The spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus), an amazing creature that walks the ocean floor, is a rare Australian fish from the family Brachionichthyidae. It is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List 2002. is the first Australian marine species to be threatened with extinction.
The greatest threats to the handfish appear to be siltation and invasive species. The Derwent Estuary where the fish lives is highly urbanised and industrialised, and a range of marine pests have been introduced through shipping. One key pest is the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis), a particularly large and voracious predator that is now abundant in the estuary. Studies by CSIRO show that the seastars eat the stalked ascidians that the handfish use to attach their eggs.
- video CSIROpublishing
Like I always say, a fish with a hand is better than two in the bush
Q:I was wondering if you knew of anything about marine biology as a profession? I'm interested in it but sad to say i don't know much.
I do not, not the level of detail or experience where I’d be comfortable guiding you towards what you might end up doing (or not doing) for the rest of your life.
But I know that many marine biologists read and follow this blog! If any of you feel like sending xsunken-starlightx a message, feel free, or add your advice below…
A gif representing nuclear fusion and how it creates energy.
For those who don’t understand the GIF. It illustrates the Deuterium-Tritium fusion; a deuterium and tritium combine to form a helium-4. Most of the energy released is in the form of the high-energy neutron.
Nuclear fusion has the potential to generate power without the radioactive waste of nuclear fission (energy from splitting heavy atoms into smaller atoms), but that depends on which atoms you decide to fuse. Hydrogen has three naturally occurring isotopes, sometimes denoted ¹H, ²H, and ³H. Deuterium (²H) - Tritium (³H) fusion (pictured above) appears to be the best and most effective way to produce energy. Atoms that have the same number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons are called isotopes (adding a proton makes a new element, but adding a neutron makes an isotope of the same atom).
The three most stable isotopes of hydrogen: protium (no neutrons, just one proton, hence the name), deuterium (deuterium comes from the Greek word deuteros, which means “second”, this is in reference two the two particles, a proton and a neutron), and tritium (the name of this comes from the Greek word “tritos” meaning “third”, because guess what, it contains one proton and two neutrons). Here’s a diagram
Deuterium is abundant, it can be extracted from seawater, but tritium is a radioactive isotope and must be either derived(bred) from lithium or obtained in the operation of the deuterium cycle. Tritium is also produced naturally in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays strike nitrogen molecules in the air, but that’s extremely rare. It’s also a by product in reactors producing electricity (Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant). Tritium is a low energy beta emitter (unable to penetrate the outer dead layer of human skin), it has a relatively long half life and short biological half life. It is not dangerous externally, however emissions from inhaled or ingested beta particle emitters pose a significant health risk.
During fusion (energy from combining light elements to form heavier ones), two atomic nuclei of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium must be brought so close together that they fuse in spite of the strongly repulsive electrostatic forces between the positively charged nuclei. So, in order to accomplish nuclear fusion, the two nuclei must first overcome the electric repulsion (coulomb barrier ) to get close enough for the attractive nuclear strong force (force that binds protons and neutrons together in atomic nuclei) to take over to fuse the particles. The D-T reaction is the easiest to bring about, it has the lowest energy requirement compared to energy release. The reaction products are helium-4 (the helium isotope) – also called the alpha particle, which carries 1/5 (3.5 MeV) of the total fusion energy in the form of kinetic energy, and a neutron, which carries 4/5 (14.1 MeV). Don’t be alarmed by the alpha particle, the particles are not dangerous in themselves, it is only because of the high speeds at which they are ejected from the nuclei that make them dangerous, but unlike beta or gamma radiation, they are stopped by a piece of paper.
Some fundamentals of fusion.
The recent release of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" reminded me of one of my favorite ape vs. man films – this 1932 video that shows a baby chimpanzee and a baby human undergoing the same basic psychological tests.
Its gets weirder – the human baby (Donald) and the chimpanzee baby (Gua) were both raised as humans by their biological/adopted father Winthrop Niles Kellogg. Kellogg was a comparative psychologist fascinated by the interplay between nature and nurture, and he devised a fascinating (and questionably ethical) experiment to study it:
Suppose an anthropoid were taken into a typical human family at the day of birth and reared as a child. Suppose he were fed upon a bottle, clothed, washed, bathed, fondled, and given a characteristically human environment; that he were spoken to like the human infant from the moment of parturition; that he had an adopted human mother and an adopted human father.
