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10 Misconceptions About the Ocean

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Hi I'm Elliot, this is mental_floss video, and today I'm gonna talk about some misconceptions about the ocean. You think you know what's going on with the ocean, but you have no idea. 

1. THE SALTINESS IN SEAWATER IS ESSENTIALLY TABLE SALT.

So the water in the ocean is very salty, but it's not composed as if someone just dumped a bunch of table salt into it. Basically, it's considered salt water because it contains a bunch of minerals that come from the Earth's surface. Rain and snow pick up minerals from the ground, which turns into runoff that goes into the ocean. So, seawater has a lot of sodium and chlorine in it, but, it also has a bunch of sulfates, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. And because the definition for salt is so vague, these can all qualify. 

2. THE OCEAN GETS PROGRESSIVELY DEEPER TOWARDS THE MIDDLE.

Much like the land on earth, the surface of the ocean is not consistent. It has its equivalent of mountains and canyons and flat plains. The ocean contains trenches, which is the word scientists use to describe the deepest part. And these are formed when plates meet, which often means that one of the plates moves further down, causing the trench to emerge. One example of this is the Mariana Trench, which is about 1000 miles away from Japan and its deepest point is around 36,000 feet.

3. AN UNDERTOW CAN PULL A PERSON UNDERWATER AND HOLD THEM THERE.

Let me start by saying that people often confuse undertow with rip current. So the undertow is basically a current near the shore that helps keep the water flow consistent as the waves crash. Unlike the undertow, rip currents aren't always present, but they're a stronger current that pulls away from the shore. Neither undertows nor rip currents can pull a person underwater and drown them. Though rip currents are the ones that pull swimmers far away from the shore. Then, people struggle to get back to shore, and that can be dangerous and result in drowning. 

4. THERE ARE NOT HUGE WAVES AWAY FROM SHORE.

People typically only see big waves close to the shore, so they assume that's not a problem in the open ocean, but there are rogue waves which can be a major problem in the middle of the ocean. In order to be considered a rogue wave, the wave must be over twice the "significant wave height," which is basically the mean of the tallest waves in a given area. In 1995, a rogue wave was reported at 84 feet—this can be a major problem for boats, including huge ocean liners. Have fun on your next cruise, guys!

5. ICEBERGS ARE MADE OF SALT WATER.

An iceberg is a chunk of ice that floats in the water after separating from a larger piece of land-based ice. And they're not made up of salt water; they're actually fresh water. That actually makes sense if you think about it because icebergs come from land ice, so they're basically compacted snow, which is fresh water.

6. THE OCEAN APPEARS BLUE BECAUSE IT'S REFLECTING THE SKY.

No. It's not reflecting the color of the blue sky—it's actually absorbing it. Basically the ocean is continually being hit by sunlight, and, as you probably know, that happens in the form of waves, which contain a whole spectrum of color. The ocean typically absorbs the red wavelengths quicker. The blue wavelengths head deeper into the ocean, then, they get scattered and re-emitted from within the ocean, and that's how our eyes take them in. So to us, the ocean appears blue. It's not. It's all different colors.

7. WE COULD EXPLORE THE DEEPEST PARTS OF THE OCEAN.

So you may know that we've only explored less than 5 percent of the ocean, but many people think that's because of a lack of interest. No way guys, it's super interesting down there, OK? The truth is, we just don't have the technology needed in order to explore it. Scientists are trying to develop something known as the "Sea Orbiter," which would basically be a space station for the ocean. It could make more ocean exploration possible, but it's still being developed.

Alright, let's finish up with some misconceptions about marine animals. [Leans over to fish tank] Are you excited? (...they're not real).

8. CORALS ARE MINERAL DEPOSITS. OR FOSSILS. OR ROCKS.

People still find it hard to believe that coral reefs are made up of marine animals. So what happens is corals attach their exoskeletons to objects underwater like rocks, or even shipwrecks. They actually have tentacles so they're able to catch fish and plankton to eat. They might not look like animals, but they are. Please, treat them respectfully.

9. A PORPOISE IS THE SAME AS A DOLPHIN.

Guys, dolphins and porpoises are different animals and they're getting tired of hearing otherwise. There are a few differences. Dolphins have longer beaks and more curved dorsal fins, and porpoises are usually a little larger and make less noise than dolphins do. But, they're both members of the cetacean family and they're both intelligent mammals who live underwater.

10. WHALES SPRAY WATER FROM THEIR BLOWHOLES.

Just like dolphins and porpoises, whales are members of the cetacean family, so they're also mammals who need to breathe air—and they do that through a blow hole on the top of their heads. Once they inhale air through their blowhole, most whales can hold their breath for over an hour, but eventually they need to exhale. When they come above the surface to do that it often looks like they're blowing out water. What they're really blowing out is mostly warm air—it's warm because it's been inside of a huge warm body—and the air outside is usually way cooler than the air that's being exhaled, so it condenses and looks like water. But a whale is primarily inhaling and exhaling air like any mammal does. Oh, and they also exhale mucus. Lots, and just … lots of mucus.

Thanks for watching "Misconceptions" on mental_floss video. If you have a topic for an upcoming "Misconceptions" episode that you would like to see, let us know what it is in the comments below and I'll check it out. I'll see you next week. Bye.

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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