7 months agoSeptember 30, 2012
It’s relatively common in science for a specific effect to be assigned a conventional cause, only for further measurements and calculations to find that the conventional cause can’t account fully for the effect. Far from being cause for panic, this is really a fantastic opportunity to discover exciting new facts about the world. For example, the conventional explanation for why the currents of the ocean move as much and in the way they do, winds and tides, can’t completely account for what we observe. But, as it turns out, the tiny movements of fish and other marine creatures, including the seemingly insignificant motions of jellyfish and shrill, can add up to make a big difference in the ways and movements of large bodies of water. Wired:In 2004, a study found that a school of fish could cause as much turbulence as a storm. Other researchers soon suggested that ocean swimmers could account for the gap. Soon after that, ocean physicists measured enormous turbulence generated by a swarm of krill, a crustacean considered too small to have meaningful mixing effects.
Matt Webb comments:Basic story goes like this: scientists were trying to figure out where ripples and movements of the ocean come from. The moon is an obvious one, as is the wind. And they assumed that all the movements of fish and krill and whatnot would cancel out. But no — the effects of all these tiny living things add up to about the same as the pull of gravity of the one great big moon. That’s a lovely metaphor for something, I’m sure.