First, Kellogg had to convince his pregnant wife he wasn’t crazy:
…the enthusiasm of one of us met with so much resistance from the other that it appeared likely we could never come to an agreement upon whether or not we should even attempt such an undertaking.
She apparently gave in, because Donald and Gua were raised, for nine months, as brother and sister. Much like Caesar in the “Planet of the Apes” movies, Gua developed faster than her “brother,” and often outperformed him in tasks. But she soon hit a cognitive wall, and the experiment came to an end. (Probably for the best, as Donald had begun to speak chimpanzee.)
This is the most adorable experiment that has ever been done.
Do you think it’s a question of how much you balance that drive to achieve with being present and enjoying the moment?
You know, it’s funny because I frequently get emails from young people starting out and asking, “How do I make a successful website or start my own thing?” And, very often, it’s tied to some measure of success that’s audience-based or reach-based. “How do you build up to seven million readers a month or two million Facebook fans?” But the work is not how to get that size of an audience or those numbers. That’s just the byproduct of what Lewis Hyde calls “creative labor,” which is really our inner drive. The real work is how not to hang your self-worth, your sense of success and merits, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on those numbers—on that constant positive reinforcement and external validation. That’s the only real work, and the irony is that the more “successful” you get, by either by your own standards or external standards, the harder it is to decouple all of those inner values from your work. I think we often confuse the doing for the being.
Over on 99U, I shared some thoughts on how to live with presence in the age of productivity.
Star Wars Science!
If you’re curious why I just posted an article about the biology of the sarlacc that lives in the pit of Carkoon on Tatooine, written from the perspective of an interplanetary naturalist based on Earth… trust me, there’s a good reason.
Today, I’m taking part in a blog carnival all about the science of Tatooine in the Star Wars universe! Several superb science writers have posted awesome articles about Tatooine-related science, from climate to ecology to megafauna, on great blogs all over the web. Go check ‘em out:
Why a Bunch of Science Writers Are Writing About a Fictional Planet – Matt Shipman - http://www.scilogs.com/communication_breakdown/tatooine-blog-carnival/
Tatooine Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – David Ng - http://scq.ubc.ca/tipcc
Functional Anatomy of Tatooine Megafauna (Hyperspace Transmission Received) – John Hutchinson - http://whatsinjohnsfreezer.com/2014/07/22/holiday-in-the-suns/
Science of Tatooine: Water – Adrienne Roehrich — http://www.geekgirlcon.com/science-of-tatooine-water/
Cascading planetary-wide ecosystem effects of the extirpation of apex predatory Krayt dragons on Tatooine — David Shiffman — http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=17444
The Limits of Animal Life on Tatooine — Maggie Koerth-Baker — http://boingboing.net/2014/07/22/animal-life-on-tattooine.html
Tatooine’s tangled bank – plants evolve in a galaxy far, far away — Malcolm Campbell —
Diary of An Interplanetary Naturalist - The Sarlacc
C-3PO: “You will therefore be taken to the Dune Sea and cast into the pit of Carkoon, the nesting place of the all-powerful sarlacc.”
C-3PO: “In his belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering, as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.”
It was twenty years ago that I came into possession of that protocol droid. I was its fourteenth owner, although it would not disclose any information on the thirteen previous ones. By the time it entered my possession its body’s brass plating was almost as thin and timid as its AI. For the first year after I purchased this tarnished, golden droid from the district auction, this memory recall occurred without warning, at first daily, then weekly, then, for some reason, scarcely at all.
Owing to this unpredictable glitch, I was never able to make use of the C-3PO unit as a translator or a cultural mediator, not that I ever really needed it considering the advancement of modern neural AI embeds. But C-3PO’s terror, its obsession stuck with me.
It’s a fool’s errand to project free will or desire upon even the most sentient of droids, but there was something about this recall, its intensity, its pain… its fear, so unlike anything I had ever heard uttered in digital voice, that called like a Siren to my curiosity. Never could I have imagined how a droid so distressed would guide my journeys.
What did it mean? What is the “sarlacc” this droid spoke of?
Historic records from the time of the Galactic Rebellion are sadly incomplete thanks to the Great Cyberwar, but even a child would turn rapt at the mention of the legendary Han Solo, and from that very first mention I knew I must uncover more.
What I, an interplanetary naturalist, have observed in my lifetime of exploration and study, may top the list of “horrible ways to die in the known universe”, this thousand-year psychotorture, this eon of agony. I present here my natural observations of the sarlacc.