Illustrating long-extinct creatures is difficult, but important work. With no living specimens to observe, it’s up to “paleoartists” who draw, paint, or otherwise illustrate the creatures of prehistory as we think they might’ve been. Their work is the reason that when we talk about velociraptors, stegosaurs, or even wooly mammoths, we have some idea of what they looked like.
But since all we have to go on are fossils, deciding how a dinosaur would have looked is as much art as it is science. And there’s at least one paleoartist who thinks we might be getting things wrong.
There are a few things here at Atlas Obscura that are what you might call, “of perennial interest,” and that list includes mazes and cabinets of curiosity. So now that the University of Wisconsin’s Geology Museum has teamed up with a local farm to create a corn maze in the shape of a fossil-filled wunderkammer, you better believe we’re going to share it.
As Science is reporting, geologists from the museum worked with the Treinen Farm, some 20 miles north of Madison, to create a massive, science-themed labyrinth that pays tribute to the state’s official fossil, the trilobite (an early arthropod that crawled sea floors for 270 million years).
In the 27 years since the Hubble Space Telescope settled into orbit, it’s returned some stunning images and fascinating discoveries. It added another to the list recently, when it trained its lenses on asteroid 288P.
It turns out that 288P isn’t your typical hunk of space rock. As the asteroid neared the sun last September, Hubble saw that 288P is not one but two asteroids, roughly the same size, that orbit each other about 62 miles apart. That may seem like a tiny gap, but for a binary asteroid system, it’s huge. Based on how the asteroid system moves, a team of astronomers think it’s only been a binary system for about 5,000 years. Before that, it was probably one asteroid, which then broke apart … Read the rest
The Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest railway line in the world, built between 1891 and 1916 by order of Russian tsar Alexander III, covers around 6,000 miles, from Moscow to Vladivostok (with service to Pyongyang), in nearly eight short days. If a plan recently put forward by a group of Japanese investors goes forward, it may get even larger—all the way to Tokyo. Given the fact that Japan is more than 500 miles from the mainland, this would require at least two colossal bridges over the ocean, one connecting coastal Russia to its eastern-most island, Sakhalin, and another from Sakhalin to the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
This would not be the first time that the epic railway—which runs through 87 cities and across 16 rivers, such as … Read the rest
As if squid aren’t fascinating and frightening enough on their own, some species lay eggs that are fascinating and a little frightening themselves. One lucky undersea photographer was recently able to snap some shots of the bizarre, rarely seen egg tube of the diamond squid, and it is something to behold.
As Live Science is reporting, Jay Wink, owner of Abc Scuba Diving Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia, caught these images of a translucent, pink, worm-like mass that looks like it is about to engulf the diver floating nearby. After Wink posted his photos to the internet, many speculated that it was some kind of pyrosome, a colonial animal also called a “sea pickle.”
Driving other species to extinction might be something of a primate proclivity. A new study suggests that monkeys in Thailand are using tools—just like us—to overfish some tasty shellfish. Long-tailed macaques in a national park in Thailand have figured out how to use rocks to crack open snails and oysters. And they have been busy.
An international team of researchers studied two groups of the macaques on islands in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. On one of the islands, NomSao, there is a small population of monkeys that use large rocks to break open big shellfish along the shore. On the other island, Koram, a denser population of monkeys uses smaller stones on smaller shellfish. The researchers suspect that the size difference in prey and … Read the rest
In February 1580, Francisco Gali was headed across Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. A mariner and cartographer who’d crossed the Pacific more than once, he had been living in “New Spain,” as Europeans called that part of the world, and was likely on another official mission that would take him to Asia. To sail out, first he had to make his way down the country’s Atlantic coast to manage a narrower crossing to the Pacific. On his journey, he passed through the coastal towns of the east, where the mayors had a special request of him. Make us a map, they asked.
The Spanish crown had instructed every locality in its colonial lands to send home maps of their regions. This was a new endeavor in … Read the rest
Bill Adler moved to Tokyo from Washington, D.C., about three years ago. Over the phone, he lists a few of his new home’s virtues: “Beautiful country, great food, interesting people,” he says. “And cat café trains.”
This past Sunday, September 10, Adler and a few dozen fellow travelers rode on one of those cat café trains. They were joined by about 30 rescue kittens, which spent the trip climbing the legs of besotted passengers, running back and forth on train benches, and napping on laps.
Adler traveled about 90 minutes outside of Tokyo to hop this train, which left from the small city of Ōgaki. He is quite familiar with cats—he has one himself—as well as with his adopted country’s love for cat cafés, in … Read the rest
The GOES-16 satellite has been in space for less than a year, but its Geostationary Lightning Mapper has been providing some incredible images and interesting data. Its most recent observations, however, weren’t of a typical electrical storm. GOES-16 captured Hurricane Irma barreling across the Caribbean and bursting with lightning.
Hurricanes combine some of the most severe weather phenomena possible, but lightning is not typically a part of their repertoire. They lack a lot of the vertical winds that rub ice crystals and water droplets together and generate electricity that discharges as a bolt. When a hurricane does produce lightning, like Irma, it’s not a good sign. Studiessuggest that when a lightning occurs in a hurricane’s eyewall, the swirling winds around the calm center, the … Read the rest
Nelson Bay, a biodiversity hotspot off Port Stephens in New South Wales, Australia, has a number of garish occupants. There’s Pteraeolidia ianthina, or the “Blue Dragon,” which is covered in neon spines. There’s also Chromodoris splendida, which, with its striped horns and bright red spots, looks like a devilish clown. These creatures are nudibranchs, marine mollusks famed for their crazy shapes and colors and diverse lifestyles.
But the people of Port Stephens have a lesson for us all: Don’t censor the nudis, census them instead! This weekend, citizen scientists will join forces with experts to search out, document, and photograph as many nudibranches and other sea slugs as they can for the area’s annual sea slug count.
Monica Gagliano began to study plant behavior because she was tired of killing animals. Now an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth, when she was a student and postdoc, she had been offing her research subjects at the end of experiments, the standard protocol for many animals studies. If she was to work on plants, she could just sample a leaf or a piece of root. When she switched her professional allegiance to plants, though, she brought with her some ideas from the animal world and soon began exploring questions few plant specialists probe—the possibilities of plant behavior, learning, and memory.
“You start a project, and as you open up the box there are lots of other questions inside it, so then … Read the rest
In 1660, the stage designer Gaspare Vigarani came into an unexpected windfall. The Louvre was expanding, and the Grande Salle du Petit-Bourbon—a massive theater that had housed operas, plays, and ballets for nearly a century—was being destroyed to make room. Vigarani was told to grab everything he could from backstage and move it to his own theater, the Salles de Machines, which was then under construction.
Vigarani could have jumpstarted his new venture with a warehouse’s worth of set dressings, stage machinery, dropcloths, and everything else a young theater could ask for. Instead, he burned all of it to cinders—”ay, to the very least,” as the actor and theatrical historian La Grange wrote afterwards.
Why did he do this? Pure professional jealousy. As La Grange … Read the rest
About a week ago, late in August, the government of Brazil announced that it would open 17,800 square miles of the Amazon, an area known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates, or Renca, to commercial mining. The reserve is known to be a rich resource of gold and other valuable minerals, but it’s also rich in other natural resources—rare birds, plants, insects, frogs, fish, and other creatures.
As if to underscore the point, the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development and the World Wildlife Fund released a new report this week detailing the discovery by science of hundreds of incredible Amazon species, reports The Independent. According to the report, in 2014 and 2015, scientists identified 381 previously undescribed species, putting the rate … Read the rest