[Edited January 2 2019 -- to remove or replace dead visual-links]

Long ago Jonathan and I got some good traction out of a tangle of issues related to Global Warming slash Climate Change.  I think we are slated to renew or refresh our earlier exchanges.  I am going to poke in links to some he-said/he-saids from a few different threads at different times. One feature of the updated software is an automated 'sampling' of a link posted raw.  See below. 

So this blog entry will be kind of administrative-technical while being built and edited. I haven't figured out if Jonathan and I should impose some 'rules' going in, so your comment may be subject to arbitrary deletion before the field is ready for play. Fan notes included.



Adam, see what you think of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, especially the revealing map-based representations of opinion. You can drill and zoom down to state, county, district level to track data across a number of survey questions, where some of the answers are surprising. On some measures at least, the thing it is not found only in the UK, Quebec, Canada: Here's a snapshot of several maps which do not always show an expected Red State/Blue State pattern;

[images updated January 2 2019; click and go images]



[Deleted image-link]

Edited 4 May 2015 by william.scherk


Plug my How To Get Where I Got book of books, Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming. Insert link to Amazon, Library link, and to the intro chapter of Weart's companion website to the book. Make sure you include a link to Ellen's mention of a book review. 

Bob Kolker's June 3 comment is a good hinge. What do we (J and I) think we know about the mechanism Bob sketches? What can we 'stipulate' or what can we agree on, for the sake of argument?

On 6/3/2016 at 9:31 AM, BaalChatzaf said:

CO2 does  slow down the radiation of energy in the infra-red bandwith.  The question is to what degree  given that there are other systems that tend to diffuse and disperse heat (such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and El Nino, along with convection and the Coriolis Effect that moves warm are to the polar regions).  The scientific fact is that CO2 tends to absorb radiated energy in the infra red range.  That is NOT fabricated.  That is a matter of experimental fact. 

Please see http://scied.ucar.edu/carbon-dioxide-absorbs-and-re-emits-infrared-radiation

The issue is to what extent is the CO2 load of the atmosphere is slowing down heat radiation into space, when such absorbing or radiation occurs along with other heat dispersing processes.   

No denies that putting a blanket on, when it is cold slows down the rate at which one's body radiates heat.  Air is a poor heat conductor and the blanket traps air.  Also the blanket is warmed and radiates half its heat back to the source.  This produces a net slowing down of heat loss.  Heat loss still occurs (Second Law of Thermodynamics in operation)  but the rate of loss is affected. 

Tyndol and Arhenius  established the heat absorbing properties of CO2  in the late 19 th and early 20 th century.  Subsequent work has show the absorbtion to be the case and has measured it even more accurately than Tyndol and Arhenius. 





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Perhaps what we all need to focus on now is studying the individual characteristics of tasty steamed octopus. Let's educate ourselves. Any interest in an organized study group? We should be asking such questions as "What makes it such an enjoyable dining experience, is it the texture or the flavor, or is it some other aspect, and why?" Such questions need answers before we can make any nutty denials about its appropriateness as a substitute for other foods which may have been requested. If we tentatively decide that its primary appeal is, say, its texture, then I think that we should not stop there, but we should identify specifically what the texture is via researching systems of measuring and comparing textures, or inventing our own, etc. Who's in? Come on, everyone, let's learn!


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55 minutes ago, Jonathan said:

Perhaps what we all need to focus on now is studying the individual characteristics of tasty steamed octopus.



I found some ice cream.

"At First We Didn't Believe It": Fast-Melting Greenland Glacier Starts Growing Again In Massive U-Turn

It even comes with octopus sauce (my bold):


A large and fast-melting glacier in Greenland is growing again, according to a new NASA study. The Jakobshavn (YA-cob-shawv-en) glacier on Greenland's west coast had reportedly been retreating by around 1.8 miles and thinning by nearly 130 feet annually in 2012. 

According to a study published in Monday's peer-reviewed Nature Geoscience, however, the glacier began growing at about the same rate over the past two years. That said, the authors of the study swear it's temporary.

I thought all climate was temporary.

But what do I know? I like ice cream.



