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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

10 AMAZING MOATS AROUND THE WORLD


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10 Amazing Moats Around the World
By Bess Lovejoy,
Mental Floss, 31 August 2015.

Everyone knows that no truly awesome castle is complete without a moat. These long, broad ditches, which may or may not be filled with water, mostly served to protect against marauding invaders, although some also helped stabilize buildings, and still others were just status symbols - the medieval equivalent of imported sports cars lining your driveway. While England is said to have 5,000 moats alone, they're also found in Africa, Japan, Asia, and elsewhere, protecting fortresses, temples, and towns as well as castles. Read on for ten amazing moats that you can still see.

1. Forbidden City, China

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Credit: Charlie fong/Wikimedia Commons

The world's largest palace, located in the heart of Beijing, has an equally impressive moat. A 170-foot-wide, 20-foot-deep rectangle of water surrounds the Forbidden City, a massive complex of villas, shrines, storehouses, chapels, residences, and gardens that housed China's emperors and their families for almost 500 years, from 1420 to 1912. Once meant for protection, the water now adds a picturesque touch to the complex, which has become a museum.

2. Český Krumlov Castle, Czech Republic

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Credit: Tjflex2/Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What's better than a castle with a moat? A castle with a moat filled with bears, obviously. The State Castle and Chateau of Český Krumlov, the second-biggest castle complex in Central Europe, includes a dry moat that's been periodically filled with bears since at least 1707. Legend has it that the animals were given to the Rosenbergs, who ruled the castle and region for about 400 years, as a token of their supposed connection with an Italian family of nobles called the Orsinis. ("Orsa" means female bear in Italian.) According to the Associated Press, "The animals get their own birthday parties and a big Christmas Eve Bear festival where children bring presents and food for them." They even have their own bear-keeper, a devoted man named Jan Černý, who is working to update the moat's ursinarium to modern-day bear living standards.

3. Fort Bortange, Netherlands


This star-shaped fort, with its accompanying network of star-shaped moats, was created in the late 16th century by Prince William the Silent during the Eighty Years' War. The Dutch were fighting for independence from Spain, and the fort's original purpose was to control the only road between Germany and the city of Groningen, which the Spaniards had taken over. The fort saw several battles before being converted into a village in 1851, but since the 1970s, it’s been an open-air museum. (It's far from the world's only star fort, by the way: the design evolved during the Renaissance as a response to increased use of gunpowder. Cannons could easily penetrate the high stone walls of medieval fortresses, but the star forts' lower angles, made from earthen or brick walls, were created to better resist cannon fire.)

4. Himeji Castle, Japan


The largest and most famous of Japan's “samurai castles,” Himeji Castle is sometimes called Shirasagi-jo ("White Heron Castle") because its graceful white exterior is thought to resemble the bird. The castle complex includes 83 buildings, with well-preserved turrets, keeps, and courtyards, as well as a system of three moats meant to repel invaders. Building them required huge amounts of stone - more than three miles of it for the inner moat alone, exhausting local quarries so much that builders also incorporated Buddhist sculptures and stone coffins from prehistoric burial mounds, according to journalist Kristin Johannsen.

5. Egeskov Castle, Denmark

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Credit Hans Splinter/Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

At Egeskov Castle, the moat is an entire lake, which the castle stands on top of, supported by a system of oak pilings. (Supposedly the castle required an entire oak forest to construct: hence its name, which means “oak forest.”) Built by nobleman Frands Brockenhuus and completed in 1554, it’s now said to be the best-preserved moated castle in Europe, and is open to the public. Aside from the moat, the castle includes 66 rooms, 171 doors, more than 2,000 window panes, a farm, a car museum, and an exquisitely detailed dollhouse. Tradition has it that if a wooden sculpture of a man lying beneath the spire of the castle's tower is ever moved from his cushion, the castle will sink into the moat on Christmas Eve. (Not surprisingly, the castle’s inhabitants have usually chosen to spend Christmas elsewhere, just in case.)

6. Benin Walls, Nigeria

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Image via Otedo

The City of Benin was once protected by a system of ramparts and moats that are said to have been the largest earthwork ever made. According to the New Scientist, they once extended for almost 1,000 miles, in a network of 500 interconnected boundaries. Dug by the Edo people between about 800 and 1500, they are also said to have been four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and to have taken about 150 million hours of digging to construct. Though much of them were destroyed by the British in 1897, parts are still around.

