There is no such thing as magic »« Why I am an atheist – Fralan

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  1. TV200 says

    Now I have Stephen Fry’s voice going through my head. “He peed on me. Weta by name, Weta by nature.”

  2. Zinc Avenger says

    Hyper-chitin combat chassis test complete.

    Be afraid in case they feel like sharing their exoskeleton technology with cephalopods.

  3. Phillip IV says

    I used to bull’s-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than that.

  4. sebloom says

    I still can’t figure out how to send a message to PZ…but check this out…very cool video about the Big Bang…evolution. Not completely scientific, but you have to allow some “artistic license.”

    BIG BANG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU: an unscientific point of view on the beginning and evolution of life … and how it could probably end.

    http://vimeo.com/13085676

  5. Gorogh says

    I am somewhat annoyed to realize the first expression which came to my mind was “biblical proportions”. Does it sound like war chariots when it’s flying?

  6. onion girl, OM; imaginary lesbian says

    !!!!!!!

    Seriously, that requires a SSNSFMM* warning. I’m trying to find the calm, curious, scientific response, but my ‘bugs bigger than my hand’ response is winning. ;)
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    *Scary Shit Not Safe For Monday Morning

  7. radpumpkin says

    Exterminatus…only way to be sure.

    See, this is why I never got into biology. It’s all nice and cuddly on the surface, but then you’re introduced to giant (presumably) maneating insects. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go spread a ton or so of whatever toxins I can whip up with household chemicals around my apartment…

  8. says

    I read an article where they stated that experts didn’t believe the photographer’s story. At first I was thinking it was because the bug was an obvious shop and was too big – according to the experts.

    Nope!

    The experts weren’t believing the photographer’s story cause that bug is the AVERAGE size of those monsters and they come even bigger than that sometimes.

  9. René says

    MUNCH, MUNCH, MUNCH…

    Sorry, but the ALL CAPS are imperative here.

    BTW, when I stumbled upon this picture this morning, I just knew it had to appear here.

    Fluffy? Not really. I wondered why I cannot have any empathy for insects, fascinating as they may be; and I was indeed fascinated by insects from a very young age. I have no pangs when I happen to kill one. They’re just too darned alien. This attitude of mine was a bit (just a bit) shaken when I learned here that wasps seem to be able to recognize wasps’ faces. It made me wonder, could it be that insects are capable of recognizing human faces?

    Beeholders, please report.

  10. auntbenjy says

    @ Gorogh #16

    I am somewhat annoyed to realize the first expression which came to my mind was “biblical proportions”. Does it sound like war chariots when it’s flying?

    Nope, just some island gigantism going on here. Luckily for you they don’t fly, and thanks to rats they are quite endangered.

  11. thepint says

    If I put it in a little top hat and coat with tails and give it an umbrella, can I name it Jiminy Cricket?

  12. sumdum says

    Biblical proportions are actually quite small. Earth of an age much shorter than it was, their world consisted of a small corner of the middle east and they thought the sky was a veil with pretty lights attached to it while it’s so much bigger.

  13. EvoMonkey says

    One moment, I think it’s the cutest insect that I’ve ever seen. And the next, I think green laser beams are going shoot out of its eyes and then devour the unfortunate person holding the carrot.

  14. Gorogh says

    Luckily for you they don’t fly, and thanks to rats they are quite endangered.

    Phew… well, I guess I’d be among the last to be affected anyway, granted it’s one of the farthest placed on earth from here…

    Who’d have thought rats were responsible in postponing armageddon?

  15. Gorogh says

    @sumdum (27), good point, corroborating my annoyance even further. I wonder if it’s a good endeavor to try to eliminate such expressions from one’s vocabulary…

    … which is, of course, totally unrelated to this awesome picture.

  16. says

    Did a bit of digging around, and this is what I found out:

    1. It’s wingless
    2. It’s large and slow.
    3. It has very few natural predators.
    4. No defensive abilities whatsover (aside from its thick shell).
    5. vulnerable to any new mammals that may be introduced to Cook Strait

    Dear Celestia – the Giant Weta sounds like the dodo bird of the insect. A six-legged woobie. Would I be considered disturbed for wanting to give these critters a big hug?

  17. Nerdette says

    I FREAKING LOVE WETAS. Yes, my joy required all caps.

    When my spouse and I finally get around to taking our honeymoon to New Zealand, my sole motivation will be to find one of these beautiful, beautiful orthoptera.

    And see Hobbiton. But wetas first.

