Sarpedon’s Weird Science

Things found in the Ocean:

Welcome to the first installment of the Nontheist Nexus’ Monthly Science Links Article Thingy. I’m your host, Sarpedon. Why do I call it that? Because I have it on good authority (that is, some Columbian guy I know) that ‘Thingy’ is the most useful word in the English language, to be used whenever you can’t think of a better word. So, since it is the most useful word, logically there can’t be a better word, so it must be used in all cases and at all times.

Anyway, you didn’t hit this link to hear me talk about thingies, but to get other links to other sites. So here we go. This month’s theme: Things found in the Ocean.

The ongoing ‘Census of Marine Life,’ conducted by an international team of scientists reports that over 13,000 new marine species, most of them microscopic, have been catalogued in the past year. The total number of fish species is now above 15,000 and plankton nearly 7,000. Both these totals are expected to increase by the time the census is concluded in 2010. All these details and more are found at this BBC website:

In honor of this remarkable achievement in understanding the least-known part of the earth, I have dredged up (ha ha ha!) the following links to interesting marine life, including this excellent short video of bioluminescent deep sea animals, taken by submarine. As near as I can tell, this was NOT a part of the Census of Marine Life, as they operated by trawling.

In this article, new species of sea anemones discovered near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands are described. Their most notable feature is that, unlike most anemones, they move across the ocean floor as they feed, whereas most anemones are sessile. They do this by detaching themselves to drift with the current. This article has also revealed that I have been misspelling and probably mispronouncing ‘anemone’ for the last 20 years. In addition, a new species of kelp was found, which will possibly lead to new flavors of sushi rolls.

I also found this revolting article, which contains a picture of the so called ‘lumpfish’ which is considered to be the vector of the equally repellant ‘sea lice’ which has plagued commercial fisheries of late:…1206224647.htm

Another alarming thing found in the oceans is large pockets of methane. Many scientists fear that this gas, suspended in crystalline form by the high pressures at the bottom of the ocean, could sublimate into gaseous form due to rising ocean temperatures, bubbling up through the sea to add to the greenhouse gas problem, and gag nearby ocean-goers. This article sheds some good news on the methane situation, suggesting that most of the resulting methane gas would dissolve in the ocean water, and only a small fraction of it would reach the atmosphere.…1220170341.htm

Finally, a bit of pseudoscience, which it will be one of the missions of this Thingy to expose, mock and dispel.

For years, certain people have claimed that there are many health benefits to swimming with dolphins. The rising demand for this ‘therapy’ has led to many wild dolphins being captured (with many related dolphin fatalities) for this and more mundane dolphin swimming experiences. One such outfit charged 101 dollars for such a swim, only 30 minutes of actual dolphin time. The full blown ‘dolphin therapy’ costs 1000 dollars for a total of 100 minutes with the dolphins. The mathematics of this arrangement puzzles me, but this service is probably not for those of scientific temperaments.

Here is a quote:

“Ongoing research at universities and dolphin centers around the world suggests that the sounds that dolphins make when they communicate underwater have a therapeutic effect. It is believed that swimming with dolphins, due to their sonar function, improves a person’s immune system and stimulates the production of hormones and neurotransmitters, which are responsible for sensations such as peacefulness, happiness, self-awareness, and high self-esteem.”…-assisted.html

No research is cited. Presumably since it is ‘ongoing,’ they have an excuse for not publishing it. There follows an impressive list of disorders that are cured by dolphins talking to one another.

Fortunately, actual scientists have had a look at this, and have begun warning people against this chicanery:…1218101131.htm

However, I predict that people will continue to give money to the dolphin people, presumably because they like dolphins, and are unaware of the harm dolphins suffer from being captured, transported long distances, and shoved in a big tank. This leads me to have hope for making money by offering a variety of services: Cattle Encounters, Bat Echolocation Therapy, and Swimming with the United States Navy Submarine Fleet.

That’s all for this month, see next month for another gripping adventure in science links, which may or may not have important therapeutic effects!