Word Of The Week: January 2nd, 2010

letteraI thought I’d start off the new year with the word abyss. Most people think of it as a frightening or even depressing thing. It comes from a Greek word meaning “bottomless”, after all, and the same root gives us the word abysmal. The ocean’s depths are usually referred to as the abyss, and it was once thought to be lifeless. We know now it’s teeming with life. In fact scientists are only just beginning to understand life in the abyss and how it’s affected by life on the surface–and, possibly, the effects the abyss can have on surface life. And there’s still so much more to be learned. The only true abyss–the only thing that’s really bottomless–is our ignorance. That’s not a depressing thought either, though. Challenges are exciting because they’re opportunities for us to test ourselves and learn new things. It wasn’t that long ago that researchers in fields from philosophy to physics thought they were close to figuring everything out, to having all the answers. They couldn’t have been more wrong, and that’s a good thing. The most depressing thing would be not having any more challenges ahead.

Here’s some footage of a Pacific Black Ghost Ratfish. I think it’s actually a beautiful animal, in spite of being called a ratfish. It’s one of 94 new species documented by the California Academy of Sciences in 2009.

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