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Here at Nat Geo Channel, we believe that smarter is better – a belief that is reflected in our Emmy-nominated hit series Brain Games, an interactive show full of illusions, challenges and experiments that showcase the extraordinary nature of the human brain. Tonight, we kick off a brand new season of Brain Games with a double-dose of all-new episodes.
60 percent of people lie at least once during a 10 minute conversation, and on average, tell two or three lies during that time. A diver gazes at a giant jellyfish, identified as stomolophus nomurai, more than a metre wide in diameter, drifting in the waters off Echizen in Fukui prefecture, in the central coast of Japan. TSUSHIMA ISLAND, JAPAN—The gelatinous masses on the deck of the Myoho-maru could charitably be described as the colour of weak tea.
Yoshifumi Sakumoto, the fisherman who captains the Myoho-maru, accidentally stepped on the jelly mess and skidded before regaining his balance. Yet for all the apocalyptic headlines these events have generated, scientists are deeply divided about what is happening. That question is a matter of intense debate, and how it is resolved will affect anyone with a stake in the marine world — culinary, economic or environmental. Individual researchers’ responses to the debate are often coloured by the state of their local seas. A day earlier, the Star had boarded the Toyoshio-maru with Uye and a handful of students and researchers.
We failed to find any aggregations of Aurelia, the common moon jellyfish, which is the most widely distributed jellyfish in the world and one that has bloomed dramatically for more than a decade in the inland sea we visited. We met fishermen who earned a comfortable living from harvesting the abundant, edible Rhopilema. We travelled to Tsushima to meet Sakumoto, with whom Uye has collaborated in the past, hoping to glimpse the notorious Nomura. Based on the tiny handful of sites that do exist, scientists know that jellyfish have been around for at least 500 million years. Being jelly must be pretty advantageous if the trait is hundreds of millions of years older than, say, being furry.
Many types of jellyfish have double-pronged reproductive systems: they reproduce both sexually, combining genetic material from two individuals, and asexually, by duplicating a single individual. A female Nomura, for example, after swimming through a cloud of sperm, can release up to a billion fertilized eggs. Despite their ancient origins and evolutionary success, jellyfish were long ignored as a serious subject of scientific scrutiny. But the biggest problem hampering our understanding of blooms is the lack of long-term data on jellyfish numbers. Brotz became the de facto spokesperson for one side of the debate thanks to a highly publicized paper he authored last year. For some context, Brotz is a PhD student at the Sea Around Us Project, a laboratory devoted to figuring out how fisheries are modifying the sea and what to do about it. As a scientist, Brotz is careful not to let his knowledge of the pressing need for ocean conservation influence his research.
The resulting signal was shaky, but unmistakable: Since 1950, Brotz and his co-authors found, jellyfish abundance had increased in 28 of the 45 marine ecosystems. Its lead author was Rob Condon, a marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, and it was co-authored by a who’s who of jellyfish scientists, including Uye. Their analysis showed a slight rise in jellyfish abundance since 1970, but too weak of a trend to be called a global increase.
Brotz and Condon are both exceptionally polite with regard to each others’ work, and they tend to emphasize the many points on which they agree.
One place where the data paints a clear picture is the Sea of Japan: whatever is going on globally, nearly everyone agrees there is something remarkable happening here. Experts have many theories about how human interference might be triggering jellyfish blooms. In Hakata Bay on Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost main island, Uye introduced the Star to Yoshikatsu Mori, who had spent 60 of his 75 years fishing the local waters.
In fact, fishery depletion is one of the primary reasons scientists think jellyfish blooms might be happening.
Scientists don’t think a decline in beaches is one of the ways humans have helped jellyfish.

