Tyrannical director, film producer, screenwriter, and self-proclaimed "king of the world" James Cameron, to be fair, has done a lot. Maybe he helmed his movies and projects with an ego and a serious dose of bluster, but the man is also a deep-sea explorer who leveled up the science of aquatic cinematography and robotics. Now he's doing it again, but this time by letting go of the wheel. Cameron has donated his own personal submersible -- which, not coincidentally, looks like something out of The Abyss -- to science. Specifically, to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), with which he's had a longstanding relationship.
Squids are one of many animals capable of changing color when they feel threatened, frightened, or just need to be a little dressier, but while many animals can change color, almost none can do it as quickly as squid. It's long been a mystery to science just how squid send the instructions to the cells that change their pigmentation, called iridophores, and how those cells respond to the stimuli so quickly. In an effort to find out what stimulates those cells, the DIY bio-hackers at Backyard Brains teamed with resaerchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Using a technique they had already tested by making a cockroach dance, the team attached an electrode to the squid's dorsal fin, allowing them to send electrical impulses into the animal. The electrical impulses they chose to deliver? The Cypress Hill classic "Insane in the Brain."
DSV Alvin is the vehicle that first explored the Titanic, brought back footage from hydrothermal vents, and investigated the BP oil spill, but the workhorse of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has lagged behind technological breakthroughs. But now, the plucky submarine is finally getting the upgrade it deserves.
Currently, the sub can only dive 2.8 miles which leaves 40% of the ocean floor beyond its reach. Furthermore, its titanium-sphere cabin is notoriously uncomfortable, especially for researchers that can spend hours on end onboard. But after $40 million facelift, all that will change. The maximum depth will be extended to four miles, granting access to 98% of the ocean floor, thanks to improved buoyancy foam. New lithium-ion batteries will make that increased depth even worthwhile, providing 12 hours of operations on a single charge. Inside the sub, folding chairs, additional viewports, and an 18% increase in space will make the cabin a little more habitable.
Though it certainly isn't luxury accommodations, it does ensure that this 46-year old little sub will continue making scientific discoveries for years to come.
(via Discover, image credit Kellie Jaeger)
After years of recording whale songs and sorting through 745 songs of six different whale populations, scientists have discovered that whale songs follow musical trends. Within humpback whale populations, the popular tune amongst a group changed over a couple of months. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution marine biologist Peter Tyack believes this quick change in whale popular culture indicates "a complicated and intelligent social process." Tyack believes that if the songs were just novelty, that each whale would sing their own unique song, but since the songs change and spread throughout the community--though some remain popular and a mainstay for a period of time--that whales have "a sense of aesthetic judgment," which may mean that whale songs serve different functions than mating calls and basic communication. You know, to communicate with aliens in the future.