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We've seen a lot of that anti-scientific mindset of "swearing it's temporary." Science is supposed to be about what actually happened, not what wishes or hopes will happen. Even the naming of the "pause/hiatus" was anti-scientific, since it required adopting the mindset of hoping that a certain hypothesis turned out to be true, despite its not happening in reality at that moment. Question begging. A truly scientific mindset would label it as a period of stasis, and not try to frame it in reference to one's future desired outcome.

The activist alarmists need to pay closer attention to how they're revealing themselves with their word choices.


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Whether or not brad proposes what if any political solutions need to be adopted to save the planet, but what do ‘sciency’ people have to say about th Green New Deal , I wonder.

A thought occurred to me while watching a news personality interview Gov. Inslee about his very green bid for office. The topic of the GND and its price tag came up . 

I’ve seen estimates that it would take between 90-100 trillion dollars over the next decade to implement . Even stripped of the social welfare : tuition reduction(elimination?) income disparity reparations ect , that still would leave a serious chunk of change. 

Do people who deal with cold hard facts of reality consider what the ramifications of such spending would have , greenly?

GDP is close to 20 trillion a year , adding another 9 trillion of spending sure sounds like a huge increase in carbon footprint , no? Manufacture and installation of a rail system, retrofitting existing buildings , construction of new buildings added ‘on top’ of the normal rate of economic activity seems counter productive to reducing emissions.

is it just coincidence that the effort to reduce emissions ramps up spending and short term carbon dispersal , am I missing something? Not to mention China, India and the rest of the developing world not only not reducing but ramping up all the carbon spewing.

And what the hell was the Younger dryas ?

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5 hours ago, tmj said:

Do people who deal with cold hard facts of reality consider what the ramifications of such spending would have , greenly?


Of course they do.

And they know where to get the money, too. 

Just look:

White people’s diets are killing the environment: study


Caucasian populations are disproportionately contributing to climate change through their eating habits, which uses up more food — and emits more greenhouse gases — than the typical diets of black and Latinx communities, according to a new report published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Researchers tracked information from multiple databases to identify foods considered “environmentally intense” by requiring more precious resources such as water, land and energy to produce — and, as a result, releasing more greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide through production and distribution.

Potatoes, beef, apples and milk are some of the worst offenders.

. . .

The EPA provided data on per capita food consumption rates for more than 500 foods groups, including water, plus estimates from the NIH on individual diets. Data showed that whites produced an average of 680 kilograms of the CO2 each year, attributable to food and drink, whereas Latinx individuals produced 640 kilograms, and blacks 600.

They also found the diets of white people required 328,000 liters of water on average per year. Latinx used just 307,000 liters, and blacks 311,800. Both black and Latinx individuals used more land per capita with 1,770 and 1,710 square meters per year, respectively, than white people with just 1,550.

There you have it. The cause and the hard science to back it up.

All we have to do is get white people to stop eating and the enormous savings will be more than enough to fund the GND.

If we can get people--all people, but we can start with the white people--off potatoes, beef, apples and milk--and water, too--just think of all that money left over. Who knows what utopia on earth we can fund while saving the planet to boot?



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17 hours ago, william.scherk said:

What is going on in the Arctic, my ice-cream octopus?

No one is asking about ice cream octopus.

Have you forgotten the questions again? Heh. How is it that you are so passionately, actively uninterested in them?

Here they are again: 

In regard to the big picture issue of anthropogenic climate change (and not isolated, smaller pieces of the picture), show us the repeatable, successful predictions. Identify specifically what was the hypothesis, precisely what predictions were made, when were they made, what potential results were identified ahead of time as falsifying or invalidating the hypothesis, what the start and finish dates of the experiment were, provide the unmolested data, the untainted control, and the unmanipulated historical record.


And here, again, are the questions that your surrogate/ringer-wannabe, disappearing Brad, couldn't answer:

How long of a time period must we observe temperatures rising, without leveling off or falling, in order to conclude not only that temperatures are indeed rising enough so as to be considered climactic change, but also primarily caused by human activities? Which models/experiments have identified this timeframe prior to the models' predictions being made, and prior to reality then being observed? Where may I find the details of these types of ground rules? We already know that some scientists are asserting that a 12 to 15 year "pause/hiatus," or even a 15 to 18 year one, is not sufficient to falsify their favorite models. With such assertions, determining exactly when the ground rules were established becomes very important. Without these details, it can seem that people are just making it up as they go along.

What are the specific conditions of falsifiability? What results in reality would invalidate the hypothesis? And why?

