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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

741   Charles Martel of Gaul dies at Quiezy. His mayoral power is divided between his two sons, Pepin III and Carloman.
1746   Princeton University, in New Jersey, receives its charter.
1797   The first successful parachute descent is made by Andre-Jacqes Garnerin, who jumps from a balloon at some 2,200 feet over Paris.
1824   The Tennessee Legislature adjourns ending Davy Crockett's state political career.
1836   Sam Houston sworn in as the first president of the Republic of Texas.
1862   Union troops push 5,000 confederates out of Maysbille, Ark., at the Second Battle of Pea Ridge.
1859   Spain declares war on the Moors in Morocco.
1907   Ringling Brothers buys Barnum & Bailey.
1914   U.S. places economic support behind Allies.
1918   The cities of Baltimore and Washington run out of coffins during the "Spanish Inflenza" epidemic.
1938   Chester Carlson invents the photocopier. He tries to sell the machine to IBM, RCA, Kodak and others, but they see no use for a gadget that makes nothing but copies.
1954   As a result of the Geneva accords granting Communist control over North Vietnam, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorizes a crash program to train the South Vietnamese Army.
1955   The prototype of the F-105 Thunder Chief makes its maiden flight.
1962   U.S. reveals Soviet missile sites in Cuba. President Kennedy orders a naval and air blockade on further shipment of military equipment to Cuba. Following a confrontation that threatens nuclear war, Kennedy and Khrushchev agree on October 28 on a formula to end the crisis. On November 2 Kennedy reports that Soviet missile bases in Cuba are being dismantled.
1964   Jean Paul Satre declines the Nobel Prize for Literature.
1966   The Soviet Union launches Luna 12 for orbit around the moon
1972   Operation Linebacker I, the bombing of North Vietnam with B-52 bombers, ends.

Non Sequitur


And I Quote

Forget The Deficit For Now!

Ask UK & Ireland.

imagePaul Krugman had a very short blog yesterday that I thought was worth mentioning. Sometimes we can say a lot by saying little.
It continues to amuse me that Mitt Romney is given accolades for being the job creator and businessman. Sadly he simply disregarded one of the basic tenets of Economics 101, if government shrinks spending (reduce the deficit) without any other source spending, the economy will be depressed further and government revenue will fall further exacerbating the deficit. This is not conjecture. One simply need follow UK and Ireland.
Secondly, he also forgot the concept of marginal propensity to consume. While businesses have unspent trillions on the table, further tax cuts to them will not induce business activity or spending. Tax cuts to the middle class and selective credits to the poor will generate economic activity as they immediately put that money to work causing businesses to put all their pent up capital to work for profit.
If the jobs bill in congress were passed, the economic activity generated would have had the country much further ahead in employment. To put it bluntly Romney’s allies have held the American economy and with that every middle class and poor citizen hostage in the attempt to win an election. Mitt Romney has pretty much promised to follow the policies that were causal in the demise of the American economy even as it made a select few very rich.

An Elite Obsession

by Paul Krugman October 21, 2012, 2:32 pm
David Dayen makes a very good point, which I missed: during the Hofstra debate, in which questions were posed by members of the public rather than the Beltway elite, there wasn’t a single question about the deficit. Not one. The public really doesn’t care.
And you know what? Neither do financial markets, which continue to lend to the U.S. government at incredibly low rates.
Meanwhile, the results from austerity are in — and it’s now clear that the adverse economic impacts of austerity in a depressed economy are much worse than the elite imagined (although Keynesian economists knew better), and are in fact so severe that austerity is largely self-defeating, having little impact on the budget deficit even in the short run because reduced revenue takes away much of the initial savings. Once you take long-run effects into account, austerity is almost surely self-defeating.
Yet deficit fever, with demands for spending cuts right away, has dominated policy discussion for almost three years, with all the Very Serious People believing that by pounding on this issue they were demonstrating their Very Seriousness.
An Elite Obsession – NYTimes.com#postComment

The repugican Controlled VA Board of Elections Will Not Prosecute repugican Voter Fraud

A repugican operative was observed by multiple witnesses to have discarded completed voter registration forms in a dumpster. This is a crime in Virginia, but the repugican controlled State Board of Elections will not ask the State Attorney General to investigate the matter.
WTVR.com has reported locally from Virginia that The Virginia State Board of Elections(VSBE) will be refusing to prosecute Colin Small, 31, who was arrested on charges of obstruction of justice and voter fraud. Under the written law the Virgina Attorney General is unable to move forward with a prosecution unless it is requested to investigate by the VSBE. Small, therefore, is off the legal hook despite the fact he was witnessed and there is evidence of him committing a crime.

