Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for September, 2009

The Curious Case of the Snake with Foot


Shortly before the Blue Hill Sloth, a curious creature showed up in China:

“A snake with a single clawed foot has been discovered in China, according to reports. Dean Qiongxiu, 66, said she discovered the reptile clinging to the wall of her bedroom with its talons in the middle of the night.
[Telegraph: Snake with foot found in China]

Snakes with limbs are not unheard of, since their ancestor did have limbs, but that claw does not looks right. This is how it usually happens:


Fellow Roberto Takata, from Gene Repórter, emphasized the strangeness of the supposed mutation:

The leg doesn’t fit. It if it was a case of atavism, I would expect the leg to be in the right orientation, but it seems to point in the wrong direction, besides not being in the right position – judging by fossils and the sexual hook of the jiboia, atavic legs should come up near the anus. The coloration pattern, although similar, also doesn’t quite match. And in a case of atavism, perhaps the most usual would be to find two legs, not only one, though a combination of congenital malformation could explain it.”

What would be the explanation for this curious case then? Takata also gives the answer:

I would say the poor animal had a lateral burst and the leg of its last meal is coming out. Or, better yet, its arm. I suspect it’s a frog’s arm – modern frogs and amphibians have four fingers in their front legs, in general, without claws.”

He also reminded of a previous case of a python who “bursted” after swallowing an alligator in the Everglades:


Here too, the two animals seem fused into one and one can’t quite easily tell where one begins and the other ends. And as in the case of the Panamanian sloth’s carcass, the explanation seems obvious… but only in retrospect. Kudos to Takata for solving this.

I was in doubt if the leg coming out of the Chinese snake wasn’t perhaps of another reptile, perhaps a small gator, and Takata kindly provided an illustration to support his suggestion that it was indeed a frog (click to enlarge):


The four fingers probably seal the deal: it’s a frog. Speaking of frogs, that also reminded me of a previous case that also came to the media spotlight. The three-headed frog:

That one made to the BBC… and like the sloth, like the burst snake, was a simple misinterpretation. Not a three-headed frog, just three frogs, with one-head each, in amorous embrace, as Ray Girvan pointed out.

And that ends the curious case of the snake with a foot. From a frog.

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They Might Be Giants – Science is Real

Impressively fun and adorable work: lyrics, tune and graphic art! By They Might be Giants, directed by Andy Kennedy and David Cowles, it’s the first single from the CD and DVD Here Comes Science for kids.

Some other fabulous clips after the jump, including “Put it to the Test”… if only science education was this much better, perhaps we would have less lame hoaxes to debunk around and more genuinely intriguing cases for our ordinary investigations.

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Scientific legends together in motion

At the most important scientific meeting of all time, the fifth Solvay Conference, among the 29 select scientists, one of the 17 who earned a Nobel also had a camera. And beyond the novelty of seeing all those great icons together, in motion, in bad hair day and joking around, as the narrator tells the film also records the change of mood before and after the conference.

It seems you couldn’t simultaneously have the greatest scientific minds discussing together and have them all agree at the same time. At least not when the subject of the Conference was quantum physics.

Between those brief moments captured on film, Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg‘s "Uncertainty Principle," famously remarked "God does not play dice." Bohr replied, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do." [via gaussianos, I couldn’t confirm but the voice-over is by Nancy Thorndike Greenspan.]

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Carl Sagan “A Glorious Dawn” ft Stephen Hawking (Cosmos Remixed)

Amazing work by melodysheep, Autotune put to good use! Download the MP3 here. Now sing with us:

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch
You must first invent the universe

Space is filled with a network of wormholes
You might emerge somewhere else in space
Some when-else in time

The sky calls to us
If we do not destroy ourselves
We will one day venture to the stars

A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way

The Cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths
Of exquisite interrelationships
Of the awesome machinery of nature

I believe our future depends powerfully
On how well we understand this cosmos
In which we float like a mote of dust
In the morning sky

But the brain does much more than just recollect
It inter-compares, it synthesizes, it analyzes
it generates abstractions

The simplest thought like the concept of the number one
Has an elaborate logical underpinning
The brain has it’s own language
For testing the structure and consistency of the world

For thousands of years
People have wondered about the universe
Did it stretch out forever
Or was there a limit

From the big bang to black holes
From dark matter to a possible big crunch
Our image of the universe today
Is full of strange sounding ideas

How lucky we are to live in this time
The first moment in human history
When we are in fact visiting other worlds

The surface of the earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean
Recently we’ve waded a little way out
And the water seems inviting

[via Brudna, thanks!]

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A Panamanian Montauk Monster that almost were


“F**k the Montauk Monster, this is beyond f**ed-up”, wrote Steve Huff in his Tumblr. The images and information come from Telemetro, Panama, and I translate the story here:

Strange creature found in Cerro Azul
The finding of a strange creature in Cerro Azul has started a buzz among the locals, as even though some claim it is a being from another planet, others believe it’s merely an animal.
Four teenagers between 14 and 16 years-old found it in the Cerro Azul stream last Saturday while playing around.
According to the story told by one of them, they noticed a creature was coming out of a curve behind the water stream. On seeing its appearance and that it started to climb the rocks towards one of them, they got scared and started to throw rocks and logs at it, to which they managed to kill it, took it out of the water and fled.”

The photos were taken by the teenagers themselves and given to the newspaper. The story made it to Fark, and in a couple of hours Vidani Huff quoted a “believable, real-world explanation for this strangeness”. I didn’t want to spoil it for you, so it’s also after the jump.

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