Jul
16
2009

The Blob Returns: call McQueen, get your fire extinguishers, prepare for chemical death

The burning you feel is your childhood evaporating: Also, your skin.
The burning you feel is your childhood evaporating: Also, your skin.Courtesy jurvetson
Ho-ly spit.

Zo-mg.

We are in deep trouble, friends, enemies and Buzzketeers.

Screw rising sea levels. Nuts to dwindling glacier-based freshwater reserves. Forget desertification. The real danger of global warming we’ve known about since 1958 and we’ve done nothing to prevent it. In our arrogance, we thought we’d be safe forever, but now the chickens have come home to roost. And they’re roosting hard.

Is it possible that you don’t know what I’m talking about yet?

Well, let me explain it to you in a roundabout way.

Remember being a kid in 1958, sitting in your home entertainment room, petting your chinchilla in the dark (not a euphemism), and eating a box of Gushers as you watched your Blu-ray of Steve McQueen’s The Blob? Remember how you felt when that little piece of space goo started to eat that old dude’s hand? Those Gushers burned like the blob’s acid touch, no doubt. And remember when you realized that no amount of hot lead was going to stop the blob, because, duh, why would bullets hurt space goo? You probably squeezed your poor chinchilla to death in your anxiety. Do you recall the little pinprick of hope you felt at the blob’s response to a blast from the CO2 filled fire extinguisher, and the final surge of relief as they crated the awful thing to the arctic, where it could be kept in safety… JUST SO LONG AS THE %@$##$%ING ARCTIC STAYS COLD… QUESTION MARK????!!!!!!!!!

If your chinchilla wasn’t dead already, it didn’t stand a chance at that point, because you were convulsively squeezing everything within reach, and vomiting half-digested Gushers all over your parents’ modern Scandinavian furniture. But no, soothes your nanny, as she strokes your hair and gently clears the Gushers from your airway, that could never happen. It’s the arctic she says, and, standing in the lit doorway behind her, your personal chef nods reassuringly. That’s why they call it “the arctic,” he says in his heavy Japanese accent. Your normal childhood is safe from a life of constant monster threat.

Or so you thought. It’s fifty years later, the arctic is melting, and, in many respects, you’re still a child. And the blob is free.

So far the number of humans-dissolved-alive remains at or near zero, but I expect this figure to skyrocket any day now, as the blob has been seen off the northern coast of Alaska.

The blob has been observed floating in dark, gooey looking mats on the surface of the ocean. The strands of goo are reported to be up to 12 miles long.

What you’re trying to convince yourself, I’m sure, is that this is no blob, but just another harmless oil spill. Wrong-o, says the local coastguard.

“It's certainly biological,” a coastguard petty officer reports. “It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter.” The smell and composition, he says, suggest that it’s some natural substance, but it’s nothing that any of the locals remember seeing before. But they need only to return to their home theaters, and I’m sure they’ll recognize the substance in no time.

The substance is dark, hangs off the ice when they come in contact, and appears to be “hairy” when examined closely. “It kind of has an odor,” explained one of the locals on the goo expedition, “I can't describe it.” Well, I’ll describe the smell for you: fear.

Jellyfish have been seen tangled up in the blob, and one local turned in the remains of a dead goose, “just bones and feathers,” that had supposedly been found in the goo.

Samples of the blob were brought to Anchorage for analysis. Waste of time, if you ask me. The coastguard pilots that helped retrieve the sample are pretty certain it’s some kind of algae, but that’s what the military would say. It’s the blob.

Hide yourselves. Save your game frequently. Cherish what you remember of “normal life,” because it’s all about to change.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Pictures of a large glob of the blob (ha) and a close up are at this site.

The Blob nonsense aside, it is pretty interesting, if only because nobody seems to recognize it. A massive algae bloom is probably a pretty safe guess here, but why haven't folks in the area see one like it before? Did currents change and bring it from another part of the ocean? Has the local water changed in some way that allows this [probable] algae to grow there when it couldn't before?

It might be a fluke, but it's my understanding that climate change in the Arctic is often more pronounced that in other areas of the planet, so maybe this weird mass of slime is some sort of environmental indicator. I'll keep my eyes open for any new items on what the material turns out to be.

posted on Thu, 07/16/2009 - 12:55pm
Mr. Hypothesis's picture
Mr. Hypothesis says:

Well, I am no biologist. However, I have a short theory of what may be happening. If you google blob or algae, one gets many returns on algae "buildups" for lack of a better word, around the world. One can bet the stuff lurking in Alaska is more than likely algae of some type. The question is why all the algae?

Not to lend any credence to the global warming folks, but lets say they got it right. That global warming is actually occurring and the water temperature around the globe is steadily rising. We are told that Co2 is the cause. Lets also assume that is correct. Is it possible mother nature defends against pollution?

We all know algae is a plant. Plants convert Co2 into oxygen. More Co2 more plants more oxygen. Maybe this relationship with more algae is a direct result of co2 emission build-up. I believe there is a cause and effect to the build-up of algae fields around the world.

posted on Thu, 07/16/2009 - 6:53pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Hey, Mr. Hypothesis,

Well, technically algae isn't a plant, but, yeah, it still photosynthesizes, and so absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.

And I think you're right to some extent—algae buildups (usually referred to as algal blooms) are generally in response to some excess element in an aquatic ecosystem. Usually it's a particular nutrient that becomes present in higher levels (runoff from fertilized lawns can cause algal blooms in nearby bodies of water), but maybe excess CO2 in this case here.

Unfortunately, at least in smaller bodies of water, algal blooms aren't really a defense against pollution. That is, they don't serve to return a ecosystem to its previous state—they generally just really screw things up. When too much algae grows, aquatic plants die out, because the algae out competes them (absorbing all of the CO2 and sunlight). The dead plants suddenly provide a huge supply of food for decomposing bacteria, and as those bacteria start to reproduce and thrive, they absorb all the oxygen from the water, often not leaving enough for fish. And so the fish die too. What you end up with (at least in the short term) is a slimy, stinky lake, with very few fish and plants.

Algal blooms can have similar effects on ocean ecosystems, causing large areas with the self-explanatory name of "dead zones."

Again, though, I think algal blooms are usually caused by excess chemicals like the phosphates used in fertilizers. I don't think they use many of those around Barrow Alaska, where this blob was seen. (Point Barrow, I believe, is the northernmost spot in Alaska. Never saw it, but I think that movie 30 Days of Night was supposed to be set there. Where there many farms and manicured lawns in that?) It'll be interesting to see what might have caused this one, if it is indeed an algal bloom of some kind.

posted on Fri, 07/17/2009 - 12:43pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

There are several types of algae. Propergated varieties are true plants.

posted on Fri, 07/17/2009 - 2:31pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

zing

posted on Tue, 08/11/2009 - 3:49pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

There's a giant "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico caused by nutrients flowing into the sea from the Mississippi River.

SMM has a cool feature about it.

posted on Fri, 07/17/2009 - 2:50pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

So, as expected, the blob turned out to be algae.*

What kind of algae, and why it suddenly appeared there, is still a mystery at the moment. Likewise, scientists aren't sure if it's harmful to people or aquatic life either. More analysis should clear things up, though. If it's blue-green algae, it's from freshwater and got washed into the ocean, but if it's brown or red algae, it probably came from the ocean floor. One theory is that a sudden influx of nutrients could have caused new algae to grow under an anchored mat of algae, causing the mat to peel off and float to the surface. But where'd those nutrients come from all of a sudden? Still interesting.

*According to the government cover-up story.

posted on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 5:06pm

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