I will have a personal teleportation device very, very soon.

The first object has been teleported by Chinese researchers from the Gobi desert to an orbiting satellite 500 kilometers above the Earth. The teleported object was a “photon”—which, from what I understand about particle physics (nothing), is not the same thing as a “live human being.” But obviously that technical detail only presents a minor obstacle, one that will undoubtedly be overcome in short order.

The way teleportation works is this: quantum entanglement something something replicating information in space blah blah blah WHATEVER. The important thing to note here is that I have already developed not one but two Sooper Seekrit lists: one of all the places to which I will soon be teleporting myself, and another of all the people I will soon be teleporting to satellites orbiting the Earth.

Needless to say, the squirrels will be joining them.

I want one.

Very exciting!

After the last of its kind died out about 12,000 years ago, a strange animal that stumped Charles Darwin is finally being added to the tree of life, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications.

Macrauchenia patachonica lived during the last ice age. It resembled a bulky camel without a hump, with a long neck like that of a llama and a short trunk for a nose.

Sounds freaking awesome. [Read more…]

Multicellularity, male privilege and also I need $10 million.

I watched the vid of my colleagues here at FtB, Matt Herron of Fierce Roller and PZ Myers of Tentacly Overlord infamy, discussing some very cool science-y stuff about the evolution of multicellularity. One of the most interesting takeaways for me is that it had long been thought that evolving multicellularity would be an exceedingly rare and difficult jump to make. But it has been discovered, only in the last five to ten years, that this is actually relatively easy and common:

Matt (@3:51): I think there’s been sort of a natural assumption that it has to be difficult. And maybe it is difficult to evolve a complex multicellular organism, with lots and lots of cell types and tissues and maybe even organs, because that hasn’t happened very many times. But Rick Grossberg has a paper where he argues basically what we’ve found, which is that at least the initial steps towards a multicellular lifestyle really aren’t that difficult. It’s happened lots of times that we know of, at least a couple of dozen times, and probably more because in a lot of cases these things don’t leave any fossil record. It is surprising, compared to what people thought five or ten years ago, that multicellularity evolves so easily, but now we’ve seen it in several of these experiments. And in a lot of cases it happens within just a few hundred generations.

OMG cool, right?

Then they touch on the intersection of philosophy and biology, and specifically the question of what exactly constitutes an individual organism, as opposed to, say, a colony of creatures that appear to function as one. I don’t know about you, but this kind of stuff really gets my beanie spinning. I am reminded of my unfortunate encounter with a species known as Physalia physalis, a.k.a. the “floating terror,” a.k.a. the Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war, which I would henceforth (and forevermore) refer to as a “sea squirrel.” Despite its similarity in appearance to the common jellyfish—an individual multicellular organism that will also sting the everloving shit out of you if given a chance—it turns out that the Sea Squirrel™ is actually something very different:

[T]he Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which, unlike jellyfish, is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of specialized individual animals called zooids or polyps. These polyps are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are unable to survive independently, and therefore have to work together and function like a so-called individual animal.

Mind: blown.

These weird little fuckers are carnivorous, wielding their wickedly venomous tentacles to paralyze prey (e.g. small fish), and to inflict upon barefoot beachwalkers excruciating pain even after they are long dead (the sea squirrels, not the beachwalkers).

Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention an interesting cephalopod angle here. Blanket octopuses are immune to sea squirrel venom, which is an amazing enough trick to evolve. But these cephalopods go waaaaaay beyond that: they rip the venomous tentacles right off of those critters (hopefully while mocking them mercilessly), and then they carry the tentacles around with them to wield as weapons for defensive (and possibly offensive) purposes. Now that is some serious next level shit, blanket octopuses! I mean, can you just picture that? Because I sure can!

Octopus Wielding Sea Squirrel™ Tentacles Against Douchefish.
©Iris Vander Pluym
8′ x 11′
(oil on canvas)
$10,000,000.00

But! I digress. As beanie-spinning as all of this clearly is (as evidenced by the foregoing blather), it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post.