7. Bodiam Castle, England

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Credit: Gabrielle Ludlow/Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

With its spiral staircases, massive towers, battlements, and ruined interior, the 14th century Bodiam Castle is pretty much your childhood dream come to life. And of course, there's a moat, about 540 feet long and 8 feet deep, and now stocked with ducks and fish. The castle was built by former knight Sir Edward Dallingridge in 1385 during the Hundred Years' War for protection against the French (supposedly, although Dallingridge saw it more as a status symbol) and has been largely unaltered since its construction.

8. Fort Monroe, Virginia

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Credit: dbking/Wikimedia Commons

The largest stone fort ever built in the U.S., the seven-sided Fort Monroe was built by the U.S. government from 1819-1834 at a strategic point on the tip of the Virginia peninsula. A moat surrounds all the inner structures. While most of the rest of Virginia fell to Confederate hands, the fort remained in Union control, and became a haven for former slaves. Former Confederate President Jefferson Davis also spent two years imprisoned at the site. It remained in military use until 2011, when it was decommissioned and became a national monument you can now explore.

9. Matsumoto Castle, Japan

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Nicknamed "Black Crow Castle" for its sombre exterior (and in contrast to the “White Heron Castle,” Himeji), Matsumoto Castle was once ringed by three concentric stone moats: one encircled a tower, one protecting palaces and storehouses, and one surrounding the residential quarters where the families of 90 high-ranking samurais lived. Today, only two of the moats remain, but the castle is one of the most-visited in Japan.

Built in the early 16th century, the castle was in use for about 350 years, and is now open to the public as a museum. It also contains a unique addition: in the early 16th century, the castle's lord added a "moon-viewing tower" where he and his friends could quaff sake and write poetry.

10. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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Credit: Charles J Sharp/Wikimedia Commons

The world's largest religious building has a moat to match: Angkor Wat is surrounded by a 650-foot-wide, 13-foot-deep square of water that runs for more than 3 miles around the perimeter of the temple complex. The moat is so big it can be seen from space. In addition to protecting the temple's buildings - constructed in the 12th century to resemble the Hindu Mt. Meru, dwelling place of the gods - the moat also helped stabilize their foundation. By collecting runoff from the region's frequent monsoons, it prevents the temple from sinking into the mud below.

Top image: Angkor Wat. Credit: arielski/Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

[Source: Mental Floss. Edited. Some images and links added.]

Monday, August 31, 2015

10 AMAZING ISLANDS YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW


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10 Amazing Islands You Probably Don’t Know
By Marcia Frost,
Toptenz, 31 August 2015.

When you think of island vacations, visions of Caribbean beaches with endless pina coladas are probably the first thing that comes to mind. The truth is that there are amazing islands throughout the world that are perpetually flying under the radar. These islands are lesser known because they don’t provide typical sightseeing, sunbathing, and water sports, or they’re in places you’d never expect an island to be. Each one does have unique attributes to make it well worth a visit.

10. Prince Edward Island, Canada

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Sunbathing is rare most of the year on this island, but you’ll enjoy exploring the land of Anne of Green Gables, who lives on Prince Edward Island in the stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Tracing the path of this character is just one of the options here. This island that many have forgotten has been ranked among the best in the year by such publications as Travel + Leisure. While the weather here isn’t warm most of the year, you can always put on a jacket and head to the beach for one of the island’s breathtaking sunsets. Or, enjoy a picnic in the green grass with local produce and seafood.

Prince Edward Island is also filled with history. In 1864, it was the site where the Canadian Confederation was formed by the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario.

9. Shelter Island, New York

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While the traffic doesn’t move as hordes of people escape to the Hamptons and Montauk each summer, nearby Shelter Island is not as busy. Getting to this part of Long Island does require a ferry from Greenport, but it’s all worth it when you hit land. You’ll find a selection of small inns and bed & breakfasts to stay at on Shelter Island. The restaurants, like the accommodations, do not include any chains, but the long acclaimed Rams Inn hotel and restaurant will satisfy any need you have for luxury.

On Shelter Island you can spend your days fishing Peconic Bay, browsing through art galleries, or shopping boutiques. In the summer, hike through the Mashomack Preserve, attend a workshop at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, or go Kayaking. In the fall it’s worth a trip to Shelter Island just to see the beautiful foliage.

