Thar She Blows!

Animal studies in water and in space

Sperm Whale Prepares to Dive
Michelle Reback (GNU Free Documentation License)

Whales, spiders, butterflies, explaining optical illusions, anticipating flu outbreaks, and more, all in today's links.

  • Authorities shut down the basement lab of a retired chemist, charging the 71-year-old man $17,000 for clean-up. (And no, he wasn't making methamphetamines.) The city said his home posed a health risk, but hobby chemists worry this is just another limitation on practicing home science.
  • Google is looking for regional spikes in searches for phrases like "flu symptoms" to help public health officials catch outbreaks sooner. We're sure there are other ways to determination the best course of action based on mob behavior -- could Google have alerted us that kaffiyehs were going to become the next trucker hat, and should thus be avoided?
  • It's not all in your head: the reason it looks like the black and white lines in those optical illusion pictures are moving may be due to microsaccades, tiny, involuntary eye motions.
  • All together now: Spiders! In! Spaaaaaaaaace! NASA is sending some spiders and butterfliesi into space. We cannot wait to see what webs spun in low gravity will look like.
  • Scientists needed a better way to gather the exhaled gas and mucus from sperm whales -- so they came up with a remote control helicopter fitted out with petri dishes.