Live Free Or Die, Octopus Style

They’re letting my Uncle Sid out of the slammer! (photo of Sid at the link… copies prohibited.)

Sid’s great escape from the Portobello Aquarium is about to become permanent.
“We are still trying to catch a new octopus to replace Sid, who will then be set free.”

Bummer for the new guy, of course, but good news for Uncle Sid!

…of course, as PZ points out, Sid has a short life expectancy, so it was probably time to go looking for a replacement anyway, before some little visitor to the aquarium asks why Sid has turned gray and started floating upside-down… So it turns out that freedom’s just another word for no much time to live.

Hey, that’s catchy…

Busted flat in Portobello, hiding in a drain
He was feeling just as trapped as he could be
Sid escaped from his little tank and tried to make it plain
He’d rather spend his last days in the sea

Five days later, Sid was seen… heading for the door
He didn’t make it, but you know, at least he tried
He saw an open doorway and he knew what it was for
He knew it had to lead to the other side

Freedom’s just another word for not much time to live
But better than the drainpipe where he hid
They couldn’t make him happy, so they gave what they could give
And it’s good enough to do what they just did
Good enough for me, and my octopus, Sid.

From the warm New Zealand ocean, to the Portobello tank
Hey, Sid, he was an underwater star
But even if they fed him, he couldn’t give them thanks
It ain’t free food, if jail is where you are.

And now that Sid is growing old, and soon is going to die
(They don’t live very long, like you or me)
His keepers soon will let him go, and he won’t ask them why—
If you’re gonna die, you might as well die free.

Freedom’s just another word for not much time to live
But better than the drainpipe where he hid
They couldn’t make him happy, so they gave what they could give
And it’s good enough to do what they just did
Good enough for me, and my octopus, Sid.

(la la la la…)

Love and “Chemical Cocktails”

In today’s BBC News, we have a story by someone who obviously is not a reader of The Digital Cuttlefish. Specifically, the story asks the question “Is love just a chemical cocktail?

It is said that love is a drug. But is it just a drug?

That is the contention of Larry Young, a professor of neuroscience at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Writing in the respected scientific journal Nature, Professor Young argues that love can be explained by a series of neurochemical events that are happening in specific brain areas.

In truth, Dr. Young does give lip service to the role of evolution, although he really appears to be more satisfied with his proximate causation–specifically, oxytocin.

I’ve seen this before, at a conference. Very cool, of course, and very incomplete. And again, to give him his due, Dr. Young does not disagree.

He believes there are other chemicals involved in strengthening that bond – it is just a matter of doing the research and finding out which ones they are.

“I’m sure that we are just beginning to tap the surface,” he said.

“There are hundreds of signalling molecules in the brain – they all act in different brain areas.

“I think one day we will have a much better understanding of how all these chemicals interact and act in specific brain areas that have specific function that give rise to these complex emotions.”

Mind you, I am utterly convinced that he can find every single chemical involved and still have an incomplete explanation. A complete proximal explanation is no ultimate explanation at all.

And then…

Having put poets firmly in their place, Professor Young will have to take on the arguments of scientific colleagues who might take issue with his view that love is all down to chemicals.

Them’s fightin’ words.

You’ve seen the Evolutionary Biology Valentine’s Day Poem, I am sure. (IF not, go read it. Now. Before you continue.)

These verses are just for the BBC story…

The latest suspect, oxytocin,
Floods the brain when we draw close (in
Some perfumes they’ll add a dose, in
Hopes of that reaction)
The chemical increases trust,
So hopes are that it may, or must
Produce a love that’s more than lust
Or “animal attraction”

But oxytocin, too, controls
The bonding seen in prairie voles
Which act as if they pledge their souls
To one and only one;
Their cousins, though, the rats and mice
Behave as if they don’t think twice
And if some nearby rodent’s nice
They’ll surely have some fun

The differences twixt vole and mouse—
Why one’s a catch and one’s a louse—
If chemistry you would espouse
As why, I disagree—
The chemistry’s not why, but how
One rodent keeps its marriage vow
And one seeks out new fields to plow
Not why at all, you see.

(These would go between verses 2 and 3 of the original.)

Gotta run! Buy my book, link my site (to “cuttlefish”–see the comments to my previous post), be well, yadda yadda yadda…


Page One?

