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Readers ask about Cuvier’s beaked whales, the microbes in the atmosphere, and more

Waiting to exhale

Cuvier-billed whales can have large oxygen reserves, a slow metabolism, and the ability to tolerate lactic acid to dive for hours without going out into the air. Erin García de Xesús reported in “A nearly four-hour whale dive with beak sets a new record” (SN: 7/11/20, p. 5).

“He begins his report on the long dives of Cuvier’s beaked whales:“ To break the longest diving record of a marine mammal, take a deep breath and jump into the water, ”reader John Hoskins he wrote. "Do they inhale or exhale these whales before they dive?" he asked. Hoskins observed that northern elephants exhale before diving deeply. That, along with flexible rib cages, helps mammal lungs collapse as water pressure rises.

Cuvier's beaked whales exhale most of their air from their lungs before diving, Garcia de Jesus says, and whales also have flexible rib cages. “It seems that Cuvier’s beaked whales have diving methods very similar to northern elephants,” he says.


Bacteria and other microbes that crawl into the atmosphere can end up in the clouds and influence the weather, Cassie Martin reported (SN: 7/11/20, p. 4) in an update of a 1970 article “Clouds can be ecosystems” (SN: 14/11/70, p. 384).

Reader Mike Sevilla I wondered if the clouds could spread the algae responsible for the harmful red tides. "Can clouds catch and transport (algae)?" he asked. "A good meal to think about toast and tea."

It is possible that some algae may crawl into the atmosphere where they may sow clouds, Martin of. "But those species have not been documented in cloud water samples as far as I know." It is also unclear whether the organisms would survive the trip. "Microbial meteorology is a relatively new field" Martin of. "While researchers still have no answer as to whether the clouds disperse algae that form red tides, it's definitely worth discussing the question during their next conversation."

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After all, it’s a small world

A photo of the lymphatic system of a zebrafish won the best honors in the Nikon Small World 2020 photography contest, Erin García de Xesús reported in “A Bright Zebra Fish Wins Nikon Small World 2020 Photography Contest” (SN: 07/11/20, p. 32).

The third winner, who appeared in an online version of the story, was an enlarged image of a snail tongue. Reader Orlando Saint-Sebastien He was surprised to learn that snails have tongues and asked them how sticky they are.

Snail tongues come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures. Igor Siwanowicz, a photographer and neurobiologist at the Janelia Research Campus of Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, does not believe the tongue of the freshwater snail he photographed was sticky. Siwanowicz he admits he was never licked by a snail, but imagines his tongue would feel like fine sandpaper. “It looks more like the cat than the chameleon’s tongue,” he says.

Serendipity with a pinch of salt

Encounters of passion and chance connect botanists studying rare plants and a physicist trying to reproduce supernova explosions in the lab. Nancy Shute he wrote in “In Praise to Serendipity – and to Scientific Obsession” (SN: 11/7/20, p. 2).

“That’s only half,” reader Thomas Nied he wrote. In "Giant Lasers Help Recreate the Explosive and Mysterious Physics of Supernovae" (SN: 11/7/20, p. 20), Emily Conover "writes that as a graduate student in the 1980s she worked the physicist Hye-Sook Park." an experiment 600 meters underground in a salt mine that operates under Lake Erie. "Although history does not tell, that salt mine under Lake Erie was owned and operated by Chicago-based Morton Salt." Nied he wrote.

Meanwhile, part of “How Passion, Luck, and Sweat Saved Some of the rarest plants in North America” (SN: 11/7/20, p. 14) is set at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill. "The same Morton who funded the arboretum founded the salt mine …. But at this point, paraphrasing (journalist and author) Walter Lippmann, & # 39; the facts far exceeded my curiosity & # 39;" Nied he wrote.

Rhythm of the night

Music created from telescope data helps visually impaired people experience the wonders of astronomy, such as the Pillars of Creation, and can help research, Maria Temming reported in “Converting space images into music makes astronomy more accessible” (SN: 7/11/20, p. 4). On Facebook, reader Alexander Micheal Carter praised the effort with a pun: "I love it !!! Great algorithms."

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