Attack of the giant self-propelled undersea amoebas!

Paul Raven @ 28-11-2008

Sea grapes on the move make like Fred Durst - rollin', rollin', rollin'.A new discovery from the world beneath the ocean waves: a single-celled organism the size of a grape that rolls along the sea-bed like some sort of aquatic tumbleweed. [image credit Sönke Johnsen; borrowed from linked article]

The researchers said that it’s possible that the sea grape may be a descendent of the creature that made the tracks that are well known from the fossil record. Or – like the tuatara or the coelacanth – the protist could be a living fossil, that has changed little for as many as 1.8 billion years.

I.8 million years is a long time – time enough, apparently, to allow even rocks and minerals to evolve. [via SlashDot]


Google ponders offshore data center

Tom Marcinko @ 10-09-2008

fortsIt sounds like something Bruce Sterling foresaw as long ago as Islands in the Net: Larry Dignan on ZDNet looks at a patent for a structure that would sit offshore like an oil rig:

Google is pondering a floating data center that could be powered and cooled by the ocean. These offshore data centers could sit 3 to 7 miles offshore and reside in about 50 to 70 meters of water.

….Now wild-cards abound. Jurisdiction issues will occur. Are states really going to allow Google or anyone else place these pontoons offshore without some tax hit?

And will Google take advantage of such a setup to bank your data like the Swiss bank money?

[Rusting sea forts in the Thames estuary photographed by phault; story tip: Gregory Frost]


Grr! Arrgh! Nearly-extinct predators make a comeback

Tom Marcinko @ 10-06-2008

fisherHorror writers in search of a plot need look no further: a weasel-like predator known as the fisher is making itself right at home in your Northeast or Midwest suburbs! The mixture of eco- and morality tale make it the perfect story device, given that they were almost wiped out by trappers and foresters in the last century, but reintroduced to prey on porcupines. The New York Times describes a householder’s encounter with a fisher that tried to eat her German shepherd’s face:

“I had never seen anything like it,” Ms. Beaudry recalled. “I didn’t know what it was. It kind of looked like a fox. But it was very, very ratty looking and had fangs and claws. It was creepy looking, but not that big.”

More animals-out-of-place news: The Caribbean monk seal, extinct. The Chinook salmon, endangered in the U.S., is thriving so well in Chile and Argentina that it could disrupt freshwater and marine ecosystems. And there’s thumbnail-sized quagga mussels clogging up the Colorado River. What other displaced creatures might be cast in near-future fiction?

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]


All at sea – libertarians and the market for governance

JustinP @ 20-05-2008

artist\'s impression large seastead

Last month, PayPal mastermind Peter Thiel pledged $500,000 to The Seasteading Institute. Co-founded by Patri Friedman (grandson of Milton), the Institute‘s official mission is to

Establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems.

In an article for the Wired website, Alexis Madrigal zooms in on the original motivations of the Institute‘s founders;

True to his libertarian leanings, Friedman looks at the situation in market terms: the institute’s modular spar platforms, he argues, would allow for the creation of far cheaper new countries out on the high-seas, driving innovation.

“Government is an industry with a really high barrier to entry,” he said. “You basically need to win an election or a revolution to try a new one. That’s a ridiculous barrier to entry. And it’s got enormous customer lock-in. People complain about their cellphone plans that are like two years, but think of the effort that it takes to change your citizenship.”

While over at the excellent BLDGBLOG, Geoff Manaugh has turned his mind to the potential implications of “seasteading”;

What interests me here, aside from the architectural challenge of erecting a durable, ocean-going metropolis, is the fact that this act of construction – this act of building something – has constitutional implications. That is, architecture here proactively expands the political bounds of recognized sovereignty; architecture becomes declarative.

Sovereignty for sale? Whether you see this as a laudable quest for self-government or – as China Mieville arguesa morally bankrupt flight from responsibility, there are definite echoes of a certain late-80s paperback. But who knows? $500,000 might just be enough to give this scheme some real momentum.

[Image by Valdemar Duran, via Wired]


Creatures of the Antarctic

Tomas Martin @ 20-02-2008

These tulip shaped creatures were snapped in the Antarctic oceanWhen people suggest humans should colonise space, it’s often said that first they should attempt to conquer an alien world on our own doorstep – the oceans. The deep cold and pressure of the seabed is just as much a challenge as the vacuum of space and the creatures that live there are just as strange as any in science fiction.

Take a look at some of these Tunicates, that look like glass tulips rising in stems from the seabed. A recent Antarctic expedition found many new species a mile underwater.

Martin Riddle, leader on the research ship Aurora Australis, said yesterday: “Some of the video footage is really stunning. Gigantism is very common in Antarctic waters. Many [of the animals] live in the dark and have pretty large eyes. They are strange-looking fish. In some places every inch of the sea floor is covered in life. In others we can see deep scars and gouges where icebergs scour the sea floor as they pass by.”

Whilst space has its own challenges and fascinations, there are still some parts of our world that have never before been glimpsed by human eyes.

[story and image via the guardian]


« Previous PageNext Page »