The Underwater Vacuum Cleaners

By Anupum Pant

If you didn’t know, most white sand you see on some beaches around the world, has at some point in time, passed through a fish called the parrot fish. It’s an amazing ecological role the parrot fish plays.

An interestingly similar ecological role is served by a marine animal with a very leathery skin called the sea cucumber. Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg explains why these organisms have such an important role in the marine environment.

Basically, while scavenging for algae or minute aquatic animals, sea cucumbers ingest a lot of sand. As it passes through their bodies, the digestive system increases the pH of the sand, making it more basic. When this comes out, the sand is clean and turned basic. This way it plays a chief role in countering the negative effects of ocean acidification.

It also helps coral reefs survive by supplying them with calcium carbonate (a by product of its digestion process) and helping them maintain a net inflow of calcium carbonate.

The ammonia that comes out also makes the bed more fertile, making it much more suitable for coral reefs to grow.

Watch these underwater vacuum cleaners in action below.

Singing Sand Dunes

By Anupum Pant

I cannot say why you’d do it, but suppose you were on a hike to the top of a 120 feet sand dune in the centre of some desert, say  near Al-Askharah, a coastal town in Oman. Unfortunately, it’s also the mid summer time, with 50 degree Celsius winds blowing at 50 miles an hour, and the dune you are climbing has a slope of 30 degrees. There’s nothing else (besides sand) to be seen or heard for miles around you.

The numbers are apparently perfect for a very eerie phenomenon to occur. And then the whole desert suddenly cries out a booming chorus of a very low hum (Like someone playing a very low note on the cello). What could have possibly caused that?

For ages such sounds in the midst of empty deserts have been bewildering people. Marco polo mentioned it. Charles Darwin also wrote about the “Bellower” in The Voyage of the Beagle. Moreover, until recently, even modern scientists weren’t sure what caused these sounds. It was only during the year 2009 that things started becoming clear when a group of researchers started experiments with sand on an incline in a laboratory environment.

The low droning hums, now as we know, come from within the sand dunes. The Sand particles are blown by the wind, causing an avalanche. As the sand falls across the 30 degree incline of the dune, they vibrate, synchronise and send the vibrations into the dune. The dunes pick up these tiny synchronised vibrations and amplify them, causing the low droning hum; coherent enough to resemble musical notes.

This only happens at few places around the world. In Morocco the dunes cry out an echoing hum of 105 hertz. Whereas in Oman the sands create a mixture of frequencies ranging from low 90 to slightly less low, 150 hertz. Something similar is also heard in the death valley. The video explains…

Sea Glass – Is It Trash or What?

By Anupum Pant

In the Glass Beach, a beach in MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California, like the name tells you, you’d normally find too many glass pieces on the beach. These glass pieces that people often find in beaches like these, aren’t exactly those sharp shards of glass that are sharp enough to harm you. Rather they are physically and chemically weathered pieces of glass –  round and small.

sea glass 4

This type of glass is called sea glass and has been a fancy of those hobbyists who like collecting these pieces to make beautiful adornments.

This kind of glass, often found on some beaches usually starts as shards of broken glass from dump or other such sources. In about a span of 1-2 years, the tumbling and weathering makes these pieces smooth and rounded. And then they are collectively known as “genuine sea glass

At this particular beach in California, the beach glass that has formed over the years, first started coming in when residents who lived close to the beach started dumping garbage into the beach. Local clean up services tried to clean up the mess, but most of it had already gone in for natural weathering by that time.

Soon after the clean-up services came around, the beach became a great place for hobbyists to collect these naturally weathered beautiful glass pieces. All the trash that was first thought to be a mess, now became a tourist attraction – Naturally weathered genuine sea glass was a thing of natural beauty now. And then this smuggling of sea glass by tourists had to stop. First the mess had to stop, now the mess being taken away by tourists had to stop.

And once the glass has started to go away, now there is a move to replace all the glass – that was once considered garbage!

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