I had, long ago, noted that when one googles “cuttlefish”, among the top returns is the creationist apologetics site “answers in genitals” (or something close to that, anyway). This loathsome bit of tripe is on the very first page, while at the time of my original writing, I think yours truly was on page 6, if that.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that “The Digital Cuttlefish” had managed to claw… er, jet… its way to the bottom of page one! Very nice indeed, even if still below AIG. Thought I, “probably not that easy to just… move up a google page so quickly.”

Then came XKCD.

One cuttlefish comic, and XKCD is the third cuttlefish link (not counting image results), and your humble correspondent is back on page two.

Now, I have no problems with XKCD being way up there. What I have a problem with is Answers In Genitals being on page one still! And now, I know that there is a way (at least in theory) of getting a site bumped up in a relatively short time. Mind you, I don’t know what that way is, other than to be XKCD, but perhaps one or more of you do know. Do I ask PZ to ask his hordes to pharyngulink The Digital Cuttlefish? Do I offer a fatted calf to the people at Google? Do I start drawing stick-figure comics on romance, sarcasm, math, and language?

I really, really, really don’t like the idea of someone looking for information on cuttlefish, and coming up with the “fact” that they were intelligently designed to be a delicious “seafood delicacy”. Despite, apparently, not being kosher. There are many sites (not just mine) that are much better answers for google to return (I am happy to see that the NOVA program and TONMO are both ahead of AIG).

Anyway, a reposting of my first reaction to AIG’s silly creationism…

Similarity shows that a common designer
With similar blueprints and parts
Constructed the human and cuttlefish forms—
I swear by all three of your hearts.

The God who created the heavens and earth
And killed dinosaurs off in The Flood
Used the same old ideas again and again
You can tell by your copper-green blood.

But the clearest, most obvious clue to His Touch
Is the similar form to our eye
(They are really quite different, in various ways,
But if you won’t tell, neither will I).

Color-blind cuttlefish never see red
But they can see polarized light;
This common designer gets different effects
Out of human and cuttlefish sight.

Anatomically, too, these are two different eyes
They have retinas frontward-to-back,
And cuttlefish reshape the whole of their eye
Because shapeable lenses they lack.

The shape of the pupil allows them to see
To the front and the rear all at once
So similar, clearly, to what we can do—
If you dare disagree, you’re a dunce!

When Answers in Genesis says it’s design
And not just a matter of fitness
I know they’re not fibbing—right there, number nine—
Thou shalt not bear false witness.

I only have one little, lingering doubt
Though I really, I promise, am trying—
If it’s perfectly clear they see common design
It’s even more clear that they’re lying.

The Open Laboratory, 2008

I figure, out of all my readers there are maybe 3 who have not heard about this yet–the selections have been made for The Open Laboratory 2008, and I am quite honored to have one of my verses (and it’s one of my favorites!) make the cut (for the second year!).

I’d tell you to go read all of the entries now (and it would be good advice–excellent writing, all of it!), but instead I will recommend that you wait until it comes out in book form. Much more convenient, and you have the added benefit of looking hip, cool, intelligent and 86% more physically attractive when you are seen with that book in your hand (increased benefits are derived from actually reading it).

Sadly, you will have to wait a couple of weeks for the book to actually be printed, so in the meantime, you can realize many of the same benefits by ordering your very own copy of “The Digital Cuttlefish, Vol. 1”, which does include the verse that was chosen for inclusion in The Open Laboratory 2008. And, come to think of it, the verse that was chosen for The Open Laboratory, 2007. Oddly enough, both are science-oriented love poems. Perhaps a disclaimer is in order: If you are coming to this site only because you have seen the Open Lab posts, and think that all I write is scientific love poems… have a look around!

Now, how to order The Digital Cuttlefish, Vol. 1… there must be a button around here somewhere…

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Ah, there it is!

Lastly, for those who cherish the notion of going out and reading all those posts in their natural habitat, rather than having them delivered to your doorstep, I close with the list of selected posts (no, not the links, remember I want you to buy the book…but the links are available by clicking the Open Lab link in my first paragraph above)…

Adventures in Ethics and Science: Research with vulnerable populations: considering the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (part 1).

All My Faults are Stress-Related: Data, Interpretations and Field Work

Bad Astronomy: WR 104: A nearby gamma-ray burst?

Bayblab: A History of Beardism and the Science that Backs It

Cabinet of Wonders: A Rule of Thumb

Catalogue of Organisms: Are You Sucking on a Lemon or a Lime?

Charles Darwin’s Blog: Someone should invent a device to look at the micro world

Cognitive Daily: How to make your eye feel like it’s closed, when it’s actually open

Cosmic Variance: The First Quantum Cosmologist

Dear Blue Lobster: Bloop: A Crustacean Phenomenon?

