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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Daily Drift

 The Mouse
Yeah, just like that!

Today's readers have been in:

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Vantaa, Finland
Zagreb, Croatia
Antwerp, Belgium
Cape Town, South Africa
Tbilisi, Georgia
Warsaw, Poland
Johannesburg, South Africa
Athens, Greece
Barisal, Bangladesh
Krakow, Poland
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Islamabad, Pakistan
Singapore, Singapore
Santiago, Chile
Taipei, Taiwan
Reykjavik, Iceland
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Sofia, Bulgaria
Bratislava, Slovakia
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Groningen, Netherlands
 Kuala Lumpur, malaysia
Zurich, Switzerland
Dublin, Ireland
Nyon, Switzerland
Cork, Ireland
Bern, Switzerland
Taoyuan, Taiwan
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Petah Tikva, Israel
Limerick, Ireland
Tallinn, Estonia
Jakarta, Indonesia
Ampang, Malaysia
Karachi, Pakistan
Amman, Jordan
Bangkok, Thailand

Today in History

1770 Marie Antoinette marries future King Louis XVI of France.
1863 At the Battle of Champion's Hill, Union General Ulysess S. Grant repulses the Confederates, driving them into Vicksburg.
1868 President Andrew Johnson is acquitted during Senate impeachment, by one vote, cast by Edmund G. Ross.
1879 The Treaty of Gandamak between Russia and England sets up the Afghan state.
1920 Joan of Arc is canonized in Rome.
1928 The first Academy Awards are held in Hollywood.
1943 A specially trained and equipped Royal Air Force squadron destroys two river dams in Germany.
1951 Chinese Communist Forces launch second step, fifth-phase offensive and gain up to 20 miles of territory.
1960 A Big Four summit in Paris collapses because of the American U-2 spy plane affair.
1963 After 22 Earth orbits, Gordon Cooper returns to Earth, ending the last mission of Project Mercury.

And I Quote

"If the election were held today, Obama would win the veteran vote by as much as seven points over Romney, higher than his margin in the general population."
     ~  Margot Roosevelt, w/ Reuters   

So, Obama is ahead with the military, women, Blacks, Democrats, Hispanics, old people, catholics and the poor.

Where is this "tied race" they keep telling us about?

The shrub guilty of war crimes

Guilty of War Crimes
Former United States pretender George W Bush and seven of his associates have been found guilty of war crimes.

But their deeds are likely to go unpunished as the Kuala Lumpur war crimes tribunal which found them guilty is a "tribunal of conscience" and does not have the power to impose any punishment.
The shrub, former US vice pretender Dick Cheney, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former deputy assistant attorney general John Choon Yoo, former assistant attorney general Jay Bybee, and former counsels Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and William Haynes II were convicted as war criminals on Friday.

The five-panel tribunal unanimously delivered a guilty verdict on charges relating to their involvement of knowing that prisoners of war were being tortured while held in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo bay.

They were charged and convicted for torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of the complainant war crime victims, Kuala Lumpur foundation to criminalize war said in a statement - More

TSA pats-down Henry Kissinger

To be fair to the TSA, sometimes they get it right.
Kissinger, who will be 89 this month, was spotted on Friday at LaGuardia airport in New York, getting routed to the pat-down line while going through security. Freelance reporter Matthew Cole recognized him — something the TSA agent checking identification did not.

After asking Kissinger his name as he passed through the scanner, the agent sent him to be searched. Kissinger was in a wheelchair, Cole tells us, not because he couldn’t walk, but because, Cole surmised, it was a long walk to the gate. In the search area, Kissinger was subjected to what Cole called “the full Monty” of the usual groping. “He stood with his suit jacket off, and he was wearing suspenders. They gave him the full pat-down. None of the agents seemed to know who he was,” he says.
Finally they caught someone dangerous. Next up, Jamie Dimon.

Female terrorists’ bios belie stereotypes

Much like their male counterparts, female terrorists are likely to be educated, employed and native residents of the country where [...]
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Ex-Mexican official pleads guilty to aiding cartel

A former Mexican law enforcement official pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in San Diego to aiding members of a violent Tijuana-based drug cartel in a case prosecutors said included helping traffickers get away with a double homicide in 2010.