Pro-Romney CEO tells employees: 'Help yourself' by donating

We've talked a bit lately about business leaders using heavy-handed election tactics, pressuring their employees to support Mitt Romney, apparently at the candidate's behest. Several Republican CEOs have taken Romney's request to heart, and have abandoned subtlety when giving their workers voting instructions.
Among the most notable examples is Arthur Allen, CEO of ASG Software Solutions, who told his employees via email, "If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don't want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come." As "Up with Chris Hayes" reported over the weekend, that's not all Arthur Allen said.
As it turns out, the ASG Software Solutions chief "has repeatedly solicited his more than 1,300 employees not only to support Mitt Romney, but to donate up to the maximum $2,500 to Romney's presidential campaign."

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
What strikes me as interesting about this is the degree to which a company can keep tabs on its workers. A CEO can send emails every day, pleading with them to vote one way or another in a given election, but when push comes to shove, an individual American walks into the voting booth and casts a secret ballot. It's public information as to whether that person voted, but how he or she voted is entirely private.
If a worker runs into the boss at the water cooler, and the employer says, "So, did you vote the way I told you to?" the employee can say, "Absolutely, boss!" No one ever will know whether the assurance is true or not.
But urging employees to contribute the legal maximum is something else altogether.
When someone donates $2,500 to a presidential candidate, that's reported to the FEC. In other words, when the worker runs into the boss at the water cooler, and the employer says, "So, did you donate the way I told you to?" the employee can't lie.
To be sure, Arthur Allen never used his messages to threaten workers who didn't donate, and never said those who choose not to contribute will face negative consequences, but the intimidation is nevertheless obvious. The CEO who can raise or lower your salary, promote or demote, hire or fire, has urged his employees to give money to a candidate -- and he'll know which workers followed his "advice" or which didn't.

The truth be told

Woman faked own kidnapping to get day off work

A San Antonio woman is facing charges after police say she faked her own kidnapping to get a day off from work. An officer on patrol went to check out a car parked near Ray Ellison and Five Palms at around 6:30 p.m. on October 10th. When the officer looked inside the car, he spotted 48-year-old Sheila Bailey Eubank bound with rope.
An arrest warrant affidavit states Eubank told police a man jumped into her car at around 6:15 a.m. while she was at a Security Service Federal Credit Union ATM. Eubank said the man held her an knife point and forced her to drive him to various locations for what she believed were drug deals. She told officers he then assaulted her, tried to choke her with a rope, and then tied her up and left her in her car.

However, officers discovered a lottery ticket in Eubank's purse that was purchased that day during the hours she claimed she was being held. Investigators reviewed surveillance video from the store where the lottery ticket was purchased and found out she had entered the store by herself and appeared "healthy, unhurried, and pleasant with the clerk."

Investigators then reviewed video from the Security Service Federal Credit Union where Eubank claimed she was abducted. The video showed withdrawing money from the motor ATM, but there were no signs that anyone else was with her. Police say when Eubank was confronted by investigators, she eventually admitted her story was false and that she simply wanted a day off from work and wanted attention. Eubank now faces an Aggravated Perjury charge.



The Terre-Cuite Tea Set (aka French Tea Garden), 1910 Frederick Childe Hassam
The Terre-Cuite Tea Set (aka French Tea Garden), 1910 Frederick Childe Hassam

Astronomers study two million light year ‘extragalactic afterburner’

Blasting over two million lights years from the center of a distant galaxy is a supersonic jet of material that ...
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Two Months Until the Mayan Doomsday

It's 2 months until the famous Dec. 21, 2012, but the much-hyped harbingers of doom are still as real as the tooth fairy. Read more
Two Months Until the Mayan Doomsday Nonevent

Maritime seafood industry adjusting to accommodate rising water temperatures

Members of the Maritime seafood sector say they're looking at making adjustments in the lobster industry as the Atlantic Ocean continues to heat up.