Denialism blog: Fountain pens

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde: Why I blog….

Effect Measure: Important new flu paper in Cell: part I

Green Gabbro: The Igneous Petrology of Ice Cream

Hope for Pandora: Dear Reviewer

The Beagle Project Blog: Detecting natural selection: a pika’s tale

Laelaps: Who scribbled all over Darwin’s work?

Life, Birds, and Everything: Do we see what bees see?

Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted): Audubon’s Aviary: Portraits of Endangered Species

Mad Scientist, Jr.: Brain Extractions

Marmorkrebs: How Marmorkrebs can make the world a better place

Michael Nielsen’s Blog: The Future of Science

Mind the Gap: In which science becomes a sport – hypothetically speaking

Minor Revisions: To Whom it May Concern

Nano2Hybrids: What IS a carbon nanotube?

Neurotic Physiology: Uber Coca, by Sigmund Freud, (reposted on Neurotopia 2.0: Uber Coca, by Sigmund Freud)

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Space Invader DNA jumped across mammalian genomes

Nothing’s Shocking: Poster session paparazzi

Observations of a Nerd: Having Some Fun With Evolution

Plus magazine – news from the world of maths: United Kingdom – Nil Points

Podblack Blog: Smart Bitches, Not Meerly Sex

Pondering Pikaia: Social Clocks: How do cave bats know when it is dark outside?

Providentia: Dr. Fliess’ Patient

Quintessence of Dust: Finches, bah! What about Darwin’s tomatoes?

Reciprocal Space: I get my kicks from thermodynamicks!

Rubor Dolor Calor Tumor: Calor?

Science After Sunclipse: Physics Makes a Toy of the Brain

Sciencewomen: A reckless proposal, or ‘Scientists are people too, and it’s time we started treating them that way.’

Terra Sigilatta: Liveblogging the Vasectomy Chronicles

The End Of The Pier Show: On The Hardness of Biology

The Loom: Even Blood Flukes Get Divorced

The OpenHelix Blog: The Beginnings of Immunofluorescence

The Oyster’s Garter: How a coccolithophore without its plates is like a grin without a cat

The Scientist: On the Nature of Networking

The Tree of Life: What is so bad about brain doping? Apparently, NIH thinks something is.

Tom Paine’s Ghost: Biochemistry of Halloween: Installment 1

Tomorrow’s Table: 10 Things about GE crops to Scratch From Your Worry List

Uncertain Principles: We Are Science

Wired Science Blog: Correlations: The Third Branch of Science?

A canna’ change the laws of physics: Expect The Unexpected

xkcd: Purity

Digital Cuttlefish: The Evolutionary Biology Valentine’s Day Poem

The Worms Go In

PZ reports on an email he received recently… which you can read all about for yourself if you like–it’s not really my topic today. Just one tiny comment she made struck me, and made me feel sorry for her. “… I reckon I’d be a pretty miserable, angry person with a chip on my shoulder if I also believed that I was no more than worm meat at the end of the day.” Poor woman.

When we are dead, we’ll feed the worms
And other stuff that writhes and squirms
And if you cannot come to terms
With that—well, use your head!
There are no ifs nor ands nor buts:
Bacteria within our guts
Will start to eat us; that is what’s
In store, once we are dead.

Yes, life is short and full of toil,
And when we’ve shuffled off this coil
Our carcasses will start to spoil—
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Our share of fish or pigs or cows,
And all the chicken time allows,
Is done. It’s only fair that now’s
The worms’ turn to get fat.

Should we die young, or old and gray,
The laws of nature we’ll obey
And spend our heat in mere decay,
Replenishing the Earth;
“Three score and twelve” may be our years
For love and laughter, hope and fears
And then—mere smoke—life disappears;
No heaven, no rebirth.

And with no heaven up above
Nor hell we ought be frightened of
It’s best we fill our lives with love,
With learning, and with fun!
Don’t waste a lifetime while you wait
For halo, wings, and pearly gate—
This is your life, so get it straight:
You only get the one!

I’ll have no moment lost to prayer,
To cleanse my soul and thus prepare
For passage to… THERE’S NOTHING THERE!
Those moments, all, are wasted!
I’m only here a little time
Before it’s bugs and worms and slime;
I’ll eat and drink my life so I’m
Delicious when I’m tasted!

