To end on a more cheerful note, I think I have found a fallacy or two in some of the more spectacular arguments used by the Insect Age enthusiasts when they are hardest pressed. For one thing, the fact that insects as a class are 300,000,000 years old, if it is a fact, while we have been here only about 1,000,000 years, or 3,000,000 at the outside, does not prove to me that the insects are bound to win. It takes more than mere old age to get along these days. I think it quite likely that the ...
Much the same can be said of the Thrips, those tiny plant insects that haven't so much as a decent singular to their name, one wished to specify an individual Thrips. You may speak many Thrips, or of one Thrips, but never of one Thrip, how strongly you may feel that such a ruling is in restraint of 'our personal liberties. Nor may you employ the word Thripses to mean one or more Thrips, convenient as it might be in a pinch. The New English Dictionary states, with what end in view I don't know...
I don't doubt that Aristotle thought more in actual footage during his life than any other person ever thought in the same elapsed time of sixty-two years. I do say, however, that any prize he deserves for so doing should be for quantity, not quality, as a great deal of it was spinach. He would sit around and think like one possessed, or he would walk around and think, since he was a Peripatetic, as they called it in those days. And then he would announce that Swallows spend the winter under ...
And what, I ask you, are we to think of the viviparous fish, those that actually pair off in no uncertain manner and a little later bring forth living young! (You catch the drift?) What of the Guppyi, the Helleri, the Tetras and Danios and other tropicals with which our apartments are full to overflowing? Well, at least they keep our own offspring off the streets; you can hardly pry them away from the tank. They might miss something. I always say a small aquarium containing several of these d...
Margulis believes that mitochondria were originally parasites (or
predators - the distinction is not important at this level) which attacked
the larger bacteria that were destined to provide the shell of the
eucaryotic cell. There are still some bacterial parasites that do a similar
trick, burrowing through the prey's cell wall, then, when safely inside,
sealing up the wall and eating the cell from within. The mitochondrial
ancestors, according to the theory, evolved from parasites that kill ...
PETWHAC stands for Population of Events That Would Have
Appeared Coincidental. Population may seem an odd word, but it is the
correct statistical term. I won't keep using capital letters because they
stand so unattractively on the page. Somebody's watch stopping within
ten seconds of the psychic's incantation obviously belongs within the
petwhac, but so do many other events. Strictly speaking, the grandfather
clock's stopping should not be included. The mystic did not claim that he
Name any event in history and you will find a star out there whose light
gives you a glimpse of something happening during the year of that event.
Provided you are not a very young child, somewhere up in the night sky
you can find your personal birth star. Its light is a thermonuclear glow
that heralds the year of your birth. Indeed, you can find quite a few such
stars (about 40 if you are 40; about 70 if you are 50; about 175 if you are
80 years old). When you look at one of your birth year ...
The standard DNA 'prism' is a gel electrophoresis column, that is, a
long tube filled with jelly through which an electric current is passed. A
solution containing the scissored stretches of DNA, all jumbled together,
is poured into one end of the tube. The DNA fragments are all electrically
attracted to the negative end of the column, which is at the other end of
the tube, and they move steadily through the jelly. But they don't all
move at the same rate. Like light of low vibration frequenc...
I have used the barcode as a
symbol of precise analysis, in all its beauty. Mixed light is sorted into its
rainbow of component colours and everybody sees beauty. That is a first
analysis. Closer detail reveals fine lines and a new elegance, the elegance
of detection, of the bringing of order and understanding. Fraunhofer
barcodes speak to us of the exact elemental nature of distant stars. A
precisely measured pattern of stripes is a coded message from across the
parsecs. There is grace in th...
But why should comets become more likely to hit us every million years?
Here we launch ourselves into deep speculation. It has been suggested
that the sun has a sister star, and the two orbit each other with a
periodicity of about 26 million years. This hypothetical binary partner,
which has never been seen but which has nevertheless been given the
dramatic name Nemesis, passes, once per orbital rotation, through the
so-called Oort Cloud, the belt of perhaps a trillion comets which orbits