Why do whales sing?

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“The Life of Oceans”.

Old Guv Legends

sea-79950_640It pays to be nice. One of the most absolutely, emphatically wrong hypotheses about the oceans was coined by one of the most carefree and amiable people in nineteenth century science.
It should have sunk his reputation without trace. Yet, it did not. He thought the deep oceans were stone cold dead and lifeless. They’re certainly not that. Even more amazingly, it was clear that the deep oceans were full of life even before he proposed his hypothesis — and yet the idea persisted for decades.
He is still regarded as the father of marine biology. There’s a moral in that somewhere.
Edward Forbes was born a Manxman who early developed a love of natural history. He collected flowers, seashells, butterflies with a passion that saw him neglect, then fail dismally in, his studies: first as an artist (he had a fine talent for drawing) then as a doctor. He…

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Surprise! Pluto May have Clouds

Lights in the Dark

Alleged clouds in Pluto's atmosphere imaged by New Horizons, highlighted by a Southwest Research Institute scientist (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)Alleged clouds in Pluto’s atmosphere imaged by New Horizons, highlighted by a Southwest Research Institute scientist (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

We could be calling it Cloudgate—”leaked” information from internal emails identifying structures in Pluto’s already hazy atmosphere that could very well be clouds, based on a March 4 article in New Scientist.

The image above shows sections of an image attached to an email sent by SwRI scientist John Spencer, in which he noted particularly bright areas in Pluto’s atmosphere. “In the first image an extremely bright low altitude limb haze above south-east Sputnik on the left, and a discrete fuzzy cloud seen against the sunlit surface above Krun Macula (I think) on the right,” he wrote.

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An iceberg universe

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Image by Uwe Kils Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Image by Uwe Kils

Fat little fingers hold up the toy as she peers at her reflection, laughing at herself. That she is, at just fifteen months old, very self-aware is evident in the way she plays with her own and her family’s reflections in the big, night-darkened windows. It is evident too in her naming of people and creatures, differentiating them from herself and recognising their unique individuality. She has already learned who to turn to at any given moment to have her needs and desires met and twists her father round her tiny finger with no more than a smile. She knows her own mind, there is a real and distinct personality and a playful sense of humour developing and showing in her offering and withholding of kisses and objects… and in the very definite ‘no’ with which she has established both her right and her…

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The Social Intelligence Hypothesis

The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence

Why do some animals have large brains? It’s a subject of considerable debate and also the central subject of my research. Humans have the largest brains, relative to body size, of any animal we know of. Some other animals with conspicuously big brains include dolphins, apes, monkeys, crows, octopuses, parrots and elephants. This presents a problem. Brain tissue is incredibly expensive to grow and maintain in metabolic terms and natural selection should act to maximise the efficiency of energy use. Therefore, large brains must confer some sort of selective advantage.

By far the most commonly discussed hypothesis for why some animals have large brains is known as the social intelligence hypothesis (or Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis). This idea proposes that the cognitive complexities of living in social groups, such as tracking social relationships and knowing who to cooperate with and who to be submissive to, require larger brains.

When we think…

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