The greatest honor ever!

A whole genus of spiders has been named after David Bowie, Bowie ziggystardust, B. majortom, B. letsdance and B. magicdance among them. They’ve been split off from a larger group of highly venomous spiders — Bowie was pretty potent after all. Over 100 species have been reclassified on what would have been his 75th birthday.

The Bowie spiders are part of a family known as the Ctenidae, or wandering spiders, which mostly live in the tropics. They get their name from their behaviour, forgoing a web in favour of prowling forests for prey such as insects, reptiles and frogs.

To aid their hunting, wandering spiders have developed powerful venoms. One genus of the Ctenidae, Phoneutria, produces a venom which poses a lethal threat to humans, with males being more toxic than females.

Little known fact: Bowie’s wonderful music was also a lethal threat to humans, or would have been, if not for his restraint.

Magic dance!

Jonathan Pruitt hasn’t gone away yet?

Please, can we think of the spiders?

I think there are a heck of a lot of good scientists who deserve to be displayed in a big photo in the pages of Nature. Can he please be retired to a well-deserved obscurity now?

At least this article seems rather more focused on the foot-dragging by university administrators and the deep harm he has done to collaborators.

After more than two years of allegations over data irregularities in his publications, Jonathan Pruitt, a behavioural ecologist and rising star in the field of spider behaviour, resigned from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, in July. The resignation marks a turning point in a painful saga — but Pruitt’s former lab members and collaborators told Nature that they want more closure, as they continue to deal with the fallout. Aside from the time wasted on studies that are now retracted, they have struggled with the stigma of being associated with alleged misconduct and have found it difficult to once again trust co-workers and collaborators.

The university concluded an investigation into the matter in late 2021 but has not released its outcome, and revealed last month that it had reached a confidential settlement with Pruitt.

For those who have spent years combing through data to comply with university investigators and talking with journal editors about retractions, this resolution is particularly unsatisfying, says Kate Laskowski, a behavioural ecologist at the University of California, Davis, who collaborated with Pruitt on several projects. Since allegations of data fabrication emerged in early 2020, at least 13 of Pruitt’s papers have been retracted, and 6 others have been labelled with expressions of concern.

Note the “confidential settlement” and the “more than two years of allegations” — this has been agonizingly drawn out over years without a clear resolution. McMaster University lawyers and administrators were clearly more interested in concealing malfeasance than in little things like “research integrity”. And then there are all these people like Laskowski left twisting in the wind…I would say that this is no blot on her career at all, but rather a huge red flag about McMaster’s management.

Unfortunately, Pruitt has landed on his feet and is now teaching at Tampa Catholic High School in Florida. I know, it’s Florida, so standards are pretty low there already, but I wouldn’t want a fraud teaching my kids. The way things are going, he’s more likely to be punished for being gay than for faking data.

Oh, and this is timely: you’ve heard of RateMyProfessor? Now there’s a version to RateYourCampusAdmin.

Are you tired of having little voice over the decisions on your campus?

Are you concerned about the spiraling costs of senior administration?

Do you think accountability is a two-way street?

We believe in the power of symmetry and transparency, of open evaluation, for and by faculty. At RateYourCampusAdmin.com, you will have the power to evaluate the performance of the senior administrators on your campus, through a thoroughly researched, robust means for aggregating expert opinions about the quality of the service they deliver to your community.

Turnabout is fair play. It’s little more than the promise of delivering a little accountability at this point, with only a few names in the database, but give them time, it could grow.

Like having a nanny that runs over the kids and bursts into flame

The Musk grift continues. The technology he just buys outright is OK, but he always promotes it with hype and lies about what it can do. Battery powered electric cars? Great. Boring tunnels to solve traffic congestion? Utterly bonkers, won’t work. Colonizing Mars? Nonsense. A death trap. Neuralink? Small animal torture that is so invasive it’s not going to be implemented in people.

The next bit of insanity is Optimus, his humanoid robot.

“Tesla Bots are initially positioned to replace people in repetitive, boring, and dangerous tasks. But the vision is for them to serve millions of households, such as cooking, mowing lawns, and caring for the elderly,” Musk wrote in an essay published in China Cyberspace magazine.

In 2021, Musk said the robot – codenamed “Optimus” – will use the same chips and sensors as Tesla’s so-called Autopilot software, which has come under intense scrutiny from politicians and federal regulators.

The bot will be able to carry 45 pounds (20.4kg) and lift 150 pounds (68kg), Musk said, adding that it will be able to run 5 miles (8km) per hour. He said the machine will be designed so that humans can easily run away from and overpower it.

He is promising a set of capabilities based around general artificial intelligence built on the foundation of his unapproved autodriving car technology. That’s absurd. I don’t believe it could even be implemented in my lifetime. I can’t imagine buying one of these to take care of my 80 year old mother, because I have zero interest in euthanizing her, which is all it would be good for.

Why wasn’t Musk laughed off the stage after this “demo” last year?

He keeps on lying and faking it, but his cult keeps swallowing it.

Bret Weinstein used to teach evolutionary biology

It was a big win for Evergreen College to get rid of him, because he had to have been teaching it badly. This is the kind of obsolete adaptationist garbage he was teaching, and the kind of twisty reasoning he uses.

Let us begin the vivisection.

Foreskin is an evolutionary adaptation.

No, he does not know that. There is no evidence to suggest that it has any significant effect at all, in an evolutionary sense. There is no history of people born without foreskins in any kind of competitive interaction with people with them; there is no evidence of a differential reproductive advantage in any human lineages.

He’s making shit up. This is indicative of a crude adaptationist mindset where everything must have an adaptive effect.

It had a value and may or may not be net -beneficial in the modern environments

What value? Be specific. What change in value in modern environments has occurred?

Circumcision is also an adaptation that may/may-not be net-beneficial in modern times

Loss of a foreskin is not an adaptation — it’s not heritable. It’s a cultural trait. It’s effects are complex: sure, it may be important in establishing a group identity (a cultural phenomenon again!), but it probably has also led to some small number of babies bleeding out. So what if it may or may not be beneficial? It’s a thing. People also get ear piercings, or tattoos, or funny haircuts. Are those adaptations now?

All this adds up to Weinstein’s kicker.

Surgical sex change is not an adaptation. Done in children it’s immoral.

Alex up there hits the nail on the head. Why is one kind of modification (circumcision) adaptive, but another kind (gender affirmation) “immoral”? This is all just bad rationalization by Weinstein. I wonder if he has a sense of shame left any more?

Nope.

Has nothing to do with preference. Circumcision has stood the test of evolutionary time. If it was simply negative, selection would have eliminated it.

There you have it: if it exists for some length of time, it is good and must have some advantage, or evolution would have eliminated it, because every bad thing is culled by the all-seeing perfect eye of natural selection. Migraines, bad knees, PCOS, religion, hernias, primogeniture, aging, the infield fly rule in baseball, wisdom teeth, vitamin C dependency, and war, all blessed by the flawless filter of evolution, or they wouldn’t exist anymore.

Good god, what a panadaptationist idiot. They really do exist. With bad logic and science like that, you know all he’s doing is signaling fallaciously to his bigoted anti-trans cronies.

But also, I have to wonder: why does he consider evolutionary consequences to be the only thing we consider when doing a thing? I blog because I enjoy it, not because it gives my offspring some advantage. You can like a rainbow or dancing or music or being in the company of friends because it makes you feel good — not everything is derived from some kind of biological calculus.

Much cuter than kittens

First thing this morning, I checked on my new first wave of Steatoda triangulosa spiderlings, took photos, measured dimensions, etc., and posted some stuff to my Patreon page. Usually those posts are private to patrons, but this one time I open it up to the public. If you like pictures of cute baby spiders, check it out. If you want more, subscribe! This is going to be a daily thing as I document the development of pigment patterns in Steatoda triangulosa. It’ll be fun! Your daily dose of spiderlings!

Fetterman made Voltaire’s prayer: “O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous”

My fellow Americans, you’ve probably already seen some of the mocking commentary on a Dr Oz campaign ad, in which he goes shopping for crudité in a Pennsylvania grocery store. He was a bit out of touch. How out of touch? Well, I haven’t lived in Pennsylvania for 22 years, and even I know there isn’t a “Wegner’s” there, it’s “Wegman’s”. And then the way he stands there and grabs at a few things in reach…Oz hasn’t been grocery shopping in ages, and it shows.

The real question, though, is John Fetterman’s reply to this rich man going shopping for the first time ever effective campaigning? You bet it is.

The amount of money it takes to run for office is unreal, but it helps when your opponent is so flamingly incompetent.

In other fun Oz smackdowns, the Republican party is cutting its losses and spending less money in Pennsylvania. That’s gotta sting, and it’s also going to have down-ballot effects. Watching Republicans screw up is wonderfully entertaining.

And then, Oz was asked how many houses he owns, which is the kind of question no one ever asks me (my answer would be one, sort of, since we still owe the bank on it). Oz stammered out an answer of two, but he was more concerned with qualifying it and hedging his numbers. The Daily Beast counted for him. It’s TEN. Ten houses.

• a 9,000-square-foot mansion in New Jersey

• a 7,000-square-foot country house in Pennsylvania

• a condo in New Jersey

• a piece of residential real estate in Sariyer, Turkey

• another piece of residential real estate in Sariyer, Turkey

• a Manhattan condo

• another Manhattan condo

• an oceanside mansion in Palm Beach, Florida

• a cattle farm in Okeechobee, Florida

• and a piece of residential property in Konya, Turkey, which appears to be used as a student dormitory

Each one is probably worth far more than my house. He could probably pay off my mortgage for me with a fraction of his monthly pay-out for houses.

This is a good question to ask any big wig politician of either party. You know, I’m going to be generous and suggest that three is not an unreasonable number, since they’re rich: a real home in their home state, plus a residence near the capitol, and what the heck, I’ll throw in a vacation home somewhere nice. Anything beyond that, you’re just pigging out at the trough.

While we’re at it, another sin of the revoltingly wealthy is investing in the stock market. You should be required to divest.