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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose
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Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Friday
May092008

In Which This Recording Killed Steampunk...Or Did It?

Suspenseful Cliffhangers

by Molly Lambert

STEAMPUNK! Is anything dorkier? Does a New York times style section story on a subculture mean it's officially dead? Does the world really need more Victorian modded objects? Does the world really need more objects period? Do you really want to live in a nautical chamber located twenty thousand leagues under the sea? Is it weird that I still kind of do want to live underwater?

A Technically Adept Stoner's Steampunk Bong Creation

Is it possible that Stoner Culture is even nerdier than Steampunk? Is combining the two, (as in the contraption above, called the Original Model 420 Pneumatiform Infumationizer) some sort of ungodly meeting of geekular netherworlds? Will they join forces or form gangs and fight to the death like The Warriors? If they rumble at Burning Man will the battlefield be littered with broken bong stems and bashed-in brass goggles?

Edwardian Star Wars Robot R2 S2 (the S stands for Steam)

Is the future now past? Does Malcolm Gladwell read This Recording for story ideas or is it a case of concurrent innovations? Whom can we blame for the emergence of Steampunk? Jules Verne? H.G. Wells? William Gibson for The Difference Engine? Christopher Nolan for The Prestige? Scarlett Johanssen for using The Prestige to demonstrate she can't pull off a British accent at all? Is ScarJo using Ghostbusters for evil?

"My god David Bowie Tesla, what an enormous lightbulb!"

Is Scarlett Johanssen Hollywood's Sasha Grey? Is Sasha Grey the sex industry's Scarlett? Will Woody Allen abandon his gross crush on S.J. when he learns about S.G.? Or has he already abandoned her for the even younger more shiksa-y pastures of Evan Rachel Wood? Will I ever stop being creeped out by old perverts?

Back To The Future III is a Weird Western. So is Wild Wild West. They both happen to suck. However, Westworld rules.

How many other sci-fi nerd trends can we cross-breed with steampunk? Where will it end? With the Star Wars steampunk lightsaber? The Back To The Future style steampunk time machine? The Dan Clowes drawn cover for this week's tech-themed issue of The New Yorker evoking low-culture touchstones like comic books, personal automatons, and robots playing poker? Is the internet collapsing in on itself like a black hole?

The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs = Steampunk Jurassic Park?

Were the Disney Imagineers way ahead of the curve when they redid Tomorrowland in a pseudo-steampunk manner some years ago? Or were they just paying tribute to designer Harper Goff who art-directed the 1954 Disney film version of early sci-fi classic 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (and later did the amazingly cool sets for Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory)?

the Old Jules Verne Submarine Ride, still in action at Disneyworld

Was closing the Disneyland Jules Verne themed submarine ride and replacing it with a much tamer and lamer Finding Nemo one a tragedy or merely a travesty? Is the Disneyland Resort in Japan way cooler than the American ones for having a Mysterious Island dark ride? Or is it because of Disney Sea, the entirely aquatic theme park featuring a fake Cape Cod, a volcano called Mount Prometheus, and King Triton's Kingdom from The Little Mermaid?

Is Brad Bird's The Iron Giant The Steampunk Iron Man?

What is the ultimate Steampunk vacation or fieldtrip? The Museum Of Victorian Science? A Dinosaur Safari at the Crystal Palace Park in London? The exquisitely ridiculous House On The Rock? The Winchester Mystery House? The Belvedere Castle in Central Park? The British Natural History Museum? Perhaps a journey to Treasure Planet? A time machine back to The Great Exhibition of 1851 to check out the Tempest Prognosticator?

London's Crystal Palace Housing The Great Exposition Of 1851

Was H.G. Wells really such a strong believer in eugenics that The Time Machine is an allegory for it? Is it plausible to assume that Jules Verne was a homosexual pederast? Must all of my heroes turn out to be pedophiles, creeps, and scientific racists? Bringing it all back home, did you know that Woody Allen loosely based Sleeper on the H.G. Wells story The Sleeper Awakes?

