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Ice Boats Are Good Just in Theory

BBC science show Bang Goes The Theory set out to test inventor Geoffrey Pyke’s claim that ice boats could be used during World War 2, in case steel supplies ran out.

Geoffrey Pyke suggested suggested it was possible to build unsinkable boats using a special material called Pykrete – a mixture of ice and wood pulp. In theory, the icy material could be moulded into any shape and because of its slow melting rate, could carry troops and vehicles for long distances. The idea was first mentioned during the early 1940s, but it sounds like a good idea for modern times, as well, so the guys at Bang Goes The Theory decided to test it out.

The team mixed 5,000 liters of water with the hemp-like wood pulp, moulded the mixture into the shape of a boat and froze it in one of England’s largest ice warehouses, in Tilbury, Essex. It took three weeks to freeze the boat, before it was transported to Portsmouth Harbor. The crew prepared for a trip to Cowes, on the Island of Wight, but son after the boat was launched on the water, it began taking water. Before they even got comfortable in their icy boat, the crew had to abandon ship and swim to the rescue craft.

But this test wasn’t enough to disprove Pyke’s theory. According to experts there are several explanation for the recent Pykrete failure, and they include water temperature and size. Geoffrey envisioned his revolutionary material used to create 1,000-ton carriers, not half-a-ton boats, because a large ice surface requires a lot more energy to start melting. Also the waters of Solent Bay are far warmer than the Atlantic, where the carriers were meant to be used.

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Scientists Discover the World’s Largest, Toughest Spider Web

Scientist have recently discovered that the web of Darwin’s Bark Spider is the largest in the world, and is also ten times more resistant that Kevlar.

Igni Agnarsson, from the University of Puerto Rico, first discovered Darwin’s Bark Spider and their giant webs, back in 2001, and knew he had to return to Madagascar and study these little creatures further. He did just that in 2008 and 2010, and his research revealed some pretty incredible data.

While it isn’t exactly the largest spider known to man (the female is larger than the male, and it only measures 3-4 cm, with its legs outstretched), Darwin’s Bark Spider spawns giant webs that reach up to 25 meters in length, with a main core of around 2.8 square meters. With webs this size, it’s now wonder the silky substance can withstand twice as much force as a normal spider’s, which makes it 10 times stronger than a similar piece of Kevlar, and thus, the strongest biological material ever found.

How, and why Darwin’s Bark Spider creates these giant webs is still a secret, but the fact that they are usually found across rivers and lakes suggests they mean to capture big insects that spent their young lives in a water environment, trapping them right when they take to the air. Birds and bats also pass right above the water, but there’s yet no evidence the spider web could trap such large prey.

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Gunther von Hagen’s Plastinated Animal Menagerie

Doctor Gunther von Hagen , the anatomist who invented plastination, presents his newest exhibition – a collection of the most revered animals in the world.

At the “Body Worlds of Animals” exhibition, held at Neunkirchen Zoo, Germany, people can discover the intricate anatomy of some of the most remarkable creatures in the animal kingdom. Samba and Chiana, two elephants donated by the zoo to the Institute of Plastination, four years ago, return home in plastinated form. The whole process of plastinating an elephant took 64,000 hours, 4 tons of silicone and 40,000 liters of acetone. By comparison, platinating a human body takes only 3,000 hours of work.

But the difficult and time-consuming process is well worth it, if it can reveal amazing mechanisms, like an elephant’s trunk, manipulated by 40,000 muscles, or the incredible cardiovascular system of the giraffe, which prevents it from being in permanent cardiac arrest.

The Body Worlds of Animals features other popular animals, like the bear, gorilla, or ostrich, stripped of their skin and ready for inspection. Dr. Gunther von Hagen, a self-declared animal lover, hopes his exhibition ” will increase appreciation for animals, especially endangered species, and remind us all of our obligation to animal welfare.”

Photos by REUTERS via Daylife

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The Mysterious Blood Falls

One of the most amazing sights in Antarctica, the Blood Falls have been a mystery ever since they were discovered, in 1911.

A bloody column of water coming out of a glacier isn’t what you’d expect to see in the frozen land of Antarctica, but if you visit Taylor Glacier, that’s exactly what you’re going to find. At first, scientists thought they were dealing with some sorts of red algae, but further research proved the bloody color was caused by something spectacular.

It turns out a small lake was sealed under Taylor Glacier roughly 2 million years ago. Incredible, isn’t it?!? Actually no, what’s incredible is the glacier acted like a natural time capsule for the ancient microbes living in the lake. These invisible forms of life have survived without oxygen, light or heat and are considered to be the “primordial ooze” out which every living thing on Earth evolved.

The Blood Falls are proof life can be found in the most extreme environments, probably even on other planets, like Mars.

via Atlas Obscura

blood-falls

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