Saturday, May 24, 2008

Giant earthworms threatened?

I have to admit a love of stories about new species being developed, as well as being reminded of some of the rare oddities in the world around us. Here's one that's probably endangered, though it's sighted so rarely it's hard to know what's going on ... the Giant Oregon earthworm.

They grow up to 3 feet long and an inch thick, and smell like flowers. And they can dig up to 15 feet deep. They were discovered in 1937 but have rarely been seen since 1985.

Sierra Club article "Digging for Giants"

PacificBio (with small photo)

An odd worm fact: Charles Darwin was an avid worm collector and his last book focused on these humble creatures: "In The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits" (1881).

Oh, in case you think a 3-foot earthworm is big ... the largest worm currently known is the Gippsland giant earthworm of Australia. Check out these beauties ... they grow up to 13 feet long!

The poop about old poop

Archaeologists studying a cave in Oregon have found fossilized dung (probably human) dating to 14,300 years ago. If the human DNA detected was real, and not a result of contamination, this is evidence for people in North America 1,000 years before current scholarship says they arrived.

LINK: Seattle Times, 3 Apr 2008

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Global Wobbling?

As if global warming by greenhouse gases (human or volcanic) isn't enough, throw in some not-quite-periodic ice ages, a slightly variable sun, and now ... global wobbling. You just can't trust the climate anymore.

The Earth doesn't spin with perfect precision. The pole is known to wobble in a variety of ways. Most of these changes are a few meters or less, but we now have the tools to measure them precisely. As for the exact cause, well ...

A Mystery Of Earth's Wobble Solved: It's The Ocean (LINK - ScienceDaily, 18 Jul 2000)

Changes In The Earth's Rotation Are In The Wind (LINK - ScienceDaily, 6 Mar 2003)

To be fair, the first article says it's 2/3 ocean and 1/3 atmosphere, and is talking specifically about the Chandler wobble which has a period of 433 days. The second is not clear which wobble it's talking about. Here's a fascinating piece ... the Chandler wobble and an annual wobble cancel out every 6.4 years, allowing a team to track and even smaller wobble at the centimeter scale:

Tracking Earth's Wobbles Down To The Size Of A Cell Phone (LINK - ScienceDaily, 26 Jun 2006)

Some scientists are seriously studying whether there is a larger wobble on a scale of hundreds of miles (a few degrees), which might affect the global climate.

Study Links Extinction Cycles to Changes in Earth’s Orbit and Tilt (LINK - NYTimes, 12 Oct 2006)

And here's a parody that's good for a grin:

Global Wobbling: An Inconvenient Truth (LINK - ConservativeVoice, 15 Oct 2006)