Friday, June 06, 2008


In Sharon Begley’s science column for Newsweek this week, “Praise The Humble Dung Beetle” (June 9, 2008), she was giving us some of the arguments why more than our mammalian cousins need to be saved and put on endangered species lists. Beings like the dung beetle are often neglected because the powers that be think them beneath respect. So Sharon lists a few ways that crawly, creepy things are worth saving:

“Since the lesser beasts of the field can't just muscle their way to survival, they tend to have talents that higher ones—with more brains as well as brawn to draw on—don't. As a result, they're loaded with gizmos that human engineers are tapping for inspiration. The Namibian beetle, for instance, has tips on the bumpy scales of its wings that pull water from fog, a design that has inspired a fog-harvesting net (it's used in cooling towers, industrial condensers and dry farming regions). The spiral in mollusk shells, which fluids flow through especially smoothly and efficiently, has inspired a rotor that draws up to 85 percent less energy than standard fans and is finding its way into computers and air conditioners. Biologists are cloning mussel proteins to produce an epoxy, mimicking the bivalves' ability to stick to rocks, that is expected to rival any superglue on the market. . . .

“. . . as freshwater mussels have declined (70 percent of their species are threatened or endangered), taking with them their filtration services, water quality in streams, rivers and lakes has deteriorated badly. In the Chesapeake Bay, each adult oyster once filtered 60 gallons of water a day, packaging sediment and pollutants into blobs that fell harmlessly to the bay floor. Before the population crashed in the 1990s, oysters filtered 19 trillion gallons—an entire bay's worth—once a week. The survivors struggle to do that in a year. The result is cloudy, more polluted water, and a loss of fisheries and baymen's livelihoods."

Thank you, Sharon.

And here’s my haiku for this time at bat
based on a recent haiku hotel topic, SCENT:

Silly dung beetle —
he fails to understand
why I love pears.

Please to understand that scent and taste buds are intimately connected in humans. Think about—when one is chewing, what is she smelling?


If a monkey can use pure synaptical power to move an artificial arm, so can men and women, and that ability is also a part of Kurzweils' futuristic view of humankind's robotic future. You know the other day, I was watching TV, and I wanted to know just how unconsciously I can move my arm, so I started extending and retracting my arm in front of me, repetitiously, then I stopped thinking about my arm and resumed my conscious attention to the TV program while my arm kept extending out and back without any conscious command by myself except my noticing that my arm was still moving as if being controlled by a robot rather than myself. I recall saying to myself, "Well, see that arm is moving and I'm certainly no longer telling it to move," and I wasn't either. Now. . . I do acknowledge that I had to give my arm its initial command, yet it did keep working without any conscious attention after that, and I could observe and mentally comment on my arm's behavior without acknowledging the original movement command. What can I make of that. . . okay—so I'm crazy—but other than that, what can I make of the whole exercise in unconscious, robot-like control of an arm movement?

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