Cocaine is in the Air

Drugs. It's not only found on money anymore. Turns out all you have to do to inhale some cocaine in Rome is to go outdoors and take a breath:
A study of psychotropic drug levels in ambient air from eight Italian cities found background levels of cocaine, cannabinoids - the active ingredients in marijuana - nicotine and caffeine in every urban centre.
Turin had the highest concentrations of cocaine, says Angelo Cecinato at the Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research in Rome. Meanwhile, Bologna and Florence had some of the highest cannabinoid levels, which Cecinato attributes to the large student populations in the two cities.

China loses its taste for junk food

Last week, Coca-Cola said that sales in China grew an anemic 2% compared to 11% a year ago.

Electrical acupressure may relieve stomach woes for diabetics

Diabetic patients who suffer from a common complication of diabetes called gastroparesis may find that chronic electrical stimulation (ES) at ...
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It's a fact


Evolution mostly driven by brawn, not brains

The most common measure of intelligence in animals, brain size relative to body size, may not be as dependent on ...
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Random Photo


Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Girl in skunk costume accidentally shot by relative

A 9-year-old girl was accidentally shot in the shoulder during a Halloween party on Saturday night by a family member who thought she was an animal outside a New Sewickley Township home.

New Sewickley Police Chief Ronald Leindecker said the girl, whom he would not identify, was over a hillside at around 8:30 pm.

Leindecker said an unidentified male relative mistook the girl, who was wearing a black costume and a black hat with white tassel, for a skunk and shot her in the shoulder with a shotgun. The girl was alert and talking when she was flown to UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

A report on her condition was not available. Leindecker said he was not sure if charges will be filed. He added that the man had not been drinking. Officers are still investigating and collecting statements, and they will turn over the case to the Beaver County district attorney’s office.

The Bell Witch of Tennessee

Near Adams, Tennessee, stands a cave and a historical marker on a farm where the family of John Bell lived in the early 1800s. It was the scene of a series of mysterious manifestations that became known as the Bell Witch haunting.

John Bell, his wife Lucy, their nine children, and a family of slaves moved from North Carolina to Tennessee around 1804. Bell bought up land and eventually accumulated over 300 acres. In 1817, the family began to experience unexplained phenomena that were often centered around Bell’s daughter Betsy. They would hear strange tapping and a faint singing voice, identified as that of an old woman, although they couldn’t understand the words. The Bell children (three more were born in Tennessee) were awakened at night by something pulling at their bedcovers and sounds of something chewing on the bedposts. John Bell encountered a strange animal in his fields, described as having the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit. Despite nighttime hunting expeditions, they never caught the animal.

As time went on, the family was plagued by loud pounding on the outside of their cabin. Betsy was attacked in her sleep, encounters which left bruises and welts on her face. John Bell told his friend James Johnston about the haunting. Johnston and his wife spent a night in the Bell home and experienced noises and moving objects themselves. As the voice became louder, the family could tell the “witch” was quoting scripture and singing hymns. Over time, she began addressing family members by name. She hated John Bell and vowed to kill him. The witch also spoke to Betsy and warned her against marrying her intended, Joshua Gardner.

The story of the Bell Witch spread through the community, and in 1818, John Bell was excommunicated from his church. The official reason was a charge of usury over a slave sale, but some think the supernatural events were the actual catalyst.

In 1819, General Andrew Jackson paid a visit to the Bell homestead. The three oldest Bell sons had served under Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans, and he had heard the story of the Bell Witch. Jackson had a horse-drawn wagon and several men with him. As they approached the farm, the wagon stopped and the horses could not pull it from its position. After trying to get the wagon going for some time, Jackson exclaimed, “By the eternal, boys, it is the witch.” And then …a female voice was heard, saying “All right General, let the wagon move on, I will see you again to-night.” And the horses were able to pull the wagon again. Jackson had planned to stay a week, but the group, having experienced more of the witch’s attacks overnight, left the Bell farm next day. Accounts exist of this event, but it does not appear in any of Jackson’s personal writing.

