Imagine living on the African plains, spending most of your day finding food to fill your daily calorie load. In addition, there are predators in the shadows, not far away; you have to always watch your back. Sounds like stressful life, doesn’t it?
In a way, we all know being stressed is bad for the health. Nevertheless, stress response is an evolutionary trait with benefits—exhibited by numerous members of the animal kingdom. Becoming stressed generates a series of physiological changes that prepare animals for the Fight-or-Flight behaviour. The level of stress hormone, corticosteroids rises and activates the body: the heart start racing, breathing is faster, and the muscles become tensed. So, for the 30 seconds that you find a lion chasing after you, stress is very helpful and essential to your survival. Continue reading
Image: National Geographic
Jason deCaires Taylor, a British sculptor based in Mexico, has created an underwater art installation. 400 permanent sculptures have been placed at the bottom of the ocean in the National Marine Park of Cancun. The work is called “Silent Evolution”.
See the video here
The work is really interesting because it will never be finished. Taylor continues to create more figures to add but because organisms will be living on and around it they will continue to change the appearance long after Taylor stops adding new pieces.
As part of MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte, “Sub-aquatic Museum of Art”) the artificial reef was created in hopes of providing habitat for fish and many other species. The installation should also serve as a tourist attraction boosting business for snorkel and scuba charters in addition to diverting traffic away from the threatened natural reefs.
The sculptures are made using castings of real people, many of them locals. The final statues are made of a neutral pH, marine-grade cement. All the materials were tested for their impact on marine life prior to the installation.
Image: National Geographic
Since their placement in 2010, the sculptures have created a home for many fish species that have been absent from the area. The sculptures are already covered in a layer of algae and some coral, indicating that reef habitat will continue to grow. There has also already been a number of visiting snorkelers and scuba divers to the area.
It is great when artists think of the environment in their work. As a Scuba diver and an art enthusiast I would love to go see this in person. I think it sends a really important message about the danger the world’s coral reefs are in. Being in such a popular vacation spot should help spread the word of ocean and coral reef conservation.
Hopefully some scientists will monitor the site as an experiment to see when and how organisms like corals and algae attach themselves to rocks. These first settlers often determine which animals settle next and can affect the overall makeup of the reef community. It will be very interesting to see what kinds of life are there in a couple of years and what the sculptures look like. They may not even be recognizable!
Looking at my twitter feed I came across a tweet from the National Geographic society:
@NatGeoSociety National Geographic In case you missed it: Green #Space Blob Birthing Stars http://on.natgeo.com/fxPFqF
This is just really weird sounding, so I had to check it out. Definitely a good tactic to get people to pay attention. Take a look at the article here.
The discovery of the ‘blob’ started with Galaxy zoo, an online database for identifying and classifying galaxies from photos. Anybody can sign up and start classifying. I tried it out myself while I was researching this post and before long I had classified 25 galaxies. It’s quite addicting.
According to the National Geographic article, a Dutch school teacher came across the green blob of gas in one of the photos on Galaxy zoo. This made scientists aware of the cloud’s existence and further investigation was possible. The photo above is the clearest one to date and from it scientists can tell that new stars are being born from this gas cloud.
I think this story is a great example of how publicly available databases can help scientists. It can be impossible for a handful of scientists to catalogue such large data sets. These types of databases exist in many areas of science; there are many apps, websites and hot lines for reporting rare wildlife sightings, as one example. Hopefully we’ll see more media coverage of these databases in the future so more people can make their contribution to science.