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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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism