Why do whales explode, anyway?

Sure, a gif of a man getting drenched in exploding whale guts is hilarious, but it could have been worse.

Straight from Buzzfeed, here’s an awesome gif of an exploding sperm whale:

(Why not listen to some music while it loops?)

That man in the orange overalls is a fisherman from the Faroe Islands, where that whale washed up. He was trying to cut open the whale’s belly, which might seem an odd thing to do, but decomposing whales are dangerous things. As disgusting as that gut-spill looks, it could have been a far worse explosion.

Whales have a tendency to explode after they die. As their innards rot, methane builds up in air pockets, and it can reach surprisingly high pressures. Eventually, without warning - kaboom.

In 2004, bystanders in Taiwan experienced this for themselves when watching scientists loading a dead whale onto a truck so it could be taken to the National Cheng Kung University for dissection and study. Roughly 600 people were splattered with blood and guts.

The danger of whale explosions means that preventative measures - like cutting into whales to give the gas a way to escape - are common. Pre-emptively exploding the whale into small chunks in a controlled demolition is also used in some countries, as a whole whale can take ages to decompose. The idea is that smaller chunks are more easily eaten by scavengers, and it saves an unpredictable mess later one.

Explosions like that have been performed in Australia, South Africa, and Iceland over the last decade. However, no whale explosion is an infamous as that which occurred in November 1970, near Florence, Oregon. Authorities there figured that a whale was a bit like a large boulder, so used the same amount of dynamite that would be used when destroying solid rock - 20 cases. According to one expert after the event, they really only needed something like 20 sticks.

Huge blubber chunks flew through the air, damaging cars and remaining hanging from trees for weeks afterwards. The video of the event was something of an early-00s viral hit when rediscovered:

The lesson here is clear - if you find a dead whale washed up on a beach, keep a safe distance, and alert someone who knows what they're doing.

Ian Steadman is a staff science and technology writer at the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @iansteadman.

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To stop Jeremy Corbyn, I am giving my second preference to Andy Burnham

The big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Voting is now underway in the Labour leadership election. There can be no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is the frontrunner, but the race isn't over yet.

I know from conversations across the country that many voters still haven't made up their mind.

Some are drawn to Jeremy's promises of a new Jerusalem and endless spending, but worried that these endless promises, with no credibility, will only serve to lose us the next general election.

Others are certain that a Jeremy victory is really a win for Cameron and Osborne, but don't know who is the best alternative to vote for.

I am supporting Liz Kendall and will give her my first preference. But polling data is brutally clear: the big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Andy can win. He can draw together support from across the party, motivated by his history of loyalty to the Labour movement, his passionate appeal for unity in fighting the Tories, and the findings of every poll of the general public in this campaign that he is best placed candidate to win the next general election.

Yvette, in contrast, would lose to Jeremy Corbyn and lose heavily. Evidence from data collected by all the campaigns – except (apparently) Yvette's own – shows this. All publicly available polling shows the same. If Andy drops out of the race, a large part of the broad coalition he attracts will vote for Jeremy. If Yvette is knocked out, her support firmly swings behind Andy.

We will all have our views about the different candidates, but the real choice for our country is between a Labour government and the ongoing rightwing agenda of the Tories.

I am in politics to make a real difference to the lives of my constituents. We are all in the Labour movement to get behind the beliefs that unite all in our party.

In the crucial choice we are making right now, I have no doubt that a vote for Jeremy would be the wrong choice – throwing away the next election, and with it hope for the next decade.

A vote for Yvette gets the same result – her defeat by Jeremy, and Jeremy's defeat to Cameron and Osborne.

In the crucial choice between Yvette and Andy, Andy will get my second preference so we can have the best hope of keeping the fight for our party alive, and the best hope for the future of our country too.

Tom Blenkinsop is the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland