Pelagic Larval Stage

September 3, 2011

I love this video of baby giant octopi (5mm long) at the Vancouver Aquarium:

The CBC has an article about the event  and states that it is unlikely that any of the 300 hatchlings will survive:

Chances of survival are very low because giant Pacific octopuses have a seven to ten month long pelagic larval stage. To further our knowledge of octopus reproduction, we will attempt to feed and maintain some the larvae for as long as possible.

Pelagic means open water, think deep blue (i.e. no bottom) vs. a reef. I first read about pelagic larval stages in the book Reef Fish Behavior and was blown away at how profoundly different this mechanism is compared to anything I’m used to in the animal world.

I have a built-in assumption that parents and offspring share the same habitat (think Finding Nemo). With most reef fish, not only do the babies never see their parents again, they most likely will never see the same reef their parents inhabit. There is no nepotism on the reef.

How cool is that? And the giant Pacific octopus larvae can’t survive without this stage, or at least no one has figured out what is missing in an aquarium environment (yet).

Lion and the Lamb

May 9, 2009

Rex Murphy in the Globe and Mail has an amusing article about a carbon neutral expedition gone awry and the subsequent rescue by an oil tanker.

And verily, it is written, the carbon-spewing wolf shall lie down with the global-warming lamb … the petroleum-devouring lion shall eat straw like the carbon-neutral ox, or something like that.

Reminds me of the fictional story headline in Annie Proulx “The Shipping News”:


Bunny Power

April 3, 2009

WiFi Bunny

WiFi Bunny: 3 Watts

Bunny + one rotating ear: 4 Watts

Bunny + two rotating ears: 5 Watts

Kill A Watt: Priceless


Kill A Watt

Blue-Box Scavengers

August 7, 2008

An article in the Globe and Mail discusses the City of Toronto’s plan to Crackdown on Blue-Box Scavengers.

“A lot of people tend to think it’s providing cash to homeless individuals, whatever, but from a solid-waste perspective, we do want to crack down on it,” Mr. Rathbone said, acknowledging that the city does not yet have a firm estimate on how much money scavengers are costing the blue-bin system.

Once the material is at the curb, Mr. Rathbone said, it is legally city property, adding that the city won a court case a few years ago against companies that were scavenging cardboard from blue boxes when prices for that commodity shot up.

This makes me giggle endlessly, mostly because it shows what a smarty-pants I am. I think a new breed of blue-box scavenger has emerged who are mostly after beer/liquor bottles. When Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a new program to bring Ontarians “out of the dark ages” by adding a deposit to wine/liquor bottles together with a beer store return program I asked why?

But why? Doesn’t the Blue Box program work? The claim is that this program will help “divert about 25,000 to 30,000 additional tons of glass from landfills”. Wow. That can’t be right. That claim feels false to me mostly because, personally, the Blue Box is the absolutely best way to get rid of bottles and glass. I don’t want to put them in the garbage. Bottles are big, heavy, and they break. So where does this 25,000 tons of LCBO orginated landfill waste come from?

Read the rest of the full post to get my guess at an answer which I still think is correct. What I find interesting is that people continue to put wine/liquor bottles in the blue-bin despite the lost deposit and disdain from our elected officials.

The lesson here is that incentives are funny things and politicians should be careful about what they wish for. Incentives should be tied to intended outcomes. The desired outcome of the wine/liquor bottle program was to “divert about 25,000 to 30,000 additional tons of glass from landfills”. I suspect the program has done no such thing.

U.S. Congress Bashes Bulbs

January 2, 2008

The Wall Street Journal reports that the energy bill passed by the U.S. Congress last month will effectively ban incandescent light bulbs by 2012.

Representatives of Philips and General Electric, two of the biggest lightbulb makers, say there’s nothing to be concerned about. And Larry Lauck of the American Lighting Association says, “I think everyone’s pretty happy” with the new law. But then, the lighting industry has no reason not to be: People will need light, whatever the law says–according to Randy Moorehead of Philips, there are four billion standard-size (or “medium base”) light sockets in America alone.

So if you’re GE or Philips or Sylvania, the demise of the plain vanilla lightbulb is less a threat than an opportunity–an opportunity, in particular, to replace a product that you can sell for 50 cents with one that sells for $3 or more.

Goofy if you ask me.

I watched a TED Talk by Juan Enriquez titled Why Can’t We Grow New Energy? The general premise behind the talk is that new biological processes will make the extraction of energy from hydrocarbons much more efficient. He compared the efficiency gains to the Green Revolution that allowed food to be grown at cheaper and cheaper prices.

OK, I’m following but I’m confused because I’m expecting to hear how this technology will impact the carbon cycle and fix global warming (I guess I’m conditioned). Instead I hear about how efficiency gains in energy extraction/production will solve our future energy needs. Sounds great, I’m all for technical progress but doesn’t that just lower the price of energy and not really change the carbon footprint problem?

So as I’m busy scratching my head the talk ends with the following.

One of the things that we have to do is stabilize oil prices. This is what oil prices look like [shows oil price graph]. This is a very bad system because what happens is that your hurdle rates are set very low. People come up with these smart ideas about solar panels or for wind or something else and then, guess what, oil prices go through the floor and that companies go out of business and then you can bring the oil prices back up.

So if I have one closing and modest suggestion. Lets set stable oil prices in Europe and the United States. How do you do that? Well lets put a tax on oil that is non revenue tax that basically says for the next twenty years the price of oil will be whatever you want, 35 bucks or 40 bucks or whatever you want. If the OPEC prices falls below that we tax it, if it goes above that price that tax goes away. What does that do for entrepreneurs what does that do for companies? It tells people if you can produce energy for less than 35 bucks a barrel or less than 40 bucks a barrel or less than 50 bucks a barrel, lets debate it, then you will have a business. But lets not put people through a cycle where it doesn’t pay to research cause your company will go out of business as OPEC drives alternatives and prevents bioenergy from happening.

This is a “modest” suggestion? Fix a bottom price on oil to encourage entrepreneurs to do more energy oriented research.

Juan Enriquez sounds like a really bright guy and Wikipedia says that he “is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on the economic and political impacts of life sciences.”

So why such a disconnect with free market principles? Is it academia in general or perhaps seeing the world through the lens of research grant funded innovation that makes suggestions like this seem modest and reasonable? Am I out to lunch with my misguided faith in free market economics when this is clearly a case for government command and control? I’m confused…. really confused.

No Gnus is Good Gnus

October 11, 2007

 Global Warming: Bad News for Gnus