Newlywed, still in wedding dress, found stabbed to death in tub

The last time her family saw Estrella Carrera, she had just gotten married to the father of her youngest child.
They started getting worried the next day when the 26-year-old Carrera failed to pick up the child, a 2-year-old boy, and her 9-year-old daughter. On Sunday, a sister called police.

Random Photos

skin on the fresh grass 
Got your attention!

The Vatican turns on Girl Scouts

The catholic church is not investigating the Girl Scouts for their sinfully delicious cookies, but rather for the organization's ties to nonprofits such as Medicins Sans Frontiers and other groups that teach safe-sex education.

Think you understand the difference between "inpatient" and "outpatient?" Think again.

From an eye-opening op-ed column in the Chicago Tribune's Business section:
If you find yourself in a hospital for more than a few hours, make sure you find out if you have been admitted for inpatient care or if you are merely considered an outpatient under what is called "observation care."

If you haven't been admitted to the hospital, the costs you may have to pay out of pocket for medical services and drugs could be considerable. You could also be denied Medicare coverage for follow-up nursing care.

Patients getting emergency department services, observation services, outpatient surgery, lab tests or X-rays, but for whom the doctor hasn't written an order of admission, are considered outpatients even if they spend the night. Even if you stay in the hospital for a few days, don't assume you have been admitted. Ask about your status!

Why are hospitals doing this? In November 2010, the American Hospital Association warned that changes in policy by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services "are causing hospitals to place patients in observation status for more than 48 hours instead of admitting them."

The most unpleasant surprise for non-admitted patients is the cost of drugs. Susan Jaffe of Kaiser Health News recently documented examples of patients charged much more for common drugs than they would have paid at a local pharmacy. A patient in Boca Raton, Fla., for instance, was charged $71 for a blood pressure pill for which her neighborhood pharmacy charges 16 cents...

Naturally, an emergency patient isn't thinking about hospital status. However, being an inpatient can mean significant savings to you. So you should ask your doctor to see that you are admitted. In addition, do not hesitate to ask your insurer for assistance in appeals if you believe that the bill you received is incorrect.
More at the source, where there are several relevant links to Medicare resources.  If you or any of your family are likely to be admitted to a hospital, it may be financially very important to you to understand the difference between "observation care" and "admission." I think understanding the details isn't necessary - just knowing that sleeping overnight in the hospital doesn't necessarily mean you're an "inpatient."

This will be of interest only to readers in the United States.  Those of you from other countries probably don't have to worry about this kind of administrative bullshit.

JPMorgan "considering" taking back bonuses after unit loses $2bn

Why are they only considering and not actually doing? The problem on Wall Street has repeatedly been the failure to suffer any consequences from gambles that lose. Nobody on Wall Street ever had to pay back a penny of the bonus money they received for gambles that failed during the initial round of the crisis so what lesson was learned? None.
The banks lost and then gladly accepted lifestyle saving bailouts so they kept doing what they had been doing, knowing that there are never any negative consequences. Congress has too many chumps and politicians who are owned by Big Finance that find this acceptable, so the problem will keep repeating itself until someone steps in.

For Wall Street to truly reform, there have to be painful and serious consequences including clawbacks and perhaps prison terms. Somehow I'm not confident in either but would love to be surprised.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. bank, will consider reclaiming incentive pay from employees including former Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew after her unit had a $2 billion trading loss, said two senior executives.

The lender can cancel stock awards or demand they be repaid if an employee “engages in conduct that causes material financial or reputational harm,” JPMorgan said in its annual proxy statement. The company will claw back pay if it’s appropriate, said one of the executives, who asked not to be identified because no decisions have been made.

Dimon & JPMorgan execs ignored warnings of risk

Of course they did. For starters, let's recognize that the insiders and experts who drooled over Dimon and thought he was a genius at risk were either drunk from his parties or complete idiots. His former chief investment officer who was supposed to be another risk expert was called a "trader at heart" which means she loved risk. Putting a "trader at heart" in charge of risk is asking for trouble and it's an obvious conflict of interest.