8. Siesta Key, Florida

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TripAdvisor, AARP, Yahoo! Travel, and USA Today have all named the sands of Siesta Key among the very best beaches in the U.S. This island is not near the more known Key West, but is instead one of the western Florida Keys, just across from Sarasota on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

This eight mile long island is especially known for its perfectly powdered white sand, making it popular for runners, volleyball players, Segway riders, and those scouring the shore for sea shells. Siesta Key is filled with places to stay, shop, and eat, but on Sunday evenings, an hour before sunset, you’ll find most at the beach, watching the unique Sunset Drum Circle. The music and dancing have become a tradition on the island which frequently brings onlookers from around the region.

7. South Bass Island, Ohio

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Anyone who hasn’t been to Lake Erie Shores would probably be surprised to find that there is an island in Ohio. In fact, there are five islands off the shores of Lake Erie in this Midwestern state. Among them, South Bass Island is the one which will have you imagining you are really in the Caribbean. The town of Put-in-Bay is home of the world’s largest swim-up bar, SPLASH, as well as a bar filled with swings instead of stools, Mojito Bay. Take a train around to see the sites, or rent a scooter and enjoy it at your own pace.

You’ll also find a lot of history on South Bass Island. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial is the third largest National Monument in the nation. Take a tour to the top and relive the Battle of Lake Erie that took place here during the War of 1812.

6. Block Island, Rhode Island

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Whether you’re traveling from Newport, Rhode Island, or Montauk on New York’s Long Island, you will be impressed when you arrive on Block Island. Between the clear water on the miles of beachfront and the bluffs in the background, this is a place all its own.

Block Island, which is considered part of Rhode Island, is only seven miles long and three miles wide. Along with the free public beaches within walking distance of almost everywhere, this haven is filled with boutique shops, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants. You’ll also find Block Island to be an active vacation spot, offering scenic spots for hiking, horseback riding, and biking. On the water you’ll have no problem making arrangements for kayaking, sailing, fishing expeditions, or snorkelling.

5. Nevis, Leeward Islands, West Indies

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St. Kitts and Nevis fall under one tourism board and are often joined together in thought as if they are one island, but they are vastly different. Nevis is just 36 square miles and doesn’t have a cruise port or a major airport. You also won’t find anything close to a Marriott or a shopping mall on this island.

Nevis has been recognized for its green thinking clean air and lush plant life, and where you are likely to find more than a few monkeys hanging out. The island gets its renewable energy from the dormant volcano at Mount Nevis. Its turquoise water and soft sand beaches comes from both the Atlantic and the Caribbean as this island is on the peak of where both bodies of water meet. This paradise is filled with small boutique hotels and was a favourite of Princess Diana.

4. Mackinac Island, Michigan

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Mackinac Island was as much a star in the movie Somewhere in Time as Christopher Reeve was. This island will definitely take you back in time from the moment you step off the ferry and onto a horse and buggy, the most modern form of transportation on the island.

It won’t take long for you to forget about cars and settle in to long walks, scenic hikes, and rides on horses, but that doesn’t mean Mackinac island lacks amenities. You’ll find all the comforts of home at the two large resorts, Mission Point and Grand Hotel, but if you prefer something quainter, there are plenty of bed and breakfast accommodations. The island is only eight miles around so you can easily bike or walk anywhere. Just don’t leave without Mackinac Island’s famous fudge, available at a dozen different shops downtown.

3. Brijuni Islands, Istria, Croatia

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It’s hard not to consider the Brijuni Islands, which are off the coast of Pula, Croatia, as one island because of their proximity to each other. The 14 islands together make up a stunning archipelago in the Adriatic Sea. You can snorkel an underground trail in the clear waters or explore them with one of the small boats available. As beautiful as the water is, be sure to also explore on land. You’ll see remnants of the ancient European culture that vacationed here.

You can easily reach the Brijuni islands by taking a ferry from the village of Fazana. They are a short ride from mainland Istria, separated by the Fazana Channel. Once there, you can explore all the islands after checking in at Brijuni National Park, the only national park in Croatia. Hotels and Villas are available on Veliki Brijun if you’d like to extend your stay overnight.

2. Pantelleria, Italy

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The beauty of Pantelleria, with its dramatic cliffs over the Mediterranean Sea is only part of the attraction that has drawn celebrities from Giorgio Armani to Madonna, and visitors from two continents. This island is not far from Tunisia and shows African and Ancient Arabic roots that extend the culture beyond its kinship with Sicily.

