When you truly love somebody that's gone missing, you never admit that she's gone, even if you've seen neither hide nor hair of her for 33 years. So now we know how the Japanese government feels about the Japanese river otter. Because the Ministry of the Environment just declared the river otter, last spotted in 1979, extinct.
You know who still loves and believes in the Japanese river otter, though? Yoshihiko Machida, a professor emeritus at Kochi University.
A London architect is trying to convince the mayor that the way to expand the city's bike infrastructure is not on the streets but in the air. His firm calls the idea SkyCycle, and it looks totally awesome, like a cross between the High Line and the credits of Futurama.
These would work sort of like bicycle turnpikes: Riders would have to pay a small fee to use them, but they could go fast and be safe. The system does isolate bikes from the rest of traffic, though, and it was born out of fear of cars, according to the Daily Mail:
Fur farmers brought nutria, the South American rodent, into the United States more than a century ago [PDF] in order to raise the little buggers and harvest their coats. Like anyone destined to become a fur coat would do, many of them escaped into the wilds of the New World and spread far and wide. Now there are droves of them across the country, including along the Gulf Coast, where they escaped from Louisiana fur farms and went feral in the 1930s. And unlike some invasive species, eating them won’t clear them out; Louisiana tried to encourage it in the ‘90s, but everyone found the concept way too gross.
Nutria are still all over the Gulf Coast today. But there are at least 5,000 fewer of them than there were before Hurricane Isaac.
Thousands of dead nutria … washed ashore on beaches during Hurricane Isaac. The dead swamp rats have started to stink and officials say that could cause a health and environmental hazard to people ….
In a once-vacant lot in Brooklyn, a group of friends with a mishmash of experience in software development, farming, international development, and baking are coming up with vegetable-machine hybrids that we actually hope will take over the world. The cyborg tomatoes and kale can't be programmed to go back in time and kill rebel leaders before they are born (yet). But they can tell their human overlords just how fast and well they're growing.
In the epic songs that Tasmanian devils sing in the future (assuming that Tasmanian devils can sing, and that there are any left to sing epic songs), this period will likely be known as one of suffering and retribution by some angry god for the unrighteous behavior that has spread among the devil population. Because these guys have some serious Sodom and Gomorrah shit going down.
The devils have been afflicted by a terrible plague -- an infectious cancer, only one of two in the world, that guarantees that its victims will die a horrible death. The cancer causes tumors to grow all over the devils' faces, which keeps the victims from eating, and they eventually starve to death.
But the cancer doesn’t attack all devils equally. It is the most vengeful devils, the most aggressive, the most likely to bite other devils' be-tumored faces that are most likely to contract the disease.
Back in elementary school, it kind of always felt like grown-ups were outsourcing the job of protecting the world’s cetaceans to us kids. You’ve got money AND cars; why don’t YOU save the whales, guys? But now this vital mission has been taken away from the elementary school children of America and handed to even cuter mammals: dogs.
Or, really, just one very dedicated dog, as The New York Times reports. A rescued pup named Tucker helps scientists monitor whale populations by sniffing out their droppings.
A dog named Tucker with a thumping tail and a mysterious past as a stray on the streets of Seattle has become an unexpected star in the realm of canine-assisted science. He is the world’s only working dog, marine biologists say, able to find and track the scent of orca scat, or feces, in open ocean water — up to a mile away, in the smallest of specks.
This sounds like a pretty shitty (if you will) job for a creature with a sensitive nose, but according to the Times, "orca scat does not smell that bad." Still, it smells strongly enough that Tucker can both sniff it out and direct humans in their boats to direction of the orca smell.
Remember when cars used to give off disgusting clouds of lead-laden smoke? Planes still do that. Some of them do, at least -- in particular, those nasty little planes that rich people fly because car traffic is for suckers. According to Scientific American, smaller planes now produce HALF of all the lead pollution in the air.
As might be expected, this pollution wreaks havoc on the health of anyone exposed to it. SciAm writes:
Some of the health effects of repeated exposure to lead include damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and red blood cells, and decreased function in the cardiovascular and immune systems. Lower IQ levels and learning disabilities can also result from lead exposure, especially in children, whose young bodies are more sensitive than those of adults. And scientists at the National Toxicology Program have concluded that lead and lead compounds are “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens.”
Hurricane Katrina was irredeemably terrible for everyone involved -- except, it turns out, baby dolphins. (And presumably adult dolphins, who got to enjoy making baby dolphins.) In the years after the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, these cuties multiplied like excuses at a BP press conference, Scientific American reports:
Around two years after the hurricane struck, there was a massive increase in the number of dolphin calves observed. In other words, bottlenose dolphins living in the Mississippi sound experienced a reproductive increase during the two years following the storm. Either, they made more baby dolphins, or more baby dolphins were surviving, or both.
Now, we know you are super excited right now, because a positive correlation between hurricanes and baby dolphins means that the world makes sense in some mixed-up way, and good inevitably follows bad, just as ice cream inevitably follows throat surgery.
But the reasons for the baby dolphin boom aren't all sugar and caramel swirls. The scientists looking into the phenomenon identified a few possible causes. One was that momma dolphins had a bunch of babies all at once to replace calves that had perished in the storm. So that's sad.