Scientific Discoveries this week: 4-18-11

Queensland, Australia – Humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean appear to follow musical trends much the same as humans. In an 11-year study, researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia listened to humpback whale songs to see if there were any noticeable patterns. In the course of their study, the researchers found that humpback whales start musical trends that appear to always travel across the ocean from west to east. Every few months, entire populations of whales change their song, closely imitating each other. The cycle appears to take about two years from the whales starting a new song to it reaching the western shores of the Polynesian islands. Humpback whales are the only non-human species to exhibit these musical trends.

Durham, North Carolina – Chitons, a type of mollusk, may have a way to achieve a dual-focusing lense. The small crustaceans have eyes that work in both water and air. This is unique in the animal world, as most animals have eyes that are optimized for either air or water. These mollusks have lenses on their eyes that are made of a unique type of calcium carbonate, known as aragonite, similar to the type that is used in jewelry. These rock lenses have a unique property that causes light pass through the material at different speeds. Scientists have postulated that because aragonite can transmit light at different speeds, the light passing through air and water is bent slightly differently by the lens. This means that objects in air and water can be in focus at the same time.

Denver, Colorado – A small number of geologists with the US geological survey have said that this string of giant quakes seems similar to a string of seven earthquakes between 1950 and 1965 that all were at least 8.5 magnitude. Statistically, this is significant because it points to a considerable amount of seismic stress that is being released.

South Pole – The IceCube detector, intended to help determine the origin of neutrinos, has put forth evidence that neutrinos are not linked to gamma ray bursts, as originally thought. Nearly 117 gamma ray bursts were detected over a one-year period, but there was no noticeable spike in the number of neutrinos detected. The data was collected during construction, however, and future tests are still planned.

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