Pantelleria is the remnants of a volcano and bears the lava stone, hidden coves, and natural mineral hot springs from that eruption. The land has proven to be perfect to grow high quality capers and vineyards filled with grapes, from which vintners such as Donnafugata make sweet white wines. The blue Mediterranean waters also make for great diving, when you’re not feasting on the Italian delicacies the island is abundant in. Your best bet for accommodations here is to look for a quiet inn a few blocks from the beach.

1. Kangaroo Island, Australia

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Words do not do justice to an island with over 300 miles of coastline with a selection of beaches for every week of the year. Whether your desire is to watch sea lions frolic, dolphins play, New Zealand seals climb, or pelicans fly, you’ll find a spot in the sand just for that. And, if you’d like to get in the water yourself, you’ll find places to swim, snorkel, dive, or even surf.

What makes Kangaroo Island such an amazing place is that the interior offers as much as the exterior. Within the island you’ll find acres filled with wildlife such as kangaroos, koalas, and wallabies, vineyards, restaurants, and shopping. You’ll also find accommodations that range from luxury on the Southern Ocean to a wildlife sanctuary inside the trees. The one thing you won’t find a lot of is crowds. Kangaroo Island, which can be reached from Southern Australia by plane or ferry, has plenty of open space.

Top image: Kangaroo Island kangaroos. Credit: Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble/Flickr.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]

5 MOST IMPRESSIVE BLUE HOLES AROUND THE WORLD


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5 Most Impressive Blue Holes Around The World
By Kaushik,
Amusing Planet, 26 August 2015.

A blue hole is an underwater sinkhole formed by the erosion of carbonate rocks and appears as a dark blue circle of water in the ocean. Blue holes are typically located in low-lying coastal regions, which were once above the sea level many thousand years ago. Intense karst activity - the process of dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum by rain water or streams - created large vertical caves. When the sea level rose due to melting of glaciers, some of these holes became submerged. Owing to their depth, blue holes appear darkish blue because of greater absorption of sunlight which increases with increase in depth. This creates a dramatic contrast with the lighter blue of the shallows around them and forms a natural outline that can be easily seen from the surface.

1. The Great Blue Hole of Belize

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The most famous blue hole is the Great Blue Hole, located off the coast of Belize, a small country on the eastern coast of Central America. It lies near the centre of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 km from the mainland and Belize City.

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The Great Blue Hole is over 300 meters across and 124 meters deep, and was formed during several episodes of quaternary glaciation between 150,000 to 15,000 years ago. It’s a popular spot among recreational scuba divers.

2. Dean's Blue Hole

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Dean's Blue Hole near Clarence Town on Long Island, Bahamas, is the world's deepest known blue hole. While most blue holes and sinkholes reach a maximum depth of 110 meters, Dean's Blue Hole plunges to more than 200 meters, which makes it quite exceptional.

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Photo credits: Left, Right.

At the surface, Dean's Blue Hole is roughly circular, with a diameter ranging from 25 to 35 meters. After descending 20 meters, the hole widens considerably into a cavern with a diameter of 100 meters.

3. Blue Hole of Dahab

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This blue hole is located on the coast of the Red Sea, a few kilometres north of Dahab, Egypt. It is the second deepest blue hole at 130 meters.

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Photo credits: Left, Right.

The Blue Hole has claimed the lives of many divers who tried to find the tunnel through the reef (known as "The Arch") connecting the Blue Hole and open water at about 52 meters depth.

4. The Blue Hole of Gozo

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The Blue Hole is located on the west coast of the island of Gozo, in Maltese archipelago, in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Photo credits: Left, Right.

It is a 15 meters deep and 10 meters wide hole in the bedrock of the cliff. Underwater, the Blue Hole is connected by a tunnel to the open sea.

5. Watling's Blue Hole

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Some blue holes also occur on land, such as Watling's Blue Hole located on the Bahamian island of San Salvador.

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Despite sitting in the middle of a rainy tropical island, Watling’s blue hole has no fresh water, indicating that the hole must be connected to the ocean by an underground tunnel.

Top image: The Great Blue Hole of Belize. Credit: Eric Pheterson/Flickr.

[Source: Amusing Planet. Top image and links added.]

TASTY TECH EYE CANDY OF THE WEEK LXI


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Tasty Tech Eye Candy Of The Week (August 30)
By Tracy Staedter,
Discovery News, 30 August 2015.

