A (Not Very) Eternal Question

Asked here.

Here’s the canonical video that’s the backstory for this question:

The problem, though, is the video doesn’t actually provide the crucial information, what would it take to achieve blubber rupture pressure (dubbed BLURP by one inquirer) thus invoking spontaneous cetacean detonation.
As usual, it’s Twitter to the rescue:

@slugnads @wslaton @rjallain so I analyzed the recent famous exploding sperm whale video & found that the water shoots out at about 17 m/s..— Aatish Bhatia (@aatishb) April 30, 2014

And there you have it.

Come to Balloon Juice for news you can use….and more open thread.

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78 replies
  1. 1
    scav says:

    thank you.

  2. 2
    srv says:

    I can get this shit at 4chan, why here?

    And where’s Sarah, she wasn’t on MH370 was she?

  3. 3
    Keith says:

    That video would be better with audio of Glenn Beck describing one of his various medical procedures.

  4. 4
    rikyrah says:


    double eeewww

  5. 5
    JPL says:

    Tom, what do you think about the kerfuffle with Fox noNews and the editor of Scientific American? TPM has had several blurbs on it and here is the link to the Scientific American site.

  6. 6
    scav says:

    BLURP is even better than fictional ducks. That blue whale in Canada had already washed up on my newsfeed, but not this.

  7. 7
    Tom Levenson says:

    @srv: Because whimsy, that’s why.

    And a chance to reference Bernoulli on the blog. Never to be missed.

  8. 8
    Tom Levenson says:

    @JPL: My first reaction was “Dog Bites Man.” My second is to wonder why the SciAm editor didn’t go off the reservation once the camera started rolling. My third was, at least it makes part of a news cycle just to have the guy diss Fox and Friends.

    But what I’d really like to see is other major media making fun of those craptastic folks at Fox. Pointing and laughing is more effective than earnest rebuttal, I think.

  9. 9
    Anoniminous says:

    Surprisingly, there are very few whales – exploding or otherwise – in New Mexico. So it is definitely “news” but I cannot construct a realistic scenario wherein I will “use” it.

  10. 10
    ruviana says:

    @srv: Since you asked about Sarah, I want to know about Kay. Where is Kay?

  11. 11
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    @srv: And Dennis, and Kay, and That Soccer Guy With an “R” name, and Elon….

    This place has more churn than a Rio brothel. (edit: from what I’m told, of course)

  12. 12
    Schlemizel says:

    There is a video on youtube (at work can’t look for it) of some community trying to blow up a whale to clear a beach. It ends almost as badly as you can imagine.

    US Forrest Service uses explosive to ‘remove’ large animals that have died in parks. They have a manual that shows how to place the minimum explosive to reduce the carcass to small enough pieces that the tourists don’t freak. But I gu

  13. 13
    jl says:

    What does “the sperm whale wasn’t ecenise to exploding” mean?

  14. 14
    Tractarian says:

    That’s gross yo.

  15. 15
    srv says:

    Oath Keepers Bundy Ranch Debrief!

    Calls the Militia “Gladiator” poseurs!

  16. 16
    scav says:

    @Anoniminous: Sea level rise, appearance of unexpected coasts for cetaceans to throw themselves upon in massive GPS failures, you needing a method of propulsion for quick get-away from bad guys. MacGyver didn’t ask these kind of questions.

  17. 17
    Lurking Buffoon says:

    @Tom Levenson: Definitely agreed. Especially considering the other side isn’t interested in the rational discourse that tends to go with earnest rebuttals. Embarrass them. Wound their egos.

  18. 18
    Tractarian says:


    Kind of like, as if you were to say, “Edward Snowden isn’t ecenise to Glenn Greenwald’s jock.” Now you get the picture.

  19. 19
    jl says:


    ” They have a manual that shows how to place the minimum explosive to reduce the carcass to small enough pieces that the tourists don’t freak. ”

    I wanna see that manual. Might come in handy.

    In Alaska, I’ve heard stories about how people handle roadkill and other carcasses that they want to recover for some reason, sometimes to grind into dogfood or chip up to use for fertilizer. Heard of people using stove lighters to see if they can ignite the gases that are going to come out when they lance the carcass. Heard sometimes it works to reduce the stench, sometimes not.

  20. 20
    jl says:

    @srv: They got a Roger 10K WD40 ‘over n out’ on that debrief sitrep?

