Well, I inadvertently have a squid theme going this time, but I’m going to go with it.
The mysterious giant squid
A wonderful new video (only a few seconds long) of a giant squid. It’s only the third time that one has ever been filmed alive, and this one was in the Gulf of Mexico, where they hadn’t been found before. It’s really neat how it approaches the lure--holding all of its arms together like a very long, bendy spear. Squid can swim both forwards and backwards, and when going forwards they often bunch all of their tentacles into a spear. I think it’s clever of the researchers to mimic a jellyfish in distress.
Squid doing color tricks
A video taken by divers who were swimming along with cuttlefish and squid, which were doing amazing color tricks. It seems funny to me that whatever the message the squid were trying to convey totally failed to translate to anything the divers could understand. But I’m sure that other squid get it.
The genetics of limb formation
A fantastic new discovery by some people studying squid: they found that the same basic set of genes is used to produce limbs in 1) vertebrates like us, 2) insects (which have an exoskeleton with muscles inside, so are about as different from us as one could imagine), and 3) cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, and octopuses), which have weird boneless arms with suckers. [Aside: One slightly confusing bit of the article is that squid have 8 arms, which are analogous to our arms, plus 2 tentacles that they use for catching things—apparently tentacles are formed differently and are not analogous to arms]. Researchers think that the genes tell a cell in the developing embryo where it is in 3D (“You’re on the top, inside surface of the arm towards the head...i.e., the thumb area,”) which determines what the cell will become. It’s one of the most amazing demonstrations of evolution that I’ve ever seen: a single, small set of genes that has been used for the same purpose, albeit with minor modifications, for 500 million years by these incredibly different groups of organisms. Creationists are going to have trouble explaining this one.
A nice description of the social calculations going on in our heads when we communicate in writing.
A math trick
A wonderful explanation of the ubiquitous Fourier Transform. Really! It’s a math trick explained in English and you’ll think it’s cool, plus your knowledge will impress people. The key to why it’s so widely used is that 1) it takes less storage space than the raw signal and 2) the math is simple, so it can be used to process signals at full speed (read the paragraph that starts “Here’s why Fourier’s trick is useful.”) It’s used for making, decoding, and identifying sound recordings, compressing and re-expanding digital photography, in all electronics which have anything to do with signal processing (almost certainly including the modems, routers and so on that are sending and receiving this very email), and in all fields of science. Git Yer Fourier Transforms Here, Nice ‘N Fresh!
There’s a dense mass--probably of metal--under the moon’s south pole that weighs 4.8 quintillion pounds. This is click-bait, but interesting, and the science is real (the linked paper has the cool title “Deep Structure of the Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin”).