Cristian Lascu (left)

BBC Earth: Movile Cave has been cut off for millions of years. Its air is thick with harmful gases, yet it is home to an array of strange animals.

Despite a complete absence of light and a poisonous atmosphere, the cave is crawling with life. There are unique spiders, scorpions, woodlice and centipedes, many never before seen by humans, and all of them owe their lives to a strange floating mat of bacteria.

Strangely, the worse the air gets the more animals there are. It’s not at all obvious why that should be, or how the animals survive at all.

Without any signs of water reaching the deep cave from the surface, it is unclear how the animals in the cave survives. Tests have shown that the water flowing in does not contain any food particles. Instead, the food comes from the strange frothy foam sitting on top of the water. This floating film, which looks like wet tissue paper and can even be torn like paper, contains millions upon millions of bacteria known as “autotrophs”.

In 1996, researchers categorised the animals in the cave. They included 3 species of spider, a centipede, 4 species of isopod (the group that includes woodlice), a leech never seen anywhere else in the world, and an unusual-looking insect called a waterscorpion.

See also

Humans and other animals

Movile Cave: The unique life isolated deep underground for 5.5 million years

“Almost 30 years after its discovery, Movile Cave remains perhaps the most isolated ecosystem on the planet. It surely has many more secrets to give up. There are plenty more organisms buried in the cave’s sediments, waiting to be identified, and they could help us understand some of our deepest questions about the nature of life.” — BBC Earth

Gallery

FORMS IN NATURE: Understanding Our Universe

Through scientific study and understanding, we deepen our connection to the natural world.

A collaboration between Kevin Dart, Stéphane Coëdel, Nelson Boles, and David Kamp.

Gallery 1988: Kevin Dart “Science & Nature”

Light-based media

Forms in Nature

Through scientific study and understanding, we deepen our connection to the natural world.

Gallery

The Zipf Mystery

The of and to. A in is I. That it, for you, was with on. As have … but be they.

The Atlantic:

Every so often scientists notice a rule or a regularity that makes no particular sense on its face but seems to hold true nonetheless. One such is a curiosity called Zipf’s Law. George Kingsley Zipf was a Harvard linguist who in the 1930s noticed that the distribution of words adhered to a regular statistical pattern. The most common word in English—”the”—appears roughly twice as often in ordinary usage as the second most common word, three times as often as the third most common, ten times as often as the tenth most common, and so on. As an afterthought, Zipf also observed that cities’ sizes followed the same sort of pattern, which became known as a Zipf distribution. Oversimplifying a bit, if you rank cities by population, you find that City No. 10 will have roughly a tenth as many residents as City No. 1, City No. 100 a hundredth as many, and so forth. (Actually the relationship isn’t quite that clean, but mathematically it is strong nonetheless.) Subsequent observers later noticed that this same Zipfian relationship between size and rank applies to many things: for instance, corporations and firms in a modern economy are Zipf-distributed.

What’s Up in the Solar System?
A diagram by Olaf Frohn, updated once a month, of active space missions traveling beyond Earth orbit.

What's Up in the Solar System diagram by Olaf Frohn (updated for July 2015)

Shape of things to come

What’s up in the Solar System?

A diagram by Olaf Frohn, updated once a month, of active space missions traveling beyond Earth orbit. Released under a generous Creative Commons licence with an archive going back to October 2010.

Image

The Fermi Paradox — Where Are All The Aliens?

The universe is unbelievably big – trillions of stars and even more planets. Soo… there just has to be life out there, right? But where is it? Why don’t we see any aliens? Where are they? And more importantly, what does this tell us about our own fate in this gigantic and scary universe?

Pigeons are gross. They’re also wildly underrated.

Vox: Sure, there are bad things about these birds (like the way they deface statues of our own species’ great leaders). But over the centuries, their unique abilities to be trained and to find their way home have been used in interesting and surprising ways (that almost make up for their constant cooing).

Pigeons

A diagram of the geological time scale

The Geologic Time Spiral — Designed by Joseph Graham, William Newman, and John Stacy

The Earth is very old—4.5 billion years or more according to scientific estimates. Most of the evidence for an ancient Earth is contained in the rocks that form the Earth’s crust. The rock layers themselves—like pages in a long and complicated history—record the events of the past, and buried within them are the remains of life—the plants and animals that evolved from organic structures that existed 3 billion years ago.

USGS: The Geologic Time Spiral (via Wikipedia)

See also: 4,000 years of human history in one chart

Miscellany

The Geologic Time Spiral

This timeline of evolution of life represents the current scientific theory outlining the major events during the development of life on planet Earth. […] The similarities between all present day organisms indicate the presence of a common ancestor from which all known species, living and extinct, have diverged through the process of evolution. Although more than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on the planet are estimated to be extinct, there are currently 10–14 million species of life on the Earth. –Wikipedia

Image