Background on this week's stories:
The squid in question was caught by a commercial fishing crew in New Zealand in February 2007. Unlike the giant squid, no colossal squid has ever been photographed in its natural habitat.
#2. An inconvenient (and uncute) truth
Conservationists often champion a single, highly visible species in order to convince the public to preserve the ecosystem on which it depends, even if their primary goal is the preservation of the ecosystem itself. Of these species, known as charismatic megafauna, polar bears are a textbook example. (As we discovered at a convention of climate change skeptics, polar bears are a flash point for those who oppose the regulation of carbon emissions, as well.)
Only now it appears that they aren't the most threatened species in the Arctic. That dubious honor belongs to the narwhal, reports a team of international researchers in a paper in the journal Ecological Applications. (It's part of a larger package on the impact of climate change on the Arctic.)
#3. The impatient gene
It's long been known that evolution sometimes happens very quickly—as in the development of resistance to antibiotics in bacteria—but the discovery that lizards on two islands in Croatia evolved significant differences in body type and social structure in the span of fewer than forty years is shocking enough to warrant publication in a top-shelf journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
#4. How to make a smart robot
One way to teach a robot to use a hammer is to stuff its computer brain with the specific size and shape of a hammer and explicit instructions about how to wield it. Another way is to teach the robot something about the essence of hammering—it requires a longish object with a flat end suitable for banging on things—and then let it improvise ways to use just about any object to accomplish that goal.
The "robot" whose ramblings bookend this segment is comedian Eugene Mirman.