The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32
Anne Field § The booster pack / 2014-02-15 16:15:39
Josh Rubenoff § The booster pack / 2014-02-09 04:29:20
David Lang § The right flavor of fame / 2014-02-07 15:13:49
Robin § The booster pack / 2014-02-06 16:41:42
Navneet Alang § The booster pack / 2014-02-06 03:40:31
Sam M-B § The booster pack / 2014-02-06 03:32:35
Chris Baker § The booster pack / 2014-02-06 02:38:57
G Love § Conversation Media / 2014-01-30 07:26:22
Navneet Alang § Calculating the Weight of the Object / 2014-01-26 16:07:58

Masters of their environment

“Mushrooms don’t rely on a stray breeze to spread their spores; they generate their own air currents instead.” Well gosh. Look at that.

We’re finally going to have to give up the old notion that humans are nature’s great tool-users. Plenty of other species use tools; most of them just don’t look anything like ours, even though they’re arguably more powerful.

Overheard in the Mushroom Kingdom: “What do you mean humans can’t generate their own air currents? Jeez, that’s just… sad.”

Video via the always-entertaining Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics.


Did I mention that I’m playing The Last of Us right now? And it’s premise is a malevolent fungal parasite? BECAUSE THIS IS FREAKING ME OUT

The capability that really strikes me is light-production. For example, the bobtail squid‘s use of counter-illumination. Basically, this guy feeds near the surface of the water, so it has to worry about being spotted from below as a dark silhouette against down-welling light. Solution? Generate your own light and direct it down from your ventral surface in shimmering patterns to simulate moonlight filtering through shallow water. (In this case the light is produced by a colony of bioluminescent bacteria that live inside the squid and that the squid manages assiduously, but other species product their own bioluminescence.)

The ability to produce light and manipulate it very precisely is really cool. Bump up the power a bit, and it would be a serious superpower…

I have a pet theory that our whole notion of “tools-as-signifier-of-evolutionary-achievement” really comes down to a prejudice that tools are things you use with your hands.

Because who has hands? We do! And that’s mostly how we use our tools. The go-to nonhuman tool use counterexample is chimps using and shaping sticks to mess with termite mounds, or rocks to break open nuts. Look, another primate, using tools with their hands!

Meanwhile, birds build nests, turn entire trees into cabinets for stored nuts, and do most of the same stick and stone stuff that other primates do; they just do it with their beaks. Which, by the way, are equal if not greater evolutionary achievements as hands.

And now, fungi.

Seriously, with the exception of the ones we’ve domesticated (or semi-domesticated), I do not think the other species are all that impressed by what we can do at all.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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