  21. 21
    Schlemizel says:

    My understanding is that they do not share it & some people say they have been told it does not exist but my uncle (US Forrest Service retired) used to know the catalog number of it.

  22. 22
    Comrade Mary says:

    Hey, anyone feel ready for some nightmare fodder? (Apart from the fact that I’m linking to the National Post.)
    Let’s start off easy with some Lies-To-Children:

    “Kids are curious,” says Ms. Sheppard, the owner, along with her husband, Tom, of Sheppard’s B and B and a frequent visitor to the beach in recent days to take pictures of the dead whale. “The kids were wanting to go over and poke at it. They were wanting to go out and jump on the whale, and it is filling up with methane gas.

    “I said to them, ‘My God, don’t you be doing that, because if that whale bursts you’ll be blown to smithereens.’ That’s what I said — and then they asked me if I knew their parents — which I didn’t. But I told them I did anyway.

    Heeeere we go!

    Jack Lawson is a research scientist with DFO’s marine mammals section. He has seen some dead whales in his day. His concerns about the dead whale beaching in Trout River is twofold.

    “The [whale] skin is starting to lose its integrity and if someone were to walk along, say, the chin — that is full of all that gas — they could fall in the whale. The insides will be liquefied. Retrieving them would be very difficult.

    I have fallen through the side of a whale up to my chest. It’s not very nice. And if the animal is up against the shore and there are waves battering it, and it’s moving, then you can imagine what would happen if it rolled over onto a child.”

  23. 23
    scav says:

    @jl: and cocoa with the little marshmallows!

  24. 24
    Steeplejack says:


    Fumble-typing for “close to exploding,” I think.

  25. 25
    jl says:

    @scav: As long as the ‘sit ‘ware fubar manifest is logged, I guess it’s tactical enough.

  26. 26
    jl says:

    @Steeplejack: But that should be cloxploding, right?

  27. 27
    Steeplejack says:


    “This video has been removed by the user.” Description?

  28. 28
    Hobbes says:

    @jl: Ecenise – typos = even close.
    (Unless the writer is from Albany, in which case ecenise is a perfectly cromulent word)

  29. 29
    Steeplejack says:


    What Hobbes said.

    “Against thumb-texting even the gods contend in vain.”

  30. 30
    hilts says:


    Joyce Carol Oates stupidly bitches about the death of the 1st amendment in the Donald Sterling case:

    “Nostalgia for time when one could say anything in private no matter how stupid, cruel, self-serving or plain wrong & not be criminalized. Am I the only person in US surprised that a private conversation (no matter how ugly) can be the basis for such public recrimination?”

    h/t http://deadspin.com/twitter-us...../+marchman

  31. 31
    lamh36 says:

    How Fox News Shoved Shepard Smith Back Into The Closet

    In the summer of 2013, according to multiple sources with knowledge of their exchange, Shepard Smith approached Fox News president Roger Ailes about publicly coming out. The newly attached anchor was eager, at the time, to finally acknowledge his sexuality. “It’s time,” he told Ailes and other colleagues. “It’s time.”

    Instead, Ailes informed Smith that the network’s famously conservative audience would not tolerate a gay news anchor. Ailes’ answer was definitive: Smith could not say he’s gay.

    “This came up during contract negotiations,” a Fox insider told Gawker. “Shep wanted to and was ready to come out, and Roger just said no.”

    And yet Shep Smith resigned his contract with Fix News. So wait am I supposed to feel sorry for Shep? Cause I don’t

  32. 32
    Redshift says:

    @srv: Rooting for injuries!

  33. 33
    GregB says:


    She wasn’t alive during the Nixon Presidency?

  34. 34
    srv says:

    @Steeplejack: Still there for me:


    (I guess they reloaded up again)

    Old fart got knocked down by militia gladiators, former Marine says it wouldn’t have happened if he’d been there, and how they were all there at the beginning and all these militia folks are johny-come-latelies.

  35. 35
    scav says:

    @GregB: No doubt during those halcyon days where everyone could chatter freely about the virtues of Communism without fear of reprisals from Congress, Hollywood or the public.

  36. 36
    srv says:

    Oath Keeper calls militia leader NUTS!


    Spanks him about integrity & leadership!

  37. 37
    Just Some Fuckhead says:


  38. 38
    lamh36 says:

    @lamh36: I should have said allegedly…reading comments on story Someone is claiming Shep mentions a female fiancé on his FB

  39. 39
    Fred Fnord says:

    @Tractarian: Man, you should really consider getting a hobby.