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BREAKING: Flying squirrels now training as weaponized drones.

An astute commenter intelligence operative has brought to our attention a terrifying new development in the enemy weapons program: the squirrels are now training as weaponized drones. Highly advanced weaponized drones, as a matter of fact, utilizing flight technology waaaay beyond our current reach. What else to make of these shocking photos and recent findings by scientific researchers?

flyingsquirrel

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Just what we need right now.

So, a quick recap of where we are: The next presidential administration and the Republicans in congress and state governments across the nation are comprised of despicable human beings who deserve nothing but scorn, mockery and exile from the company of decent people everywhere. Instead, they have been handed unprecedented power, and fully intend to use it to gleefully unleash wanton destruction on the country, the planet, and the lives of millions, perhaps billions, of people, as well as unfathomable numbers of other species. That about sum it up? Mkay.

If you’re like me, for the past week you’ve probably been asking yourself “What could possibly be worse?” Well guess what. Our true enemies have a little something extra in store for us, a rancid, oozing cherry, if you will, to plunk down right on top of this colossal shit sundae we’re eating. I refer, of course, to the fucking squirrels.

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Waiting for our wits to grow sharper? Could be a looong time.

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts, unattributed internet sources (via Freedom From Religion Foundation).

Looks like the universe is going to have to wait one hell of a long time.

The Cognitive Bias Codex, 2016 is a collaboration between Buster Benson, who recategorized Wikipedia’s list of cognitive biases, and John Manoogian III, who transformed Benson’s work into this stunning image:

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GUEST POST: All Olympians Are Great Athletes; A Few, However, Are Not Yet Good Role Models for Rational Decision-Making.

This is a post by my improbable dear friend Don Ardell. I say improbable because Don is, among other things, a seventy-something year old world champion triathlete and duathlete, while I on the other hand can barely drag my ass to the gym a few measly times a week, muttering and groaning and complaining bitterly before, during and after every single fucking workout. He is also a pioneer in wellness (no, not the fun kind at the day spa—the REAL deal) and author/co-author of several books on the subject, the latest of which (with Grant Donovan) is Wellness Orgasms: The Fun Way to Live Well and Die Healthy.

wellnessorgasms

Don also has a fantastic sense of humor: one day he asked me to be on the advisory board of his newsletter publication, the Ardell Wellness Report. Hahaha! I almost choked on my chocolate marshmallow vodka breakfast smoothie! But then I remembered a deeply moving and powerful quote by the author Carroll Bryant: “Everyone in life has a purpose, even if it’s to serve as a bad example.” And so I told Don I would be honored and happy to serve.

As long as I could do it from a superluxe day spa that offers full bar service to the massage rooms. OBVIOUSLY.

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Jerry Coyne at BHA 2016—Part 3: Yes and hahaha no.

UPDATE: WordPress apparently black holed a few of sentences re: Purvi Patel (and some formatting tags). I fixed it—I think.

(Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.)

[CONTENT NOTE: While this post contains no graphic descriptions or images of violence, it does mention: rape, sexual assault and violent abuse, including against children; mental illness including suicidal ideation; hostility to consent, bodily autonomy and agency; sex- and gender-based discrimination.]

To briefly recap: While atheist Big Willie Jerry Coyne is notoriously prone to poo flinging, he also said some very interesting things in his Darwin Day lecture at the British Humanist Association (and elsewhere). I transcribed a few sections of his talk because I’d like to have a handy link to it to help shut down the font of incoherent nonsense that is conservative movement atheism. I also thought some readers here just might (a) find some of this talk as worthwhile as I do (see Part 1), and/or (b) enjoy my documenting Coyne’s insulting, dismissive, nearly comical obliviousness to his privilege (Part 2).

Part 3 focuses on a section of the Q&A wherein Coyne manages both to say some more really cool stuff, and then go into full mansplain-to-the-feminists mode and pull a classic Dear Muslima.

CAUTION:
POO FLINGING AHEAD.

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