Ruloff Shows He Really Does Understand Hitler

An in-depth interview in the Vancouver Sun shows just what an unapologetic liar and propagandist the producer of Expelled is. His research on the methods of the Nazis brings to mind a Greek saying a friend of mine once told me: “I’m listening to your words, but I’m watching your feet”. Walt Ruloff’s words, as represented by the steaming pile “Expelled”, show a misunderstanding of Hitler and his machinations. Ruloff’s feet, on the other hand, show he has learned the dance well. He claims to be a Christian, but I have serious doubts that he believes in punishment for bearing false witness.

“The Darwinists have built a ‘Berlin Wall’
Dividing evolution from creation
They then insist their godless view is all
That can be taught in schools across the nation;”

“The First Amendment builds that wall, but that
Would never get the viewers into seats—
The truth? The simple truth would be too flat;
We need a lie that everyone repeats.”

“And who to mouth our lies? We need a man
Who’d sell his soul when others would decline;
A Black who’d advertise the Ku Klux Klan,
Or Jew who’d—hey, I know—How ‘bout Ben Stein!”

Seems Ruloff learned his propoganda well
This Christian man… who’s surely bound for hell.

Cuttlecap tip: Pharyngula

Olympia, mostly.

You might think me a bit frightened, seeing this menu–looking at it now, I just want to be back there. (This pic is from Nafplion–all others are from Olympia.)

The helmet of Miltiades. At the Olympia museum. I remember reading, last year, how the flames of the wildfires were surrounding this museum; seeing the charred stumps this past summer, I was, and remain, humbled by the dedication of the museum staff. These truly are priceless artifacts, and yet lives were in danger. Miltiades is known centuries after his death, but the people who saved the museum? Anonymous… at least to the vast majority of the world, including visitors to the museum.

The frieze from the Temple of Zeus… a stunning bit of work, and a grand example of the severe style. Note the serene, almost blank look on the face of the Lapith woman…

… while the faces of the Centaurs…

… are contorted with effort and pain. A sculptural morality lesson; the higher motives of mankind (rationality, logic, etc.) will always win over the bestial animal nature.

Beyond this arch is the … erm… THE … Stadium at Olympia. The original Olympic Stadium. Where the Olympic Games were originally held. Yes, I ran there. No, you don’t get to see that photo.

Also at Olympia. Without words.

I have hundreds more pictures, of course. Thousands, really. Seriously. The temple of Zeus at Olympia was one of the wonders of the ancient world, and very deservedly so. Today, of course, the magnificent columns are strewn like so much cordwood, the result of an earthquake. Even what you see here is not “what remains” so much as “what has been restored.” The gods have all died, and left the rocks to fend for themselves. Anonymous museum attendants save their memories from random wildfires.

No, no verse with these pictures. Nothing I could write would do justice.

The Digital Pack-Rat, vol. 9

All the xmas verses that got away–starting with a response to a youtube clip of ignorant buffoons pontificating on how the true meaning of christmas was being destroyed by having other belief systems … basically, do what christianity had done in its turn.

I do not think highly of Mr. O’Reilly
(That’s fine–he can do that himself)

And Gretchen’s kvetchin’ just pure leaves me retchin’

My guts out, the bleached little elf.

They do love the season, but don’t know the reason

Their holiday comes in December

It was stolen from Norse, and from Romans, of course,

But these “journalists” must not remember.

These pinheads demand, but the Puritans banned

The observance of Christmas, you know:

True Christians could see that a creche or a tree

Was improper, and really should go!

So Gretchen and Billo, go purchase some brillo

And use it to polish your brains

So that maybe next year we can live without fear

Of your ignorant, selfish refrains.

As part of that continuing saga, you may recall, the (horrible, deplorable, sacrilegious, whatever) sign that the atheists put up beside the creche… was stolen! And yes, I stole the melody.

They came upon a midnight clear
Unto the Olympia Square
The night disguised them while they took
The sign the godless put there:
“It is our wish this Solstice time
That reason should prevail”
With hardened hearts and minds enslaved
The thieves may land in jail.

Still, tis the season to forgive;
To turn the other cheek.
Let’s hope they’ve learned their lesson if
It’s wisdom that they seek:
“Be kind unto your fellow man;
Treat them as you’d have them treat you”
There’s room for you in the public square
But only if others fit, too.

The right to different views is where
The strength of our nation abides
The First Amendment makes it clear
The government cannot take sides;
The tyranny of majority
May change with the whim of the day
And someday you may need it too–
Don’t throw your rights away.