As time went on, John Bell referred to the witch as “Kate.” The rapping, voices, and attacks continued for years. John Bell died in 1820 at the age of 70, and the family found a mysterious vial in the room where Bell’s body lay. They fed the liquid inside to the cat, and it immediately died. Then the witch’s voice took credit for Bell’s death. The witch reportedly laughed and sang constantly during Bell’s burial on the farm. A year later, the voice warned Bell’s widow Lucy that she would return for more haunting in seven years. Seven years later, in 1828, the manifestation made her last reported appearance, in a discussion with John Bell, Jr. in which the voice predicted the Civil War.

The tales of the Bell Witch haunting were passed down from source to source before being written in an 1894 book, so details vary. It is very likely that the family stories were exaggerated with each retelling. There is some speculation that the manifestations may have been a ruse to break up the relationship between Betsy Bell and her fiancé Joshua Gardner. The witch was strongly opposed to the marriage, and Betsy ended the relationship in 1821 out of fright. In 1824, she married her schoolteacher Richard Powell. Powell had known the family a long time, and some think he may have caused the initial manifestations. Powell began teaching in the area in 1815, and soon developed a liking for Betsy. He became friends with Betsy’s parents and was a frequent visitor to the Bell home. It wasn’t long after that the mysterious noises began. Powell’s first wife died in 1821, the same year Betsy ended her engagement to Gardner.
The Bell Family Cabin (Replica)
Photograph by Flickr user Wayne Hsieh.
Today, you can visit the Bell farm and the nearby cave. An early version of the family’s cabin has been recreated on its original spot, and its furnishings are recreations, although there are some actual artifacts on site.
The Historic Bell Witch Cave Sign
Photograph by Flickr user Cameron Daigle.
The most complete early account of the Bell Witch events are in an 1894 book called An Authenticated History of the Famous Bell Witch. It is available online.

Couple annoyed by aliens

A couple in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, reportedly called police four times within a seven-hour period last week insisting that alien-like creatures had invaded their home, noting the situation was creating havoc in their lives.

“On Oct. 14 at 4:36 a.m., I responded to Elliot Drive in reference to an ongoing unknown problem,” Officer James Wilkinson reported of Murfreesboro Police Department. “Upon my arrival, I made contact with the complainants.” The woman said that since Saturday night she had seen “a number of people in her yard and house,” Wilkinson reported.

“(The woman) stated there were green men hiding their face from her before police arrived,” he reported. “She also stated that the people had been in her house hiding and moving things around.” The woman and her husband did not know exactly how the aliens were able to gain entry to their home.

While speaking with the couple, Wilkinson reported he became concerned that they appeared “mentally unaware of their surroundings,” noting that they had already called three times before he responded in reference to the same situation. Even though police had not found any evidence of such creatures during the previous three visits, Wilkinson still conducted a search of the home to make sure the pair was not in any danger. “There were no signs of forced entry or vandalism … during any of the above listed calls,” he reported.

Legendary Monsters of Africa

The legendary monsters series continues with some scary stories from Africa. There are so many nations and discrete communities in Africa that the problem here was not finding the legendary stories, but whittling down the list to a manageable number.

1. Inkanyamba

The Inkanyamba is a huge carnivorous eel-like animal in the legends of the Zulu and Xhosa people of South Africa. The ancient legends say Inkanyambas can control the weather. They are said to have fins and/or flippers and grow to tremendous size. There are actually freshwater eels abundant in South Africa that grow to around six feet long, but that pales in comparison to the stories of the Inkanyamba.

2. Kongamato

A flying monster called Kongamato in Zambia, Angola, and Congo is described as a flying reptile we may recognize as a pterosaur. It was first described in English by explorer Frank Welland in 1932, although local legend goes back much further. This cryptid lives in rivers and swamps and has a huge wingspan, but no feathers. A similar creature goes by other names in other parts of Africa. Theories on Kongomato sightings range from bad lighting to the possibility that an unknown species may exist in inaccessible places. Of course, the image is familiar to us thanks to Hollywood.

