Things That Matter

Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory Telescope Collapse Has Hit The Science Community Hard

The scientific community is mourning the sudden loss of Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The observatory was an integral part of research space research and was an important training ground for science students.

The Arecibo Observatory collapsed in the early morning hours of Dec. 1.

The 900-ton platform came crashing down on the 1000-foot wide dish. The platform, which was suspended above the reflective dish, crashed after suffering catastrophic failures. Two wires snapped previously and engineers warned that the platform was at risk of falling as a result.

“I was very sad, very disappointed,” Génesis Ferrer, a fourth-year physics student at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus, told NBC News. “I worked so hard to finally get accepted to work in the Arecibo Observatory. And now that I got accepted, I can’t work in it. I felt very sad, not only individually, but I also saw it as a very sad thing for Puerto Rico and the science in Puerto Rico.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has reported no injuries.

The NSF was already planning on removing the structure after two cables broke and engineers warned that the platform was no longer stable. With no safe way to fix the structure, NSF had prepared to find a way to safely demolish the structure.

“NSF is saddened by this development,” the agency said on Twitter. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”

The loss of the impressive structure will be felt for years to come as the engineers assess the full damage.

There are people already calling on the U.S. government to step up and fund a rebuild of the important scientific structure. There is an updated petition that is asking for the structure to be rebuilt to its former glory.

“The telescope collapsed but the investigations facility and the visitor’s center is still there. With the appropriate funding, we have a viable path towards reconstruction,” Kevin Ortiz, also a physics student, told NBC News. “The educational impact of the observatory is incalculable, at all levels, from professionals and college students to the high school academy and the elementary schools that visit our center.”

READ: Anti-Mask Tourists Are Traveling To Puerto Rico And The Island’s Residents Have Had Enough

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There’s A Mysterious “Bat Cave” Full Of Blind Snakes Near Cancun And It’s Creepy AF

Things That Matter

There’s A Mysterious “Bat Cave” Full Of Blind Snakes Near Cancun And It’s Creepy AF

YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico is full of incredible natural beauty, so it’s no wonder that it’s frequently one of the world’s most visited destinations. People love to visit the picturesque beaches, the ancient ruins, lively cities, and relaxed pueblos. But we would imagine that few people would add this mysterious ‘bat cave’ to their list of destinations, considering it’s full of blind snakes that hang from the ceiling to catch their prey. 

Mexico’s mysterious ‘bat cave’ is part of a truly unique ecosystem. 

Cancun is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s home to some of the world’s greatest beaches and tons of adventure at cenotes and Mayan ruins. But, apparently, it’s also home to a unique ecosystem that includes a so-called bat cave home to thousands of blind snakes that hang upside down. Yikes!

The cave, located less than 180 miles from Cancun’s spectacular beaches, is home to a species of blind, deaf snakes that feed mainly on flying bats.”This is the only place in the world where this happens,” Arturo Enrique Bayona Miramontes, the biologist who discovered it, told Newsweek.

The cave system remained completely unknown to tourists and surprised many scientists, who marveled as the jungle was peeled away to reveal another species, another hidden natural world.

The “cave of the hanging snakes” has a 65-foot wide mouth from which thousands of bats of seven different species swarm out every night, seeking food in and around Lake Chichancanab, some 2 miles away. When the bats return from nighttime feeding, some become food for the snakes.

The cave is a bat paradise – unless they become food for the blind and deaf snakes.

The giant cave is home to hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions – of bats who cling to the cave’s roof. Joining them in the cave are a unique species of blind and deaf snakes that strike unsuspecting bats as they fly by.

The technique of the yellow-red rat snake is frighteningly precise, Bayona Miramontes said. “These snakes do not see or hear, but they can feel the vibrations of the bats flying, and they use that opportunity to hunt them with their body, suffocating their victims before gobbling them down.”

If you’re feeling adventurous, the cave is open to a limited number of visitors.

The cave is located nearby a very small Mayan community in Kantemó, on the Yucatan peninsula. Although the village is so small that it only has one church, the community has been working hard to protect this unique ecosystem.

Only 10 visitors are allowed inside the cave at a time and no photography is permitted. Since the pandemic began, the cave has been closed but it will reopen when the health department of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo allows tourism again.

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Things That Matter

Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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