And let's add just one more question. Which single model is the settled science model? I've seen a range of models with a range of predictions. Some have fallen by the wayside over the decades, and we don't hear about them anymore, but, anyway, which of the differing and competing current models settled it once and for all, and what date was it officially determined by the consensus scientists that that single model nailed it?



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Science is tentative. Models are tentative on steroids. Brad wasn't tentative. William pretends to be. When science isn't tentative we can end up with hysteria.

Now when a giant asteroid is headed right at us science can tell us we're all gonna die on X date. This doesn't apply to the human injection of a trace gas into the atmosphere.


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Paul Beckwith has a puckish title for this excellent video ... "Become a Climate Scientist in 15 minutes."  




Edited by william.scherk
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On March 31, 2019 at 1:55 PM, william.scherk said:

What is going on in the Arctic, my ice-cream octopus?

The disparate warming in the Arctic and the overall distribution of warming isn't in keeping with "the greenhouse effect" as the main driver.


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Everything You Need to Know About Cooking Octopus

octopus header image
Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Octopus may seem like the sort of thing you only order while out at a fancy restaurant, but the truth is, you can cook this impressive sea creature at home—and it will impress your dinner guests. 

August 02, 2018

Though the pink-ish, eight-tentacled, suction cup-covered sea creature might look like something from outer space, octopus has become a favorite seafood dish of earthlings across the globe. And while ordering octopus from a restaurant is familiar territory for many, the idea of cooking the slick sea creature at home is far more intimidating. 

The good news is that preparing your own octopus at home is much easier than you thought, and once you’ve got the hang of it, the sky—or sea—is the limit. Whether you’re roasting, grilling, or pan frying, get ready to have a new favorite homemade seafood dish you’ll be serving to highly impressed friends and family every chance you get.


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Buying Your Octopus 

octopus image
Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

The first rule of buying octopus is: more is more. Because this soft-bodied animal will significantly reduce in size during the cooking process, it’s important to invest in about 1 pound of octopus per person if you’re planning to serve yours as a main course. 

Though you won’t find octopus in every supermarket, it’s a good idea to phone ahead to your go-to grocery store or fishmonger to ask if they can put in a request for the mollusk. If the only octopus you can find is frozen (this will more than likely be the case), don’t fret—the freezing process actually benefits the end quality of your octopus, as the meat will tenderize while thawing, leaving you with a fresher, more tender product to work with.

Prepping Your Octopus 

octopus prep image
Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

The most intimidating part of your octopus journey will be preparing the meat to be cooked. If cooking from frozen, thaw your octopus for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator, ensuring that the meat is totally defrosted before moving on.


Make sure to note if the recipe calls for cooking your octopus whole or pre-sliced. If you’re cutting up the meat before cooking, use a sharp chef’s knife or kitchen shears to remove each tentacle from the body by cutting it off at the base while the octopus lies flat on the cutting board.

Though the octopus head meat is flavorful, and can definitely be included, you’ll want to remove the beak and ink sac before cooking and serving. While many pre-frozen octopuses will already have these removed, if you’re buying your octopus fresh, ask the fishmonger or seller to clean the body before wrapping up the product. If this service is unavailable, slice the body and head of the octopus down the middle, exposing the innards, beak, and ink sac. Cut away the center portion of the head, including the beak, and remove the ink sac and any other unappetizing parts of the animal from the center of the body. 


Cooking Your Octopus

Baby Bok Choy Slaw
Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis


One of the most popular—not to mention, delicious—ways to prepare an octopus is to throw those tentacles on the grill, adding some flavorful smoke and char to the end product. But before you take it to the charcoals, it’s important to pre-cook your octopus (you can do this in the oven or on the stovetop), as adding it straight to the grill as-is will result in tough, dry meat. 

First, you’ll want to cook your octopus with either the roasting or boiling methods described below to make sure the meat is completely tenderized before adding it to the grill for some extra pizzazz. To keep things simple and delicious, coat the pre-cooked octopus in olive oil and dress with salt and pepper before adding it to a high-temperature grill. After about 4-5 minutes on a covered grill, flipping once during the cooking time, the octopus should be perfectly browned and ready to dress with fresh lemon, herbs, and a little more oil. If you’re ready to try something a little next-level, give our Grilled Octopus with Korean Barbecue Sauce and Baby Bok Choy Slaw a go. 


