Friday, August 29, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, TOAD!

The Cane Toad (Bufo Marinus) is a massive terrestrial toad native to Central and Southern America. In 1935 they were introduced to Australia in an attempt to control the native Cane Beetle population which was growing out of control. Initially there were 3000 young toads introduced, but since then they have grown to an astonishing 200 million. Due to their migratory nature they have started to evolve larger legs, larger bodies, and increased their speed of movement.

It is estimated that these toads migrate at an average of 40 km per year. This is making people nervous since they are starting to destroy flora, as well as other species, such as the Northern Quoll and certain snakes. To get an idea of how they are spreading, see the map below:

Recently some researchers have made progress predictions regarding the migration of this explosively breeding species. In the spirit of the recent Olympics, scientists have staged a 2 meter sprint event in a laboratory setting. The Ecography journal reports that Toads could hop as fast as 2km per hour at 30C, but were only able to hop at 0.3 km per hour at 15C.

Previous studies have predicted that southern regions of Australia, including Melbourne, will eventually face the toad invasion. Head researcher Dr. Kearney feels otherwise: "The cane toads cannot survive in much of southern Australia because they would be too cold to move about and forage or spawn." Perhaps these cold temperatures will halt the progress of the toad army after all.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blackle

Developed by Heap Media Australia, is this easy alternative to Google... what's the difference? Instead of a white background, it's black. Other than that, there are plenty of Google extras that have been omitted.

So what's the big deal? Blackle argues that computer monitors use different amounts of energy dependent on what colors they are showing. In a 2002 study, they determined that an all black screen used less energy than an all white screen. Although this might be insignificant during your own 30 second search, think of the billions of hits that Google receives. Blackle creators estimate that a black Google would save 750 megawatt hours per year. To put that in perspective, 1 megawatt hour is the equivalent of 10,000 hundred-watt light bulbs turned on for 1 hour. On the Blackle Homepage they have a counter showing the number of watt hours saved. As of August 28, 2008 they claim to have saved 793,544.792 watt hours.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Exploding Whale

This post might not be about something recent, but it's still quite remarkable. In 1970, a huge sperm whale beached at Florence, Oregon. In an attempt to deal with the massive rotting carcass, the Oregon Highway Division decided to blow it up using dynamite. Since this was a rare occurrence, they did not have any previous trials to investigate in order to determine the proper amount of dynamite to use.

This entire ordeal became famous after columnist Dave Berry wrote about it. The footage of the clean up gone wrong has circulated all over the internet, check it out here:

video

Friday, August 15, 2008

Abracadabra Chupacabra

This picture is a still taken from the recent video capturing the legendary animal rumored to wander parts of the Americas. The name Chupacabra comes from the Spanish word chupar (to suck) and cabra (goat), because the animal apparently has a habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats. Although there have been numerous sightings over the past 20 years, everywhere from Puerto Rico to Maine, and even as far south as Chile, most biologists and wildlife specialists still view the Chupacabra as nothing more than an urban legend.

On August 8, 2008, deputy Brandon Riedel used his dashboard camera to film an unidentifiable animal along some back country roads near Cuero, Texas. The animal was similar to a coyote in size, but was hairless and had a very long snout. There was brief coverage regarding the video on FOX, check it out:

video

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hot Ground

The ground in a certain region of Southern California, in Ventura County, has reached a scorching temperature of over 800 degrees. This was noticed after the land got so hot that it started a brush fire and burned three acres last month. By the time firefighters hit the scene, nothing but smoldering dirt remained.

"We are a little perplexed at this point, to tell you the truth," the Ventura County Star quoted geologist David Panaro as saying. "This is not your usual geological detective story."

One theory is that natural hydrocarbons, such as oil, are burning deep in the earth and seeping out through cracks in the region, forcing the surface to quickly heat and generate smoke.

Allen King, a former geologist with the U.S. Forest Service recently stuck a thermometer into the ground and got a reading of 550 degrees — so hot that it melted the glue holding the sole of his boots together.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Russians Go Deep

A team of Russian scientists successfully reached the bottom of Siberia's Lake Baikal, the world's deepest. Lake Baikal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It contains more that 20% of the world’s freshwater. It is not only the deepest, but is also the oldest. It was formed after a massive earthquake around 25 million years old.

The safe return of 2 submersibles (Mir-1 and Mir-2) set a new record by descending 1680 meters. Before this, it was thought that Lake Baikal was only 1637 meters deep. They were taking samples from the bottom to further their studies of plants and animals.

Some skeptics might argue that they were really examining potential entrance paths for oil. Igor Chestin, the head of WWF Russia, commented on possible oil exploration by saying, "I think scientists as well as the politicians are enough educated to understand that even if all oil of the planet will be down the lake Baikal, it still will not be worth exploring, because the fresh water is going to be the major resource in the coming decade."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Montauk Monster All Talk

This is the 'Montauk Monster', which allegedly washed up onto the shore in Long Island's East Hamptons. The finding was initially published on July 23 in The Independent. This color photo popped up online last week through Gawker.com. Immediately questions arose as to what this creature actually was. Since then, the story has hit the media full force, including a mention on CNN and Fox News.

Jeff Corwin, wildlife expert from 'Animal Planet', has a simple theory. He claims that it's a raccoon with its muzzle partly rotted away, explaining the beak-like snout. With enough erosion, the canine teeth could easily resemble a beak like structure.

William Wise, director of Stony Brook University's Living Marine Resources Institute, disagreed after consulting with fellow biologists. He isn't sure what it is, but he has ruled out some options:
  • raccoon - the legs are too long in proportion to the body
  • sea turtle - they don't have teeth
  • rodent - rodents have two large, curved incisor teeth in front of their mouths
He mentioned that the general body shape looks like that of a dog, but that the "prominent eye ridge and feet" don't match. This lead him to his best guess, crediting the monster to "A talented someone who got very creative with latex".

All of this is based on photograph analysis, because the actual body has yet to land in the laps of scientists. The photographer, 26 year old Jenna Hewitt, explained its current whereabouts stating that, "A guy took it and put it in the woods in his backyard; he has a big backyard." She wouldn't say who, and wouldn't say where. Sounds fishy?

Here's the other picture that was taken. I'm on the raccoon train...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Oldest Polar Bear Dying

Meet Debby, the world's oldest living polar bear, currently a resident of Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo. She is 41 years and 8 months old, which more than doubles the expected life span for most polar bears that live in the wild.

"We like to boast that we're the polar bear capital of the world, with all of the polar bears up at Churchill and along the coast," zoo curator Bob Wrigley said.

She spent years living in her enclosure with her former mate Skipper, who died six years ago. Zoo keepers claim that they would huddle together outside through the night, even in -40 C. temperatures. In the morning, they would wake up completely covered in snow drifts, Wrigley said. Their long relationship was unusual for the usually solitary animals. Although options aren't too extensive when living in a zoo.

Unfortunately for Debby, her old age is catching up, and reports have been made that she is dying from age-related medical complications. She has suffered several strokes and is losing weight. Her "prognosis of recovery from age-related medical problems is not good," the zoo said in a release. Get better Debby!