

The Arctic is full of toxic mercury, and climate change is going to release it:

Some time back, I did a post on this Tumblr noting that the scariest part of climate change is all the horrible stuff that can happen that we didn’t anticipate. I would add this to the list: 

Permafrost, the Arctic’s frozen soil, acts as a massive ice trap that keeps carbon stuck in the ground and out of the atmosphere — where, if released as carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas would drive global warming....

The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism

The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism:

I don’t include a lot of social commentary on this blog, but if you want to read an excellent, even brilliant, piece on the dangers of AI, look no further than this article written by the amazing science fiction author Ted Chiang.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems...

typhlonectes: Munnopsid isopods are often found walking along...



typhlonectes:

Munnopsid isopods are often found walking along the abyssal plain.

These “Daddy Long Legs” of the deep have long walking legs and antennae making them well-suited for this habitat, but they can also swim by paddling their legs.

This species, Paropsurus giganteus, can get quite large. Lasers mounted on the ROV’s camera housing (the red dots you see) measure 29 centimeters (11.4 inches). This species lives deep on the seafloor, over 3,000 meters, but there...

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! In honor of the holiday, here are links to a few classic horror fiction stories that were inspired by the science of their eras.

The Damned Thing, Ambrose Bierce (1893). A story inspired by the existence of invisible radiation! Investigators probe into the mysterious mutilation of a man.

The Horror Horn, E.F. Benson (1923).  Recognition that humans evolved from more primitive ancestors inspired this story of a terrible chase on a shunned mountain.

The Whisperer...

Math’s Beautiful Monsters - Issue 53: Monsters - Nautilus

Math’s Beautiful Monsters - Issue 53: Monsters - Nautilus:

Monsters in literature are often creatures that defy our understanding of natural laws and inexorably destroy everything they come into contact with. Well, it turns out that this description can also apply to concepts in math and science.  Over at Nautilus, Adam Kucharski describes how mathematician Karl Weierstrass invented a simple mathematical beast that tore down much of the established ideas of calculus:...

Arsonist falcons suggest birds discovered fire before humans did

Arsonist falcons suggest birds discovered fire before humans did:

Okay, it can be creepy enough thinking of birds of prey as flying carnivorous dinosaurs. But now you can also think of them as flying carnivorous dinosaurs that like to burn things. From New Scientist

Some birds of prey have learned to control fire, a skill previously thought to be unique to humans. The birds appear to deliberately spread wildfires in order to flush out prey. The finding suggests that birds...

mszombi: imagineham: plume: OMG everyone I know the ACTUAL...













mszombi:

imagineham:

plume:

OMG everyone I know the ACTUAL story behind the gif this time!

Yes, it’s in Australia– that’s a big angry goanna that wandered into a popular restaurant. All the Australians in the vicinity went OH FUCK NO and cleared off, because goannas are mean.

The waitress you see there is a French exchange student, who was quoted as saying something to the effect of “I thought it was a weird ugly dog” and had no idea it was a reptile that wanted to rip her...

It came from beneath the sea!

It is basically a scene from a horror movie: an innocent victim is relaxing on a tropical island, when a monstrous creature that should not exist on land appears and tears it limb from limb.

But in this case, I’m not referring to a horror movie, but a scene that was actually observed recently, as reported in the Guardian:

A large, land-dwelling crustacean known as a coconut or robber crab has been seen hunting and killing a seabird, the first time such behaviour has been observed...

Ernest Fox Nichols’ darkly memorable lecture

Though there are many, many lectures given in the sciences, relatively few of them really stand out in a historical sense. One famous exception is Hans Christian Oersted’s 1820 lecture on electricity and magnetism, during which he discovered the relationship between electricity and magnetism.  This is, as far as I know, the only time that a major scientific discovery has been made for the first time in front of a lecture audience.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of “memorable”...

Terrifying ancient crocodile discovered in the Sahara was almost the size of a bus

Terrifying ancient crocodile discovered in the Sahara was almost the size of a bus:

Speaking of giant creatures, as we did in the last post, lots of ancient predators were HUGE.  And they would definitely be dangerous to humans, if they weren’t extinct. 

In 2016, for example, paleontologists uncovered an ancient crocodile in the Sahara that was scary big:

This prehistoric crocodile is believed to have measured more than 30 feet long and weighed three tons. The skull alone...

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