Though roasting an octopus to tender perfection takes some extra time and labor, in the end it will be well worth it to get the texture of your dreams. Simply prinkle the octopus with a little salt and place it on a foil-covered baking sheet before covering the meat with another layer of foil and crimping the edges to create a completely contained cooking environment. 

Place the octopus on a low rack of a 250 degree oven for up to 2 hours, occasionally checking on the meat’s texture by piercing it with a fork until its reached your preferred tenderness level. Let the octopus cool uncovered before serving. 

mr- Braised Octopus in Tomato Sauce with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis


For another low and slow cooking method, that similarly doesn’t require a pre-cook on the octopus, you should definitely consider braising. This is a great (and approachable) technique for cooking octopus, as the initial sear seals moisture into the meat and then, the octopus tenderizes and soaks up flavor as it simmers in your cooking liquid. Give it a try with our Braised Octopus in Tomato Sauce

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That's perfect information for someone who asks for ice cream.

I mean, what more does the goddam person want? It's got pictures and everything.



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Serving your octopus.

1) don't tell the dinner guests prior to; it's gonna be a surprise.

2) once they've arrived lock the doors.

3) tell them it's only for the highest degree of gourmet sophistication.

4) serve.


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5 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:


That's perfect information for someone who asks for ice cream.

I mean, what more does the goddam person want? It's got pictures and everything.



Totally! And if I keep posting it, and other stuff just like it, you'll eventually forget that you wanted ice cream.


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Here's some great info and comments:

What to do with steamed octopus legs? 


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letsindulge | Aug 11, 201605:14 PM     6

It's my first time with this frozen product. The package says that it's steamed. Am thinking of a cocatel preparation, or a chilled salad of sorts. Anyone familiar with this product? Is there additional prep to be done or can it seasoned, then grilled as is? Soliciting your favorite recipes as well. TIA.

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  1. Octopus needs to be boiled/steamed before cooking to tenderize the tentacles. I'm assuming this product has been steamed until tender. if so, you can marinate it for a bit and grill it. A typical marinade would contain olive oil,, lemon juice, garlic & oregano. When you are grilling it, remember you are just looking to char the surface and warm it through. You can then serve it warm or in a salad.

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    1. Thanks for your response. I suppose I could slice off a piece and give it the chew test before proceeding. I hope it's as nice to eat, as it looks. Would be good option rather than dealing with whole animal. LOL.

      1. I haven't seen this frozen product, but I have bought non-frozen (though perhaps previously frozen--no way to tell) fully cooked (steamed or boiled--again, no way to tell) octopus arms in a Japanese grocery store, and I would think that after defrosting, these would be essentially the same thing. Sashimi or in a Mexican coctel are my typical uses. It hasn't occurred to me to grill it, because I had it in my head that it had already been fully cooked, and grilling would be like double-cooking it. The only time I grilled octopus was after dealing with the whole animal--all that tenderizing and such--which, as you know, is a bit of chore.

        1. I enjoy octopus and will order it whenever I see it on a menu. I have a whole animal frozen as well. Spotted these in the freezer section at Nijiiya. Am hoping that they're a good product.

  2. I have only done this with a fairly small octopus that I cooked myself, but chunks were quite nice cold, after leaving overnight in the sort of simple marinade that zackly suggests - and a hit as part of a seafood appetizer platter. Occurs to me that it was probably slightly warm, or at least room temperature, when it went into the marinade. I've also had part of an arm grilled, in a restaurant. Also delicious! Please report back on how you like the ones you have -

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    1. For sure will post pictures. I'm holding out hope that they're good.

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Do ya like it spicy? Fuck yeah!

Spicy stir-fried octopus

Nakji-bokkeum 낙지볶음

Spicy stir-fried octopus, called nakji-bokkeum in Korean, is loved by many Koreans. It’s also one of my all-time favorite dishes.

If you love spicy seafood, this is what you’re looking for. The najki (octopus) we use to make it has long thin arms and a small oval head. It’s found in the shores of North East Asia, and also in the frozen section of Korean grocery stores (or fresh if you can find it). Peak season for nakji is winter, and that’s when the nakji restaurants in Korea fill their freezers with octopus, enough to use for the upcoming year.

