aye aye captain

Beautiful 'flowers' self-assemble in a beaker

dreadhawk

the blanket octopus

A female Blanket Octopus might get to about a meter or 2 (3.3 to 6.6 feet) in length, but her first 2 pairs of legs are extra specially long. Attached to them is a huge span of webbing that is normally hidden away.In times of need, this drapery is unfurled, spread out and left to billow in the water. This makes her look far larger and more threatening than she actually is, hopefully scaring off any predators. If it doesn’t seem to be working so well, bits of her blanket can even detach from the rest to act as a decoy.

Blanket Octopus are immune to the stings of the Portuguese Man o’ War. They can rip off a few of the Man o’ War’s tentacles and wield them like whips. Poisonous, stinging whips.




http://www.realmonstrosities.com/2012/01/blanket-octopus.html
dreadhawk

THIS IS SAND.

Viewed at a magnification of over 250 times real life, tiny grains of sand are shown to be delicate, colourful structures as unique as snowflakes.

When seen well beyond the limits of human eyesight, the miniature particles are exposed as fragments of crystals, spiral fragments of shells and crumbs of volcanic rock.




http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2011471/Pictures-sand-Close-photographs-reveal-incredible-beauty.html
Ivy

The Crooked Forest (near Gryfino/ Poland)



Located in north west Poland is a pine forest that looks like it came right out of a Hans Christian Andersen story. Around 400 trees in the forest have been formed with a 90° horizontal bend in its trunk before rising vertically again. The trees were planted around 1930 and probably shaped by human hands (possibly by carpenters wanting to use the wood for furniture making).

(link to post with more pictures)
aye aye captain

Dung Beetles and the Galaxy

Five million years ago, protohuman hominids were stumbling around South Africa, and around their feet the industrious dung beetles rolled their precious balls of shit. I'll give you three guesses which one was paying more attention to the wider universe.

Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden has proven in a series of elegant experiments that included blocking their view of the horizon, fitting them with little cardboard hats, and taking them all out on a trip to the Planetarium, that the dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus uses the glow of the Milky Way to ensure that it's navigating in a straight line. A useful trick, since it works on cloudy, moonless nights, and doesn't require being able to see individual stars. This makes the dung beetle the second animal known to be aware of the galaxy, even if it has no concept of what that milky glow actually is. But to be fair, neither did humanity until very recently, so full marks to the beetles.

By a happy coincidence, S. satyrus is a relative of the Sacred Dung Beetle, the one that the Ancient Egyptians pictured as rolling the Sun around.

NatGeo has a dung beetle game - “Dung Beetle Derby” - that reflects the rough-and-tumble competition of a dung beetle's busy day. Admittedly, few dung beetles require the assistance of flying snails, but level names like Poochinko did make me laugh.

EDIT: A TED talk on Dung Beetle navigation



And a longer article about the stargazers, from the New Yorker :)