    Also, ‘ha ha ha those two people are faggoty faggots ha ha!’ is kind of passé now, at least on the moderately-conservative-to-liberal side of the political spectrum. Possibly you hadn’t noticed.

  40. 40
    Tom says:

    Several years ago a sperm whale washed up on the shores of Taiwan. Delighted at this find, local scientists persuaded the government to have it trucked to a nearby museum of natural history so the skeleton could be displayed. Alas, as the low boy tractor trailer hauling the whale was driving through the downtown section of an intervening city, the BLURP was spontaneously exceeded (probably due to a combination of increasing gas buildup and blubber degradation). Blew entrails all over cars, restaurants, passers by, et al. Classic photos.

    Even further in the past, David Barry wrote and article about the video where the Oregon Department of Highway’s attempt to blow up a whale on the beach goes terribly awry. Worth reading in the original, but can you imagine filling a claim that your car was totaled due to being struck with whale innards descending from the heavens?

  41. 41
    JCJ says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Referencing Bernoulli is always good. That reminds me of something from a time much longer ago than I care to admit. I was an intern doing internal medicine for one year. There was a patient who was not the most pleasant gentleman who had been admitted for chest pain. Everything about him screamed high risk for coronary artery disease. He left the hospital against medical advice but came back a day later with more chest pain. We convinced him to have heart catheterization done and he had significant coronary artery disease with atherosclerotic plaques causing over 90% narrowing of the left main coronary artery (a classic “widowmaker”) and another lesion with 98% narrowing in the left anterior descending coronary artery. Since I was the lowly intern I was sent to talk to him to explain why he should consider bypass surgery. I told him of these findings and he replied, “My goodness! That is serious! I am a plumber so I know that flow through a conduit is inversely related to the fourth power of the radius.” When I went back to the team I was asked how it went and I simply said that he understood fluid dynamics better than any of them did and that he was already agreeable to surgery.

  42. 42
    jl says:


    Oh dear, am I, a private citizen, violating Joyce Carol Oates’ first amendment rights by not reading her tripe or paying any money for it? Or only if I say I think it’s totally wrong mistaken and uninformed, publicly?

    Seems analogous to private citizen fans being pissed at privately owned team run by private organization, who express themselves publicly as private citizens over the team owner’s BS.

  43. 43
    LanceThruster says:

    If it was at Gitmo, they wouldn’t have waited for it to be dead.

  44. 44
    JCJ says:

    Top three exploding sperm whales – includes the one referenced above from Oregon


  45. 45
    Belafon says:


    When I went back to the team I was asked how it went and I simply said that he understood fluid dynamics better than any of them did and that he was already agreeable to surgery.

    That made me laugh.

  46. 46
    Steeplejack says:


    Per the preceding thread, Wikipedia should have a list of exploding whales.

  47. 47
    catclub says:

    @JCJ: ” inversely related to the fourth power of the radius.” ???
    so as radius goes to zero flow goes to infinity? Maybe required pressure for a given flow?
    Still a good story.

  48. 48
    srv says:

    Bernoulli is a lie, Kutta–Joukowski for the win.

  49. 49
    Schlemizel says:

    @Tom: That Oragon one is the one I saw the video of. All I could think of was this:
    Ah … ! What’s happening? it thought.

    Er, excuse me, who am I?


    Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?

    What do I mean by who am I?

    Calm down, get a grip now … oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my … my … well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.

    Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what’s about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that … wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do … perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What’s this thing? This … let’s call it a tail – yeah, tail. Hey! I can can really thrash it about pretty good can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on. Now – have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?


    Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation …

    Or is it the wind?

    There really is a lot of that now isn’t it?

    And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground!

    I wonder if it will be friends with me?

  50. 50
    Schlemizel says:

    for those interested here is a video of blowing up a whale fiasco

  51. 51
    Tom Levenson says:

    @JCJ: OK. I’m a happy man.

  52. 52
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @srv: The cowards have taken the video down.

    Wait a second…it’s back up again at another URL. WTF?

  53. 53
    Citizen_X says:


    there are very few whales – exploding or otherwise – in New Mexico.

    Which is precisely why the improbability drive works so well there.