How would you like to see the invisible? Explore the ocean 5,500 feet below the surface? Own a solar-powered car? Yes? Then read on.

1. Solar-Powered Sports Car

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The solar-powered car, Immortus, based on technology developed by Australia’s Aurora Solar Car Team, is a boutique custom electric car with components that you or a custom car shop assembles. The car, designed by EVX Ventures, has 75 square feet of photovoltaic panels that generate enough electricity to give the car 248 miles worth of range. Since the car is new, it's still pretty pricey - US$370,000, but EVX is out in front trying to bring solar-powered autos to market.

2. Deep-Sea Diving

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This three-person, underwater craft - C-Researcher - is the latest from submersible designers at the Dutch company U-Boat Worx. The fully transparent vehicle is able to dive to 5,577 feet and comes equipped with a range of scientific instruments, including sampler arms, imaging sonar, a HD video camera system, and other components that measure water conditions, create 2D/3D underwater maps, and analyze the deep-sea environment.

3. Duckweed Survival House

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This floating emergency shelter could save lives during floods, tsunamis or other disasters at sea. It comes from industrial designers Zhou Ying and Niu Yuntao, who won the 2015 Red Dot Award for their concept. The shelter can be quickly inflated and remains stable in high seas thanks to a keel that also houses a gas tank and a filtration system that makes ocean water drinkable. Several shelters lashed together provide extra stability.

4. 3-D Printing 10 Materials at Once

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Most 3-D printers print one material at a time, building it up layer-by-layer into a solid object. But researchers at MIT have developed a 3-D printer capable of printing 10 different materials on the same job. The MutliFab printer, which was built using off-the-shelf components, sprays microscopic droplets of photopolymers through inkjet print-heads that solidify into one of 10 different materials.

5. Algae Foam

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Toxic algae blooms are an increasing problem in lakes and oceans. Now researchers from bioplastics firm Algix and Effekt have found a way to turn waste algae into a foam they call Bloom Foam. The material could be made into yoga mats, sporting goods and toys.

6. TriFan 600

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The world's first commercial plane designed to take off and land vertically like a helicopter could be on its way. XTI Aircraft Company of Denver has launched a crowd-funding campaign to develop its TriFan 600, a five-passenger jet able to fly as high as 30,000 feet at 400 mph for a distance of 800 to 1,200 miles. See the video here.

7. Human Electric Trike

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Now here's a novel way to get around. The GenzVelo, is a high-tech electric trike that comes with a power-assist motor. It has a range of 75 to 100 miles on a single battery charge, but can go much farther on pedal power. [GenzVelo website]

8. White LEDs that Flex

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Researchers at the National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan have a found way to use inexpensive, off-the-shelf parts to create white, flexible LED lights. The device was made from 81 blue LED chips mounted onto a copper foil, which was covered in a layer of yellow phosphor film. The film turns the blue light a yellowish-white and the flexibility of the device could find purpose in curved TV screens or wearable displays.

9. Visualize Wi-Fi

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This app allows you to see the otherwise invisible world of Wi-Fi signals. The app, called The Architecture of Radio, was developed by Richard Vijgen, who wanted to shed light on the unseen infosphere.

10. Micro Fish Swim In Your Bloodstream

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These tiny robotic fish are smaller than the width of a human hair. They were developed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, to sense toxins and then release nanoparticles that chemically bind with the toxic molecules to neutralize them.

Top image: The Immortus solar-powered car. Credit: EVX Ventures Facebook.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Top image and some links added.]

Sunday, August 30, 2015

10 WEIRD CREATURES FROM THE MARIANA TRENCH


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10 Weird Creatures From the Mariana Trench
By Nathan Chandler,
How Stuff Works, 9 August 2015.

It's a geological feature so massive, so vast and so imposing that it makes Mount Everest look like a mole hill by comparison. Unlike Everest, though, it's nearly invisible and will be forever unseen by the unaided human eye. It's the Mariana Trench, an underwater gash in Earth's crust that's five times longer than the Grand Canyon and much, much deeper.

In fact, the Mariana Trench is the deepest part anywhere in the Earth's oceans. Estimates vary a little, but at its blackest depths, a crease called the Challenger Deep, this abyss is close to 36,037 feet (10,984 meters), or about 6.8 miles (10.9 kilometres) deep. If you inverted Everest and plunged it into the Mariana, it highest craggy peak would fall short of the bottom by more than 7,000 feet (2,134 meters).

