Wednesday, November 29, 2006



From New Scientist :

The deep-sea communities live around methane seeps off New Zealand’s eastern coast, up to 1 kilometre beneath the sea surface. The team of 21 researchers from the US and New Zealand, who spent two weeks exploring the area, have just returned to shore.

Cold seeps are areas of the seabed where methane or hydrogen sulphide gas escape from stores deep underneath. Like hydrothermal vents, the gases support unique life forms that can convert the energy-rich chemicals into living matter in the absence of any sunlight.

(Researchers) used sonar to map the seafloor and to detect plumes of water rich in methane, then lowered a video and stills camera system over each site.

This allowed them to record images of tube worms between 30 cm and 40 cm in length as they emerged from beneath limestone boulders. They also recorded corals, sponges and shell beds covered with various types of clam and mussel.

Go Here For The Full Story

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Is the mystery stranger who has left more than more 170 roses on the grave of an unsolved murder victim the person responsible for the murder?

This is exactly the question that the family of Frances Lunsford are asking.

One month after Frances was murdered, five years ago, a single, long-stemmed fake rose appeared on her grave. The roses still appear on her grave, but nobody knows who is leaving them there.

From the Associated Press :
When I first found them, I started to throw them away," said Lunsford's siter, Rhonda Shaw, who first found the roses at the Ty Ty Baptist Church cemetery.

"But then I thought, 'No, these must be from someone who truly cared about Frances.'"

Lunsford's murder remains unsolved and no arrests have ever been made in the case.

Family members asked relatives and just about anyone who they could think of who might be visiting the grave. No one knew anything.

Shaw decided the roses were from someone devoted to her sister. But the problem was that her family didn't know anyone in Lunsford's life who was devoted to her.

Lunsford's sister decided that maybe the roses didn't come from someone who loved her sister, maybe they came from someone who had a guilty conscience. Maybe they came from the person who had killed her sister.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Is this absolutely repulsive or just kinda cute?

Apparently, this fish is actually called a 'fathead', being of the genus Psychrolutes.

It was trawled up from the ocean floor below 1000 metres, north-west of New Zealand in 2003.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


One of the most amazing segments from a nature doco I remember seeing as a kid showed a group of African elephants congregating around piles of fermenting fruit and berries, and tucking in, with obvious delight.

The elephants got pissed, then partied...which for these elephants meant charging around in circles, trying to trip each other over and falling in a heap harumphing in delight. The elephants were shown the next morning, looking hungover, moving slow, squinting at the sun, trying to sleep off the damage.

The narrator explained that this group of elephants returned to the same area each year, just in time for their fermented fruit piss-up.

This story from the London Times claims that elephants tearing apart villages, and villagers, in India in search of rice beer are only doing so because they smell the beer as a food source. Perhaps. Or maybe they want to party, like their ancient African relatives :
A herd of elephants drunk on rice beer has trampled three people to death, including a four-year-old boy, on a rampage through a village in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.

Residents of Teok Kathoni tried to scare them off using drums and firecrackers, but the elephants consumed the remote village’s stocks of rice beer, then charged through huts, killing the boy and injuring his eight-year-old brother. those forests have shrunk, the elephants have strayed into villages, destroying crops, raiding granaries and attacking humans. They also appear to have developed a taste for the potent rice beer that villagers brew and store in their homes.

It's a war. The villagers of Assam have killed some 265 elephants in the past five years. The elelphants have killed 239 people. The villagers are winning, for now.

“The elephants don’t have a home and their food supplies have dropped, so they go into the paddies and villages in search of food,” said Ravi Singh, of WWF India.

“They have a sharp sense of smell, so they are attracted by the pungency of the rice beer. It’s not the alcohol, it’s the smell from the fermentation process that attracts them.”

Go Here For The Full Story

Wednesday, November 08, 2006



All across China, replica English villages are popping up on the outskirts of major cities. British Town, Thames Town, it's a remarkable housing phenomenon, and is proving extremely popular with the cashed-up Chinese middle class.

Reproducing English villages and architecture in China is not necessarily a new thing, however. When I was living in Somerset in the late 1990s, a local village church was bought by a Chinese developer, who then dismantled the church brick by brick and sent it back to China, where it was rebuilt for English-themed weddings and baptisms.

From :

An hour's drive from Shanghai's skyscrapers in the suburb of Songjiang lies Thames Town, complete with pub, fish-and-chip shop and even a bronze statue of Winston Churchill.

"I wanted the properties to look exactly the same as those in the United Kingdom," James Ho, the director of privately owned Shanghai Henghe Real Estate Co. Ltd., one of the town's five developers.

"I think English properties are very special. When we decide to learn from others, we should not make any improvements or changes. I emphasised this policy to my staff," he told Reuters.

The development, which cost about 5 billion yuan (334 million pounds), is expected to house 10,000 people.

Yet that copycat feeling has irked some people, not least Gail Caddy from Lyme Regis in Dorset, southwest England.

She said her pub and fish-and-chip shop have been replicated in Thames Town. Her establishments, the Rock Point Inn and Cob Gate Fish Bar, have both been reproduced almost exactly, though Caddy's fish-and-chip shop is spelt "Cobb".

"I feel cheated considering that they have copied the whole unique experience of my two businesses here," she said.

Almost all the houses have been sold for prices starting at three million yuan (about 200,000 pounds). Most buyers are from Shanghai.

British architecture is not the only inspiration for town planners in China. An Italian and German town are also planned.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Some cloned meat products have already been cleared by the US Food And Drug Administration for retail sale, and scientists have talked about likelihood of something close to a 'meat tree' becoming a reality.

In the meantime, we have the bizarre reality of genetically altered animals.

Super cows, pigs that glow in the dark and goats that produce spider's silk. Not fantasy, but already a reality.

Genetically altering, or tinkering, with the building blocks of animal life is now a booming industry. Curiously, those furiously opposed to stem cell research, claiming a religious pre-requisite, have little to say about the human alteration of some of God's other creatures.

From the UK Daily Mail :

Channel 4 is to unveil a shocking menagerie of genetically modified animals in a new show revealing the frightening leaps technology has taken.

Among the bizarre engineered creatures from around the world is a giant cow, three times the size of ordinary cattle, reared without fat to produce gallons of milk.

But the so-called Belgian Blue - pictured here - is perhaps the least disturbing of the creatures to be shown in the three-part series Channel 4 Farm this winter. There are also glow-inthedark pigs and goats which produce spider's silk.

TV scientist Olivia Judson and journalist Giles Coren travel the world to visit the places where these animals are now being reared.

There is even a genuine "allotment" of growing human noses.
If a human gene or two is added to the DNA of a cow to produce leaner meat, and you eat it in steak form, does that count as cannibalism?