Ouch

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_piece_of_sperm_whale_skin_with_Giant_Squid_sucker_scars.JPG

A piece of sperm whale skin bearing scars from a giant squid’s suckers. Once thought to be legendary, the squid normally keep to the deep sea; almost everything we know about them has been learned from specimens found in whale stomachs.

In a Word

obsolagnium
n. waning sexual desire due to age

High Aim 6

On Jan. 9, 2003, Australian officials found the Taiwanese ship High Aim 6 adrift off the West Australian coast. It had plenty of fuel, and the crew’s personal belongings were still aboard (including seven toothbrushes), but it was mysteriously empty, drawing comparisons to the Mary Celeste of 1872.

Authorities spent two days inspecting the vessel and conducted an aerial search of 7,300 square nautical miles, but they found no trace of the crew, who had last contacted the owners on Dec. 13 from the Marshall Islands, halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.

That’s all. The unwanted ship was finally sunk to serve as a fish habitat, but no one knows what happened to the crew.

The Osborne Monster

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15373/15373.txt

A “sea-monster” reported by the officers and crew of H.M.S. Osborne in calm waters off northern Sicily, June 2, 1877. These sketches were produced by Lt. Haynes, a witness, for the London Graphic.

A Lt. Osborne told the New York Independent that the row of fins pictured in the first sketch was 30 to 40 feet long. The second sketch, he said, shows the creature “end on,” depicting only the head, which was “bullet-shaped and quite six feet thick,” and flippers. Osborne estimated that the animal was 15 or 20 feet wide across the back, and “from the top of the head to the part of the back where it became immersed I should consider about fifty feet, and that seemed about a third of its whole length.”

“Thus it is certainly much longer than any fish hitherto known to the zooelogists,” concludes the Independent, “and is, at least, as remarkable a creature as most of the old wonder-makers ever alleged.”

Hive Mind

A colony of harvester ants contains the same total number of neurons as a human brain.

Space Ghost

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth6391.jpg

In September 2002, astronomers noticed something odd: An object about 60 feet long was orbiting Earth. It must have arrived recently, but it didn’t resemble any recently launched spacecraft. It might have been an asteroid … but it appeared, spookily, to bear titanium dioxide paint. Was it an alien ship?

The object disappeared again in June 2003, so officially we’re still baffled. But the best guess is that it’s an old stage of Apollo 12 that somehow wandered away from Earth in 1971, circled the sun about 30 times, and came home to visit. If that’s true then it might come back again in 2032—we can visit it on our rocket scooters.

The Ulloa Circle

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15884/15884-h/15884-h.htm

French astronomer Camille Flammarion writes of a curious optical phenomenon in Wonders of Earth, Sea And Sky (1902):

Ulloa, being in company with six fellow-travellers upon the Pambamarca at daybreak one morning, observed that the summit of the mountain was entirely covered with thick clouds, and that the sun, when it rose, dissipated them, leaving only in their stead light vapors, which it was almost impossible to distinguish. Suddenly, in the opposite direction to where the sun was rising, “each of the travellers beheld, at about seventy feet from where he was standing, his own image reflected in the air as in a mirror. The image was in the centre of three rainbows of different colors, and surrounded at a certain distance by a fourth bow with only one color. … All these bows were perpendicular to the horizon; they moved in the direction of, and followed, the image of the person they enveloped as with a glory.”

“The most remarkable point was that, although the seven spectators were standing in a group, each person only saw the phenomenon in regard to his own person, and was disposed to disbelieve that it was repeated in respect to his companions,” Flammarion writes. “The same apparition was observed in the polar regions by Scoresby, and described by him. He states that the phenomenon appears whenever there is mist and at the same time shining sun.”

Unquote

“We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.” — Wernher von Braun

MacFarlane’s Bear

In 1864, the Inuit gave the skin and skull of an “enormous” yellow-furred bear to naturalist Robert MacFarlane. He packed them up and shipped them to the Smithsonian Institution, where they were placed in storage and forgotten.

Fifty-four years later, zoologist Clinton Hart Merriam unpacked the remains and realized they represented an entirely new species, and MacFarlane’s specimen was apparently the last of its kind. No one has ever seen a living “MacFarlane’s bear,” except for those Inuit — and now their story is lost.

Reading Circle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Bookwheel.png

A “bookwheel,” designed by Italian military engineer Agostino Ramelli (1531-1600).

Because it keeps the reader’s place in various texts, it’s considered an early prototype of the World Wide Web.