I did a lot of experiments to come up a good sweet, salty, smoky, and spicy balance for the seasoning in this recipe, but the nakji was always tough. Finally I figured out the special ingredient: a 2 minute vigorous massage. it worked perfectly and the octopus was very tender.

Developing this recipe was important, not only do I get to share this with you, but I also get to use it for the rest of my life. Whenever I want to make delicious nakji-bokkeum, it’s right here waiting for me! I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do!


For seasonings:



How to handle the nakji:

  1. Cut open the heads and remove the intestines and beaks.
  2. Put in a large bowl. Add flour and scrub vigorously for about 2 minutes until it foams. This process not only tenderizes the octopus but also cleans any dirt or mud stuck in the suckers.octopus-tenderize-650x366.jpg
  3. Rinse in cold running water until it’s not slippery anymore. Drain.
  4. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the octopus for 10 to 12 seconds, drain, and then transfer to a cutting board.
  5. Cut the heads and arms into bite size pieces. Set aside.nakji-cut-into-pieces-650x366.jpg

Make seasoning sauce:

  1. Combine all the seasoning ingredients (hot pepper flakes, soy sauce, sugar, potato starch, rice syrup and ground black pepper) in a small bowl.
  2. Mix well with a spoon.


  1. Heat up a large pan over high heat. Add vegetable oil.
  2. Stir in garlic, ginger, green chili pepper, onion, and green onion for about 3 minutes until the garlic turns a little brown and the onion translucent.
  3. Add nakji and seasoning sauce. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes.nakjibokkeum-add-sauce-650x366.jpg
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in sesame oil. Transfer it to a serving plate and serve right away with rice.


Posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018 at 5:38 pm. 
Tagged: 낙지, 낙지볶음, Korean spicy octopus, long arm octopus, Nakji-bokkeum, nakjibokkeum maangchi, spicy nakji bokkeum, spicy octopus, Spicy stir fried octopus




  1. Kazmara Australia joined 5/18 & has 1 comment

    I made this today and it was delicious! I used honey instead of rice syrup and it worked really well but I overcooked the octopus a little, but it was so tasty!

    Thank you Maangchi for inspiring me to cook Korean food!

  2. geckos Oregon joined 5/18 & has 3 comments

    I wonder what the sauce is that is used with the cucumber?

  3. rrbwestu Houston joined 4/18 & has 2 comments

    I tried your recipe this evening and it turned out great! The massage and blanch resulted in very tender octopus. The flavors were very balanced. I got too excited about cooking najki for the first time and forgot the sesame seed oil. I will be cooking this again. With the sesame seed oil it will be even better. Thanks for such a straightforward and easy recipe.

  4. stonefly Olympia WA joined 11/11 & has 50 comments

    Maangchi: I tried this last week, but could only find precut frozen octopus (about 1-3 inch pieces). I gave it the same treatment in your recipe, but it came out a little tough. But still delicious. Any thoughts?


  5. LiljaS Iceland joined 3/18 & has 12 comments

    I saw this and thought I just HAVE to try this. Never tried octopus before. Unfortunately I could not find nakji here, but I found the large octopus. So I probably made muneo-bokkeum (문어볶음).Since it was so big I just used half for this recipe and made octopus slices with sesame dipping sauce, muneo-sukhoe (문어숙회) with the other half. My teenagers actually fled to their rooms when they saw the raw octopus ;D but I LOVE these dishes. Soooo good. And of course served with rice and kimchi and some vegetables 😉 I just love your recipes Maangchi, thank you, thank you, thank you 

    See full size image

    • “My teenagers actually fled to their rooms when they saw the raw octopus” lol! 

      This table setting looks perfect and I’m so impressed by your substitution of large octopus, because nakji was not available. You made kimchi, too? That’s a real Korean style meal! You must be good at cooking.

      • Thank you ❤️ Your kimchi was the first Korean recipe I tried, never tasted it before but was very curious about it. Last weekend I was abroad and got my first chance to go to a Korean restaurant and taste (I hope) authentic Korean food, and I’m proud to say that I think my kimchi quite measures up to the restaurant one. I actually think mine was a little bit better 😉

  6. stonefly Olympia WA joined 11/11 & has 50 comments


    This looks yummy! I will have to try it this week, because i love spicy Korean!