Weird Musical Automatons at The House On The Rock

What questions still remain to be asked? Is This Recording more of an Edisonade or a Robinsonade? Is there such a thing as a scientific romantic comedy? Will a World Government ever prove sustainable? Will there ever be a real War Of The Worlds? Will we able to teleport objects (say, candy bars) through computer screens anytime soon? And will they be edible or evil?

Molly Rose Lambert is the senior editor of This Recording

SONGS FOR SOME FUTURES LONG SINCE PASSED

The Kinks don't have a complete monopoly on music dealing with nostalgia, Victoriana, and bittersweet reveries, but they definitely helped write the book. Certainly Ray Davies knows a thing or two about saudade, especially the England-specific variety.

"Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains" - The Kinks

"Complicated Life" - The Kinks

"Days" - The Kinks

"Dead End Street" - The Kinks

"I Go To Sleep" - The Kinks

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Robots Are Coming To Replace You

Eugenics And Anthropometry

Circus Theater Of Magic Castles

This Recording is 20,000 Blogs Under The Net

Monday
May052008

In Which Robots Are Going To Replace Us All

SCIENCE CORNER

Special Edition: History Of Humanoids

by Molly Lambert

A.E. reborn as a HUBO in A.I.

Scarier than E.T.A. Hoffman's The Sandman, more terrifying than Fritz Lang's Metropolis, realer than Blade Runner, the complete history of Robots and Replicants, courtesy of This Recording.

PART ONE: The Uncanny Valley

Since 30 Rock is throwing out references to The Uncanny Valley and in preparation for WALL•E, I thought I'd take some time to discuss one of my all-time favorite subjects. Androids, Gynoids, and all kinds of robotic horrors to give you a Frankenstein complex. Step into my Wunderkammern...

The Uncanny Valley is a hypothetical concept introduced by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970, and has been linked to Ernst Jentsch's concept of "the uncanny" as first identified in his 1906 essay, "On the Psychology of the Uncanny." Jentsch's conception was famously elaborated on by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay "The Uncanny" ("Das Unheimliche").

The Uncanny Valley

The Uncanny Valley is the hypothesis that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost, but not entirely, like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion in human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's lifelikeness.

"Please don't make me go to Auschwitz Mr. CGI Tom Hanks"

A similar problem arises in 3D computer animation that attempts realism, especially with motion capture methods as used in Final Fantasy, The Polar Express and Beowulf. Most CGI suffers from this to some extent. For my money nobody (including, especially, Peter Jackson and LOThR) has surpassed the realism of fifteen year old movie Jurassic Park, which heavily augmented computer graphics with traditional animatronics.

T-REX SAYS "ALL YOUR HOBBITS ARE BELONG TO US!!!!!"

Some theorists and scientists (and Tess) think crossing the Uncanny Valley will lead to accepting the possibilities of Transhumanism. These are the folks who think that steroids aren't necessarily bad for sports, that nootropics aren't cheating nature but enhancing it, and that the fear of post-humans is just alarmism about the future and what is as yet unfamiliar or unknown.

The Second Uncanny Valley

Transhumanists support the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and fix what it regards as undesirable or unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death.

Transhumanist thinkers predict that human beings will eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label "posthuman." It recalls eugenics with a modern technological twist, the racism against mutants in the Uncanny X-Men, and the Mecha suit of Iron Man.

PART TWO: Early Innovations In Automatons

I. Al-Jazari

Abū al-'Iz Ibn Ismā'īl ibn al-Razāz al-Jazarī (1136-1206) (Arabic: أَبُو اَلْعِزِ بْنُ إسْماعِيلِ بْنُ الرِّزاز الجزري) was an important Iraqi Artuqid Muslim scholar, artist, astronomer, craftsman, inventor and mechanical engineer from al-Jazira, Mesopotamia who flourished during the Islamic Golden Age (Middle Ages).

Al-Jaziri’s Elephant Clock replicated in Dubai's Ibn Battuta Mall

He is best known for writing the Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices in 1206, where he described fifty mechanical devices. Al-Jazari invented automated moving peacocks driven by hydropower, the earliest known automatic gates, which were driven by hydropower, and created automatic doors as part of one of his elaborate water clocks.