  54. 54
    Schlemizel says:

    The onion once again proves it is America’s premier news source:
    The Arguments For And Against Capital Punishment
    example –
    FOR: Every now and then you get a guilty one
    AGAINST: We don’t get to watch

  55. 55
    hilts says:


    ABC News tool Jonathan Karl is off his meds once again


  56. 56
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    If it was Condoleeza Rice these things wouldn’t be happening.

  57. 57
    WaterGirl says:

    @ruviana: Kay has posted in the comments a few times in the past week or so. She responded to my “we miss you and I was worried about you, glad to see you here” comment with an explanation that she has been very busy.

  58. 58
    Lurking Buffoon says:

    @Steeplejack: I discovered this years ago when I was bored at work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploding_whale

  59. 59
    Alce_y_ardilla says:

    What I want to know is how far the stench of the carcass carried.
    Looking at the video, it seemed like the half the waterfront.

  60. 60
    JPL says:


  61. 61
    beltane says:

    @srv: That almost sounds like peak wingnut.

  62. 62
    The Dangerman says:


    The hell with Bernoulli or Kutta–Joukowski, it was just a whale fart (must have been a male whale).

    ETA: Deep Thoughts: I wonder if the concept of a Dutch Oven extends into the animal kingdom beyond humans

  63. 63
    Steeplejack says:

    @Lurking Buffoon:

    The Wiki never disappoints.

  64. 64
    raven says:

    @Tom: Here’s the video from Oregon. I saw a version last year that had an interview with the guy whose car got smashed. His name was familiar and it turns out he is the uncle of a good buddy of mine. He said when he bought it the dealer’s motto was “we’ll give you a whale of a deal”!

  65. 65
    ruviana says:

    @WaterGirl: Thanks! I love her posts.

  66. 66
    Bob In Portland says:

    Now that the government in Kiev has acknowledged that it can’t defeat the “terrorists” in eastern Ukraine, maybe people should read Ray McGovern’s latest at consortium news.

  67. 67
    Roger Moore says:


    “My goodness! That is serious! I am a plumber so I know that flow through a conduit is inversely related to the fourth power of the radius.”

    Only in a laminar flow regime. If there’s turbulence, the flow is closer to proportional to the cross sectional area. Of course, I have no idea if flow in a coronary artery is laminar or turbulent, so I don’t know how important the distinction is in this case.

  68. 68
    Alce_y_ardilla says:

    @Roger Moore: If it is clean it is probably laminar, but cholesterol plaques will create turbulence.

  69. 69
    JGabriel says:

    That video should have been scored with something from Velvet Underground’s first album, and titled Exploding Whale Inevitable.

  70. 70
    JCJ says:

    @Roger Moore:

    In a coronary artery that is widely patent it would be more like laminar flow. As the stenosis worsens it will become more turbulent and eventually no flow if a thrombus forms.

  71. 71
    Roger Moore says:

    I’m not sure about that. If you have a big enough pipe, the flow will tend to become turbulent regardless of the properties of the wall; I just don’t know whether that condition applies in something the size of a coronary artery. The other thing to consider is that blood is not just thicker (i.e. more viscous) than water, it is actually a non-Newtonian liquid, so you can’t use all your classical fluid dynamics equations to model it.

  72. 72
    Berial says:

    @Schlemizel: Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again.

  73. 73
    Schlemizel says:

    I think if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the Universe than we do now.

  74. 74
    Just One More Canuck says:

    This could be the greatest day ever on Balloon Juice – fictional ducks and an exploding whale. All we need is a cat with a shaved ass

  75. 75
    Roger Moore says:

    @Just One More Canuck:

    All we need is a cat with a shaved ass

    You forgot about missing mustard and naked mopping.

  76. 76
    jl says:

    @Just One More Canuck:

    ” All we need is a cat with a shaved ass ”

    Well, Cole, bless his heart, tried that and almost got maimed.
    I guess if Cole were REALLY dedicated to this blog, he would try again. We can ask.

    @Roger Moore: the blog has had those, but, come on, those aren’t much compared to shaving a cats ass. One would hope this blog really separates itself from the pack someday.

  77. 77
    jharp says:

    Did not read the comments so it might have been mentioned earlier but I would have stood back and shot it.

    Maybe with a 12 gauge slug. Seems safer to me.

  78. 78
    Jamey says:

    The unanswered question is, was all that stuff inside the sperm whale actual sperm?

Comments are closed.