The problems that caused the $2 billion and counting loss at JPMorgan are the same as what tripped up other Wall Street banks. When your compensation plans reward high return and don't brutally punish high loss, your team is going to be playing with fire. When management goes along with the game for years - because they're also getting the mega-bonuses and living large - there will always be a problem. Always.

Now that it's coming out that JPMorgan was warned about risky trades since (at least) 2007, can we stop this nonsense of talking about Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan as risk experts? JPMorgan was more lucky than smart. More on the years or risky trading and bullying of risk managers at the NY Times:
In the years leading up to JPMorgan Chase’s $2 billion trading loss, risk managers and some senior investment bankers raised concerns that the bank was making increasingly large investments involving complex trades that were hard to understand, the New York Times reports.

But even as the size of the bets climbed steadily, these former employees say, their concerns about the dangers were ignored or dismissed.

An increased appetite for such trades had the approval of the upper echelons of the bank, including Jamie Dimon, the chief executive, current and former employees said.

Looks matter more than reputation when it comes to trusting people with our money

Our decisions to trust people with our money are based more on how they look then how they behave, according [...]
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The 250th anniversary of the sandwich

This year is the 250th anniversary of the sandwich. According to the British Sandwich Association, John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, was playing cards when he requested meat between pieces of bread so he could easily eat without interrupting the game. From BBC News:
 Wp-Content Uploads 2010 04 Dagwood Secondary Foodsmith Sam Bompas said the Earl of Sandwich was eating with his fingers "when cutlery was de rigueur".
"Eating of record at the time was service á la française where all the food went on the table at the same time and there was an elaborate ritual of carving, aided by troops of servants," said Mr Bompas.
"What you have with the sandwich is the shock of informality. He was a daring man to eat in such a way coming from his social background."

World's most expensive hot dog costs $1,501

The world's most expensive hot dog is made from premium beef and topped with lobster tail, saffron aioli and gold flakes.

New Zealanders puzzled by mystery gifts from Paris

Police are investigating a series of mysterious packages sent from Paris to residents along New Zealand's remote west coast. At least four unexpected parcels were delivered to homes on the South Island in the last fortnight, all with Parisian post marks, police said. They contained cash – a €50 note (£40) was in one, a New Zealand $100 note (£48) in another – and a special hair-themed gift: in three cases a brand new hairdryer, in the other a set of hair clippers.

The parcels included handwritten notes, two of which had the words "thank you for being a true friend" scrawled in a mix of lower and upper case letters. There was no obvious link between the recipients, who were left baffled by the gifts, said police. Police said early on Monday the parcels "appeared to simply be a goodwill gesture", but by the afternoon they had begun to suspect more sinister motives.

In a press conference in Greymouth, police suggested the apparently random acts of long-distance kindness could in fact have been a dry run for a money-laundering or drug-trafficking operation. Senior Sergeant Allyson Ealam said New Zealand customs and Interpol had been engaged to help track down the sender of the packages. "We have already been told that the return addresses on each of the parcels exist and we are now checking the names of the senders," she said. Each package had a different return address, she added.

Experts had failed to find any concealed drugs in the parcels, while fingerprints had been taken from the packaging. It was unlikely to be an elaborate marketing stunt, she said. "They all did the right thing by contacting police about their surprise parcels. Maybe they have come from someone who won the lottery over there. Or it could be that it's a nice prank."

Jordan cave on CouchSurfing.com

 Cnn Dam Assets 120509044610-Cave-Door-Horizontal-Gallery
Ghassab Al-Bedoul, 42, offers up his cave in Petra, Jordan, for visitors on CouchSurfing.com. It looks like a fantastic experience. In the four years he's been registered on the site, Al-Bedoul says he's hosted more than 1,000 people. 
From CNN:
The cave, which is no larger than 150 square feet, is uniquely modern. A row of solar-powered lights, a gift from a couch surfer, encircles the front of the cave entrance. When the sun sets past the Petra mountains, they are the only visible lights.
The outside of the cave is hard stone, but Al-Bedoul has done some decorating on the inside. The roof is painted black with stars circling the room. Candlelight glows just bright enough to see some of the traditional Jordanian paintings he's placed inside; not included in that collection is the large Bob Marley poster near the cave's entrance…
When asking Al-Bedoul for the washrooms, he points to the mountains, and says, "far away please."

