Man dies after jumping in front of train, inconveniencing 14,000 passengers
Gotta love the Japanese, I mean, how’s that for a headline? I didn’t make that up, it was a story in the Mainichi news yesterday. I suspect the original Japanese headline is not quite so glaringly insensitive, and it lost something in translation. That’s pretty much the whole story too, they don’t know who the guy is even, but he jumped in front of a high speed train during rush hour and it caused all sorts of delays. I was on a train once when it made a very sudden unscheduled stop. I suspected we had hit someone or something, so I ran to the back of the train to see what was up. Sure enough someone had thrown themselves on the tracks, the crew had the body halves covered with blankets already. The train crew said it happens about once a month, just part of the job. Dear God.
OK, that really wasn’t science news, but I couldn’t resist the headline. A lake has disappeared in the Andes Mountains. No one saw it go, the giant fissure in the now dry lake bed easily solves the mystery of where it went. Though why a fissure suddenly opened up has yet to be explained. It was only a five acre glacier melt lake anywise. A lot of lakes are going to come and go in the next few decades as the world’s glaciers melt. In fact many lakes only exist because of melting ice caps and glaciers at the end of the last ice age, the Great Lakes for example. So eventually they will fill with sediment, unless there’s another ice age before then. There doesn’t appear to be an ice age on the near horizon, despite yesterday’s weird and as is so often the case misleading Drudge Report headline. Granted my headlines aren’t always terribly germane to the story, but they’re humour, as I hope some can appreciate.
Speaking of glaciers, it’s been discovered that icebergs floating in the ocean are teeming oases of life, similar to the way an oasis teems with life in a desert. Minerals washing off the glacier feed algae, which bloom and feed krill, and all the way up. There’s always been anecdotal evidence about this, since birds often seem to hang out around icebergs. This is acting as a bit of a carbon sink as far as can be told, so certainly minor good news on the global warming front. Mostly though just the sort of minor scientific discovery that shows how much we still don’t know about this wonderful planet of ours. And I love the image of a floating oasis of frozen water teeming with life in a desert of liquid water.
In yet another case of “Thank God these are extinct,” the frozen remains of bone crushing wolves have been found in Alaska. They were like regular wolves, except they had unusually powerful jaws and ate their prey whole, bones and all. Um, yikes. Fortunately for us, like so many of the planet’s large animals, they went extinct within the last 10,000 to 12,000 years (16,500 metric years.) I wonder if our predilection for monster stories and monster movies is in some way inspired by a collective memory of the terrible animals that roamed the Earth and hunted and ate our forebears until just ten thousand years ago? I can see a whole blog post in the future about that idea.
On the archaeology front, an unpleasant discovery in Peru. In a mass grave the new world’s first known casualty from a gunshot has been discovered. An Inca warrior felled by a shot from a Spanish gun in the Inca uprising of 1536. The Spanish conquered the Incas in 1532, just forty years after the European discovery of the new world. The colonial era amazes me more and more as I study history, mostly in how it is portrayed and understood by most. I mean, Europeans with guns conquered the world, casually committing genocide as they went, and it’s portrayed for the most part as this natural or even wonderful thing. And the mechanisms they set up to extract the wealth from the areas they conquered are still for the most part operating today. Wild times on planet Earth.
In more bad news for Pluto, humiliated by demotion from planet status to that of a lowly dwarf planet recently, a dwarf planet even larger than Pluto has been identified. It’s been named Eris, after the Greek Goddess of decorative macramé (scientists are scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to classical names for things.) It’s a frozen ball of rock and ice, there are no plans to visit it anytime soon. It is curious though, a few decades ago this would have been heralded as the discovery of the “tenth planet.” Since then it’s become clear that there’s all sorts of junk floating around the outer edges of the solar system, construction debris so to speak. Hundreds of planets would be ridiculous, especially since they would all be chunks of stuff floating so far away we can’t even see them without powerful telescopes.
And in a final note about the universe, a paper has been published that shows that in 100 billion years, the universe will have expanded to the point that the only thing we will be able to see in the sky is our own little cluster of six galaxies. An island of stars floating in an infinite sea of nothing. All evidence of the big bang or the billions of other galaxies will be so far away as to be invisible, scientists of the day will have no clue as to how a universe of only six galaxies came to exist. The lonely galaxies, it’s kind of sad in a way.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, is central (subtlety) to illustrating the post: “Daytime Pond” Credit: Rob’s 3D Designs, Adventurist.net. And no, there’s no such thing as a metric year. Metric time does exist though, but it’s never really caught on.)