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A Swimming Pool of Orbeez Is All Kinds of Scientific Fun

If you could swim in anything, what would it be? We already know that clear putty is not fun and a pool of puppies sounds dangerous. So what about Orbeez? The superabsorbent polymers are tiny balls that grow when placed in water. You can find them in toy stores, peddled in tourist traps, and inside diapers. Thanks to their slippery surface, they look like they'd be great to take a dip in.

YouTube user Mark Rober decided to actually fill a swimming pool with Orbeez (along with some larger generic brand water balls) for science. The former NASA engineer teamed up with The Backyard Scientist who, as the name suggests, had a backyard to conduct the experiment. After filling a giant pool with 25 million liquid polymers, they were ready to test a hypothesis: If you jumped in, how deep would you sink? Rober theorized that he would only sink to about his waist, but ended up sinking all the way to his shoulders.

According to Rober (and your high school science teacher), objects displace their weight in water. That means when a 100 gram item enters the water, it will sink until it has pushed out 100 grams of water. The water line's relation to the object shows how dense it is in comparison; in other words, if the water line is about halfway up the object as it floats, you know said object is about half as dense as the liquid it's in. Orbeez are a little more dense than humans. That, along with the sheer packing efficiency of spheres in water, means that about 85 percent of Rober sank before he displaced his weight and started floating. The YouTuber expected friction to have more of an effect on the experiment but alas, his hypothesis was wrong.

Now that the scientific aspect is out of the way, you can watch the video and try to live vicariously.

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

[h/t Nerdist]

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

WWF
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Animals
Watch an Antarctic Minke Whale Feed in a First-of-Its-Kind Video
WWF

New research from the World Wildlife Fund is giving us a rare glimpse into the world of the mysterious minke whale. The WWF worked with Australian Antarctic researchers to tag minke whales with cameras for the first time, watching where and how the animals feed.

The camera attaches to the whale's body with suction cups. In the case of the video below, the camera accidentally slid down the side of the minke whale's body, providing an unexpected look at the way its throat moves as it feeds.

Minke whales are one of the smallest baleen whales, but they're still pretty substantial animals, growing 30 to 35 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. Unlike other baleen whales, though, they're small enough to maneuver in tight spaces like within sea ice, a helpful adaptation for living in Antarctic waters. They feed by lunging through the sea, gulping huge amounts of water along with krill and small fish, and then filtering the mix through their baleen.

The WWF video shows just how quickly the minke can process this treat-laden water. The whale could lunge, process, and lunge again every 10 seconds. "He was like a Pac-Man continuously feeding," Ari Friedlaender, the lead scientist on the project, described in a press statement.

The video research, conducted under the International Whaling Commission's Southern Ocean Research Partnership, is part of WWF's efforts to protect critical feeding areas for whales in the region.

If that's not enough whale for you, you can also watch the full 13-minute research video below:

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