Friday Squid Blogging: Giant Squid in London's Natural History Museum

There's a 28-foot (8.62-meter) giant squid on display at the Natural History Museum in London:

It took several months to prepare the squid for display.

"The first stage was to defrost it; that took about four days. The problem was the mantle - the body - is very thick and the tentacles very narrow, so we had to try and thaw the thick mantle without the tentacles rotting," Mr Ablett told the BBC News website.

The scientists did this by bathing the mantle in water, whilst covering the tentacles in ice packs, after which they injected the squid with a formol-saline solution to prevent it from rotting.

The team then needed to find someone to build a glass tank which could not only hold the huge creature, but could leave the squid accessible for future scientific research, and they decided to draw upon the knowledge of an artist famed for displaying preserved dead animals.

The website has a video. Here is another news story. Damien Hirst got involved in the defrosting.

Note that this squid is larger than the 25-foot specimen on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Posted on March 3, 2006 at 3:24 PM • 24 Comments

Comments

MikeMarch 3, 2006 4:12 PM

Well, I have this blog loaded into my RSS reader, and I've been following the post for about the last 5 months... and I have yet to understand the connection between security and giant squids? please clarify.

Bruce SchneierMarch 3, 2006 4:52 PM

"Well, I have this blog loaded into my RSS reader, and I've been following the post for about the last 5 months... and I have yet to understand the connection between security and giant squids? please clarify."

There is none.

BLPMarch 3, 2006 4:54 PM

@Mike

I really don't think there's a connection between security and giant squids, except that I think that a high percentage of founders of Counterpane find squids interesting.

heheMarch 3, 2006 5:37 PM

best part of the week : Friday Squid Blogging

no connection but damn fun

IanMarch 3, 2006 6:25 PM

@Mike

Indeed, there is a very strong connection between security and squids. It's a metaphor, you see. Good security is about having multiple parallel security systems, just as the squid has multiple arms to help hunt and defend itself.

Why squid and not octopi, you ask? Well, first of all, the plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi. But getting back to the matter at hand, octopuses only have 8 arms, whereas squids have 10. Clearly the squid is the more secure cephalapod.

TaralMarch 3, 2006 6:26 PM

@Mike: I believe this comes under "It's my blog and I'll write what I want to." :)

Dom De VittoMarch 4, 2006 3:11 AM

Giant is the antispyware company that MS bought.
Squid is the most common open source proxy.


*think* about it.

It's a antispyware proxy reference.

Ed T.March 4, 2006 5:09 AM

@Dom De Vitto:

That's just what *they* want you to believe. Check out the Trackback for the *real* truth ;-)

-EdT.

kyleMarch 4, 2006 12:45 PM

Giant squids are a security concern, with a beak-like mouth strong enough to cut through a steel cable....what to stop is from chewing on a sea fiber optic cable? Thats an SS attack (Squid Sabotage) on level 3's networks!

kyleMarch 4, 2006 1:11 PM

*Note, a team funded by the military has created a neural probe that can manipulate a shark's brain signals or decode them. The neural implant is designed to enable a shark's brain signals to be manipulated remotely, controlling the animal's movements, and perhaps even decoding what it is feeling. (Cut and paste from site)

With implants, one could in theory control a squid to perform a SS attack.

http://www.physorg.com/news11333.html

Steve LoughranMarch 4, 2006 4:43 PM

Having been at the museum today with a (very disappointed) small child, I am sad to announce it is not not on direct public display. You have to take one of the (free) behind the scenes tours, which you need to book for. You cannot go to the Darwin Centre at 4pm on a saturday and expect to be able to see it.

RogerMarch 4, 2006 7:56 PM

On the video, they describe how hard it is to move a partially defrosted giant squid around, "even for the experts". As if there was such a thing as expert partially defrosted giant squid movers.

It is also interesting that they have chosen to preserve its tissues in the time honoured way, with formalin. I hope they took plenty of untreated samples for analysis first, because the giant squid's biochemistry seems rather interesting, this is the freshest sample we've had, and formalin (formaldehyde, or methanal) is a fairly reactive molecule which reacts with quite a lot of biological chemicals.

Also, one of the interesting aspects of the giant squid biochemistry is the high concentration of ammonium in its non-blood body fluids. Guess what, somewhat bactericidal ammonium and highly bactericidal formalin react together to produce a low toxicity white, waxy solid commonly called hexamine, used in firelighters. I hope they thought of that and added plenty of excess formalin, or the formalin treatment might increase the rate of decay instead of reducing it!

(Quick BotE calculation suggests a squid could completely neutralise an amount of standard formalin presevative solution equal to 90% of its own weight.)

Davi OttenheimerMarch 4, 2006 9:02 PM

Alas, the BBC video link in the article appears to be broken. I thought these photos from an old Smithsonian exhibit were pretty cool.

It washed ashore in 1980:
http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/IMAGES/squid_plum_island_beach.gif

Installation photos:
http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/HTML/squid_installation_photos.html

Suckers:
http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/IMAGES/squid_architeuthis_sucker2.gif

Video of deep-sea action:
http://www.mnh.si.edu/cephs/vetal01/vetal01.html

octopunkMarch 5, 2006 12:10 AM

"Why squid and not octopi, you ask? Well, first of all, the plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi. But getting back to the matter at hand, octopuses only have 8 arms, whereas squids have 10. Clearly the squid is the more secure cephalapod."

Forewarned is fore-armed, and who wants to be half an octopus?

Props to Walt Kelly, and apologies to everyone else.

another_bruceMarch 5, 2006 11:52 AM

i don't think bruce schneier can come up with 52 interesting squid stories in a year. in other words, squid don't have legs.

Bruce SchneierMarch 5, 2006 7:20 PM

"i don't think bruce schneier can come up with 52 interesting squid stories in a year."

Are you kidding? This is turning out to be the easiest part of blogging. I think I have six weeks backed up right now, and I haven't even gotten into my favorite recipes.

CassandraMarch 6, 2006 12:09 PM

@general
One possible application of SQUIDs to security (the Superconducting Quantum Interference Device kind of SQUID) might be in van Eck phreaking? Correlating the output of two remote SQUIDs might give you a way of determining key depressions in Hall effect keyboards. (There are other ways, of course).

Cassie

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