3. Impundulu

The Impundulu or Lightning Bird is a supernatural bird from Pondo, Zulu, and Xhosa folklore. The South African bird is as big as a human and can summon lightning and storms, hence the name. The bird is sometimes a shape shifter that can appear as a human, and sometimes said to be a supernatural familiar that guards a witch or witch doctor. It will attack people and drink their blood. However, parts of the Impundulu or its eggs have medicinal powers. Image by DeviantART member Amadoodles.

4. Adze

The Adze is a vampire in the legends of the Ewe people of Ghana and Togo. It takes the form of a firefly, but if you capture one, it will revert to human appearance. This can be dangerous in itself, because in its human form the adze may attack and eat your organs, but it can be defeated. However, in the insect form, the adze will suck your blood while you sleep and spread disease, which is a possible explanation for malarial outbreaks. Its preferred victims are young children. The victim of an adze becomes a witch who is possessed by the adze’s spirit.

5. Bili Ape

There are plenty of legends of mysterious unknown ape species in Africa. Many of these cryptids are described as something between a chimpanzee and a gorilla. A ghost ape fitting this description is called Ufiti in Malawi. In other areas it became known as the Bondo Mystery Ape, leading to speculation that there was an unknown species waiting to be discovered. Reports led researchers to believe it was a large chimpanzee species that behaved more like gorillas. Various expeditions tried to find this species in Central Africa since skulls were found near the village of Bili in 1908. In the 21st century, evidence of a large subspecies of chimpanzee was found and the apes were later observed in the Bili forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now called the Bili Ape, they are classified as a subspecies of chimp.

6. Gbahali

The Gbahali is a reptilian creature of Liberia, resembling a crocodile. It grows to 30 feet long, has a snout shorter than a croc’s, and somewhat longer legs. Although this species is not confirmed by science, it is not considered a legendary monster among Liberian hunters, but a real creature they have caught and eaten. It is possible, however, that descriptions are exaggerated. Witnesses were shown a picture of the extinct animal Postosuchus, and they recognized it as the Gbahali. Image by Nobu Tamura.

7. Ninki Nanka

Ninki Nanka is a monster that lives in the Gambia River in Gambia. It is a dragon-like creature with the body of a crocodile, the head of a horse (with horns) and a long neck like a giraffe. And it’s huge – 30 to 50 feet long! An expedition in 2006 yielded an object said to be a scale from the monster, but it turned out to be non-biological – possibly a piece of celluloid film.

8. Popobawa

The Popobawa is a fairly recent manifestation reported in Zanzibar and Tanzania. The creature is a demon who appears as a normal human by day, and a one-eyed, bat-winged monster at night. The Popobawa attacks and sodomizes both men and women in the dark of night, and is particularly vicious to those who don’t believe in him. Attacks were first reported in 1965 on the island of Pemba. Reports of attacks come every few years, with a large number in 1995 attributed to mass hysteria. Some think that the attacks of the Popobawa can be traced to “waking dreams” or “night terrors,” in which the person experiences hallucinations somewhere in between lucidity and sleep. The name Popobawa in Swahili translates to “bat wing.”

9. Grootslang

Grootslang is an Afrikaans word meaning “great snake.” The monster of that name lives in a cave called the Wonder Hole in the Richtersveld area of South Africa. The story is that the original Grootslang was found to be too powerful, so the gods subdivided the animal into two species: the elephant and the snake. However, a Grootslang or two escaped this fate and reproduced. The monster can grow up to 60 feet long. Supposedly, its cave is full of diamonds, but no one knows for sure because the Grootslang guards it well. The Grootslang pictured was featured on the Cartoon Network series The Secret Saturdays.

10. Mokèlé-mbèmbé

The Mokèlé-mbèmbé is a cryptid resembling a dinosaur from the Congo River region. The name means “one who stops the flow of rivers” referring to its size. Dozens of expeditions have sought to find this huge creature, but come back with only secondhand accounts and mysterious footprints. The 1985 Disney film Baby is based on the legend of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé.

11. Tikoloshe

A Tikoloshe (or Tokoloshe) is an evil-spirited gremlin in Zulu mythology. A shaman may send a Tikoloshe to vex his enemies, causing anything from harmless fright to illness or death. Tikoloshes are described as short hairy humanoid figures that can render themselves invisible by swallowing a pebble – all the better to sneak up on their victims. Photograph by Toanke.