  18. Azuma Hazuki says


    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

    PZ, why? ;-; I’d been planning to flee the US to New Zealand, and now you tell me there are bugs the size of a small cat there! Ohhhh ye gods…*rocking back and forth*

    …they’re at least not poisonous, right? They’re vegetarians, right? Australia has more poisonous animals than the first third of a Phantasy Star III playthrough…

  19. thepint says

    Australia has more poisonous animals than the first third of a Phantasy Star III playthrough…

    You haven’t read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country have you? He has quite a riff on all the different ways nature can kill you in Australia.

  20. Random Mutant says

    Ok, so this is a Giant Weta, but I’ve had her smaller cousins drop into my bed at night. They wake you immediately when they hit the pillow.

    Anyway, I think they’re cute and to be honest, I’m a little surprised by all the revulsion expressed in these comments. They’re fascinating creatures. The Mountain Weta can survive being frozen solid, the ice crystals that form in its body don’t seem to damage its cells. Cave Wetas, although having relatively small bodies have extra-long legs and feelers. And then of course there’s the super mega ginormous Wetas that Peter Jackson put into King Kong!

  21. David Marjanović says

    Nope, just some island gigantism going on here.

    More precisely, New Zealand hasn’t had any mammals for quite some time, except for bats. So, instead of mice, New Zealand has…

    *crickets*

    *crickets*

    …crickets. Crickets the size of mice.

    Less disturbing and cuter than I’d have thought. *hugs for onion girl*

  22. Lofty says

    Hint to people freaked out by large crunchy beastie: That’s a hand trustingly holding it up! That weta needs our love and care to survive. Just because you’re large doesn’t mean you’re fierce.
    BTW I saw this picture on an Australian forum last week, what’s the maths of a picture going viral on the www? Just curious.
    Oh and Bill Bryson only saw what he wanted to. Millions of Australians wander about in inadequate footwear and don’t die every year. Bill writes funny books that sell and may have some passing resemblance to the places he visits. I did enjoy his book on Shakespeare recently.

  23. thepint says

    I think that’s the point about Bryson’s writing – his “OMG the myriad of ways nature in X place can kill me” is part of his bumbling middle aged suburban man schtick – it’s amusing, but also extremely informative, especially since a lot of people reading probably have little idea as to the biological diversity that thrives in Australia and can relate to that particular “voice” in his writing. He did the same thing in Walk in the Woods writing about the number of ways nature can kill you hiking the Appalachian Mountain Trail, and to a lesser extent in his History of Domestic Life. It’s not meant to be discouraging or freak people out from ever going, really. If anything, reading his books made me want to travel to Australia and hike the trail even more because all of that sounded so interesting. Except for the jellyfish part – I’ve been stung once in my life and would prefer not to repeat that again, EVER.

  24. says

    Well, to be fair, we Aussies do like to alarm the tourists. The spiders can be managed with a little common sense, but the drop bears are a serious danger.

    (Super-secret tip to Pharyngula – don’t tell anyone: we don’t actually all die of spider and snake and shark and drop bear and octopus and jellyfish and yowie and kiwi bites. Boring old heart disease and cancer are the big killers.)

  25. atheistpolitic says

    What the FUCK is that? And what is that thing it’s balancing on? (runs and finds a broom/baseball bat/flame thrower/high caliber firearm).

    But seriously: I’m not generally afraid of creepy things, but if I ever found one of these in my room, I’d probably reach for the nearest weapon and promptly make my best attempt at killing it, harming an ecosystem be damned!

  26. atheistpolitic says

    Alethea: Box jellyfish, most dangerous jellyfish in the world, commonly found in/near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

    My middle school years were spent nose deep in any book/resource I could find concerning extremely lethal animals and epidemic variety pathogens.

    Three years of my life were spent trying to figure out ways to make my teachers let me do school projects on bubonic plague/the Black Death.

  27. madscientist says

    @atheistpolitic#46: That’s a small one; there are specimens of some species about a foot long. You can see quite a few (dead) varieties in a museum in Auckland.

  28. fossilfishy says

    Re: Australian fauna. I’m a Canadian ex-pat living in rural Australia. For the first couple of years I was absolutely terrified of all the poisonous critters here. Then last year we had a tiger snake who took up residence under our house. This prompted me to do some research and I found that despite the locals’ contention that tigers are aggressive, they, and all Aussie snakes, are in fact quite timid. They want to be left alone and if you do so they’ll leave you alone. Mind you, under the house was a little too close so we encouraged it to leave.

    The two herpetologist websites that I found both said there were three rules for avoiding fatal snake bite:

    1) Leave them alone.
    2) Don’t be drunk.
    3) Don’t be male.

    I suspect that rules 2 and 3 often lead to the breaking of rule 1. ;)

  29. Olav says

    René (23) says:

    Fluffy? Not really. I wondered why I cannot have any empathy for insects, fascinating as they may be; and I was indeed fascinated by insects from a very young age. I have no pangs when I happen to kill one. They’re just too darned alien. This attitude of mine was a bit (just a bit) shaken when I learned here that wasps seem to be able to recognize wasps’ faces. It made me wonder, could it be that insects are capable of recognizing human faces?

