Gigantic Jelly Fish and Ancient Clams

• No doubt you’ll be hearing a lot more about jellyfish in the near future. Population explosions of these watery creatures are occurring all over the planet as populations of ocean fish are being depleted and jellyfish are moving in. In 2005, the Sea of Japan was clogged with “Nomura’s Jellyfish,” which is the size of a refrigerator and weighs up to 450 pounds. In February of this year thousands of Portuguese-Man-O-War jellyfish washed up on Florida beaches, stinging many swimmers and leaving painful strings of red welts on their skin. These jellyfish trail thin gelatinous tentacles, some reaching over a hundred feet long, which contain venom-containing dart-like structures. When a tentacle touches a prey (or human skin) the darts explode out of the tentacle, attach to the prey, and inject the venom. Humans who accidentally swim into a swarm of these jellyfishes may go into anaphylactic shock and die if help doesn’t come quickly. Evidence strongly suggests that when an area of the ocean is “fished out,” jellyfish move in to replace the lost top predators. (Science, Sept. 16, 2011)

• “Burying Beetles” find a vertebrate carcass (e.g., a mouse or squirrel), clean it up a bit then cover the flesh in a bodily secretion that retards the growth of decay bacteria. This gives the beetles and their larvae a chance to dine on the carcass. After six days or so, the feast is over and the larvae leave the carcass and set out on their own. (Science, Sept. 16, 2011)

• Your brownies came out too crispy on top but undercooked in the center. Next time, should you: a) bake the next batch at a lower temperature, b) bake for a greater length of time, or c) use a different pan? Try one option, but it’s imperative that you shouldn’t make all three changes at once. You should keep in mind that the only way to tell which variable matters is by altering only one at a time. THIS IS A CARDINAL PRINCIPLE OF SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY. (Scientific American, Oct., 2011)

• Recently there has been a great upsurge in computer hacker attacks on business, government agencies, intelligence services, banks, and other organizations. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, data belonging to 22 million people have been stolen this year alone. Computer hackers accessed “secure” files at Citibank and stole credit card data from 2 million customers. Sony failed to encrypt account information for members of its PlayStation Network, and hackers retrieved credit card information, phone numbers, passwords, and email addresses from 10 million people. Now “cloud computing” comes along and encourages people and companies to store large amounts of their data on oversize storage computers maintained by a “cloud” business. The bad news is that if one of these cloud storage units is hacked, data can be stolen from many thousands of individuals and companies. Think twice before you launch your data into the clouds, for a cloud storage server represents a treasure chest of data and a one-stop shopping site for the hacker. (John Grula in the Pasadena Weekly, Aug. 16, 2911)

• The oldest living animal appears to be a clam retrieved from the frigid waters around Iceland. The age of clams can be determined by examining the growth lines in their shells, which is similar to the way a tree’s growth rings can reveal its age. This “granddaddy” of clams was calculated to be over 400 years old. (, Oct. 29, 2007)