The trench forms where two tectonic plates (jigsaw-puzzle-shaped pieces of Earth's crust) crunch into each other. As the plates collide in slow motion, the edges push downward into a V shape, creating a valley that has no equal on our planet.

It's a place so foreign that until recent decades, scientists had almost no clue as to what - if any - sort of life forms might be hovering there. If you plunge deeper than 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) into the ocean, there's no sunlight to spawn life. Water temperatures often settle in at just above freezing. And food isn't particularly plentiful.

The water pressure in the trench is nearly 1,000 times greater than at sea level. The pressure is so high that it will crush nearly any creature (or man-made object), unless that animal or vessel is built specifically to withstand those extremes. This particular area of the sea, then, is more than a little inhospitable. But these expanses are not lifeless.

The Mariana Trench is loaded with weird and wonderful sea life.
Credit: © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC

A few manned and unmanned vehicles have parted the waters of the trench in recent years, proving that there are indeed organisms living and even thriving in this nearly alien environment. Fittingly, some of these critters are wonderfully strange.

Let's shine a dim ray of sunshine through this watery, mysterious underworld and peek at a few of the most bizarre living things on the planet. But these species aren't just weird; they're also some of toughest animals around.

10. Dumbo Octopus

The dumbo octopus may look cute, but it swallows its prey whole.
Credit: © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC

It's an octopus that Walt Disney would've invented for one of his animated films. It's the dumbo octopus, which has cute little Dumbo-the-Elephant-like ears atop its 12-inch (30-centimetre) body. This adorable animal also has precious wiggly eyes and a delightful puckered mouth that only add to its cartoonish looks.

This octopus may look dainty, but it's actually durable enough to make it the deepest dwelling octopus known to science. It prefers to make its home all the way down between 9,800 and 13,000 feet (2,987 and 3,962 meters).

When you think of octopuses, you probably envision a bulbous mantle sprouting eight dangly tentacles. The dumbo, however, falls into a category of so-called umbrella octopuses with webbed tentacles that give them, well, an umbrella appearance. The effect is something like a starfish with a balloon head emerging from the centre.

Unlike most octopuses, this species doesn't chomp and grind food with a beak-like mouth. Instead, it simply swallows its prey whole. So if you happen to be on the dumbo octopus's menu, it probably doesn't seem nearly as cute.

9. Deep-sea Dragonfish

It may not win any beauty contests, but this eel-like deep-sea fish displays eye-catching bioluminescence.
Credit: © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC

If the dumbo octopus is one of the most harmless-looking ocean animals, then the deep-sea dragonfish is the opposite. With oversized teeth and a hideous face, the dragonfish is an assassin of the unfathomable deep. Although it's a fish, it has no scales, but instead a slippery, slimy skin that resembles an eel's.

Dragonfish, which are about 6 inches (15 centimetres) long, prefer to swim between 700 and 6,000 feet (213 and 1,828 meters) under the surface, where the waters are lightless and cold. Like many deep-water creatures, this species relies heavily on bioluminescent body parts, which leverage internal chemical reactions to produce an eerie glow.

The fish may use this glow to communicate with other fish or to provide camouflage. It also dangles a lighted barbel, or whisker-like protrusion, from its lower jaw. Other fish are attracted to the barbel, mistaking it for an easy meal. But in a flash, the dragonfish gets lunch instead.

Some dragonfish have also evolved the ability to produce a red glow - an unusual colour of light for ocean dwellers. They may use their reddish hue to signal their brethren, but it's more likely that they're using the red lamp to illuminate prey just before launching an attack.

8. Barreleye Fish

The front section of the barrelleye fish’s head is transparent.
Credit: © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC

Light is a rare and precious thing in the midnight zone of the ocean. The ability to detect even a glimmer of sunshine can mean the difference between catching a meal and being one. So creatures of the trench, like the barreleye fish, evolve unusual features to use shreds of light to their advantage.

How unusual? Well, for starters, this fish has a transparent head. Inside that head are two sensitive barrel-shaped eyes which are most frequently pointed upwards, allowing the fish to see silhouettes of its prey. As for the clear head, scientists think this feature may simply allow the fish to collect just a little more light, which may give this strange animal a bit more of an advantage over its competition.

