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Surfing Robot Tells Scientists Where the Sharks Are

Stanford University marine biologists are using a surfing robot to track the migratory patterns of great white sharks.

Surfers may unwillingly be the first to know when a great white shark approaches the shore, but it's now the full-time job of a robotic surfer to keep tabs on these aquatic predators. Researchers at Stanford University have enlisted a Wave Glider robot in their efforts to track the migratory patterns of great white sharks off the California coast, near San Francisco. They're bringing that data into the non-scientist's pocket with a shark-tracking iPhone app to raise awareness for their work.

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The 'Map of Life' Will Track Every Plant and Animal on the Entire Planet

"Imagine you had the world's most amazing field guide."

When it's finished, the Map of Life will show the location of every known plant and animal on the planet.

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What if Making Biofuel Means Growing Dangerous Invasive Species?

The same qualities that make a good biofuel crop are also hallmarks of species that crowd out native plant life.


The same characteristics that make a good biofuel stock also make successful weeds. The next generation of biofuels won’t come from corn, but from cellulose-rich plants—grasses, algae, and reeds—and those most suited for biofuel production might be those that are “fast-growing, highly productive, highly competitive, self-propagating or able to regrow rapidly,” a report from the National Wildlife Federation suggests.

“Unfortunately, many invasive species, by their very nature, exhibit these qualities as well,” researchers Aviva Glaser and Patty Glick write in the report.

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Dietary Supplements: Celebrities, Champagne, and Baby Carrots

Baby carrots are the new Doritos, Armand de Brignac is the new Cristal, and Europe celebrates biodiversity while declaring a ban on GM crops illegal.

"Choking may have been preferable to spitting out bat stubble." Boston restaurateur describes grilled bat as "the single worst thing I have ever eaten in my entire life."

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Food for Thinkers: Medieval Soldiers and Modern Stunting

Jeremy Cherfas explores the relationship between the remarkable history of human stunting and the future of genetically engineered biofortified crops.


At this point, I am beginning to feel like a magician giving away all my secrets, although I realize that my writing is far from magical, and the blogs I am showcasing during Food for Thinkers week are live to the world on the internet and thus hardly qualify as closely guarded secrets.

Nonetheless, here goes, the cat is being let of the bag: The source for a good three-quarters of the stories I write, as well as those I want to write (a much larger category) comes from a tip on Jeremy Cherfas and Luigi Guarino's Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog. I'd recommend adding it to your regular reading rotation right now.

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The First Ever Ocean Census Is Revealed

The 10-year-in-the-making document is available for download, and includes amazing interactive maps about the appalling state of our oceans.


The first ever Census of Marine Life, which is exactly what it sounds like, will be presented today in London. A 10-year-in-the-making document, it is gigantic, and available for download. So abundant and varied is ocean life that "after all its work, the Census still could not reliably estimate the total number of species, the kinds of life, known and unknown, in the ocean. It could logically extrapolate to at least a million kinds of marine life that earn the rank of species and to tens or even hundreds of millions of kinds of microbes." Wow.

There's also an accompanying searchable database and some amazing interactive maps by National Geographic. One of them—"Past, Present, Future," pictured below—establishes a "baseline against which coming change can be measured." Which is important (and depressing) when you think about the sorry state of our oceans. (For further reading on that, check out this recent package from Time.)

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