My last (I hope) comment on this particular silly nonsense. This year, at least:

The traditional creche, to my thinking, is fine;
I won’t mess with theirs if they don’t mess with mine.
Not even the one at my town’s public square
So long as my own has an equal place there.
If you want the display to be yours, and yours only,
Then keep it at home; hope you like being lonely.
Or join with the rest of us–come and have fun,
If you want a real party… invite every one!

Another in the long line of back-and-forth regarding the Cinci Zoo and FantasyGodLand or whatever it was called…

I’m looking for some funding; gonna open up a zoo
With cages of creationists, all blithely flinging poo
They’re much more fun than pandas–much more active in their cages
With a longer line on Sundays, when they all sing “Rock of Ages”
The children love to point and laugh–they say “Hey look! They’re praying!”
And when they talk, you almost feel they know what they are saying
But clearly it’s just gibberish, not language like a man’s;
(It shows itself–in transcripts, it comes out in comic sans!)

And lastly (this time, anyway), a response to an editorial. This year is Darwin Year, but sadly, it seems that some of those who will speak at Darwin Year events are (gasp!) atheists! Why can’t those militant atheists be more like, say, Darwin himself, and act like the second-class citizens they are? Won’t somebody think of the children!

I thought I saw an atheist, who dared to speak aloud,
Who did not meekly bow his head–oh, no, this man was proud!
Who, rather than–like Darwin–hold his tongue and keep his place,
Demanded equal membership among the human race!

I thought I saw an atheist–a scientist, as well–
Who dared to mention Darwin in the stories he would tell!
Whose glib association with the noble Darwin name
Would tar it with comparison to atheistic shame!

I thought I saw an atheist who read what Darwin wrote,
Who did not have agenda or religion to promote,
Who, on this anniversary, will stand in line to thank
A man who saw a view of life inside a tangled bank.

Happy New Year!

Thank you all, all of you, for 2008. I could not have envisioned a better year if I had been able to plan it all out for myself in advance.

I have tried putting a year-end thank-you to verse, but it was all just too trite and nasty, not representative of the deep gratitude I feel toward so many of you. So, consider yourselves the ones who left Cuttlefish speechless. And instead, I’ll just post a few pictures for you. None are remarkable for any reason other than that I took them. I was there. Finally. And some of you reading know that I could not have done that without you. So… completely inadequately… thank you.

So very much.

And have a great 2009!

I just realized that an unusually substantial number of my memorable moments of 2008 occurred in Hotels. Not that unusual, given the amount of time spent living in them this year, but still… so if you are one of the people who crossed paths with me in a Hotel, consider yourself doubly thanked. New York, Chicago, Sofia, Bourgas, Thessaloniki, Delphi, and especially Athens. And I am sure I am forgetting some. I love you all.

(click pics to moderately embiggen)

Chicago (not my favorite view, but the best I have a pic of):

A close-up of a Greek vase…

My favorite statue:

I love this shot–a column from the Athens agora:

The back view of the Parthenon. No photo will ever do it justice.

A simple pot… but it was the casket for an infant. I can’t imagine being the parent… or the person who found it.

The size of these columns simply does not come across in photos.

The changing of the guards in Athens. A beautiful ceremony–of course, in the past few weeks there have been protests here.

The theatre at Epidaurus. Acoustically perfect; I could hear every word spoken from where I took this pic. Standing where the speaker is standing, it sounds like you are in your own bathtub. You hear yourself perfectly. An amazing place.

Nafplion. I can’t do it justice, so I will just post one image. The water is bluer, the mountain is higher, the everything is everythinger…

I think I’ll cut this short here–I took (literally) thousands of photos, but I suspect evil spirits will prohibit me from posting all of them on this post. More later… or perhaps sooner, one never knows. These shots are reduced in quality, but some of them (I don’t think any of this post’s) I use as desktop images in their higher resolutions. Anyone who wants anything here in hi-rez, just ask.

The Year In Cities

I am not one to often do memes
(It’s just so hard to rhyme them, it seems)
But this one I’ll try
Cos the year that’s gone by
Has been better than even my dreams!

So, Chad Orzel at Uncertain Principles (love that dog!) propogates a meme: list the places where you spent at least one night in 2008 (other than home). Any other year, I would be too depressed at how short a list it was, to actually post it. This year?



Veliko Turnovo

New York City
Canastota, NY

Yeah, next year is gonna suck, but I have my memories… So, where did you go this year?