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This Month's Megapixels

Each month, one wall at PopSci HQ gradually accumulates the best in sci/tech imagery from around the Web and beyond, which after much impassioned debate (and maybe even a little dart throwing), is whittled down to two stellar choices that end up in the magazine's opening pages. Here, the cream of the crop this month:


Blue Crush: In Australia, bluebottle jellyfish invade in striking numbers

Sailing ashore on blustery northeast winds, vast armadas of half-foot-long bluebottle jellyfish took Australia’s Gold Coast beaches by storm this year. The smaller, electric-blue cousin of the Portuguese man-o’-war (both species are technically polyps) commonly blows in to southern beaches during the summer months—November to February, Down Under—in dense packs. (This flotilla was photographed on Terrigal Beach in New South Wales.) But seldom have they arrived in such nettlesome droves: In a single January weekend, Queensland lifeguards treated 600 stings, a stunning increase over the 476 stings recorded for that entire month in 2006 (though painful, stings are almost never deadly). It’s unclear whether there has been a population spike among the sail-shaped, gelatinous invertebrates or if the wind patterns are simply bringing more of them ashore, says Lisa-Ann Gershwin, a jellyfish expert at James Cook University in Queensland. “They live way out in the central gyres in the middle of the great oceans,” she explains, “but so far nobody’s bothered to go out there and count them.” —Tom Colligan. Photogaph by Belinda Curley


Water Buggy: A prototype watercraft is designed to go almost anywhere, bump-free

It’s known as Proteus, and its performance is just as unusual as its appearance. The creation of California company Marine Advanced Research, this leggy craft is the helicopter of boats, explains designer Ugo Conti, who says Proteus clones could someday be used for quickly deploying research equipment to far-flung locales or for ocean search-and-rescue operations. The range of conventional craft is limited by their ability to take the pounding of huge swells in the open ocean and by the depth of the boats’ draft in shallow water. Proteus’s catamaran-style hulls displace only 18 inches, so it can operate safely close to shore. And the vehicle is designed to surf on top of the waves, rather than cut through them, allowing it to travel safely and efficiently in rough seas. The ride can’t be beat: The cockpit is suspended on four aluminum legs attached to the hulls by titanium springs. Which means no bumps—and a view 12 feet above the waves. —Mark Schrope.   Photograph by Toby Thiermann

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