More aviation, and cephalopods

Sunday we spent the day at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola. The Navy has a long history of research in geology, meteorology, and oceanography, all of which have an important influence on naval operations. One of the aircraft in open storage behind the museum is the prototype Lockheed P-3 Orion. During the 1970s NASA used this aircraft for various geophysical research, including magnetic mapping of the Arctic Ocean.

Below is a Lockheed WV-2, which was used by the Navy as a hurricane hunter in the 1950s and ’60s. This role is now performed mainly by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration P-3s. The prototype of the WV-2 was (not surprisingly) the WV-1; my grandfather was a mechanic on the WV-1 when it was undergoing testing at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in the early 1950s.

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And now, back to critters. I think cephalopods are possibly the most intriguing invertebrates out there (no offense to all those folks working on other invertebrate groups). Besides their intelligence, they have remarkable camouflage abilities. This cuttlefish at the Georgia Aquarium seemed content to try to intimidate me through the glass (although it does seem to change color at one point):

This octopus at the Dauphin Island Estuarium, on the other hand, decided to try to hide from me, matching both the background color and texture:

This octopus was either inexperienced, or wasn’t trying very hard, because when they want to octopuses can disappear (there are several YouTube videos showing this). Besides being able to match its colors to the background, an octopus can also change its shape to match textures, as the only hard part of its body is the beak. Of course, this means that the octopus has no fossil record, as far as I know.

Given their impressive abilities, it’s no wonder that cephalopods were the subject of Monday’s xkcd comic:

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