Fiddling Fungi

Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 1737) is generally considered the greatest artisan of stringed instruments. His violins – Stradivarius – are particularly legendary. Working wood to one's will so that it produces a superb sound is an almost mystical craft. The choice of wood is crucial. Stradivari's secret was having a friend in fungus.

Click to read more ...


Microbes at War

Microbes participate in various cooperative social behaviors, similar to macroorganisms, though the intimacy of their cooperative endeavors often exceeds those of larger organisms. Symbiosis among different microbial species evolved as a means to optimize the special skills that each species can contribute. Microbes cooperate to better exploit resources, resist stressful environments, protect themselves and their territory against other microbes, and to wage war.

Click to read more ...


From Egg to Croak

All tadpoles turn into frogs, but not all frogs are turned from tadpoles. Half of the 4,800 known frog species start life as eggs laid in water, hatch into aquatic tadpoles, then metamorphize into frogs. The other half do something else. Frog life cycles are incredibly diverse.

Click to read more ...


Insect Wings

Insects are the only invertebrates that evolved flight. Their wings are optimized for durability while remaining lightweight.

Click to read more ...


The Olympics

Competition is an evolutionary artifact for humans, who would be much better off as a species practicing cooperation instead. The Olympics are an epitome of supposedly innocent competition. Those involved, as competitor or spectator, enjoy the rushes of adrenalin and dopamine involved without question. Along with shots of biochemical stimulation come concomitant emotional complexes: of assumption, pride, and suspicion.

Click to read more ...


Credit Due

Capitalism creates exploitation opportunities at every turn. Capitalism has excelled at grinding the great mass of humanity into indentured servitude better than feudalists could have dreamed, all the while placating by dangling the false hope that "you too can strike it rich." On top of that, in less than 200 years since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, capitalists polluted the world at a pace to create the Earth's sixth major extinction event, with zero prospect of reversal. That's progress.

Click to read more ...


The Descent of Scent

"To create a little flower is the labour of ages." ~ British poet William Blake (1757 – 1827). Angiosperms (flowering plants) evolved 140 million years ago. A significant step in plant evolution, angiosperms encompassed the latest innovations: leaves, pollen, flowers and fruit. Angiosperms may have got their edge over simpler seed-bearers by developing drought-resistant features and rapid reproduction. But as Blake pointed out, the labor of the ages had hoary roots.

Click to read more ...


Survival By Theft

Several species of rodent hoard food, typically saving seeds and nuts in multiple buried caches. Sometimes hoarding can have inadvertent benefit, particularly if coupled with unscrupulous wily ways.

Click to read more ...


Foolishly Fooling With Mother Nature

Few of us can afford the luxury of growing our own fruits and vegetables. We must rely upon commercial growers. But consumer desire for delicious is contrary to commercial interest in maximum yield, sustained shelf life, and visual appeal. To meet those goals, commercially-produced produce has become an exercise in tastelessness.

Click to read more ...


The Rigged Boson

The Higgs boson was predicted in 1964 by a group of theoretical physicists, as a way to explain how mass could arise for gauge bosons. The nascent Standard Model predicted them to be massless. But the W & Z bosons were found to be bulky. The Standard Model was wrong. So an awkward mathematical patch was applied: spontaneous symmetry breaking. This necessitated another boson, one that gave the W & Z their mass. Hence the Rigged Boson.

Click to read more ...