Al-Jazari's musical automatons

Al-Jazari created a musical automaton, which was a boat with four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties. Professor Noel Sharkey has argued that it is quite likely that it was an early programmable automata and has produced a possible reconstruction of the mechanism.

Diagram Of The Floating Musical Automatons

It has a programmable drum machine with pegs (cams) that bump into little levers that operated the percussion. The drummer could be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns if the pegs were moved around. According to Charles B. Fowler, the automata were a "robot band" which performed "more than fifty facial and body actions during each musical selection."

II. Pierre Jaquet-Droz

Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790) was a Swiss-born watchmaker of the late eighteenth century. He lived in Paris, London, and Geneva, where he designed and built animated dolls, or automata, to help his firm sell watches and mechanical birds.

I know why the caged bird sings. It's a robot.

Constructed by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son were The Writer (made of 6000 pieces), The Musician (2500 pieces) and The Draughtsman (2000 pieces). His astonishing mechanisms fascinated the world's most important people: the kings and emperors of Europe, China, India and Japan.

Some consider these devices to be the oldest examples of the computer. The Writer has an input device to set tabs that form a programmable memory, 40 cams that represents the read only program, and a quill pen for output. The work of Pierre Jaquet-Droz predates that of Charles Babbage by decades.

The automata of Jaquet-Droz are also considered to be some of the finest examples of human mechanical problem solving. Three particularly complex, and still working and functional dolls are housed at the art and history museum in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, now known as the Jaquet-Droz automata. There's a scene in (one of my favorite movies) The Thief Of Baghdad referencing this anecdote, which I'd never heard until now:

Droz built a clock which was capable of movement: when the clock struck, a shepherd played six tunes on his flute, and a dog approached and fawned upon him. This clock was exhibited to the King of Spain, who was delighted with it. "If your Majesty touch one of the apples," said Droz "which you see in the shepherd's basket, you will admire the fidelity of this animal."

The King took an apple, and the mechanical dog flew at his hand and barked so loudly that the King's real dog began also to bark; at this the Courtiers, hastily left the room crossing themselves, believing it to be witchcraft. The minister of Marine was the only one that ventured to stay.

III. Jacques de Vaucanson

Jacques de Vaucanson gained his interest in mechanical devices after meeting the surgeon Le Cat, from whom he would learn the details of anatomy. This new knowledge allowed him to develop his first mechanical devices that mimicked biological vital functions such as circulation, respiration, and digestion.

In 1737, he built his first automaton, The Flute Player, a life-size figure of a shepherd that played the tabor and the pipe and had a repertoire of twelve songs. The figure's fingers were not pliable enough to play the flute correctly, so Vaucanson had to glove the creation in skin.

The following year, in early 1738, he presented his creation to the Académie des Sciences. At the time, mechanical creatures were somewhat a fad in Europe, but most could be classified as toys, and de Vaucanson's creations were recognized as being revolutionary in their mechanical life-like sophistication.

Later that year, he created two additional automatons, The Tambourine Player and The Digesting Duck, which is considered his masterpiece. The duck had over 400 moving parts, and could flap its wings, drink water, digest grain, and defecate. Although the duck supposedly demonstration digestion accurately, it actually contained a hidden compartment of "digested food," so that what the duck shat out was not the same as what it ate.

While such "frauds" were sometimes controversial, they were common because scientific demonstrations needed to entertain the wealthy and powerful to attract their patronage. The Digesting Duck followed the principles of Descartes’s mechanistic universe, and bolstered the Enlightenment-era belief that animals were just meat machines, but automatons nonetheless.

The ability to create life no longer was the domain of God and of living organisms, but was now captive in the hands of man’s genius. These ideas terrified and excited many people, but were one of the major ideological changes from a natural to a mechanistic world view.

IV. Von Kemeplen's Hoax

The Turk or Automaton Chess Player was a chess-playing machine of the late 18th century, exhibited from 1770 for over 84 years, by various owners, as an automaton but later explained in January 1857 as an elaborate hoax.

Constructed and unveiled in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734–1804) to impress the Empress Maria Theresa, the mechanism appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent, as well as perform the knight's tour, a puzzle that requires the player to move a knight to occupy every square of a chessboard once and only once.

Publicly promoted as an automaton and given its common name based on its appearance, the Turk was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years until its destruction by fire in 1854, playing and defeating many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. Although many had suspected the hidden human operator, the hoax was formally revealed in a series of articles in The Chess Monthly in 1857.

The Turk was visited in London by Rev. Edmund Cartwright in 1784. He was so intrigued by the Turk that he would later question whether "it is more difficult to construct a machine that shall weave than one which shall make all the variety of moves required in that complicated game." Cartwright would patent the prototype for a power loom within the year.

Sir Charles Wheatstone, an inventor, saw a later appearance of the Turk while it was owned by Mälzel. He also saw some of Mälzel's speaking machines, and Mälzel later presented a demonstration of speaking machines to Alexander Melville Bell and his teenage son. Wheatstone lent a book by Kempelen about the speaking machines to the son, Alexander Graham Bell; Bell would go on to invent the telephone.

Ajeeb, another chess playing automaton hoax

In Richmond, Virginia, the Turk was observed by Edgar Allan Poe, who was writing for the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe's famous essay "Maelzel's Chess Player" was published in April 1836 and is the most well-known analysis of the Turk, even though many of Poe's hypotheses were incorrect.

In 1849, just several years before the Turk was destroyed, Edgar Allan Poe published a tale "Von Kempelen and His Discovery". It also inspired "Moxon's Master", a morbid tale by Ambrose Bierce about a chess-playing automaton that resembles the Turk.

V. The Golden Age Of Automatons

a. Vichy

Vichy was known for the subtlety of motion their automata possessed. Vichy showed several automata at Paris Universal Exposition of 1878. One observer noted that, "...Vichy's automata are distinguished by the flexibility and precision of their gestures...". One hundred and thirty years later, they are still horrifically lifelike.

b. Leopold Lambert

Léopold Lambert, was born on October 8, 1854 in Aix-en-Provence (France). His parents were inn keepers. He worked some time in the Vichy society, where his competence and the quality of his work earned him the post of foreman. In 1886, Lambert formed his own company and sold musical mechanical toys and luxurious articles.

Toward 1876, he married a young parisian dressmaker who dressed the automata created by her husband. The Lambert pieces were of two kinds: those manufactured with few specimens, even single, and others, made in series; these last are, generally, of small girls with porcelain heads. They are in general equipped with three or four movements: they turned the head and greet, raise and lower the arms, and differ from each other mainly by their costumes and their accessories.

Lambert was rewarded with diplomas of honor in Liege in 1904, and Milan in 1905, then abruptly, his name ceases to appear among the participants in the international demonstrations. From 1910 the society started a slow but final decline. During the epoch of electric and advertising automata, Lambert had remained faithful to the mechanical automata. The sales slowed down and had difficulty earning a living at his trade. His automata survived him.

c. Roullet & Decamps

Roullet et Decamps, one of the most versatile and creative of all the Paris automaton makers, was in business for more than 120 years. Its remarkable accomplishments began in 1866 with mechanical toys, then musical automatons, and finally, in the first years of the twentieth century, electric automated displays for store windows.

O God help us they are self-replicating!

By 1995, when the firm closed its doors for the last time, the craft of the automaton maker was recognized as a cultural asset worthy of preservation. The French government established a state-of-the-art museum in the village of Souillac, a popular tourist destination in France's scenic Dordogne Valley. The Roullet and Decamps collection of antique automatons and electrically-operated automated displays was saved, along with tools, machinery, molds, parts, and materials that were used in the workshops.

d. Phalibois

Jean Marie Phalibois was born on October 29, 1835 in Paris. In 1871 he set up his shop and devoted himself to the production of scenes mecaniques, which were little scenes placed on wooden bases featuring monkeys, tightrope walkers, conjurers, etc.

Phalibois took part in the Paris Exhibition of 1878. This year also marked a turning point in his firm's orientation, for he began to produce more and more mechanical toys with music. In 1893, Phalibois retired from his business and turned control of the firm to his son Henry. In 1925, the family firm came to an end when Henry's son, Raymond, sold off the firm.

