A vividly red desert rose flower

Origin of Origin of the Species, blood and disease, and 20-somethingness in history

I always find it fascinating how few (no?) ideas are truly original. We’re always building on some bits of knowledge some other human had somewhere else, at some other time, whether or not we’re aware of their distant contributions. Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was preceded by this French dude’s similar theses a century earlier. (The Guardian)

In later editions of The Origin of Species, Darwin acknowledged Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, as one of the “few” people who had understood that species change and evolve, before Darwin himself.

Thing is, I bet that humans knew this here and there for quite a while. Any communities involved in multigenerational animal husbandry probably had a pretty good idea of how evolution would later be regarded. It just wasn’t organized or proven in a way that the later scientific community could recognize.

This just reminds me of a tangential story: When I was in high school, my biology teacher was *very* insistent on reminding us that evolution is only a THEORY and that theories can never become facts. (I grew up in a very religious white people town, but I truly didn’t understand how weird these sorts of interactions were until I reached adulthood.)

Scientific fact is directly observable, he said. If you drop a ball, it will fall to the ground. We observe gravity directly. The actions of gravity are a fact, and gravity as the cause remains a theory, or something like that. We really can observe evolution occurring on a small scale — like fruit flies, with their short generations — but his point was 1) flies aren’t greater animals (meaning humans are special, according to his religion), and 2) even observing the changes doesn’t mean that evolution is the cause. For all we know, it’s God.

I do appreciate the perspective I got from that time. I was really exposed to a lot of…stuff…that has not held up through my adulthood, but I value knowing how different people think.


Here’s a YouTube video of newborn baby pygmy slow lorises, widely* acknowledged as the cutest animal on the planet. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is lucky enough to be tending these sweet nuggets.

(*In my house.)


In the past, my life was saved by blood donations. It didn’t occur to me that there are “blood deserts” (like food deserts) where supply is unavailable. Drone delivery and autotransfusion are options, but don’t completely close the gaps in demand. (NPR)


Speaking of blood…

Hemolymph, aka insect blood, clots very quickly. (Ars Technica) Turns out it basically congeals and gets sucked back into the body to clog the hole. That’s so cool.


People rag on Madonna — mostly for aesthetic reasons — but she’s a beloved member of the queer community. She honored victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting at a recent concert. (Variety)


Bird flu is showing up in dairies in more American states. (NPR) Time to switch to ultra-pasteurized.

Also, NPR reports on a spike in measles.


Engadget talks about flying drones developed to attach themselves to existing power lines in order to recharge. Although I don’t know enough about the subject to say if it’s a good idea or not, it does seem clever to arrange a way for them to use existing infrastructure. An alternative mentioned is placing charging pads around cities. Current flight time is limited to forty-five minutes or so, which makes me think we’d need a lot of pads. But we already have power lines all over.


There’s Oscar buzz around Zendaya’s Challengers. (Variety) The cast has been looking tired on the PR circuit, but if they hope to land major noms, they’re going to have to keep at this a while. The Academy has a short memory. And you only win by campaigning. I hope they’re ready.


We’re getting a fourth Bridget Jones movie. (Vanity Fair) Given the book it’s based on, I’m not surprised Colin Firth hasn’t been cast. I’m not actually opposed to another movie in the series — I’m so easy to please, I loved the third one too — but I don’t really want anything to do with the plot at hand so I might not see it.


The Film Stage: Don Hertzfeldt and Ari Aster Collaborating on a “Big” Existential Horror Animation

Can’t wait to see anuses bleeding on the big screen!


Did you know many Renaissance portraits were multi-sided? (Smithsonian Magazine) I didn’t. These are actually a whole lot more interesting to me with the additional painting as context, as ambiguous as the context may seem out of its time.


Jonathon Majors has to do court-ordered domestic violence therapy rather than jail time. (Variety) My initial reaction was vengefully negative, but I sat with that a minute and realized…this is probably the most constructive sentencing. DV-specific therapy could actually change his behavior profoundly. And I am broadly anti-prison, but that means I need to also apply that philosophy to things that specifically revolt me, like DV. So yeah, this sounds right.


Quartz talks about “automation innovations” that were actually humans in disguise — what we call Mechanical Turks.

The Mechanical Turk refers to a fraudulent chess-playing machine from the year 1770. It appeared to be an automated machine that could play a competitive chess match against any human. The machine was touted around the world for decades, amazing crowds as the first-ever automaton. However, it was later revealed to be an elaborate hoax, where a master chess player was hiding inside the machine.

Even if the current AI movement isn’t operated by such Mechanical Turks, we do know that a lot of low-paid labor was employed in labeling data for use by algorithms, so there is some element of that at hand. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there’s more human labor involved than we realize.


We’ve found more frescoes in Pompeii! (WaPo)

The paintings recently discovered included references to figures from the legendary Trojan War between the early Greeks and the people of Troy in Western Anatolia around the 12th or 13th century B.C., which is featured in ancient Greek works such as the Iliad and Homer’s Odyssey, as well as Roman literature.

The recently discovered artworks include a depiction of the Greek legendary figures Helen of Troy and Paris, the son of the Trojan king who is identified in an inscription by his Greek name, Alexandros. The images also show Cassandra, a figure from Greek mythology who could predict the future, and the god Apollo, who cursed her and left her unable to prevent the capture of Troy.


Smithsonian Mag shared letters from a twenty-something in 18th century London, giving us a lil glimpse of his life.

In his handwritten letters, Browne described his new job training as a clerk to a lawyer, Richard Rowlandson. He complained about working long hours, copying legal documents from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. In one letter, he expressed frustration with his father’s decision to apprentice him to his employer for five years, rather than a shorter training period. “I have Lost the prime of my Youth,” he wrote.

Often, he asked his family for help, and “his concerns were not so different from those of today’s young people,” writes the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood. “Mainly: Please send money, everything is so expensive.”

Browne wrote that he needed money to pay rent—and to purchase stockings, breeches, wigs and other items he deemed necessary for his life in London. “Cloaths which [I] have now are but mean in Comparison [with] what they wear here,” he wrote in one letter.

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