Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category


The danged thing is even bigger than we thought:

The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought, scientists report.

A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested.

A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock.

The findings are being presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Prof Bob Smith, from the University of Utah, said: “We’ve been working there for a long time, and we’ve always thought it would be bigger… but this finding is astounding.”

If the Yellowstone supervolcano were to blow today, the consequences would be catastrophic.

The last major eruption, which occurred 640,000 years ago, sent ash across the whole of North America, affecting the planet’s climate.

I remember once visiting my late father, about ten years ago, and watching a couple of science programs on the Discovery channel after he had gone to bed. One was on asteroids smacking the Earth, the other was on supervolcanoes — including that monster under Yellowstone. Not surprisingly, I had a little trouble sleeping that night.

With this news, I may have trouble tonight, too.

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When life under the sea is so bizarre?


And you just know they’re plotting our downfall….

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You’ve no doubt heard of the massive quake in Japan yesterday. Magnitude 8.9, aftershocks over magnitude 7 on the scale, killer tidal waves — yeah, the Japanese are having a real bad day.

There’s plenty of information out on the web, but I wanted to share this one in particular, via Hot Air: an animation by NOAA of the wave effect as it bounced back and forth across the Pacific. Like ripples in a pond… except we’re talking about the biggest ocean on the planet:

“Impressive” doesn’t describe it by half.

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Sometimes, Nature is more bizarre than we can imagine. And sometimes those bizarre moments are downright horrifying, as in a Lovecraftian, sanity-blasting, leave you gibbering in the padded cell kind of way.

This is one of those moments.

‘Zombie ants’ controlled by parasitic fungus for 48m years

The oldest evidence of a fungus that turns ants into zombies and makes them stagger to their death has been uncovered by scientists.

The gruesome hallmark of the fungus’s handiwork was found on the leaves of plants that grew in Messel, near Darmstadt in Germany, 48m years ago.

The finding shows that parasitic fungi evolved the ability to control the creatures they infect in the distant past, even before the rise of the Himalayas.

The fungus, which is alive and well in forests today, latches on to carpenter ants as they cross the forest floor before returning to their nests high in the canopy.

The fungus grows inside the ants and releases chemicals that affect their behaviour. Some ants leave the colony and wander off to find fresh leaves on their own, while others fall from their tree-top havens on to leaves nearer the ground.

The final stage of the parasitic death sentence is the most macabre. In their last hours, infected ants move towards the underside of the leaf they are on and lock their mandibles in a “death grip” around the central vein, immobilising themselves and locking the fungus in position.

“This can happen en masse. You can find whole graveyards with 20 or 30 ants in a square metre. Each time, they are on leaves that are a particular height off the ground and they have bitten into the main vein before dying,” said David Hughes at Harvard University.

The fungus cannot grow high up in the canopy or on the forest floor, but infected ants often die on leaves midway between the two, where the humidity and temperature suit the fungus. Once an ant has died, the fungus sprouts from its head and produces a pod of spores, which are fired at night on to the forest floor, where they can infect other ants.

So, we have a fungus tens of millions of years old that kills those it infests, takes over their bodies and turns them into mindless robots, then grows inside them until it’s ready to burst forth to infect more.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we’ve just found the explanation for Congress.

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Check out Watt’s Up With That? for some very neat photos of a smoke ring blown by the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano, which has been wreaking havoc in Iceland and Europe for weeks, now.

And I am not going to make any jokes about the Earth enjoying a post-eruption smoke. Nope. Not at all. 🙂

(Also be sure to see the videos of fun with fluid rings.)

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