Frozen Friday Fab Four #1

By Victoria Metcalf 28/03/2014

Four of the Antarctic or anything else headlines/social media bits that have grabbed my attention this week.


1. A new study (full reference here) released has just shown that there’s a lot more ice being lost from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet than previously thought. We should all be worried about this because it means that sea level rises around the world as a result will be greater than expected. From 1973 to the present, the ‘Big 6’ glaciers in West Antarctica have increased their shed of ice by 77% through the ice moving faster.

Robert Thomas, a glaciologist at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, in Wallops Island, Va said about the study “This paper is important in showing that a glacier can actually ‘feel’ what is happening far downstream of itself,” said Thomas. “It means that if you disturb the ice sheet near the coast, the glaciers will feel the push and rapidly respond hundreds of kilometers inland.”


2. My tweet about what was wrong in a picture in a children’s book (more about that in an upcoming post):

triggered some responses including from @Smiffy noting that maybe something was wrong with penguins swimming trailing bubbles behind:


He noted:

That got me thinking and so I did some quick reading to discover penguin swimming is even more interesting than I thought (and I might even make it a full post in the future). Cavitation is the formation of gas bubbles of a flowing liquid in a region where the pressure of the liquid falls below the vapour pressure. One idea has been that when penguins first dive into the water, they splay their feathers out and then lock them in to trap air, which they then release as compressed air during dives especially when coming back up to the surface. This allows them to reduce their drag underwater to help escape predators and to exit the water quickly, overcoming gravity.

The bubbles are not from exhalation from their lungs, which is what might be a logical first thought. A 2011 paper suggests that it is air lubrication (injection of air into boundary layers) rather than cavitation though that is responsible for the bubble formation.



3. While we’re on the penguin them I just loved this picture on Twitter of a “Penguin Battle” with someone retweeting calling it The 300. I’m more inclined to think it’s penguins greeting each other and it’s a good example that other animals form social groups too.

In fact it reminds me of helicoptering in to an emperor penguin colony (the picture shows Adelie penguins) and having 100’s of penguins run to meet us, not run away, and then walk behind us in a long line to the colony. That’s a good reminder of how animals can be fearless of humans in a non-humanised location.


4. I found this on Twitter (What makes a team smarter? More women) and it seems very timely given my institution’s change proposal announced this week and its potential  implications on the percentages of female academics (decrease). In this article Professors Anita Wooley and Thomas Malone get to defend their research. They found that there’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the individual IQ’s of its members. Rather, it’s the number of women that count! Empathy and emotional quotient/intelligence are such important qualities, if not the most important quality for any group- it’s great to have research like this validating this idea and highlighting the need for more women/socially sensitive people in teams.