Having Guts

Down the Chute, Where
the Slimming Bacteria Live

The mouth. While some may call it a temple for words and tastes, where great thought are expressed, and divine flavors often pay visits, it has also another, far more reductionist and not so noble, role: it’s only the first of two ends of a very long tube.
Albeit we won’t get it to that other side, not now anyway, our survival as humans still depends on what travels down into our fat lips, crosses the battleground of our guts, and gets out through a drain hole. Not all is turmoil in there, though. So come, let’s meet the locals.
For despite the many realms our thoughts have conquered, and the reasons why we orbit around the universe of the table, and always come back for more, we go out of our way to dissociate such fulfilling parts of life from what they ultimately imply, body-wise.
We made love and food with our months, and often recite with eloquence what they mean to us, and coyly, how we could never ever live without them. However, any mention to what goes on below the belt, and our appetite goes into a receding mode, embarrassed that we’d even thought about it.
And yet, deep down, you know you think about it, all the time. It’s just not something that, thankfully, most people would like to share on Twitter. But from a medical point of view, we really are what we eat, even though no parallel connection has been established yet between thought and personality.
That’s why Gulp, Mary Roach‘s book on the human digestive system in all its warts and, well, more warts, is so illuminating. And also, why there’s reason to some cautiously feel good about research that points to a bacteria that may have been making people fat all along.

FANTASTIC VOYAGES
In the 1966 movie, a loose adaptation of a series written in the 19th century by Jules Verne, former Bond girl Rachel Welch leads a team of miniaturized scientists who are injected into a man’s carotid artery to destroy a blood clot in his brain. Of course, if they’d fail, the entire world would end.
It was one of the first cinematic incursions into what was known then about the insides of the body, but mercifully, they stayed clear from digging too deep or going down under. Also, because Isaac Asimov wrote a novelization of the movie’s screenplay, published right (more)
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Read Also:
* We’re Not Alone
* Lies & Weight
* The Long Good Friday

 

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Out to Get You

In a Mad World, There Are
Jobs Only Psychopaths Can Do

They mesmerize you just like a spider would. And just as well, haunt your nightmares. There may be one among your dearest friends. The thought of you knowing a predator who may consider you no more than prey, is as scary as wondering whether you may be one.
But now we know more than ever about psychopaths, through books, movies, and real stories. There’s a new understanding about their evolutionary role and they, gasp, may not be as fearful as society thinks they are. Or at least, not without purpose.
Whole sections of bookstores, or rather, on your favorite online seller, are about their pathology, traits, even theories as to why some of us have no empathy to peoples’ feelings, or pain, while others are just glad to marry them out of sheer awe of their personal power.
Of course, every one of these treatises starts by defining what a psychopath is, what it is not, and most important, what the hell is the difference between them and sociopaths. By now, we’re all cognizant to such variances and mostly have a pretty good idea about what kind of compulsion drives them to do what they do best.
And what’s that, again? If you’ve said that it’s murder, you may not know as much about them as you thought you did. For, according to modern psychology, psychopaths come in a myriad of varieties and, even if you’re not particularly inclined to know the gory details of their mindset, you may at least educate yourself, just enough to, you know, get out of their way.
For despite all contemporary reassessment about what a predator is and what it does, there’s not much change in one basic reality: no one should get on their bad side. Just like sharks, you don’t want them to be extinct, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to jump in the water and swim alongside them.

THE BLURRY WISDOM OF POP CULTURE
There are now studies purporting to justify the valuable role psychopaths may play in society, what we can learn observing one, how successful some have become as captains of industry, about how some online games make you act just like one, and, yes, whether you are a closet murderer, but that you already knew about it.
Other research supposes what a psychopath would do – you see, just like Jesus – in any number of situations. Or how badly the movies have portrayed them, even though you may kind of miss them when, and if, they finally meet their comeuppance in your favorite series. In fact, they’re ever present in popular culture.
And in real life too, of course, although it’s relatively rare when someone like Bernie Madoff gets caught. Behind the much patting in the back, there’s the shame of realizing that none of his victims anticipated what he was up to. And some of them genuinely thought they were best friends, up to the very, bankrupted end.
After all, remorse is not something that’s usually part of the palette of positive attributions behavior psychologists believe psychopaths could teach us. But (more)
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Read Also:
* Live or Die By Mouth
* Last Words

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Looking at You, Kid

The Mystery, Half-Truths &
Misperceptions About Mirrors

If you’re not blind, and there’s nothing neurologically odd with you, how do you know how your face looks like? Your best bet would be using a mirror, right? Well, not quite.
In fact, it’s likely that the image you see in front of you is an emotional, highly-subjective composite of what you think you should look like. In that, mirrors are devilishly deceiving.
For what it’s worth, though, your educated guess is still closer to the truth than anyone else’s. Alas, no one is free from emotional biases when looking at somebody else’s likeness.
In other words, truth doesn’t usually belong in the same sentence with the word mirror. That’s because what you see is an interpretation, yours, of what is supposed to be on the other side.
As you scrutinize that reflection, everything seems to reproduce the side of things that’s surrounding you. And yet, crucial details fool and elude you once and again.
THE EERIE COPY
As many mystics have said about the world itself, one may describe and list the inventory of things it contains, and still fail to define it. In the case of mirrors, odds get freaky really fast.
That can be triggered at a first glance by checking one of its supposed qualities: its ability to ‘mirror’ the physical world. For, after your hand suddenly switches to the left, things only unravel even further.
You may understand perfectly how is that so and still be baffled by it. Other oddities, sitting on the outer edge of common perception, may also catch your eye. But nothing compares with the view of your own face.
That’s when we’re more susceptible to inaccuracies of judgement about what we’re seeing, as the brain works overtime to concur pre-determined notions with what’s right ahead.

