Friday Squid Blogging: The Mystery of Humboldt Squid Beaks

They’re sharp:

There are many weird things about the giant Humboldt squid, but here’s one of the strangest: Its beak. The squid’s beak is one of the hardest organic substances in existence—such that the sharp point can slice through a fish or whale like a Ginsu knife. Yet the beak is attached to squid flesh that itself is the texture of jello. How precisely does a gelatinous animal safely wield such a razor-sharp weapon? Why doesn’t it just sort of, y’know, rip off? It’s as if you tried to carve a roast with a knife that doesn’t have a handle: It would cut into your fingers as much as the roast.

Paper here.

Posted on September 12, 2008 at 4:59 PM9 Comments


Andrew Garland September 12, 2008 5:36 PM

“It would cut into your fingers as much as the roast” is a bit breathless.

My kitchen knife is razor sharp at one end, and my fingers have the consistency of stiff jello. How is it possible for me to handle that knife?

Sharpness has some drawbacks, as it makes the edge more fragile. I guess that the squid needs so sharp a beak just because its flesh is relatively weak. It needs to concentrate a limited force into that edge, and it accepts some edge-weakness as a result, from the perspective of squid evolution.

Clive Robinson September 12, 2008 5:37 PM

“It’s as if you tried to carve a roast with a knife that doesn’t have a handle: It would cut into your fingers as much as the roast.”

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, they obviously have never taken the handle of a knife, usually underneth is a tang.

Also the point is the beak is not sharp at the flesh end as that is where it grows from, it’s the same with animals claws and your fingernals. With a bit os a manicure most people could cut through a bit of raw meet simply by poking with a stiff finger (I do it quit often when de-boning chicken and filiting fish.

Oh and the way I cook a roast I would be very upset if you could not break it up with a spoon, people like melt in the mouth not grist between the teeth…

Davi Ottenheimer September 12, 2008 9:32 PM

Little did the squid know that Bruce was dissecting its beak…

But seriously I don’t see what’s so strange. The analogy to a knife is odd.

“the base can blend easily with the surrounding flesh”

Supple and flexible? Sounds like a nice handle to me. Why assume it was sharp and stiff at both ends?

Davi Ottenheimer September 12, 2008 9:35 PM

“We know how to create materials that are really stiff or really soft, but not ones that slide gradually from one to the other extreme.”

That’s odd. I can think of many examples. Airplanes have stiff fuselage and flexible wingtips.

I sail boats that have masts very stiff at the base and flexible/bendy at the top to allow better control.

Clive Robinson September 13, 2008 8:39 AM

@ nerdboy,

“Then again, it was never about safety, it is about control.”

It’s not particularly about control either, except in Jack Straw’s case he’s just plain nasty like Ken Livingston. They are both cut from the same cloth. That’s not to say that other politicos across the spectrum are any better…
The U.K. National ID Scheme
Is mainly about funding the Labour party and “nice jobs for the girls” who are soon to be unemployed. In this respect it is much like the NHS Spine, Centralised IT systems and road camera network. Under Tony Blair 10 Downing St had a technology unit to look for technology benifits that has been mainly responsible for thesw grandious schemes…

What you need to realise is what is the most important benifit to a politition…

The answer is staying in power.

What do you need to do that?

Well as the U.S. Model has shown lots and lots of money the more the better. Not just to promote your party, but also if you are the current incumbrent to use taxes to bribe the voter to vote you back in again.

Problem No 1 for the Labour party is that it is all but bankrupt.

Problem No 2 is that Gordon Brown has spent all the money that the Treasury pulls in and cannot raise direct or indirect taxes any further.

Opps where do they get the money they need?

Well once upon a time a Politician could always find people with money who wanted to exchange it for some form of status or influance. But there is a problem,

The Police publicly rumaging through 10 Downing St, Labour HQ and the affairs of some big money men has not helped fill the coffers (infact it’s assisted emptying them as the “phoney loans” now actually have to be repaid).

Which has kind of killed “be a peer for a million” talks over a game of tennis.

Further unbeknown to most is that being arrested even though not charged, prosecuted or convicted seriously effects your ability to travel to or through the U.S. (You are nolonger covered by the visa waiver and therfore have to go cap in hand to the U.S. Embasy).

