Why I Do Not Go in the Water: Hagfish Slime

The Pacific hagfish (Slimius godnowayii)

Really cool story on National Geographic by a really cool writer I’m following on twitter now Rachel Kaufman (@rkaufman).

I have trouble being on the same planet with these creatures, let alone go into the ocean with them.  As Rachel puts it:

Many people are disgusted by the hagfish. These squirmy, eel-looking creatures are known primarily for two repellent traits: eating dying animals from the inside out, and oozing four cups of slime in a fraction of a second.

By Crom’s holy indifference!

Recently, scientists at the University of Guelph published a study that delves into the amazing–and cringingly awful–properties hagfish slime. Apparently, the slime is full of these long (6 inches!) sticky protein threads, which are good for clogging up a predator’s gills and happen to be as light and strong as spider silk.

If, as Rachel posits, this thread could one day lead to clothing, I would cry. A lot.

This is Cronenberg-level body horror at its worse. Cools story, though.

The 10,000 Names of Tonka


A dog this great doesn’t have but one name. He came with a nom de pup of Tonka, one of a litter of “T” names they thought would make him more adoptable, as if he needed help.

Allow me to share some of the extra names he has acquired around Stinkbug Manor.

Tonkey Tonks (walkie walks for Tonkey Tonks)
Baby nummies

More to come…

Pa. Craigslist Killing Suspect A Spree-killing Satanist? Probably not, no.

A young woman accused of murder claims she’s part of a satanic cult and that she’s killed at least 22. Are we priming for another moral panic? “Satanic Panic 2: The Revenge”?

Two people falsely accused of satanic ritual abuse in the 80s were finally freed from jail just last year. The charges against them were just as absurd as some of the claims this woman is making, and they had real consequences. Real lives were ruined.

I’m not trying to make light of this–or even trying to debunk her claims–but I think that it is more likely than not she’s simply not telling, or perhaps capable of telling, the truth. Of course, the fact that she’s probably committed one murder means that people are going to pay attention to her claims.

She may have even murdered more, but that’s also not evidence of a satanic cult conspiracy.



Awesome workout posters with silly names

I’m building a home gym in the garage, all part of the Year of Doing Stuff that I’ve decided will mark 2014. I don’t have much equipment, so I’ve been building up routines that may help.

Free Visual Workouts.

Now, I’m not sure what makes “I Aim to Misbehave” a Firefly workout, but the routines look really good and challenging. Sometimes you just need a plan, and I plan to print a few of these out for the garage wall.

Baffled Report: Who Mourns for Adonais? Edition

The rules: “Scientists are baffled” is one of those phrases reporters and headline writes love to overuse. In most cases, the scientists aren’t baffled, per se. In many cases, its just the opposite, but its a cheap shorthand to use when you want to get across the notion of a mystery. Bonus points if they use the phrase “Boffins Baffled!”

Dead ‘Hand of God’ star leaves astronomers baffled by its shape .

Really High Five

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has showcased the telescope’s talent with an image showing the energized remains of a dead star, a structure nicknamed the “Hand of God” after its resemblance to a hand.

So, celestial objects looking like things is nothing new, like the famed “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula, which always looked like something, erm, different…ahem…to me. The phenomena is called paredolia–the way your mind looks for familiar shapes in patterns, whether its a picture of a nebula or the pattern that appears on your toast. I guess its a handy (ha!) way of naming things.

In this case, however, it appears the “hand” is imparting some useful information:

The new “Hand of God” image shows a nebula 17,000 light-years away, powered by a dead, spinning star called PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short.

The dead star, called a pulsar, is the leftover core of a star that exploded in a supernova.

The pulsar is only about 19 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter but packs a big punch: it is spinning around nearly seven times every second, spewing particles into material that was upheaved during the star’s violent death.

These particles are interacting with magnetic fields around the ejected material, causing it to glow with X-rays. The result is a cloud that looks like a hand.

One of the big mysteries of this object, called a pulsar wind nebula, is whether the pulsar’s particles are interacting with the material in a specific way to make it appear as a hand, or if the material is in fact shaped like a hand.

“We don’t know if the hand shape is an optical illusion,” Hongjun An of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, said.

“With NuSTAR, the hand looks more like a fist, which is giving us some clues,” An said.

Nice description. I’m going to say that this is Not Baffling.

See also:

see also: