Student Post: Oh the badger’s life is the life for me.

A friend of mine has a badger preoccupation. It was his expertise I consulted for last week’s blurb on badger culling. Between speaking with him and trying to plan a mad dash to Madison for its famous Halloween party, I’ve had badgers on the brain all week, so for this week’s post, I decided to couple “badger” and “neurobiology” in a literature search.

I found a delightful 2001 article on “Daily Activity Budgets of the Taiwan Ferret Badger (Melogale moschata subaurantiaca) in Captivity” by Kurtis Jai-Chyi Pei. It turns out ferret badgers spend most of their awake time traveling about followed by eating, drinking, playing and “staying alert.” But don’t give a ferret badger cause to think unfavorably upon you. The article goes on the describe how “…the noxious anal secretion is the most apparent weapon of the ferret badger.” This works best on mammals; apparently if you’re a bird of prey it isn’t so bad.

The point is… I want to be a ferret badger. Besides avoiding predation and competing for mates etc., it sounds like my kind of fun. We humans do too many activities that make us unhappy. I mean, what would a badger analysis of my activity budget look like?

Individual spends 33% sleeping, 15% eating/drink, 5% feigning disinterest in prospective mates, 5% time running in place, inordinate amount of time depleting natural resources, and somewhat less time complaining about the depletion of natural resources. For the remainder of active time, individual toils at some task or another the direct benefit of which is not apparent at this time. There is a curious lack of play exhibited– a behavior that has myriad benefits (Bandit and Thumper, 1996).

I think one of these days I’m going to relax and have myself a ferret badger day. If anyone nags me…POW. I’ll hit ’em with the noxious secretions.

I get email

You guys are so unlucky. You don’t get to regularly read the glory that is the awesome creationist Neal. I shall be generous and share a few of his latest rants with you.

Note: the language in these comments is about what you’d expect from a potty-mouthed 8-year-old. You have been warned.

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Let’s all laugh at Australia now

A-ha! It’s not just the United States that’s stocked with religious creepazoids and hypocrites!

  • A candidate for the conservative Family First party has dropped out of his race. He was caught flaunting his junk on the internet, and admits to viewing porn…neither of which are particularly wicked, but when your party is against internet porn, well, there’s a little problem with consistency. There’s also a problem with making pathetic excuses, like these:

    I might have been drunk off my face or my political enemies might have drugged me.

    But that’s not my penis.

    Look, maybe somebody photoshopped it, and put another one on the photo.

    First rule of lying is to get the story straight, and keep it simple. Mr Quah’s ineptitude at lying clearly disqualifies him for political office.

  • And then there’s this Muslim kook, who is a problem of a whold different order: not just foolish, but hateful as well. Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali blames victims for their pain.

    In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame.
    While not specifically referring to the rapes, brutal attacks on four women for which a group of young Lebanese men received long jail sentences, Sheik Hilali said there were women who “sway suggestively” and wore make-up and immodest dress … “and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years”.

    It’s all girls’ fault for being so irresistibly pretty. This analogy explains it all:

    In the religious address on adultery to about 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, Sheik Hilali said: “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?

    “The uncovered meat is the problem.”

    Hmm. Who should be more offended? Women for being compared to cat food, or men for being compared to cats with poor impulse control?

He’s baaaack

People keep telling me I ought to read Freakonomics, but something about it keeps tripping my bogosity detector, and I’ve never gotten around to it. Now I’ve got another reason to avoid it: the Freakonomics blog is hosting a particular silly Q&A with someone who has absolutely no credibility on anything: Scott Adams. It reinforces my bias that the authors don’t exercise much judgment.

Scott Adams is about the last person of whom I’d be interested in asking any questions: he wouldn’t answer anything except to say how much smarter he is than any so-called expert, and any hint of actual content in a reply would be quickly denied as nothing but a joke.

Spam and malware

Scienceblogs is currently suffering from a rogue ad that hijacks your browser and whisks you off to some wretched commercial site trying to sell you software to prevent your browser from being hijacked. It is evil, stupid, and obnoxious, and please do not purchase the software they are trying to extort from you. The sciencebloggers are all weeping and howling in frustration in our backchannel network, and we’re firing up urgent flares begging our technical people to come purge the vileness…but it’s a weekend, the tech people are all in New York, and unlike those of us living in Morris, Minnesota, they seem to have more exciting things to do than fuss over computers.

Patience. The ad will be destroyed. The advertiser will be turned over to an angry mob of science nerds who have been contemplating interesting punishments all weekend long. Karmic balance will be restored.

Homeosis or atavism?

This is pretty nifty: it’s a nine-tentacled octopus. Count ’em!


If I may be so bold as to remind you all of the basics of cephalopod development and evolution, the primitive condition in cephalopods is to form ten arms; in the octopods, one pair is secondarily lost by some unidentified suppression in development. It’s not too surprising that there would be some low frequency of re-expression of members of the fifth and normally missing pair — and the article mentions that the Akashi Seafood Council reports that they see this once in every 20 years or so.

They should keep an eye open for these kinds of developmental abnormalities — they can be an indicator of stressors in the environment if the frequency starts to rise.

The Discovery Institute doesn’t like smart college students

Those crazy rascals behind Expelled have some new games they want to play: they’ve put out a casting call for victims of persecution. It’s a pitiful plea, but it will probably net a nice collection of complaints — because it’s true. We do reject Intelligent Design from the academy, from science, and from science education, and there’s a very good reason for that: it’s the same reason we reject astrology, alchemy, creationism, haruspication, necromancy, ornithomancy, and witchcraft from our science courses. Because they aren’t science.


Taylor Kessinger gets it. He’s a junior at the University of Arizona who wrote a nice, lucid opinion piece for the school paper.

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