Our regular Science and the SeaTM radio program presents marine science topics in an engaging two-minute story format. Our script writers gather ideas for the radio program from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute's researchers and from our very popular college class, Introduction to Oceanography, which we teach to hundreds of non-science majors at The University of Texas at Austin every year. Our radio programs are distributed at to commercial and public radio stations across the country.
Anyone who’s heard the tale of the Titanic knows that icebergs hold the power of life and death. They can mean sudden death for any ship that doesn’t give them the proper respect. And their own births can destroy ocean life, while their deaths can sow the seeds of new life.
A sea turtle spots a jellyfish floating at the surface and swoops in for a bite -- but the snack is really a plastic bag. An albatross nabs what looks like a fish, but it’s really a plastic lighter. And a small fish snaps up what it thinks is an egg, but it’s really a tiny bead used to make jewel cases for CDs.
People sometimes describe themselves as "left-brained" or "right-brained," because the two sides of the brain play different roles in logic and creativity. But dolphins take the two-sided-brain thing to extremes: they sleep with half of their brain still awake.
The reason for the difference is the environment. Since people live in the air, we don’t need to consciously control our breathing. When we sleep, we breathe regularly, with no worries about anything clogging up our lungs.
Over the last century, global sea level has gone up by about eight inches. And over the next century, many predict that it could rise by several feet.
But tracking the changes in sea level isn’t easy, because the water in the oceans is never still.
The tides cause the level to go up and down every day. Winds pile water against the shore. Warm water expands, creating a higher level. And ocean currents, rain, changes in air pressure, and many other effects can cause the level to rise and fall.
The sea has long shared its bounty with people. Over the centuries, its creatures have provided food, fuel, clothing, and many other basic needs. And in the decades ahead, they may provide an abundance of one more necessity: medicine.
Many of the drugs in use today were derived from plants and animals found on land. But in recent years, researchers have started looking for new sources of medicine in the oceans.
When another person sticks out their tongue at you, it can be flirty, sassy, or just plain rude. But when a cone snail does it, it’s just plain dangerous. The tongue has a small, venomous harpoon that can sting -- and in some cases, the sting can even be fatal.
Yet the venom from the cone snail may someday save lives, too. The toxins in cone snail venom are already treating chronic pain, and they may someday be used to treat everything from Alzheimer’s to strokes.
Nature has given an ugly critter known as the stonefish two great ways to protect itself. The first is its appearance. As its name implies, it looks like a rock; its coloring, rough texture, and odd appendages blend into the bottom of the shallow waters it inhabits. And if that doesn’t work, it’s deadly, too -- the most venomous fish yet discovered.
"The submarine Nautilus receives a gala harbor welcome as she sails into Portland, England, completing an 8100-mile, 21-day voyage from Honolulu across the top of the world under the north pole...."
At the height of the Cold War, the USS Nautilus made headlines around the world. On August 3rd, 1958, sailing hundreds of feet beneath the Arctic ice, the first nuclear-powered submarine crossed the North Pole.
The Gulf coast is known for warm waters and soft breezes from Campeche to the Florida Keys. But you don’t have to be anywhere near the Gulf of Mexico to feel its influence. It sends warm breezes to Europe, too -- from the fjords of Norway to the tower of Big Ben and beyond.
The Gulf spreads its warm embrace through the Gulf Stream -- a river of water that flows along the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada and into the North Atlantic.
Look! Down in the water! It’s a cow! It’s an elephant! It’s a mermaid! Or maybe it’s something that’s been described as all three: a manatee.
Manatees aren’t the cutest of sea creatures; in fact, they’re also known as sea cows. A manatee’s body looks like a big cushion, with a stubby snout at one end and a wide flipper at the other. And it has a drooping upper lip that sort of resembles the trunk of one of its closest cousins, the elephant.