Researchers have found new examples of the strange singled-celled creatures called xenophyophores more than six miles beneath the surface of the Pacific in the Mariana Trench. At more than four inches in length, they are perhaps the largest single-celled organism on Earth. These protists make a living by sifting through sediments and can accumulate high levels of toxic metals like uranium, lead, and mercury.
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Image: Lisa Levin & David Checkley, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Clean-up teams at Fukushima struggled to control the melting fuel rods.
What’s the News: After the disastrous March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the world waited, mostly in vain, for details about the events that led to meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Since then, scientists across the Pacific in California have been watching the dials of instruments that detect radioactive molecules, to see what might come across on the winds.
This week, scientists at Scripps published their readings of radioactive sulfur collected in the atmosphere in San Diego after the meltdown. These allowed them to extrapolate backwards to learn roughly how many neutrons were shed by the melting cores as workers desperately doused them in sea water, helping scientists understand the damage undergone by the cores and demonstrating the kind of remote science that may be required to help understand the events that led to meltdown.