From Hakata Bay, the Toyoshio-maru churned across the choppy ocean and into the Ariake Sea, a shallow interior sea further to the south and a Rhopilema hot spot. Aramaki said that Rhopilema, the edible jellyfish, moved through clear cycles since he began fishing at age 20. Aramaki blamed the change on the Ariake Sea’s seaweed aquaculturists, saying they had pumped the water full of harmful nutrients.
Sakumoto, the fisherman we visited on Tsushima, hit on the last important theory behind why jellyfish might be increasing: global warming. If jellyfish numbers are increasing globally and permanently as a result of human activities, the future could be scary indeed.
Just before Uye disembarked from the Toyoshio-maru, I asked him if he shared Sakumoto’s optimism.
But later, he sent me the email: he was ashamed of his pessimistic response and wanted to change it. From swiping our credit cards at the grocery store to feeding our spare quarters to the parking meter, money makes the world go around.
And what was once an instinctive response to alert against predators has evolved into something entirely different. Pleasurable music releases dopamine into the brain, so we hope this playlist activates the reward centers of your brain.
First at 9P, we explore the shocking truth that color is just an illusion created by your brain.
At least this is true according to a study of 121 college graduate students conducted by University of Massachusetts-Amherst psychologist Robert Feldman. So it is no surprise that Shin-ichi Uye, a biological oceanographer at Hiroshima University and Japan’s leading jellyfish scientist, fears the worst. The annual research cruise is an opportunity for them to spend a week tallying up observations that could help solve the larger riddle of what is going on with the world’s jellies.
With no bones to fossilize, all we have are body impressions left in ancient sediment beds. That’s more than 75 million years before the appearance of land plants and more than 250 million years before the first dinosaurs. And jellies boast some extraordinary features that help explain why they have persisted for millennia and why they have the ability to form sudden blooms. So growing rapidly doesn’t burden jellyfish with the same metabolic demands that it does for more complicated organisms. Those eggs, which have the advantage of genetic diversity, hatch into tiny swimming larvae, attach themselves to a hard surface and become anemone-like polyps. This secondary sexual process increases the number of offspring from a single individual with very little work. When the water is too cold, too hot, too salty, or otherwise undesirable, the polyps harden into cuticle-walled cysts. No one has ever seen a Nomura polyp in the wild (for his cyst experiment, Uye used polyps grown in a lab). Historically, jellyfish were too economically unimportant for fisheries scientists, and too big and weird for plankton scientists: they were a nuisance to all, and often literally cast out of marine studies.
He told the Star about a recent visit to the Tsukiji market in Tokyo, the largest fish market in the world, where he saw stalls crammed with the ocean’s bounty.
Faced with the paucity of long-term data on jellyfish, Brotz didn’t want to wait several decades for better research to emerge. The strongest trend was that jellyfish numbers cycled up and down over approximately 20-year periods — a natural oscillation, which was on an upward swing in the 1990s and 2000s.
While the last true Nomura bloom was in 2009, surveys from this year indicate that Nomura will still be a problematic presence. But the easiest way to absorb the science is to chat with the fishermen who have spent their lives on Japan’s seas, and whose observations sync neatly with the scientific literature. Mori told us that this past spring, Aurelia bloomed so heavily that some bottom-trawler fishing boats moving through the bay would find themselves at an abrupt standstill. Now, there are almost no fish here, but it is full of jellyfish,” Mori said as Uye translated.
But increased marine substrate is: as more docks, bridges and other built environments are added to the sea, there is a far vaster habitat for polyps.

Again, scientists think that fertilizer and other nutrient runoff, which eventually strips a water body of oxygen, affects jellyfish less than other mammals. The Yellow Sea, where Nomura are thought to spawn, has warmed by 1.7 degrees Celsius since 1976. Tsushima is a ragged-shored island halfway between Japan and Korea and directly in the path of the Nomura that migrate north through the Sea of Japan over the course of the summer and fall.
Very much like global warming, by the time the data is irrefutable, the ocean may be too degraded to fix. But money can be complicated – it can create competition, establish status, and cause stress. A traffic jam or an angry boss isn’t going to kill you, but today it still elicits the same stress response from all those years ago. The blobs had been pulled in from the sea along with an octopus, a clutch of squid and a thousand frantically flopping finfish, the day’s intended catch. In 2009, the last and worst bloom year, a Japanese fishing trawler capsized trying to pull a net full of Nomura, which can grow to the size of a Smart car. In the Gulf of Oman, a species called Crambionella orsini clogged the intake pipes of coastal power plants. Or are we witnessing a natural cyclical uptick — a jellyfish El Niño, rather than a jellyfish global warming?
Chatting over barley tea in the mess hall of the Toyoshio-maru, his research vessel, Uye framed his take as a parable.
Observe any Homo sapiens teenager in its habitat, and you will probably find the specimen consuming an absurd number of frozen pizzas and growing at a clip of an inch or two a year.
Nomura cysts, Uye discovered in his lab, can survive for at least six years, biding their time. Aurelia aggregate often, particularly in the Seto Inland Sea and Tokyo Bay, and last year saw a bumper crop of Rhopilema. Their underwater nets had encountered an aggregation so thick it stopped the boat like a wall. In experiments in Uye’s lab, Nomura asexual reproduction rose 20 per cent with similar temperature increases. Sakumoto is a set-net fisherman: every morning he brings his boat to a permanent net to empty the catch. The Eta Aquarids in May is the second meteor shower created by debris left by Comet Halley.Halley takes around 76 years to make a complete revolution around the Sun.
The Benguela current off the coast of Namibia was once a rich sardine and anchovy fishery; now, jellyfish exceeds fish biomass more than three to one. Nomura, meanwhile, can add 3 per cent of their body mass a day, tripling their size in less than two months.
Researchers know only generally where those two jellyfish seed, despite their economic importance, one for better and one for worse.
The sources were rigorously scored based on reliability: a news story quoting a lifeguard would be given very low confidence, surveys of fishers were weighted more heavily, and long-term scientific data sets were scored highest.
Only nine began collection before 1960, though Condon maintains the longest-running data sets cover key areas. Since one study estimated that stocks of large predatory fish are at 10 per cent of pre-industrial levels, it’s safe to assume that both jellyfish predators and competitors have dwindled. Diana Nyad, the 63-year-old who just completed the first unaided swim from Cuba to Florida, called off previous attempts because she was overwhelmed by jellyfish stings.
Only seven species of jellyfish do not increase in abundance in response to warmer waters, according to one study. While you can easily see a shooting star looking straight up, the table below shows the exact direction of the Orionids from your location.Location in the skyThe Orionid meteor shower is not visible at this time of year.

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