Archive for the ‘Why not’ Category

Baboon Metaphysics

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

baboonmetaphysics1.jpegDorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth‘s recent book on baboon social behavior, Baboon Metaphysics, has been nominated for… oddest title of the year!

The title echos Charles Darwin’s own comment about the fascinating behavior of baboons, made over 170 years ago: “He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.”

You can vote (as many times as you like) for Cheney and Seyfarth’s book here.

They’ve got some tough competition, though, including Curbsite Consultation of the Colon and—current frontrunner—The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais. Vote early, vote often.

Happy Birthday

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Thursday is Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. So, this week I made a tribute birthday cake to celebrate:


The cake is chocolate and strawberry, with vanilla icing and cocoa powder. We ate it at our weekly evolution chalk talk seminar, during a discussion about OspC in Burrelia burgdorferi. Those things on the cake are pigeons, not finches. (Note the variation.)

It keeps coming back

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

snapper.jpgMy friends from college and I have a reunion vacation every year in a cabin in the Adirondacks, and there is this turtle that lives in the pond on the property that keeps joining us. It is a massive snapping turtle. It looks just like the picture and it is terrifying.

Two years ago we tried to catch it. The reptile specialist in my department recommended a reinforced cardboard box and some sort of lasso on a very long stick. The advice was imparted reluctantly; he actually recommended staying away from it altogether and showed incredulity when I explained about the skinny dipping. As a somewhat fearsome individual himself, this was a shock, and it justified the alarmist attitude that was already preventing the boys from lounging in the inner tubes. Some impatient internet research had convinced me that snappers, while vicious and aggressive and sure to snap off your digits if you disturb them on land, are of a diffident and temperate personality underwater. Our empirical evidence only partially supported this claim: it did bite one of us on the foot; the foot, like the turtle, was in the water; the leg and all the rest was on land. (Amputation was avoided, and no one died of Salmonella poisoning.) This was, if I recall correctly, our introduction, and that first impression may have instilled an unreasonable level of antagonism between us.

Anyway the year we brought the relocation equipment, we couldn’t find the turtle. This year, with short memories and fresh enthusiasm for a splash in the lake, we saw it again. It likes hanging around the dock, and provides plenty of opportunity for ogling. So grotesquely prehistoric! I love it, but it scares me. It’s quite the summer thrill.