VI. Leonardo Torres y Quevedo

El Ajedrecista ("The Chess Player") was an automaton built in 1912 by Leonardo Torres y Quevedo. El Ajedrecista made a public debut during the Paris World Fair of 1914, creating great excitement at the time. It was first widely mentioned in Scientific American as "Torres and His Remarkable Automatic Devices" in November 6th, 1915.

Quevedo's Niagara Falls Whirlpool Aero Car

Using electromagnets under the board, it automatically played a three chesspiece endgame moving a King and a Rook against a human opponent King. By today's engineering standards, the automata built by Quevedo would not be viewed as remarkable. However, they were considered revolutionary in their day. If an illegal move were made by the opposite player the automaton would signal it. As opposed to The Turk and Ajeeb, El Ajedrecista was a true automaton built to play chess without human guidance.

LINKS TO LEARN EVEN MORE ABOUT AUTOMATONS

Timeline Of Automatons

The Murtogh D Guinness Collection At The Morris Museum

Da Vinci Automata

Time To Get Transhumanist

Robot Fetishism

Cabinet Of Wonders

La Cité De L'Automate

Automata/Automaton Blog

Historical Gallery Of Automatons

SONGS SO YOU CAN CRANK THAT

"Gold Star For Robot Boy" - Guided By Voices

"Future Markets" - Jonny Greenwood (from There Will Be Blood)

"Hand Crank Transmitter" - Grandaddy

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Tess Is Our Resident Transhumanist

George On Showbiz Pizza's Rock-A-Fire Explosion

Molly On Prions And Ice-9

This Recording Is More Human Than Human

Monday
Apr282008

In Which Molly's Fantasies Come To Life

Links to Make You Go PYRZQXGL

by Molly Lambert

I tried watching that Tin Man SciFi miniseries for one second and realized it's totally just a Steampunk Wizard of Oz. I guess the Oz books are some of the first Steampunk novels, along with Jules Verne and a couple of other fantasy authors. Return To Oz is definitely as Steampunk a movie there is.

Map of the Land of Oz

I remember reading my way through the complete Oz books as a kid. They got progressively weirder, like Twin Peaks, as Baum tried to write them faster to make cash. The best ones were Tik-Tok of Oz and The Patchwork Girl of Oz. The Emerald City is a socialist eden. Are the citizens of Oz really called Ozians? Hmmm...

Baum's post-Oz effort, The Sea Fairies, didn't do well but was his personal favorite

Fantasy author Edith Nesbit, most famous for The Railway Children, wrote a book about mermaids called Wet Magic. Not related to this Wet Magic.

Field Recordings of Cats Purring! I want a white noise machine of this to fall asleep to. It's meowdorable!

necrophilia from playboy, you knew it happened, now you know when

Walt Whitman pants, from the J. Peterman catalogue (where else?), courtesy of one Mr. Benjamin A. Stein. According to Peterman, "When Walt Whitman heard America singing, these are the kind of pants it was singing in." So actually you mean they're the kind of pants Walt Whitman was coming in, if I remember my Song of Myself.

The Wondering Minstrels poetry archive. Reading poems online is one of the most pleasurable web activities there is.

The levels of greatness a fiction writer can achieve, by Tao Lin. I plan on being the first woman inducted into the "F-14 FIGHTER PLANE SHOOTING MISSILES AT CACTI IN NEVADA" class.

Blog Flume, the comics blog of the Buenaventura Press

"Golden Star" - My Brightest Diamond (mp3)

"Disappear (String Quartet Version)" - My Brightest Diamond (mp3)

"Men of Station" - 13 & God (mp3)

The nine most racist Disney characters

Escort service uses hot pic of Brenda Song, nfw

The quality sucks, but it's Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games and the Final Countdown. Where's my Sega Genesis? I want my mothafuckin Sega Genesis!

God remember my piece on the Wainwrights? Classic.

Nike founder Phil Knight working on his novel at Stanford. Hopefully Will Hubbard will get the Wallace Stegner fellowship and Knight can be the Godwin Lloyd-Jons to Will's Danny Deck. I personally liked to picture Godwin in my mind as Don Barthelme, although Larry McMurtry never studied with Barthelme at the University of Houston.