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I have always been skeptical of octopus intelligence claims. Support I have seen was mostly anecdotal, and about escaping or taking something apart. I figured those can be explained by having eight arms and limitless blind perseverance. But this article alludes to confirmed memory retention and skill application outside of learned context.

I would be interested in seeing the mazes they solve and how they solve them. A mouse runs a maze and we can watch his performance for clues to how he accomplishes the solution. Even the dumbest mouse will eventually solve the maze, but we can observe the random trial–and–error methodology, we can observe them trying some paths many, many times. A slower, but equally dumb mouse will get a worse time score, but only because he is lazier. In other words, a strictly timed test captures things other than memory or intelligence. What matters is whether or not they check paths over and over, or never again, with the latter of course indicating memory and intelligence, whatever the time it takes. I suspect that if we watch them solves mazes, it will be the random trial–and–error method we observe. I suspect they will check paths, lay tentacles down some paths, many, many times. If so, then they are much like the very dumb mouse, not utilizing memory, just throwing lots of trial–and–error at the problem.

I bet they fail at object permanence.

Are octopuses smart?

The mischievous mollusk that flooded a Santa Monica aquarium is not the first MENSA-worthy octopus


Are octopuses smart?

On Thursday morning, workers filing into the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in California were surprised to find 200 gallons (750 liters) of seawater soaking into their spanking new, ecologically sensitive flooring. It turns out that a curious two-spotted octopus had disassembled a water recycling valve and directed a tube to spew out of the tank for about 10 hours, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"It found something loose and just pulled on it," the aquarium's education manager Tara Treiber told the Times. "They are very smart creatures."

Octopuses, some 300 species of which inhabit tropical waters around the world, can change colors, squirt out poison, and exert a force greater than their own body weight. But calling the eight-armed cousin of your garden snail "smart" seems a bit of a stretch. In fact, the animals are part of an elite group of slimy mollusks known as cephalopods that range from giant squid to the shelled nautilus and all have remarkably large "brains"—at least for creatures sans backbones
Scientists have found that octopuses can navigate their way through mazes, solve problems quickly and remember those solutions, at least for the short term. 

To find out more about octopus intelligence, we spoke to Jennifer Mather, a comparative psychologist at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Mather has been studying octopuses for 35 years in an effort to gain insight into the evolution of intelligence. While most scientists hold octopuses in high regard, it's worth noting that not everyone shares Mather's lofty assessment of their intellectual abilities and personalities.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

Are octopuses smart?
Yes, but of course one has to ask what that means. I would say intelligence means learning information and using the information that you've learned.

So, how do you know they are smart?
We observed how octopuses figure out how to open clams and what sort of flexibility and variety they have. We give them clams and mussels in order to figure out which they like best. They are very strong, but we found they prefer mussels because mussels are easier to open. They switched to clams when we put the clams on a half shell. They clearly made a decision to go with what was easiest. We noticed along the way that yanking them open wasn't the only thing the octopuses could do to open them. They have a cartilaginous beak, which looks a lot like a parrot's beak, and they could chip at the edge of the clamshell and then they could inject poison and weaken the clam. Or they actually have a salivary papilla, and they can drill a hole to inject the toxin that way in the stronger clams. They were selective about what technique they would use with what species. We decided we would cheat on them: We took one of the easier ones and wired them shut. They switched techniques according to what would work best. Of course, this doesn't sound hard to you because you're a human, but most simple animals keep trying the same technique.

What other indications are there that octopuses are intelligent?
Octopuses play, and play is something that intelligent animals do. At the Seattle Aquarium, my colleague Roland Anderson and I figured out a situation in which they might play: a boring situation. We gave them an empty tank and a floating pill bottle and waited to see what would happen. Nothing happened the first time, but, after the fourth time, a couple animals did something we call "play." The octopus blew a jet of water at the pill bottle and that caused it to go over a water jet in the tank and come back to the octopus. These two individual animals did it in a sequence over 20 times. That's just exactly the kind of thing we do when we bounce a ball. When you bounce a ball, you are not trying to get rid of the ball, you are trying to figure out what you can do with the ball.