Which has further discoraged the big money men (unfortunatly the police did not arrest Tony Blair though he richely deserved it as normal it was left to others to fall on their (/ be put to the) swords).

Due to the structure of the Labour Party any officers are liable for it’s debts (which is why the big money boys are not joining, unlimited liability scares them). Which kind of closes down one of the “Influence for money” scams (Robinson, Adonis et al).

So the only other reward for a personal doner is a peerage or a chance to make more money either directly or through other influence.

However one of the Directors of Capita was right royaly embaresed over his supposed “personal contribution”.

So the tightening up on peerages means that it is nolonge as good a money earner as it has in times past. And other money for direct influance schemes are nolonger atractive to people with money either.

So what other way can the Labour Party raise money…

Well they cann’t directly but what they can do is get other people to pay for things. One example is at party conferences etc, companies rent space and pay for conferances etc obviously the Labour Party can charge what they like for space, as they will decide which Ministers attend which “paid for” event. And as those buying space know no Minister means no attendies to bend said Minister’s ear.

If you look at who takes the space and throw the best snout in trough events then you will find a good correlation to those companies bidding for the contracts for the National ID Scheme…

Now it’s becoming fairly obvious to most that Labour’s chances of getting in at the next General Election are not good. Too many of the Ministers (especialy the female ones) are clearly not up to the job or are “feathering their nest” or “on the fiddle” one way or another. So their future prospects are looking a little bleak to put it mildly

So it’s time for them to Network and Stroke potential employers, and create jobs to go to. Which again is what the National ID Scheme is about.

It is no big secret that Gordon Brown has little or no time for female journolists as he has admarably shown in the past. Therefor it is very likley he has the “behind the kitchen sink” mentality when it comes to woman in general. Which would further make Tony’s “puke babes” pause further for thought about their future prospects.

So if you are a female minister you to would be busy making the biggest life boat you could to weather out the comming storm it would only be sensible after all. And if in the mean time you can make it look like a money earner to Gordon Brown you are less likley to be damaging your fingernails trying to hang on to your current ministieral position.

Unfortunatly the stupidity of New Labour through Public Private Partnerships / Initiatives has mortgaged up the ordinary U.K. tax payer for the next thirty to forty years already. The National ID Scheme is going to add significantly to that burden (best estimates so far is 20-30 Billion) and ensure that you will be registered to pay over and over again. The only two questions of relevance are how and how much…

One of the possible reasons for using RFiD technology is the ease of finding people to fine 1000 GBP or more (remember fines are good taxes are bad as you can always make it look like it’s the persons falt as they where being stupid hence the rapid rise in motoring offence fines).

Although not yet mandatory to carry, I can almost gaurenty that the ID card will be made so once enough people have them.

Due to RFiDs range a simple portable walk through scanner the size of those portable metal detectors the Met Police are currently using will be enough to detect it.

If you do not have it on you fine time. If you do but have it screaned in a metal case etc then that’s suscpicious behaviour and you have your time wasted for 45 minitues or so while back ground checks etc are made (untill you get the message not to screen it).

Oh and don’t think they won’t log where you are, or are going, it’s the easiest way to catch out “Benifit cheats” and “tax avoiders” (ie those that stop the money for bribing voters and do not contribute to party funds so realy are very serious criminals as far as Gordon Brown etc are conceened).

The control aspect that most people are affraid of is currently well down the list. It will only rise when the cash flow into the Treasury slows down.

Remember due to technology the tax income from businesses is falling. Once upon a time only the realy big international companies used off shore and tax havens as a way to not pay tax. Due to technology such as communications it is now possible to put a company where ever you want but still live somewhere nice the same for your employees (think how call centers work). Fairly soon it will only be medium to small size companies and employees that will pay tax. So where do you think the likes of Gordon Brown will get the money to bribe the voters come election time?

Simple through fines…

Where do you think the Labour Party (and the others when it’s their turn) will get the money to spread the word about the election bribes to make you vote their way?

Simple by selling political favour or handing out contracts to the favourd few who have donated (privately)…

As was once said “follow the money”.

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