This is so cool! I can't believe I haven't been hearing taxonomists buzz about this. 3M Novec is a new engineered material that is non-flammable (unlike ethanol) non-toxic (unlike formalin, though Steve O'Shea swears you can drink the stuff) and doesn't leach color. Its only apparent downside so far: it's denser than water.

The Smithsonian is testing it out by displaying giant squid, and according to their program manger, "We had to use pretty creative ways to get the specimens to stay down inside the container." Tantalizing! Did they glue suckers to the glass? Pour lead shot inside the mantle? Inquiring minds want to know!

Okay, setting the shiny new preservative aside, let's take a look at the squid science:

"They have never been seen in their natural habitat." Wrong. Did they miss Kubodera photographing (2004) and finally filming (2006) giant squid in the deep waters off Japan? HOW COULD YOU MISS THAT?

"Much of their length comes from their arms and tentacles." Right. And very important to remember when numbers are being tossed around. Media will almost always report total length, from mantle tip to tentacle tip. Scientists much prefer to use mantle length, ignoring the head, arms, and tentacles. Mantle length is determined by the stiff, unstretchable rod of chitin (called a pen) that is the squid's excuse for an internal skeleton. Total length is determined by how far down the beach some schmuck is willing to stretch the extremely elastic tentacles. Thanks for the reminder, Ivanhoe&AIP!