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Perils from the sea to outer space

Published June 08. 2013 09:03AM

Some bizarre and interesting science stories are making the rounds this weekend. First and foremost if fishing for exotic fish is your passion, you are late for a fishing derby with the United States Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. This weekend is the first derby to capture the predatory snakehead fish dubbed the "Fishzilla". This Asian originating fish has no natural predators and its population has exploded in the Virginia headwaters wreaking havoc on the natural environment.

It is believed to have been introduced into our ecosystem originally in Chinatown in New York and since then has overtaken the natural fish populations on the eastern seaboard.

The reason for its nicknames is the aggressive behavior it exhibits along with its ability to wriggle short distances on land and its ravenous appetite. It is also a lazy fish and waits for its prey to venture near rather than attacking it. In Maryland last year, $200 gift cards were given to citizens who produced dead snakeheads in a fishing contest.

Marines this year expect to pull several thousand pounds of these average 37 inch long monster fish from the Virginia rivers. It is illegal to possess a live snakehead in Virginia since it was added to their undesirable list in 2002. So, if hunting for Jaws Junior is your thing, head down to Virginia and join in the fun.

Michigan is handling its own pest problem in its waterways in a different way. The lamprey population is threatening a stream near Lake Michigan and officials are preparing to poison them using a pesticide that only harms the young lamprey and breaks down before causing a problem for other fish.

The poison was perfected over fifty years ago and is periodically used to treat the waterways containing these nasty vampire like fish. The lamprey grows to be two or three feet long, looks like an eel but behaves like a leech. It attaches to fish and sucks their blood until the fish dies. The treatment will kill the young lamprey which is vulnerable to the poison and help control the population.

For those who prefer stargazing to fishing, the heavens have provided some unusual and interesting sights this week. First, NASA scientists observed a large coronal hole in the sun this week which makes it appear to have a hole in it.

It is not really a hole but an area of the sun caused by low density pockets of hot plasma. Normally the coronal region of the sun contains strong magnetic fields that trap the gases and create brilliantly bright areas of plasma around the sun, but sometimes when coronal mass ejections occur and the gases are released, the open fields that caused them show these lower density regional areas that really look like holes.

The sun was not the only celestial star this week (no pun intended). An asteroid last week created news and a sensation as it passed close to the earth with its own moon in tow. The 1.7 mile wide QE2 which was large enough to end civilization on our planet passed safely about 45 million miles from the Earth, but the unique aspect of this space rock was that it had its own 2000 foot wide moon orbiting it. That rock scientists say was large enough to wipe out an area about the size of Virginia.

Meanwhile on Mars, scientists believe they have found proof that water once flowed over the surface of the Red Planet. Observing video from the Mars rover, scientists have discovered rounded pebbles in the channels that were believed to have been created by erosion. The rounded pebbles formed predictable formations that are characteristic to ones that appear in deltas and channels within the waterways of our planet.

In addition these pebbles appear to be several different shades and types indicating different rocks created them and the resulting pebbles were transported to a location where the variety in their appearances are evident.

While the rocks are intriguing to scientists the Rover also provided some discouraging news. The levels of radiation that register in space and on the surface of Mars are lethal and any astronauts exposed from travelling to our red neighbor most likely will develop fatal cases of cancer. Even if astronauts could survive those radiation levels during travel, the surface would pose just as great a threat to explorers.

To correct this issue, scientists are examining ways to improve spacecrafts so they travel faster minimizing the continued dose of radiation to its occupants. According to researchers, the levels of radiation harm humans not only by the amount of the dose but the amount of time one is exposed to those levels. By reducing the time needed to travel to Mars, this would reduce the radiation exposure level duration as well.

From the seas to space, the danger exists throughout our world. Of course I would rather take my chances on being able to survive a fishing derby for the Virginia equivalent of Predator than the radiation levels necessitated to take one of the first rocket powered Conestoga wagons to Mars.

What do you think?

Til next time…

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