Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Random Science, Non-Landscaping News

Here are a couple science stories I've been looking at this morning on the Web that probably will have no impact whatsoever on your life as a landscaper, but may be kind of interesting anyway.

Some whale species sing in different dialects depending on where they're from, a new study in the journal BioScience shows. Blue whales off the Pacific Northwest sound different than blue whales in the western Pacific Ocean, and these sound different than those living off Antarctica. And they all sound different than the blue whales living near Chile.

These findings could forever change the way we look at Star Trek IV.

In other news, researchers at a Missouri university have identified the largest known prime number.. The number that the team found is 9.1 million digits long. It is a Mersenne prime known as M30402457 — that's 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus 1.

"We're super excited," said Steven Boone, a chemistry professor. "We've been looking for such a number for a long time."

What's frightening is that I don't think he's kidding. I hope that the study was at least partially federally funded, so that I could have the pleasure of knowing that I particiated in some small way, and that my tax dollars are being used on such a worthy cause.

And I know you are all wondering, is there a global cooling problem on Pluto? Could it be the setting of The Day After Tomorrow II: Dennis Quaid in Space? Possibly, as Earth-bound astronomers taking Pluto's temperature have confirmed suspicions that the planet is colder than it should be. It's thought that the planet's lower temperature is the result of interactions between its icy surface and thin nitrogen atmosphere.

One scientist explained planets like Venus and Earth experience a natural greenhouse effect, where sunlight energy striking the surface is absorbed and used to heat the surface. On Pluto, the opposite happens. Pluto is a dynamic example of what we might call an anti-greenhouse effect, explained one scientist.

Maybe I shouldn't joke about these studies. Maybe they truly will have a practical application to our daily lives sometime within the next 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus 1 years. Then again, those scientists probably don't see what the big deal is when we have a new zero-turn mower or variety of grass seed. To each his own, I always say. Though I can't help but wonder what that phrase would sound like if I were a whale. — Mike Seuffert

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