Fact: the Cambrian sea was both awesome and terrifying

I found a reconstruction video of Anomalocaris. Yes, that Anomalocaris. If this creature was anything like its CGI recreation, it is proof that Lovecrafian horrors did exist upon our planet. This creature fascinates and terrifies me, which is the story of my life. I love it! But it’s terrible! Behold:

Here’s a bonus video on the Cambrian explosion:

This is another, older article about the creatures that used to inhabit our oceans. Lobopodians are ‘worms with legs.’ Because I really LOVE what happens when worms have billions of legs.

It looks like a cactus, but it could probably kill you.

Worms + Legs = NIghtmare fuel

“Science is true.” -Bill Nye

I’m browsing around the ‘end of the year’ lists, even if I never intend to write one myself. I like lists, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll make lists another time when people aren’t saturated with list reading. But here, from the 45 Worst Fox News Headlines, comes this awesome video of Bill Nye talking about evidence of volcanoes on the moon. To maximize your viewing pleasure, pay attention to his face from :30 to :38 at and his analogy at 1:38. Also, he says, at :50 “Science is true.”

Also, because space and Bill Nye are awesome, here is the “Our Future in Space” panel from TAM2011.

Update: The Moon colony is now part of the Republican debate!

I woke up today to realize that Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney fought over the existence of a lunar colony on the December 10th debate. This is the best policy issue, and by far the weirdest thing I have seen in national politics. In the midst of real economic issues, we are talking about lunar colonies. I can’t find a video about it (yet), but here is the article where Gingrich and Romney’s sparring is highlighted.

Let’s look at the highlights:

Romney: We could start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon. I’m not in favor of spending that kind of money to do that.

Newt: I’m happy to defend the idea that America should be in space and should be there in an aggressive, entrepreneurial way.

Mr. Gingrich, there is already a private initiative to go into space. This is CMU’s rover lander, which was rated one of the top ten innovations by Popular Science in 2011. While “Moon 2: Republican Space Race” is just a weird concept with very catchy name, entrepreneurial efforts to continue the space program is very real. I would like to see Republicans actually support one area of science. If they’re going to deny global warming and evolution, they can’t hate the moon. The moon is like America’s only colony, right?

The cuddliest fossil from 500 million years ago

I love when new fossil discoveries come out because they always tell me something crazy and exciting about ancient earth. Today, it’s time to talk about Anomalocaris , the three foot long, Cambrian sea predator. A well preserved fossil of this animal was found in shale beds in Kangaroo Island in Southern Australia. Now, before I can talk about this any more, let’s see a CGI rendering of this animal:

My skin starts to crawl when I see all the flipper legs. It's adorable little face...SO MANY LEGS.

I’m not going to link to what a silver fish is. If you’re brave and don’t have a crippling phobia of arachnids, google it. Suffice to say, this is the giant, underwater ancestor of that animal. (You can also look at the phylogenetic tree for a silver fish, but that tree is also filled with spiders, cockroaches and every insect that has ever given you nightmares.) This fossil discovery shows that Anomalocaris is more terrifying than this picture could even show you. It’s stalk eyes, which were found well preserved in shale, have not been found fossilized before. For the first time, we have a well preserved fossil. John Paterson found the eyes, and he said, “You split them along the really fine layers in the shale with hammer and chisel, like opening the pages of the book, and hopefully something will be looking back at you for the first time in 500 million years,” Paterson told LiveScience. “I was actually the one that found the pair of eyes. That was a spine-tingling moment.”

The actual Anomalocaris fossil is less terrifying than the CGI image. When you can't see all of those legs, it's kind of cuddly.

This is a glorious quote from a paleontologist. When I look through hundreds of pups, my heart always jumps when I find one with a right sided heart, which is visible through the skin in a new born mouse pup. One of the things that’s under reported is the shear joy scientists feel when they get a game changing result or find something worthwhile and exciting. A more complete fossil record also helps put to rest the idea that everything just appeared on this earth. When we learn about animals from ancient earth, it becomes obvious they are related to current critters still running or swimming or crawling around today. They also provide examples that the earth changes, species go extinct, and only small subsets of species will survive to continue to populate the earth. Also, finding soft tissues like eyes, skin, and feathers in new fossil beds has helped form a more complete model of ancient earth. So, enjoy your giant, underwater bug fossil, and be thankful that extinction does exist with the knowledge that the descents of these animals are now crawling around on land.