The barreleye fish wasn't even known to humans until 1939, when it was pulled from its habitat 2,500 feet (762 meters) below the surface. Even then, the specimens were less than ideal because they collapsed in the pressure changes from deep to shallow.

Now that researchers have access to deep-diving remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) equipped with lights and cameras that can withstand the pressure, they're able to observe the barreleye more closely. Yet this odd fish still holds many secrets, leaving scientists puzzling over its lifecycle and reproduction patterns.

7. Benthocodon

The tiny benthocodone is unique among jellyfish in its opaque red color.
Credit: © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC

Jellyfish are fairly common sea creatures, washing up on shores and clogging fishermen's nets. The benthocodon, though, is an unusual type of jellyfish that prefers an environment far out at sea at depths of more than 2,500 feet (762 meters), often right on the seafloor.

These are compact jellyfish with a rounded top, called the bell. The bell is typically smaller than three-quarters of an inch to 1.2 inches (2 to 3 centimetres) in diameter, and it's laced with an estimated 1,500 wispy red tentacles, which it uses to whisk itself through the water. The benthocodon dines on small crustaceans and foraminiferans, tiny unicellular organisms.

Although many types of jellyfish are transparent, the benthocodon has an opaque reddish colouring on its bell. Scientists believe that this hue may help mask the bioluminescent glow of the tiny animals that the jellyfish eats, hiding the benthocodon from danger.

Like so many animals in the trench, this species remains a mystery to scientists.

6. Seadevil Anglerfish

Hey, pretty baby.
Credit: © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC

If a fish has the word "devil" in its name, it's a safe bet that it's going to be freaky. The seadevil anglerfish does not disappoint - it features a whole list of fascinatingly strange characteristics.

It's hard not to start with the seadevil's looks. As its name strongly hints, this is a fish that could've swum up straight from hell, with its misshapen body, razor-like teeth and cold death stare. Although they're bizarre and scary looking, at least they're not huge. Females generally top out at 8 inches (20 centimetres) long. The males are much smaller, at maybe an inch (2.5 centimetres) long.

In a strange twist of reproduction, the males actually fuse themselves to the females. Their fins, teeth and eyes disappear, along with a few internal organs, ultimately turning the two individuals into one. What's left of the male's body essentially becomes a storage tank for sperm that will help fertilize the female's eggs when the time is right.

As an anglerfish, the seadevil doesn't dart after it prey. Instead, it has a protrusion from its forehead that dangles a glowing lure to attract starstruck, luckless animals. With its huge, gaping jaws, the seadevil can actually devour creatures larger than itself.

5. Goblin Shark

The goblin shark is unusual in many ways; one of those is its pink hue.
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If you've ever seen the iconic movie "Aliens," you've been haunted by dreams of toothy, bald creatures bursting from your chest and snapping at your face. Now picture a shark with just such a face swimming around in the darkest, deepest seas. That's the goblin shark, an aptly named monstrosity from your worst nightmares.

Goblin sharks have a protruding snout that looks like a pointy sword. Just below the snout are a set of protruding jaws that appear to be mismatched for the shark's face, as if evolution spun the wheel of ugly and the goblin shark lost in the worst possible way. What's more, these sharks aren't your stereotypical grey colour. Instead, their skin has a distinct pink hue.

If you're ever in the water when a goblin shark passes by, you'll find yourself dwarfed in size - they can grow as big as 18 feet (5.5 meters) in length. Fortunately, you're unlikely to encounter such a beast. These sharks typically cruise way down to 3,000 feet (914 meters), and the older they get, the deeper they dive.

As with a lot of deep-sea animals, science knows very little about goblin sharks. No one knows exactly how they reproduce, and a pregnant female has never been captured. So like the goblins of fairy tales, these fish remain a mysterious and fantastic example of just how diverse life on Earth can be.

4. Deep-sea Hatchetfish

Hatchetfish can actually shift the intensity of their bioluminescence based on the light available from above to optimize camouflage.
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There are a lot of odd-looking fish in the sea, but not many of them resemble humans' hand tools. The deep-sea hatchetfish resembles a silvery swimming hatchet.

There are more than 40 species of hatchetfish. All of them have ridiculously skinny bodies, and many of them have shiny scales, too, which adds to the metallic, hatchet-like appearance. They're small fish, and even the biggest types grow only to about 6 inches (15 centimetres) long. Their delicate looks belie serious ruggedness, because these fish are found in depths pushing nearly 5,000 feet (1,524 meters).