Valley of Balls

Mysterious spherical rocks in the semi-desert of western Kazakhstan

Image of Valley of Balls located in Shetpe, Kazakhstan
Close to the town of Shetpe in Western Kazakhstan lies the Valley of Balls – or Torysh, as it is known in Kazakh. It consists of numerous ball-like rock formations strewn across a wide range of steppe land. The balls range in size from tiny marble-like rocks to huge boulders the size of a car.

The phenomenon is poorly researched, but there could be a number of geological explanations from megaspherulites - crystalline balls formed in volcanic ash and then revealed by weathering - to cannonball concretions - a process where sediment accumulates around a harder core - to spherical weathering wherein the conditions are just right to erode rocks into spherical form. In this case due to the range of sizes the most likely explanation is that of spherulite formation.

Visible from the Valley is Sherkala (Lion Rock), a stunning 332m white and ochre chalk outcrop with numerous fissures along its rim and even more rock formations at its foot. Close by are also the scant ruins of the Silk Road town Kyzylkala.

Meet the New Hip Car: The Crown Vic

Ah, the Crown Vic. It's synonymous with the police car, grandpa's car .. and now, just as Ford has stopped production, the Crown Victoria is becoming a very hip car. Gale Holland of the Los Angeles Times explains:
Like a cockroach, however, the Crown Vic is resilient. It's already begun quietly colonizing civilian car culture, notably in Los Angeles County, where the number now in private hands — 38,000 — is second only to that in metropolitan New York, according to auto information company Edmunds.com.
This is confounding on multiple counts. The Crown Vic, the last of the roomy, rear-drive American sedans, is the ultimate grandma and grandpa car. Like the trucker cap before it, is irony its appeal?
The Crown Vic is dead. Long live the Crown Vic.
Perhaps the mystique of the Crown Vic can be summed up in this comment by a car forum commenter: "It just ... tickles me that there's a group about an ex-police vehicle modified for almost the exact opposite type of drivers and purposes."



True evolution

Science and Health

A walk in the park gives mental boost to people with depression

A walk in the park gives mental boost to people with depression

A walk in the park may have psychological benefits for people suffering from depression. In one of the first studies [...]
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Sugar makes you stupid

Attention, college students cramming between midterms and finals: Binging on soda and sweets for as little as six weeks may [...]
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Drugs from lizard saliva reduces the cravings for food

A drug made from the saliva of the Gila monster lizard is effective in reducing the craving for food. Researchers [...]
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Why omega-3 oils help at the cellular level

For the first time, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have peered inside a living mouse cell and [...]
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Mice with big brains provide insight into brain regeneration

Mice with big brains provide insight into brain regeneration

Scientists at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa (uOttawa) have discovered that mice that lack [...]
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Sleepwalking far more prevalent than previously suspected

What goes bump in the night? In many U.S. households: people. That’s according to new Stanford University School of Medicine [...]
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Chicago police purchase ear-damaging weapon

For a country that defeated the Evil Empire, we should know better than to accept this kind of evil. More on the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) that Chicago just purchased.

“This is simply a risk management tool, as the public will receive clear information regarding public safety messages and any orders provided by police,” Chicago Police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton told the Guardian.

However, during its first outing at a U.S. protest, during the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, police blasted non-lethal sound waves from the device as a crowd deterrent. Unlike firing tear gas or swinging batons, deploying the LRAD does not create a dramatic media spectacle; indeed, videos from the Pittsburgh protests capture the LRAD emitting little more than a high-pitched siren. Those within the sound cannon’s range, however, have described immense pain and severe headaches and — in some cases — irreversible hearing damage. LRAD Corp., which produces the weapon for the military and domestic policing, said that anyone within 100m of the device’s directed sound path will experience “extreme pain,” according to Gizmodo.

LiDAR imaging of prehistoric earthworks

LiDAR is the acronym for Light Detection and Ranging, a powerful technology that uses laser light for mapping and analysis.  At the top is a LiDAR aerial image of the Marching Bear Group of earthworks at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa.  Below is a more conventional depiction of one of the bear effigy mounds, using standard photography and outlining the earthwork with limestone.