The Colorful And Bizarre World Of Starfish

Starfish. Also known as sea stars. We see them all over the place. There are around 1,800 living species occurring in all the world's oceans, even at depths greater than 6,000 meters. In fact, they're so common, we may too often overlook exactly how strange and amazing they really are. Let's take a moment to have our minds blown by the freaky, gorgeous starfish.

Enjoy classic illustrations of the micro world, for free

This illustration of a flea comes from Robert Hooke's Micrographia — an amazing collection of illustrations drawn from microscope images, first published in 1665. Think of it like a proto-viral blog post that somehow fuzed Nature and Buzzfeed. Something with a headline like "15 UNBELIEVABLE IMAGES OF EVERYDAY THINGS!"
Micrographia — the whole thing — is now available in ebook form. For free. In several different formats. To give you a sense of why this is worth checking out, here's Carl Zimmer on the book's social/scientific impact back in the 17th century:
In January 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he stayed up till two in the morning reading a best-selling page-turner, a work that he called "the most ingenious book I read in my life." It was not a rousing history of English battles or a proto-bodice ripper. It was filled with images: of fleas, of bark, of the edges of razors.
The book was called Micrographia. It provided the reading public with its first look at the world beyond the naked eye. Its author, Robert Hooke, belonged to a brilliant circle of natural philosophers who--among many other things--were the first in England to make serious use of microscopes as scientific instruments. They were great believers in looking at the natural world for themselves rather than relying on what ancient Greek scholars had claimed. Looking under a microscope at the thousands of facets on an insect's compound eye, they saw things at the nanoscale that Aristotle could not have dreamed of. A razor's edge became a mountain range. In the chambers of a piece of bark, Hooke saw the first evidence of cells.
Hooke gave a lecture to the Royal Society about these investigations, and the members of the Society were so impressed that they urged Hooke to publish a book--a visual argument for the new scientific method.
Read the rest of Carl Zimmer's review, and check out links to the various ebooks of Micrographia

A Whale with a Human Voice

Whales have been observed mimicking human voices.
But would they ever be able to speak?
Read more

Why Aren't Insects as Big as Humans?

The short answer is because it would scare the pants off of us. But if you must know the real scientific answer, well, nobody knows actually:
The short answer is, researchers don't know exactly, although there are several hypotheses as to why insects and other arthropods don't get bigger, said insect physiologist Jon Harrison, at Arizona State University in Tempe.
The first hypothesis is that insects' exoskeletons may not be strong enough to allow them to get much bigger — that they'd have to become impossibly thick. Harrison learned this theory as an established fact during his training, but little experimental evidence to support the idea exists, he said. The only study to look at this question found that larger arthropods don't have thicker exoskeletons, he said. "So there's no direct evidence for this," he said.
Douglas Main of LiveScience explains: here.

The Weirdest Dog You've Ever Seen

No, actually that's not a dog. Herpetologist Brady Barr of Nat Geo WILD's Dangerous Encounters with Brady Barr is hugging a Japanese Giant Salamander.
David Braun, editor of National Geographic's Tales of the Weird blog (he and co-editor Amy Briggs have also published a very neat book with the same name), interviewed "Gator Doc" Barr back in 2009 about his job:
I asked Barr what he thought was the most dangerous moment in a career of wrestling crocs and catching giant snakes by the tail.
“It’s a really tough question,” he said, “because it always seems like the most recent experience was the most dangerous.”
Apparently there have been many such moments, including when a hippo, reputably the most dangerous animal in Africa because it kills more people than any other animal, chased Barr. “I was out in the open, no trees, and the hippo was bearing down on me. I thought I was going to be killed. It’s a miracle it didn’t get me,” he recalled.
More over at National Geographic: here.

Fish Can Cloak, Become Invisible to Predators

Silver-colored fish, such as herring, sardines and sprat, alter the way in which light reflects off their bodies, rendering them invisible to predators. Read more
Fish Can Cloak, Become Invisible to Predators

Animal Pictures