Discovery of giant sulfur-powered shipworm — Eeoough!

❝ Our world seems to grow smaller by the day as biodiversity rapidly dwindles, but Mother Earth still has a surprise or two up her sleeve. An international team of researchers were the first to investigate a never before studied species — a giant, black, mud dwelling, worm-like animal. The odd animal doesn’t seem to eat much, instead it gets its energy from a form of sulfur. The findings, led by scientists at the University of Utah, Northeastern University, University of the Philippines, Sultan Kudarat State University and Drexel University, will be published online in the…Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

❝ People have known about the existence of the creature for centuries. The three- to five-foot long, tusk-like shells that encase the animal were first documented in the 18th century. “The shells are fairly common,” begins lead investigator Daniel Distel, Ph.D., a research professor and director of the Ocean Genome Legacy Center at Northeastern University, “But we have never had access to the animal living inside.”

The animal’s preferred habitat was unclear, but the research team benefitted from a bit of serendipity when one of their collaborators shared a documentary that aired on Philippine television. The video showed the bizarre creatures planted, like carrots, in the mud of a shallow lagoon. Following this lead, the scientists set up an expedition and found live specimens of Kuphus polythalamia.

❝ With a live giant shipworm finally in hand, the research team huddled around Distel as he carefully washed the sticky mud caked to the outside of the giant shipworm shell and tapped off the outer cap, revealing the creature living inside.

Not exactly destined to replace linguine with clams. But, RTFA for an interesting tale of science and search.

82-year-old man missing for three-days — drone pilot finds him in 20 minutes


A search involving dogs, a helicopter and hundreds of volunteers came to a happy conclusion after a drone owner lent his gadget to the efforts.

The case for consumer drones got a boost after an amateur pilot ended a search-and-rescue effort last weekend by locating a missing ophthalmologist, who suffers from dementia, in a bean field in Wisconsin.

David Lesh, who normally uses the drone to make videos for his ski and snowboard business in Colorado, says he decided to try and help after learning of the search while visiting his girlfriend.

“I never thought that I would be using it to find somebody,” Lesh told NBC, saying he spotted 82-year-old Guillermo DeVenecia, who was found shoeless but unharmed, in 20 minutes after scoping a 200-acre field from the air.

The help from Lesh and his drone spared volunteers hours of trudging through a muddy field, and ended a three-day effort that had involved search dogs, a helicopter and hundreds of people.

The incident may also put additional pressure on the FAA to review its policy on the use of drones, many of which weigh under five pounds. The aviation regulator has so far taken a hard line on drones, banning their commercial use altogether, and ordering a well-known Texas-based search-and-rescue organization to ground its drones (the Texas group has since defied the order after a recent court ruling).

A significant portion of resistance to personal drone use is based on concerns for dangerous, intrusive or creepy use of the hardware and cameras. Like any reasonable geek, I think there are plenty of laws already on the books dealing with dangerous, intrusive or creepy behavior. No need for additional rules governing utilization of technology.

If behavior is unlawful — use existing law and make an arrest.

Woman dies after extreme spa detox treatment

The association representing the spas in Quebec is calling on people to be cautious when choosing a spa after a woman died following a detoxification treatment at a facility near Drummondville. Chantal Lavigne, 35, died in hospital Friday.

Police said Lavigne had undergone treatment at the Reine de Paix farmhouse in the town of Durham, about 100 kilometres southeast of Montreal. She was one of about 10 people taking part in a lengthy detoxification session.

“The treatments consisted of a process of sweating by being all wrapped in plastic with mud, and also with blankets,” said Sgt. Éloise Cossette. Lavigne died Friday afternoon, while another woman was in stable condition Saturday. Both women were also encased in cardboard boxes.

Police were trying to determine if negligence or criminal conduct was involved. Or just plain stupidity?

Spas in Quebec are not regulated, said Lucie Brosseau with Alliance Spas Relais Santé, which represents some Quebec spas. Brosseau said the association has developed standards for spas to follow, but they are not mandatory…

Police say at least 10 people were undergoing the same detox treatment, which lasted for several hours, and did not include drinking water…

Neighbours have previously complained to police about the farmhouse after hearing loud screaming on the property…

The spa specializes in Reiki therapy, and offers energy therapy, massage and natural products, according to an online listing.

Maybe one of their specialties is primal scream therapy. Another winner – for neurotics.

I would hope that anyone considering any wingy-dingy extreme therapy for anything would take the time to consult a physician about the procedures. Dying is as extreme as it gets.

Stealth nuclear sub ain’t much good stuck in the mud!

Click on the photo for Reuters Pictures view of the stuck submarine

The Royal Navy hastened to assemble an official inquiry Friday evening to explore why Britain’s newest nuclear submarine, H.M.S. Astute, ran aground while undergoing sea trials off the coast of northwest Scotland on Friday morning and remained stuck on a bank of sand and shingle for nearly 10 hours before a tug pulled it free at nightfall. A spokesman for the Royal Navy said divers would be deployed to check concerns that the submarine’s rudder had been damaged.

The episode was particularly embarrassing for the navy because the vessel, one of the most technologically advanced submarines in the world, was designed for maximum stealth and use in such delicate operations as delivering special forces troops secretly and eavesdropping off the coasts of hostile nations. Its design features and propulsion mechanisms are considered top secret, naval experts said, but both were on display during the grounding.

Earlier efforts by tugboats to free the $2 billion vessel failed, prompting officials to wait until the evening tide to refloat it. Their decision left the 8,000-ton submarine, as long as a football field and equipped to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, sitting motionless in full view of people on the shoreline throughout the day.

Local residents quoted by the BBC said the submarine appeared to be tilting slightly as it sat about a mile off the coast of the Isle of Skye, close to the bridge that links the island to the Scottish mainland at the Kyle of Lochalsh, 150 miles northwest of Glasgow.

They certainly had a great view of the Black Cuillin. I just hope they didn’t screw up one of the most idyllic spots on this whole bloody planet. The Misty Isle is heaven on Earth – though I have spent as long as 3 weeks in a tent waiting for the rain to stop. 🙂