The National Park Service website has an article comparing "traditional mapping" (surveying and sketching) vs. aerial photography (embed right, which also shows an eagle mound and the tip of a linear mound at the edge of the bear mound group) vs. LiDAR.  I've also seen effective imaging produced by taking an extended-exposure photo at dusk, while having knowledgeable people walk around mounds with flashlights to "paint" the features with light.

For those with an interest in this LiDAR as an archaeological tool, the best article I've seen was posted by the Ohio Archaeological Council; it discusses the value of LiDAR in studying some of the Hopewell Mounds in Ohio.

A couple months ago an article at The Guardian explained how LiDAR could be used to map the Amazon forests in incredible detail.

Predicting the Weather in Space

Cloudy With a Chance of Catastrophe
by Liana Aghajanian   
Image credit: NASA
In 1859, while observing sunspots, a young astronomer named Richard Carrington recorded a geomagnetic storm so powerful, the electrical currents it sent to Earth were enough to keep the newly invented telegraph operating without a battery. Centuries later, though humans have sent robots to Mars and even strong-armed a couple engineers into walking on the moon, the science of space weather, the changing environmental conditions in near-Earth space, has largely managed to elude us. In fact even the term “space weather” is new; it wasn’t used regularly until the 1990s.
Now, an international project led by China is hoping to advance the study of space weather by light-years in order to minimize the dangerous impact a storm in space might have on us fragile Earthlings.
If experts are correct, there’s a chance that a serious space weather threat will arrive sooner rather than later – and the risk to humans is greater than you think.
Oddly, the trouble is that we’ve become too advanced. Because humans today are so dependent upon modern electrical technology, a space storm the size of the one Carrington recorded in 1859 could cause catastrophic problems if it occurred tomorrow. According to a 2008 National Academy of Sciences Report, from long-term electrical blackouts to damage to communication satellites and GPS systems (not to mention billions in financial losses), the results could be devastating worldwide.
Luckily, scientists are hopeful the KuaFu project will prevent (or at least minimize the impact of) this kind of disaster.

Our Eyes on the Sun, The Sun in Our Eyes

Named for Kua Fu, a sun-chasing giant from a Chinese folktale whose pursuit to tame the brightest star in our solar system ended after he died of thirst, the KuaFu project will create a space weather forecasting system 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth’s surface. The goal is similar to the one from the legend: to observe changes in solar-terrestrial storms, investigate flows of energy and solar material, and improve the forecasting of space weather.
Not necessarily to tame the sun, but, at least, to understand it.
Proposed in 2003 by scientist Chuanyi Tu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the project will place three separate satellites at strategic points in our solar system to observe the inner workings of space weather. China’s National Space Administration along with the European and Canadian Space Agencies will work together to man them.
“Being aware of the impending blindness to space weather and its effects, we consider a mission like KuaFu absolutely mandatory,” said Dr. Rainer Schwenn, one of the developers of KuaFu. “If ‘space weather’ keeps being considered an important science goal, then KuaFu is a real key project.”
The satellites will offer an unprecedented ability to glean information about the often tumultuous relationship between the sun and Earth, by allowing scientists to observe both the star and its effects on the planet simultaneously. To now, this process has been viewable only via computer simulation.
“You have to look at the two systems simultaneously [to most accurately forecast space weather]” said Dr. William Liu, a senior scientist at the Canadian Space Agency who took over as project leader when Chuanyi Tu retired two years ago. “It’s a real observation; it’s what’s actually happening.”

Space Storm Showdown: What Do We Do?

So, if the power-grid frying, billion dollar damage-wreaking storm is inevitable, how much will forecasting it actually help?
According to Liu, predicting space weather activity can give the operators who maneuver satellites in space the information they need to protect them and us from harm.
For example: If companies know a storm is approaching, it gives them a chance to tweak their loads before their systems descend into chaos and shut off power for, say, the entire East Coast of the United States.
“That’s how you prevent catastrophe,” Liu explained. “You reduce the load on the parts that are more sensitive.”
While the project was originally scheduled to be completed this year, Liu’s current estimates put its debut at 2016. Despite the delays, he remains optimistic it will come to fruition, pointing out that international collaborations like this one often stir up scientific and financial challenges that delay the launch process.
Whether the KuaFu project will be able to predict space weather accurately all of the time is up for debate. Liu, however, is confident that, at the very least, it’s a step toward that direction .
“With this launch and operation, we’ll make our predictions better. Whether it will be 100 percent, that will be too much to ask, but it will definitely improve our knowledge.”

