Wonder on the Web

Issue 54: Links to amazing stuff.

The Physics of the Fish Kick

The 2016 Olympic Games begin this weekend! If you’re a fan of swimming, kick off the events by reading this piece on the physics of a medal-winning stroke: the fish kick. Experts in stroke mechanics have discovered that swimming beneath the surface of the water is much faster than swimming on the surface. The fish kick, which mimics the horizontal wiggle of most fish, could be the fastest subsurface stroke yet. But it’s certainly not easy to master! Swimming this stroke means you have to swim on your side, hinging at four places: the shoulders, ribs, hips, and knees. As Nautilus contributor Regan Penaluna writes, “It is both natural and disconcerting to see a human form move this way.”

Tomato, Tomato

Uli Westphal’s art deals with “the way humans perceive, depict and transform the natural world.” In his Cultivar Series of photographs, Westphal aims to “reveal the mind boggling diversity” of domesticated plants. It’s a diversity we don’t normally recognize, though, since traditional crop varieties have mostly been replaced by just a few uniform, high-yielding types that work best with industrialized agriculture. Just look at how many different varieties of tomato plants there are (soothingly arranged by color)—and this list isn’t even comprehensive!

The World’s Greatest Ear

Dylan Beato is a kid with incredible skills in the music theory department: check out this video of him in the studio, and you’ll know why the “World’s Greatest Ear” moniker might not be much of an exaggeration. Dylan is one of those very rare individuals with the gift of perfect pitch. His dad, Rick Beato—a music producer, composer, audio engineer, theorist, and educator—has been training him since infancy with a specialized technique called High Information Music Immersion. (Want to try it out? There’s an app for it. The training program is designed to make use of the “explosion of synaptic development” that babies experience from before birth to about age two.)

Learning about Dylan reminded us of another child prodigy we’ve heard about: Joey Alexander, a pre-teen pianist with “an old soul’s gift for jazz.”

Skatty, Polydactyl Adventure Cat

We were charmed by this profile of Strauss von Skattebol of Rebelpaws (“Skatty,” for short) and his crewmember Paul Thompson, who is the first deaf person to sail the Southern Atlantic Ocean solo. Skatty acts as Thompson’s ears on board, alerting him to many important things, such as the approach of another vessel or the impending emptiness of a food dish. Together, they’re quite the impressive duo. Ship’s cats like Skatty are traditionally of the polydactyl type, with some extra toes. Thompson explains that “old time sailors believed that the big polydactyl paws gave them a better grip on the deck and also made them better mousers. So for me, as a sailor, it is very satisfying to have a polydactyl cat.” Someone else with an affinity for polydactyl cats? American author Ernest Hemingway.

Bears Repeating

We’ve noted this on social media a few times over the last few years, but since Leslie Leyland Fields brought up the Katmai National Park bears in her article, we’re compelled to again recommend what’s probably our favorite webcam in the world, the Brooks Falls Bearcam. It’s a partnership between Katmai National Park and Explore.org. Salmon migration peaked in July, but you should be able to watch the fishing until October or so.

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Also in this Issue

Issue 54 / August 4, 2016
  1. Editor's Note from August 04, 2016

    Issue 54: Antarctic ice, Alaskan bears, running mysteries, and wild babies. /

  2. The Last Desert

    Pilgrimages on Antarctica’s wild ice. /

  3. His Hand Feeds Us Both

    Thoughts on bears from an Alaska fisherwoman. /

  4. What It Takes to Run

    The saying about running as “a controlled fall” is deeply true. /

  5. Aw and Wonder in the Baby Animal Kingdom

    A photographer looks at the wild’s cute, tiny, and vulnerable. /

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