The Late Movies: Solar Eclipses

I've personally only seen solar eclipses in the classroom, generally using complex pinhole projection devices designed to keep little-kid eyes safe. But when I saw this video from Argentina of a group of solar eclipse watchers, I realized the experience of people seeing this phenomenon as adults is very different. Watching the video, these people are totally freaking out -- and I found a similar pattern in other eclipse videos. Check it out, and prepare to witness why a tiny web video doesn't really capture the experience of watching the frickin' sun going away. Par for the course: screaming, applause, sounds of wonderment and/or fear.

Argentina (El Calafate), July 11, 2010

People seem to be blowing horns (vuvuzelas?) as it starts, then the freaking out starts. There's a palpable sense of relief when the sun reappears.

CBS Coverage of Annular Eclipse Visible from Africa

A good explanation of what an annular eclipse is, and professional video.

Washington DC, 1984

Cloudy weather blocks much of this eclipse, when it peeks through, it's beautiful. If you want to zoom forward to about 3:30, you'll see some beautiful shots as misty clouds float over the eclipse.

Turkey, March 29, 2006

There's a good mixture of freakouts and decent photography here. Zoom forward to about 1:10 to see the main action.

And here's another video of the same event by San Francisco's Exploratorium crew, on location in Turkey. The photography is amazing.

Eclipse as Seen from Space

This is not a total eclipse; it's shot by NASA's STEREO craft while in space. In the video we see the moon pass in front of the sun -- a very weird experience. (For a similarly non-earthbound perspective, check out this video of the moon passing in front of the earth.)

Brian Cox Sees an Eclipse in Varanasi, India

From the BBC series Wonders of the Solar System, includes excellent photography and some fanciful audio during the main event. "That's the solar system, coming down and grabbing you by the throat," says Cox during the eclipse.

San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, 1991

This was apparently the longest total solar eclipse until 2132. It's sort of a mini-documentary. If you jump to the 4-minute mark you can witness what is basically a party/mass freakout on the beach.

Have You Seen a Solar Eclipse?

Share your experience in the comments!

Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.


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