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Anecdotes from the Archive

Deception and Camouflage at Sea and on Land, 1915

German commerce-raider SMS “Emden” added a fourth, dummy, funnel to look more like a British ship. The ruse worked well. Image: Scientific American, February 6, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: February 6, 1915 The archetypical historical scene from World War I involves straight-ahead charges of huge numbers of soldiers against masses of artillery and machine guns. But those fighting the war also needed to be adept at the art and craft of subtlety, feint and [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

A Sweet Seahorse Tale From Fantastic New Web Series “Deep Look”


Today I have a small biology present for you courtesy of a new series of short videos produced by PBS Digital Studios and KQED San Francisco. For those of you who, like me, take pleasure in exploring Earth’s more diminutive wonders, this new web series is a treat you should know about. It’s called “Deep [...]

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Dog Spies

Three Ways Dogs Fail At Halloween


Halloween is a peculiar holiday, especially for dogs. We two-legged beings all look different, and what’s with the constant doorbell-ringing? Weren’t you just here. Oh, I’m sorry. You’re Batman. He-Man was just here. My bad. I’ll keep barking. Dogs don’t exactly excel at Halloween, and here’s the lowdown on dogs, costumes, tricks, and treats. 1) [...]

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Quails Demonstrate Mastery of Camouflage to Protect Their Colorful Eggs

quail egg camouflage

A quail egg is like a protein-filled, free lunch, waiting on the ground to be spotted—and devoured—by a predator. But the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) seems to have mastered an impressive level of camouflage-manipulating behavior to keep her eggs off the menu. Female Japanese quails tend to lay distinctive eggs that are specific to each [...]

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Is There Anything the Mimic Octopus *Can’t* Do?


According to science comic, xkcd, the answer is no: For the past 25 days, we have been showing off a different artist each day who is working at the intersection of science and art. We have included sculptors, medical illustrators, comics, painters, concept artists and more. Now, with the month coming to a close, it’s [...]

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