Speaking of Texas, PIMP C REST IN PEACE

Polly Vous Francais?

Amelia's Magazine

Chickfactor

Jessamyn West on Don Barthelme, and the social ramifications of the internet on real life. This Recording loves Jessamyn. Her IM name is "IAmTheBestArtist" which rivals Tess's classic "TormentedArtist."

Jessamyn is a MetaFilter moderator, Don B. enthusiast, and librarian who's been holding it down for hypertext since the beginning of webtime. You can even visit her in Vermont, if you like a hardscrabble bed and breakfast and walks to sit down by the river. Sounds pretty sweet to me.

A Home For Unwanted Library Orphans

CRANK THAT BAMBI!!!

[youtube="http://youtube.com/watch?v=pdi48oUdZP0"]

Molly Lambert is senior editor of This Recording.

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING:

Alex Carnevale, Film Critic

2 Days In Paris

Stardust

Hannah Takes The Stairs

Friday
Apr252008

In Which Science Is Stranger Than Science Fiction 

Wednesday
Mar262008

In Which They'll Outlive Us All

jellyfish4.jpg

Science Corner Volume XIV: Beware Of The Blob

by Molly Lambert

If you've known me long enough I have at some point told you my thoughts on jellyfish. How I think they are the most terrifying creatures on earth because of their primitivism ("they'll outlive us all!") and the fact that they have eyes without a brain. Well it turns out I was right to worry about our faceless neighbors in the sea.

jellyfish.jpg

YUM YUM EAT 'EM UP!

A jellyfish detects the touch of other animals using a nervous system called a "nerve net", located in its epidermis. Touch stimuli are conducted by nerve rings, through the rhopalial lappet, located around the animal's body, to the nerve cells. Jellyfish also have ocelli: light-sensitive organs that do not form images but are used to determine up from down, responding to sunlight shining on the water's surface.

We told you of the jellyfish with 12 heads that scientists made for fun.

The Five Blobs

COME INTO MY ORAL ARMS

Turns out eutrophication makes them breed harder. Ahhhh!

More bad news:

Recently, Japan has clashed with China on a number of issues. China has blocked Japan's efforts to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The two countries have conflicting claims to offshore natural gas deposits. They are also at odds over China's pollution, which pours acid rain down on Japan's forests and feeds a growing population of giant, yard-wide jellyfish in the Sea of Japan.

How about some giant jellyfish sashimi? Mmmm...gluey.

The Adventure Of The Lion's Mane

FUUUUUUUUUUCK THEY'RE UNSTOPPABLE

The problem with combating the jellyfish is that when they are under attack or killed, they release billions of sperm or eggs which connect in the water and attach to rocks or coral formations. when the conditions are favorable, the creatures detach from their home millions at a time and grow into more jellyfish.

Star Jelly?

WHERE IS YOUR CREATIONIST GOD NOW?

Growing up to 2 m (6 ft 7 feet) in diameter and weighing up to 200kg (440 lb), Nomura's Jellyfish reside primarily in the waters between China and Japan, primarily centralized in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea where they spawn. Nomura's Jellyfish (エチゼンクラゲ echizen kurage, Nemopilema nomurai) is a very large Japanese jellyfish. It is in the same size class as the lion's mane jellyfish, the largest cnidarian in the world.

This pic is not a photoshop joke.

Irukandji are the scary tiny jellyfish that can kill you.

SUPER BLOBS

The problem has become so serious that fishery officials from Japan, China and South Korea are to meet this month for a “jellyfish summit” to discuss strategies for dealing with the invasion. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has formed a jellyfish countermeasures committee and fishermen are at work on technology to keep the marauders out of their nets.

The beautiful but deadly Moon Jellies

Moooooooooooooooooon Jellies

And it's not just in Japan where this is happening, it's all over the place. The jellyfish will not stop breeding and blooming. I have to pin this one on Global Warmthing. We are so so fucked. Nothing but jellyfish.

Jellyfish are an unusual ingredient of Japanese cuisine but are much more prized in China. Coastal communities are doing their best to promote jellyfish as a novelty food, sold dried and salted. Students in Obama have managed to turn them into tofu, and jellyfish collagen is reported to be beneficial to the skin.

