The near-tragic story of one-of-a-kind technology 60 feet beneath the ocean surface
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Universal Pictures: Everest

The first time I saw "The Little Mermaid," the song "Under the Sea" left me wanting to take an underwater vacation.

C'mon. You know you want to hear it. GIF via "The Little Mermaid."


This line, y'all: "Just look at the world around you. Right here on the ocean floor. Such wonderful things surround you. What more is you looking for?"

Doesn't it make you want to just grow some gills?

We may not be able to live in the ocean, but scientists have developed a way to spend long stretches of time down there.

It's called the Aquarius Reef Base, and it was built a few decades ago, believe it or not. Today, it sits 60 feet underwater among the coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Nature's paint job. Images via One World One Ocean/YouTube.

The Aquarius Reef Base is the only undersea laboratory and living space in the world.


Base director Thomas Potts describes Aquarius as "a one-of-a-kind saturation diving unit that is dedicated to science, education, and outreach" and "a complete immersive experience that you can find nowhere else on the planet."

Plus, it saves scientific teams time and money.

Saturation diving allows researchers to maximize their bottom time — or, as Sebastian from "The Little Mermaid" might put it, their time "under da sea." The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a surface-based scuba mission "would take at least 60-70 days to match the same bottom time as a 10-day saturation mission."

When you consider the questions scientists are trying to answer down there, you realize the reef base isn't just a national treasure, it's a global one.

According to Florida International University:

"At Aquarius, scientists are at the cutting edge of research on coral reefs, ocean acidification, climate change, fisheries and the overall health of the oceans. ... Universities, government agencies and private industry have conducted more than 120 missions to discover, preserve, train and innovate. More than 600 scientific research papers have been published based on Aquarius science."

Stuff's gettin' done on Aquarius. And as if it wasn't already one of the best dollar-for-dollar science structures on the planet, Aquarius is even used to train astronauts before they leave the planet.

Despite its unique and vital role in science, Aquarius has become a victim of politics.

In 2012, funding for the base was slated for elimination when NOAA's national undersea research program was dropped due to budget cuts. The Aquarius budget was less than $4 million, "a drop in the bucket when you compare it to bigger picture items," said Potts. But that was the problem, wrote Ben Hellwarth:

"Ironically, Aquarius's low cost has likely contributed to its low profile. The program can be cut precisely because ordinary citizens haven't heard of it because it isn't expensive enough to be worth cutting. The lab is a perfect example of practical spending."

Suffice it to say, scientists and science lovers across the nation were like, "HOLD UP."

GIF via "The Little Mermaid."

Thankfully, Aquarius was saved by Florida International University, but it was too close for comfort.

We're talking about the future of the planet here, folks, so (1) it shouldn't matter how much it costs to study and protect it, and (2) it's a job that'll have to be done for the entirety of human existence.

So let's not just look at studying the ocean as our duty — which it is, so we have to fund it — but also, it's the ocean. It's huge and awesome and 50% to 80% of all life on Earth lives in it. Why not also view it as one way we celebrate life?

GIF via "The Little Mermaid."

Watch this introduction to the Aquarius Reef Base by One World One Ocean:

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In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Who would have thought that giving the world access to all human knowledge via the internet, the ability to follow and hear from experts on any subject via social media, and the ability to see what's happening anywhere in the world via smartphones with cameras would result in a terrifying percentage of the population believing and spouting nothing but falsehoods day in and day out?

Those of us who value facts, reason, and rational thought have found ourselves at some of our fellow citizens and thinking, "Really? THIS is how you choose to use the greatest tool humanity has ever created? To spew unfounded conspiracy theories?"

It's a marvel, truly.

Between Coronavirus/Bill Gates/5G conspiracies and QAnon/Evil Cabal/Pedophile conspiracies, I thought we were pretty much full up on kooky for 2020. But apparently not. The massive fires up and down the West Coast have ignited even more conspiracy theories, some of which local law enforcement and even the FBI have had to debunk.

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In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

I worked as a substitute teacher in my early 20s, almost exclusively in middle schools and high schools—my age of specialty. Once, I accepted a two-day subbing assignment in a first grade classroom. Only once. Halfway through the first day, as the kids ate lunch in the cafeteria, I sat at the teacher's desk in an exhausted daze. Teaching little kids was a completely different animal than teaching big kids. While adorable, they had so many needs and so little attention span. It was like herding a bunch of flies that constantly needed to go potty.

Trying to herd those flies virtually during a pandemic is too much to even fathom.

So the real-time story that mom and writer Stephanie Lucianovic shared on Twitter of what happened when her son's second grade teacher dropped from the class Zoom call was not the least bit surprising. Hilariously entertaining, but not surprising.

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Katie Neeves (L) photo by Jayne Walsh, JK Rowling (R) photo by Sjhill, CC BY-SA 3.0

Dear JK Rowling,

I am writing this letter to say a big thank you to you. You may think it strange that a gobby trans woman such as me would wish to thank you after all your recent transphobic outpourings, but let me explain…

I certainly don't thank you for your lengthy essay last month where you describe the abuse you have suffered (for which you have my sympathy) and in which you stated that you do not hate trans people, while at the same time peddling even more anti-trans mis-information. Sadly, your diatribe directly caused some trans children to self-harm and other to attempt suicide.

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