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First Blue Whale Heart Preserved Is the Size of a Golf Cart

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Contrary to legend, the aorta of a blue whale may not actually be big enough to fit a human inside. Experts at the Royal Ontario Museum have dissected a blue whale and preserved its heart for the first time, finally giving us an intact specimen to measure the myths of the whale’s immensity against. 

The largest animal in the world, the blue whale has a heart about the size of a small golf cart, according to Big Blue Live, a new television series that visited the dissection lab. The Canadian museum was able to secure the body of a 76.5-foot blue whale that became trapped in ice and died, washing up on the shores of Newfoundland. The museum’s technicians extracted the entire heart from the mammal intact; it took four people to push it out of the chest cavity. 

The heart, the first of its kind to be preserved, weighs 400 pounds and measures 5 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet. It’s not quite car-sized, as previously thought, but it’s at least bumper-car sized. The aorta isn’t quite large enough to crawl through, but you might be able to squeeze your head in. The heart could pump 58 gallons of blood per second, and required 1000 gallons of formaldehyde to preserve. Both the heart and the whale’s skeleton will eventually go on display at the museum. 

[h/t: BBC]

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Animals
25 Shelter Dogs Who Made It Big
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Focus Features

If you’ve been thinking of adding a four-legged friend to your brood and are deciding whether a shelter dog is right for you, consider this: Some of history’s most amazing pooches—from four-legged movie stars to heroic rescue dogs—were found in animal shelters. In honor of Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, here are 25 shelter dogs who made it big.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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