Hatchetfish have bioluminescent bodies, and they can alter the brightness of their glow depending on how much light is filtering from above. In doing so, they're counterilluminating their bodies in a clever camouflage technique. Their dim, self-produced light reduces their silhouettes, making it much more difficult for predators to spot them from below.

3. Frilled Shark

Because of its long body, the frilled shark looks like an eel at first glance.
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Frilled sharks look like a mix-and-match special from the discount aisle at your local convenience store. They have the rounded body of an eel paired with a flattened head that would like right at home atop a terrestrial dinosaur. Perhaps that's fitting, because like many sharks, this species has ancient roots that extend back nearly 80 million years.

The shark derives its name from six rows of frilly gills that grace its body, which grows up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. Just as notably, the shark wields more than 20 rows of wicked, trident-shaped teeth that will tear into any bit of flesh that passes near them.

Frilled sharks probably spend most of their lives near the ocean's bottom, and they like waters more than 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) deep. On the rare occasions that people snag them and bring them to the surface, the sharks almost always perish immediately, making it very difficult for us to observe their behaviour and lifecycles.

For years, many people assumed that frilled sharks swam and hunted like eels. Some researchers think an awkward arrangement of internal organs would make that kind of movement impossible. Instead, they say, these sharks may actually strike their prey with the action of a land-based snake, making them even weirder.

2. Telescope Octopus

The telescope octopus got its name from its protruding eyes, a unique feature among octopuses.
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Like wraiths of the abyss, telescope octopuses float and dangle in the deepest currents of Earth's oceans. Unlike most octopuses, this one doesn't flit about on the sea floor. Instead, it drifts through the water column at depths greater than 6,500 feet (1,981 meters), and it doesn't swim horizontally, but rather suspends itself vertically, perhaps to make it harder for deeper predators to see its shape.

If you were lucky enough to spot a telescope octopus, you'd probably wonder if the underwater pressure was making you see things. Its body is so clear that it's nearly transparent, and between each of its eight tentacles is a delicate webbing that lends this species a ghostly shape.

In that cellophane-like flesh, you'll see two protruding eyeballs unlike those found in other octopuses. These eyes provide wider peripheral vision so that the octopus can see predators and prey alike. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, those eyes also rotate, perhaps offering the creature an even better way to see through the darkness of its deep haven.

1. Zombie Worms

It make look Seussian, but the zombie worm can break down massive creatures with the acid it secretes.
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Officially, it's called the osedax, and its name, as well as its feathery appearance, make it seem like a plant from a Dr. Seuss book. But this worm also goes by fiercer monikers such as bone worm or zombie worm, and it can consume the rock-hard bones of some of Earth's biggest animals, including whales.

The zombie worm secretes acids to help it access the inner contents of those dead whale bones. Then, it uses symbiotic bacteria to convert the bone's proteins and fats into nutrients that serve as its food. Its feathery "branches" wiggle in the water, pulling in oxygen to keep the worm alive.

Female zombie worms can grow up to around 2 inches (5 centimetres) long. The males are microscopic by comparison, and females will collect a male harem of these tiny guys on their bodies. Eventually, the males find their way into the female's oviducts. The female releases her fertilized eggs into the water, the worm's lifecycle begins anew, and the zombie worms go about their business of cleaning up whale debris in the ocean's darkest corners.

Thanks to better technologies, we humans have finally begun to peer into the blackness of the Mariana Trench. Still, this underwater canyon is one of the most unexplored places on our planet, and it will likely remain so until we find new ways to peer into the depths without risking being crushed or drowned (or breaking our research budgets).

So like the trench itself, the animals that live there will continue to be mysteries, too. They may be our Earth cousins, but considering how little we know about them, they might as well be from another world.

Author's Note: More than two decades ago, I was fascinated by "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau," a documentary-style TV show that explored the world's oceans. The crew poked their cameras into every underwater nook and cranny they could find, showing millions of viewers a new perspective on life beneath the waves. Although these days our cameras and scientific technology have improved immensely, we still have more questions than answers about life in the deepest parts of our seas - a testament to just how difficult it is for us to go adventuring in some parts of our own planet.

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Top image: Goblin Shark. Credit: Dianne Bray/Wikimedia Commons.

[Post Source: How Stuff Works. Edited. Top image added.]