    Beeholders, please report.

    I am not a beekeeper but I have had some interaction with them. And with their bees too, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Bees are fun. I do plan to keep bees when I retire, and I have studied the subject (of keeping bees) a little bit. Nothing too scientific, I’m afraid.

    To answer your question partially, some beekeepers actually do believe their bees recognise them (by scent, if not by features). My opinion is that those beekeepers indulge in a bit of wishful thinking. I don’t blame them however, because we really can’t rule it out yet either. After all, bees are capable of some amazing things. Insects are often portrayed as just mindless little living robots, but I have become convinced that there is a little more to them than that.

    For example, I do not doubt that when bees attack, they are genuinely angry. And that when they take care of each other in the hive, there is an aspect of love to it. Even if it is just regulated by pheromones. In short, I believe bees are capable of (very simple, basic) emotions and they deserve some empathy because of it.

    I am not too sentimental about bees, I hope, but I certainly hate to see them mistreated.

    Can’t say the same for mosquitos.

  30. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Super-secret tip to Pharyngula – don’t tell anyone: we don’t actually all die of spider and snake and shark and drop bear and octopus and jellyfish and yowie and kiwi bites.

    Doesn’t eating vegemite kill you first?

  31. says

    atheistpolitic, I’m perfectly aware of the box jellyfish. Like crocodiles, they actually kill very few people. Mostly stupid ones who don’t bother to pay any attention to the warnings. (I’m tempted to waste a bit of time looking it up in the mortality tables. I wonder what the ICD-10-AM code is for jellyfish sting… ah, X26.0n it seems… and platypus is X27.0… wow, don’t go looking this up if you’re paranoid.)

  32. says

    Well, to be fair, we Aussies do like to alarm the tourists. The spiders can be managed with a little common sense, but the drop bears are a serious danger.

    It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. Though, there are curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all. Even the spiders won’t go near the sea.

    Australia: The Confusing Country

  33. mtcf says

    Wetas – the reason why you always turn shoes, boots, gumboots upside down and give them a good shape thump before putting your foot in….

  34. ChasCPeterson says

    Well, you know. We can’t relate to insects because they’re backwards, upside-down, and inside-out compared to us.
    backwards: they’re protostomes; the first opening to form in the gastrulating embryo becomes the mouth. We’re deuterostomes. Anus first, mouth later.
    upside-down: They have ventral nerve cords and a dosal heart; we have a dorsal nerve cord and a ventral heart.
    inside-out: exoskeleton vs. endoskeleton. Not just ‘support’ but also what the muscles pull on.
    Damn right they seem weird.

  35. starlene says

    From a native New Zealander:
    Yes, we have some big insects called wetas. They are not common. I have never seen one that wasn’t behind glass. It is true that they survive freezing. We also have giant snails. Again, rare. And very un-scary.
    We have no native mammals other than bats and later-introduced rats, and the big scary birds we had are extinct. You might see a plump, possibly intoxicated, native pigeon, though.
    It is a pretty un-scary country.

  36. David Marjanović says

    That’s a small one; there are specimens of some species about a foot long.

    :-o

    Seriously?

    Is there actually any metazoan that’s dangerous in New Zealand?

    Very angry weka, I suppose. They’re flightless rails that eat rats.

    the big scary birds we had

    …oh… yeah. There was a giant, fast-flying eagle that probably killed people on occasion till the people exterminated all its normal prey.

  37. David Marjanović says

    Concerning Australia… forget the metazoans. There are nettles there, and unlike the northern-hemisphere ones they mean business.

    “The Giant Queensland Stinging Tree: it won’t kill you, but you’ll wish it had.” – Brian Choo

  38. Epinephrine says

    starlene @64

    [New Zealand] is a pretty un-scary country.

    Meat eating parrots are pretty unique. Not exactly scary, but really cool.

  39. auntbenjy says

    @ David Marjanović #66

    Concerning Australia… forget the metazoans. There are nettles there, and unlike the northern-hemisphere ones they mean business.

    “The Giant Queensland Stinging Tree: it won’t kill you, but you’ll wish it had.” – Brian Choo

    We have a tree nettle here too. I can kill people, but I’ve only seen it once.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urtica_ferox

    The Katipo spider (same genus as the black widow) can make you sick, but you have to be abusing it pretty badly to make it bite you, and it only lives in sand-dune tussock. There are a few colonies of Aussie redbacks around the country now.

    Most tourists who are injured here, get hurt from bungy jumping, or under-estimating the mountain weather conditions.