Monthly Archives: July 2013

Sponging dolphins: cute & clever

Did you know that dolphins use tools, and look adorable while doing so?

Bottlenose dolphins in Australia's Shark Bay like to snack on seafloor-dwelling fish (like sandperch), a food choice that presents two problems. First, these fish lack swimbladders and therefore cannot be echolocated effectively; second, the substrate they inhabit is scattered with sharp rocks and shells, which obscure the fish and conspire to injure a dolphin's nose. One group of dolphins came up with a clever way to enjoy their benthic prey: they harvest sponges and wear them on their faces. The sponge protects the dolphin's rostrum while it digs around in the seafloor, until it runs into a fish and scares it out of the ground to be eaten. After about an hour, when the sponges become too worn down to serve as a shield, the dolphins replace them with fresh ones. Furthermore, the dolphins pass the knowledge of sponging on from generation to generation. Read more details in this scientific paper.

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Secret of Kells: proving that Christianity and paganism can get along, beautifully

The Secret of Kells has been out for awhile, but I watched it again recently and think it worthy of sharing just in case you haven't seen it yet.

I love how the film subtly incorporates the character of illuminated pages and traditional Celtic artwork into its visual style, and the way its plot gracefully weaves Irish pagan beliefs into Christian legend. Read more

Pacific Rim could use more of its awesome fight scenes

Eric and I watched Pacific Rim opening weekend, entranced by flashy commercials of glorious monsters and glittering machinery. Sometimes I go to a movie for its emotional or intellectual appeal; this was not one of those times. However, determined to elevate itself from the ranks of the entertaining but vacuous robot flicks like Bay's Transformers, Pacific Rim devotes time to character development -- too much, in fact. I found myself rolling my eyes (along with Eric) and anxiously waiting for the next Kaiju to strike. The upside is that when the battles do come, they rage violently and beautifully. Nevertheless, I felt deprived by the number of fight scenes: a meager three, if I recall correctly. Still, despite its glaring flaws, Pacific Rim not only succeeds in being a smarter and more satisfying film than Transformers, it delivers a wonderful visual feast of flesh-and-metal fights.

Rating: 3.5/5 Read more

Why I take my notes the old-fashioned way, on paper

The benefits of taking notes electronically seem intuitive. They have improved legibility. They are easier to search. Best of all, thousands of pages worth of paper notes take up just megabytes on a hard drive, saving precious space and weight in one's backpack. Speaking of paper, they save trees: in fact, at a school that emphasizes environmentalism, writing on paper even seems like a faux pas.

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How to get published in Biological Conservation journal

Richard Primack, editor-in-chief of the journal Biological Conservation and professor at Boston University, came to the Duke Marine Lab to give a presentation on some of his research -- which used famous poet Henry David Thoreau's journal to track changing flowering dates and thereby track global warming. I rather enjoyed his talk.

Primack also discussed his position as editor-in-chief of Biological Conservation, and shared the following common reasons for why papers get rejected, which I'll share.

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All about Squilla empusa, the American mantis shrimp

Note: This was written for a school project. It will be featured as a chapter in an Apple iBooks textbook released by Duke University about Beaufort marine invertebrates.

Latin Name: Squilla empusa (Mantis Shrimp)

Taxonomy: Animalia (Kingdom) > Arthropoda (Phylum) > Crustacea (Subphylum) > Malacostraca (Class) > Hoplocarida (Subclass) > Stomatopoda (Order) > Unipeltata (Suborder) > Squilloidea (Superfamily) > Squillidae (Family) > Squilla (Genus)

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Review: Paper Mario: Sticker Star falls flat

I had high hopes for Paper Mario: Sticker Star, as a fan of the series ever since Paper Mario came out on the N64. However, with the exception of the graphics--which are beautifully, cleverly, intricately intertwined with the game's paper and cardboard world--Intelligent Systems has gutted everything that made Paper Mario worthwhile.

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