What Is A Warp Drive?

Warp drives, commonly used in science fiction, are propulsion systems which allow spacecraft to travel faster than light. The most notable usage of a warp drive is probably in the Star Trek universe. But what are warp drives and how do they work? Can they ever cross the boundary from science fiction into science fact?

Awesome Pictures


A Beached Whale in the Forest

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

In the woods outside of Ushuaia, Argentina, you can find an enormous whale. It’s Adrián Villar Rojas’s mysterious sculpture entitled My Dead Grandfather.

Amazing Sharks You Should Get to Know Better

By David Shiffman
Quick—think of a shark!
What did it look like? Most people are only familiar with the sharks that make the news for biting people: animals like the bull shark, tiger shark, or the great white made infamous by Jaws. SCUBA divers, fishermen, or avid watchers of Shark Week might be able to name a few more species. But did you know that there are actually more than 1,200 species of chondrichthyan (sharks and their skate, ray, and chimaera relatives)?
Sharks live in habitats as diverse as coral reefs, the Arctic, and the deep sea, and come in an impressive variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Here are 11 of my favorite amazing sharks, a collection that showcases the incredible diversity of these animals. What’s your favorite shark? Let me know in the comments below!

1. Velvet belly lantern shark (Etmopterus spinax)

A related lantern shark, Etmopterus fusus, from Last et al. 2002
The glow of a lantern shark from below (from Claes and Mallefet 2010)
These deep sea sharks are best known for their ability to glow in the dark, an ability that they are believed to use for signaling one another during mating. A glowing belly helps them camouflage themselves, as any potential predator swimming below them will see the same levels of light that would naturally reach that depth, and not a shadow that could give away their location. There are several species of lantern shark, and each has a distinctive pattern of bioluminescent light.

2. Megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios)

Megamouth shark, from a 1990 National Marine Fisheries Service technical report
These sharks, whose awesome scientific name means “giant mouth of the deep,” were first discovered in 1976, when a heavy anchor from a U.S. Navy vessel hit one. If the anchor had been deployed fifteen seconds earlier or later, this species wouldn’t have been discovered for another eight years, and to date fewer than 50 sightings have been confirmed worldwide. Megamouths, whale sharks, and basking sharks are the only three known large filter feeding sharks, but megamouths do it a little differently. Their large mouth and unique muscle morphology suggests that these sharks may be the only fish to engage in a behavior known as “engulfing,” best known from humpback whales.

3. Atlantic sharpnose sharks (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae)

Atlantic sharpnose pups (pictured with the author during an unfortunate beard-growing contest)
While sharks are often portrayed as huge superpredators, many are actually quite small. When they’re pups, Atlantic sharpnose can easily fit into one hand (see photo). These sharks are often found close to shore along beaches and estuaries during the summer, and migrate to deeper offshore waters during the winter. My favorite thing about sharpnoses is their attitude—even though they’re tiny, they’re often caught when they try to eat bait that’s bigger than they are. Though few people have heard of them (they’re often incorrectly referred to by recreational fishermen as “baby blacktips”), they are extremely common in coastal U.S. waters.

4. Sixgill sawshark (Pilotrema warren)

A related sawshark species, Wikimedia commons
Sixgill sawsharks are endemic (native to and not found anywhere else) to coastal waters off of Southern Africa, from about Cape Town to southern Mozambique, where they live on the seafloor. Sixgill sawsharks got their clever name from the fact that they have six gill slits, atypical for sharks which normally have five. Oh, I suppose the other part of their name also comes from the GIANT SAW STICKING OUT OF THEIR FACE. Like the sawfishes, sawsharks have an elongated rostrum (snout) covered with sawlike teeth, which they use to stun and impale fishes by swinging it rapidly side to side. Additionally, a pair of sensitive barbels (fleshy whiskers) is also found on the rostrum of sawsharks, which helps them locate buried prey.

5. Goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

Goblin shark, Wikimedia commons
In addition to the unique shape of its head and its round fins, these sharks are noteworthy because of their coloration. Goblin sharks can be bubblegum pink, making them simultaneously one of the ugliest shark species and one of the cutest. They are typically considered to be solitary animals, though a large group of juvenile males was caught off the coast of Taiwan following an undersea earthquake in 2003. They usually live in the deep sea, but at least one has been documented swimming in shallow waters near Japan.

6. Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus)

Greenland shark, From MacNeil et al. 2012
The Greenland shark, also known as the Sleeper shark because of its relatively sluggish swimming behavior, inhabits the cold waters of the Arctic. Greenland sharks are the largest fish in the Arctic, with the biggest reported individual measuring in at over 23 feet in length. Long believed to be scavengers, Greenland sharks may actually be the Arctic’s top predator, as new evidence suggests that they can catch and eat seals, reindeer, and even polar bears! These sharks are also known for a peculiar parasite that is often found dangling from their eye, which is responsible for the single weirdest question I ever got during one of my public education talks (someone asked how the sharks train the parasites to sit in their eye socket.)

The Trouble With Sharks

These species of sharks are unique and fascinating, but sharks as a group are in deep trouble. According to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, 17% of all known chondrichthyan species (and 1/3 of all open ocean chondrichthyan species) are Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered.
Scientists have reported population declines in some shark species of 90% or more in the last few decades in areas where sharks used to be abundant.

7. Cookie-cutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis)

Cookie cutter shark, Wikimedia commons
Cookie-cutters have a bizarre feeding behavior known as “ecto-parasitic predation” that’s unique among shark species. Basically, this means that they take relatively small circular bites out of the sides of their prey rather than consuming it. These bites have been documented in swordfish, tuna, whales and dolphins, the outer rubber-like hulls of submarines, and, in one case, a human. The only person who has been bitten was in the process of swimming across a deep ocean trench between two islands, at night, while being lit from above by powerful searchlights mounted on a boat.
People often ask me what they can do to reduce the chances of being bitten by a shark, so there you have it—don’t do that.

8. Common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus)

Common thresher shark, Wikimedia commons
Thresher sharks are known for the extremely long upper lobe of their caudal fins, which can be almost as long as the rest of the animal. These tails are used to stun schools of small bait fish like anchovies or sardines, which make up the majority of the diet of threshers. Thresher sharks are also noteworthy from a physiological perspective because of the presence of an endothermic organ that helps keep their brains and eyes warmer than the surrounding cold waters in which they live. I suspect that, like most other highly evolved creatures, thresher sharks keep the rest of their body warm through the use of a Snuggie.

9. Pacific angel shark, (Squatina californica)

Pacific angel shark, Wikimedia commons
Angel sharks are some of the only ambush predators in the shark world. Rather than actively chasing their prey, these flattened sharks lie in wait partially buried under the sediment and strike when something swims close enough to their mouth. Some angel sharks have been documented waiting in the same spot for several days until food comes along, a behavior I have been known to engage in from time to time. These sharks are one of the few species targeted for their meat, and were at one point the most commonly caught shark in California.

10. Spotted wobbegong, (Orectolobus maculatus)

Wobbegong, Wikimedia commons
In addition to having a delightful name (which means “beard” in the language of Aboriginal Australians), wobbegongs are bottom-dwellers which often rest under coral ledges or rocks during the day. These sharks are sometimes sold as “fish and chips” in their native Australia, and they are also sometimes killed for their uniquely colored skin (which is made into leather). Wobbegongs are noteworthy for being one of the few species of sharks which have been observed being eaten by seals.

11. Spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna)

Spinner shark, UN FAO
These sharks are named for their incredible acrobatic feats—they often jump out of the water while (you guessed it) spinning. This behavior is the end result of swimming towards schools of prey from below at high speeds. The easiest way to tell a spinner shark from the similar-looking blacktip shark is by counting the number of fins which have black tips on them. Believe it or not, spinner sharks have one more fin with black tips than blacktips do—the anal fin.

Animal Pictures