Octopuses also have personalities. We used the same kind of setup people use when they want to study human personalities. You just ask what do the animals commonly encounter during the day in different situations and look at the variability. We put them in three common situations: alerting (opening the top of the tank), threatening (touching the octopus with a test tube brush) and feeding (the octopus was given a crab to munch). This takes awhile because we tested 33 animals, each for two weeks. We found there are three dimensions and we settled for names: activity, reactivity and avoidance. Avoidance is how shy you are. Activity is if you are very active or passive. And reactivity indicates whether you are very emotional or more blasé. Octopuses can have any mix of those traits. We didn't take it any further, but there's a former graduate student in Australia looking at the extent to which personality affects ecology.

Do octopuses have brains?
The molluscan nervous system has a bunch of paired ganglia (a cluster of nerve cells), which in an animal like a clam or a snail are not very big and are widely distributed through the body. They control different functions and are located in different areas. Well, the cephalopods—that's the octopuses, squids and cuttlefish—they are unique in that all these ganglias have condensed so they form a centralized brain. The other thing that is unique amongst the mollusks is there are two areas of this brain that have developed that are specialized for memory storage. It's not just that the brain is larger and condensed, but they have areas of the brain dedicated to learning. That's the kind of thing we humans have, but it’s a completely different brain. 

By invertebrate standards it’s a huge brain, but by vertebrate standards, it’s a small brain. What's interesting about the octopus is about one third of the neurons (nerve cells) are in the brain. They have a huge neural representation in the arms, and there's a ganglion controlling every sucker, so there's quite a bit of local control. As humans, we're very proud of having a pincer grasp—the thumb and forefinger—and we say that's responsible for our ability to manipulate the environment so well. The octopus can fold the two sides of its sucker together to form a pincer grasp and it can do that with every single one. It has a hundred pincer grasps.

Why do you think octopuses evolved such big brains?
Probably because the tropical coral reef is the most complex environment in the world. There's such a huge variety of situations, lots of kinds of prey, lots of predators, and if you are not armored, you'd better be smart. The octopus has gone the smart route. Also, we talk about mammalian intelligence evolving in social situations, but clearly the octopus, a solitary organism, has evolved intelligence to solve ecological problems.

Do octopuses often cause trouble in aquariums?
They are very strong, and it is practically impossible to keep an octopus in a tank unless you are very lucky. One of the early researchers said if you leave a floating thermometer in a tank, it will last about five minutes. Octopuses simply take things apart. I recall reading about someone who had built a robot submarine to putter around in a large aquarium tank. The octopus got a hold of it and took it apart piece by piece. There's a famous story from the Brighton Aquarium in England 100 years ago that an octopus there got out of its tank at night when no one was watching, went to the tank next door and ate one of the lumpfish and went back to his own tank and was sitting there the next morning. The aquarium lost several lumpfish before they figured out who was responsible.



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54 minutes ago, Jon Letendre said:

I have always been skeptical of octopus intelligence claims...I suspect they will check paths, lay tentacles down some paths, many, many times. If so, then they are much like the very dumb mouse, not utilizing memory, just throwing lots of trial–and–error at the problem.

I bet they fail at object permanence.

All of that may be true, but I'd bet that the dumbest octopus, even with seven of its arms tied behind its back, would outscore Merlin at visuospatial/mechanical reasoning.


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1 hour ago, Jonathan said:

All of that may be true, but I'd bet that the dumbest octopus, even with seven of its arms tied behind its back, would outscore Merlin at visuospatial/mechanical reasoning.


Yeah, and that same pus would probably quickly see the places on earth where walking a mile west results in novelties, and without ever blathering on and on about their matchless facility with logic.

Wasn’t Tony and not Merlin the final holdout on no–skid?

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17 hours ago, Jon Letendre said:

Yeah, and that same pus would probably quickly see the places on earth where walking a mile west results in novelties, and without ever blathering on and on about their matchless facility with logic.

Wasn’t Tony and not Merlin the final holdout on no–skid?

Yes, Tony stuck around to demonstrate his impairments longer, but he and Merlin were about equally dumb. And also equally arrogant and certain.


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20 minutes ago, Jonathan said:

Yes, Tony stuck around to demonstrate his impairments longer, but he and Merlin were about equally dumb. And also equally arrogant and certain.


I don't think Tony is in Merlin's league.  Tony gets blockages where he can't get past a word meaning on which he's fixated, but he wouldn't have done something like Merlin's gall in presenting a false picture of the Aristotle's wheel paradox on Wikipedia.


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