Obama is fucking everywhere!

"Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole" - Martha Wainwright (mp3)

CTHULHU? IS THAT ULULU?

As if jellyfish weren't terrifying enough, there is a kind of jellyfish that is IMMORTAL. It can apparently "transdifferentiate" itself, meaning it matures sexually and then regresses back to a jellychild polyp! And it can just do that forever. It can, however be killed. Tess is looking into getting some right now to inject in her glands. She is serious about beating old age. Maybe we should start collecting Hydras too. They don't age and are also effectively immortal.

Hydra is a small animal with a body length ranging from 1 mm to 20 mm when fully extended. It has a tubular body secured by a simple adhesive foot called the basal disc. Gland cells in the basal disc secrete a sticky fluid that allows for its adhesive properties. At the free end of the body is a mouth opening surrounded by a ring of five to twelve thin, mobile tentacles. Each tentacle, or cnida (plural: cnidae), is clothed with highly specialised stinging cells called cnidocytes.

H.P. Lovecraft would luv these ancient immortal underwater creepies

Many members of the Hydrozoa go through a body change from a polyp to an adult form called a medusa. However, all hydras remain as a polyp throughout their lives. BLEURGH.

Cnidocytes contain specialized structures called nematocysts which look like miniature light bulbs with a coiled thread inside. At the narrow outer edge of the cnidocyte is a short trigger hair. Upon contact with prey, the contents of the nematocyst are explosively discharged, firing a dart-like thread containing neurotoxins into whatever triggered the release. To humans, this poses a nuisance at worst; however, to some prey, this strike can be paralyzing.

When food is plentiful, many hydras reproduce asexually by producing buds in the body wall which grow to be miniature adults and simply break away when they are mature. When conditions are harsh, often before winter or in poor feeding conditions, sexual reproduction occurs in some hydras. Swellings in the body wall develop into either a simple ovary or testes.

"Eyeball Kid" - Tom Waits (mp3)

Hydras: "I'm sticking with you. Cause I'm made out of glue."

The testes release free swimming gametes into the water and these can fertilise the egg in the ovary of another individual. The fertilized eggs secrete a tough outer coating and, as the adult dies, these resting eggs fall to the bottom of the lake or pond to await better conditions, whereupon they hatch into miniature adults. Hydras are hermaphrodites and may produce both testes and an ovary at the same time.

Copepods, which jellies love to eat, are sometimes terrifying parasites.

When feeding, hydras extend their body to maximum length and then slowly extend their tentacles. Despite their simple construction, the tentacles of hydras are extraordinarily extensible and can be four to five times the length of the body. Once fully extended, the tentacles are slowly manoeuvred around waiting for contact with a suitable prey animal. Upon contact, nematocysts on the tentacle fire into the prey and the tentacle itself coils around the prey. Within 30 seconds most of the remaining tentacles will have already joined in the attack to subdue the struggling prey.

A parasitic copepod. Sweet dreams!

Within two minutes, the tentacles will have surrounded the prey and moved it into the opened mouth aperture. Within ten minutes, the prey will have been enclosed within the body cavity and digestion will have started. The hydra is able to stretch its body wall considerably in order to digest prey more than twice its size. After two or three days, the indigestible remains of the prey will be discharged by contractions through the mouth aperture. The feeding behaviour of the hydra demonstrates the sophistication of what appears to be a simple nervous system.

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Hydras eat Cyclops and Daphnia.

HYDRA MORPHALLAXIS POWERS ACTIVATE

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After fertilization and initial growth, a larval form, called the planula, develops from the egg. The planula is a small larva covered with cilia. It settles onto a firm surface and develops into a polyp. The polyp is cup-shaped with tentacles surrounding a single orifice, resembling a tiny sea anemone. After an interval of growth, the polyp begins reproducing asexually by budding and is called a segmenting polyp, or a scyphistome. New scyphistomae may be produced by budding or new, immature jellies called ephyra may be formed. Many jellyfish species are capable of producing new medusae by budding directly from the medusan stage.

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Molly Lambert is the senior science columnist at This Recording.

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