Down where it’s wetter

Take a deep breath for this week’s news briefs

Published February 19, 2024

Usually we try to keep our heads above water, but for this week’s news roundup we’re taking a nice good look below the surface. Let’s dive right in…

20,000 Leagues Under Plutocracy

In case you needed another reason to write your congressperson about wealth inequality, we give you two words: Submarine superyacht. spotlighted the massive Migaloo M5, the 541-foot vessel model that can cruise just as easily under the water as on top of it (just a little slower). Migaloo’s Christian Gumpold told the site they are filling the “needs” of superyacht owners, who are “looking for privacy, security, and protection for themselves, their guests, and their valuables.” Okay, Christian.

The superyacht comes with all the “essentials”­­–accommodations for 20 guests plus 20 staff, a gym, swimming pool, cinema, art gallery, a “multitude of lounges and dining areas,” and of course a helicopter landing pad, because only plebes embark from land. Once they get there, they can descend to a depth of 820 feet, and remain there for up to four weeks. All this for the low, low price of $2 billion! Truly you can’t afford not to buy one, now that your old superyacht is obsolete.

If it were a lobster, we would call this ‘Immaculate Crustacean’

North Carolina’s Aquarium & Shark Lab just released some baby news: a female stingray named Charlotte is pregnant. But they don’t know exactly how she got pregnant because…there are no male stingrays in the tank with her.

The aquarium mooted two potential explanations for the mysterious pregnancy. And let’s be fair: The likely one is that Charlotte became pregnant through parthenogenesis, which is when eggs develop on their own without fertilization, and are born as a clone of the mother (partheno-  means “virgin,” dontcha know). “It occurs commonly among lower plants and invertebrate animals,” Britannica says, “and rarely among higher vertebrates” such as stingrays.

But: “We started to notice bite marks on Charlotte, but saw other fish nipping at her, so we moved fish, but the biting continued,” the aquarium director told The Independent. Bite marks on fins are indicative of shark matingrawr–and sure enough, there are a couple male sharks in Charlotte’s tank.

Charlotte’s due any day now, and we assume Maury Povich is readying a prime-time special. 

Let’s send the superyacht there

Astronomers have discovered that Mimas—that moon of Saturn best known for looking like the Death Star—has a vast ocean beneath its icy exterior. The icy, 250-mile space rock lacks geysers and fractures common in other known watery moons, so scientists analyzing its orbit variations were thrilled to discover that the moon actually has a hidden ocean sloshing around, filling some half the planet’s volume, 12 to 18 miles beneath its frozen surface.

Considered a young moon of “only” five to 15 million years old (Earth’s oceans are 4 billion years old), scientists suspect that the moon has an overall temperature of right around freezing–but at the seafloor, the water might be much warmer. 

The existence of such a “remarkably young” ocean of liquid water makes Mimas a prime candidate to study the origin of life, according to the study. Other space scientists agree, including some of the folks at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), whose accompanying editorial proclaimed “the idea that relatively small, icy moons can harbor young oceans is inspiring.”

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