THE VENUS EFFECT
Scientists now think that what distinguishes animals who are capable of recognizing themselves in a mirror from others, who’re indifferent to it, may be their social lives.
Thus apes, dolphins and Asian elephants, all living within sophisticate social groups and well aware of their own position in them, are able to watch and check their bodies in front of the mirror the way humans do.
But, since we’re way more complicated, albeit not always more intelligent, we often get spooked at the realization that what we’re seeing may not be completely accurate, even when our brains are not addled by anything.
So much for all that eyes are the mirrors of the soul business. More like smoke and mirrors, if you ask psychologists, who keep finding new ways to show how we seem to suspend rationality when looking at ourselves.
Take the so-called Venus effect, for example. Its origin dates back from ancient depictions of the Roman goddess of love, thus Rokeby Venus by Velazquez, who depicted her with a mirror in her hand.
At first, and for countless internalized ‘conclusions’ thereafter, people tend to believe that Venus is looking at herself, which would be virtually impossible given the angle of the mirror.

TALKIN’ TO ME?
Clever movie directors have only preserved this illusion by showing an actor, say, Robert de Niro, in that famous ‘Taxi Driver’ scene, in front of the mirror. In that, as in most cases, he’s either looking at the camera, or to a corner of it, but unlike to be ‘facing’ himself.
Since placing lenses directly behind the scene would ruin the take, cameras with a set of, you guessed, mirrors inside, are used these days, to allow a sideways view of both the actor and his image.
Art of course has long traded on the concept of the mirror as a foreign land, laden with mystery and otherness. In Jean Cocteau’s film version of the myth of Orpheus & Eurydice, the character of Jean Marais actually penetrates one to rescue his lover from the depths of Hades.
Arguably, Rene Magritte‘s most celebrated painting is La Reproduction Interdite, but some forget he actually has a work named (more)
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Read Also:
* Suspended Animation
* Seeing Through
* Facedown

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Head & Tails

Who Is the Mad Dog 
Murdering English Cats?

Maybe it’s Internet envy. You know, people who hate you just because you’re all over the Web. And your name is Justin Bieber. The culprit is unlikely to be among cat’s biggest enemies (no, not dogs): bird lovers. But watch out: the U.K. has a serial kitty killer on the prowl.
Nothing cute about it, though. Someone is beheading cats in the South London Croydon neighborhood, and police has no clues, other than the killings are gruesome and ostensible: the psycho leaves mutilated bodies where their human companions can easily come across them.
Again, it may have to do with Internet access and its magnifying effect. For justAtop a Mountain, in Calp, Spain (Aleksandr Osipov:NatGeo)a few decades ago, serial killers were known mostly by law enforcement agents. Now, you need to ask your Uncle Bob to please, shut up already, when he babbles about them as if they were his pub buddies.
Their creepy habits, pathology, and biographies are a constant theme of family dinner conversations, and inspiration to countless movie plots; best seller books and even songs have been written about them, and everybody seems to have heard of that lonely soul who married one in jail.
That’s how most of us know of a particularly haunting trait they all seem to share: an early childhood taste for torturing and murdering small animals. Thus, the British press, not particularly known for nuanced coverage, sobriquet for the newest psychopath: Croydon Cat Ripper.

BLOOD SPREADING OR COPYCATS?
Cats have attracted extreme passion or fear throughout history, and the overstatement needs no emphasis. From ancient Egyptian adoration to Dark Ages‘ obscurantism to redemption through the Black Plague, the domestic feline trajectory with humans has been as vertigo-inducing as a roller coaster.
But once clichés are set aside, a richer picture emerge, of a creature with a rare appeal, both aloof and Zen-like tempered; independent, suffused with mystery, and yet, resolutely loyal to those who (more)
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* Ailurophile, Caturally
* Suddenly, Last Caturday
* A Farewell to Furs

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The Far Out Report

For These Gut-Churning News,
Laugh Only When You Breathe

So busy digressing about things too serious to skip, those worries and concerns transfixing our age, we often forget that life finds a way all around, and mostly despite, us. One more disgraceful news and we risk losing the ability of flexing the muscles of our smile.
So let’s pretend summer is really easy, fish are a-jumping, and if not cotton, then someone is high. Anyone would, coming across F.W. Murnau’s head, or a performance corpse, or an one-line obituary. In fact, reality often threatens to drive even comedians out of business.
Heard the one about Zimbabwean money? The currency is so devalued that someone can have, say, Z$35 quadrillion in his or her banking account, and still starve. A hot dog may cost a little beyond that. In the U.S., it does: all this money is worth only one dollar.
What about ‘dick pics?’ Even NSA whistleblower Eduard Snowden was surprised when told that what really scares Americans was not the fear of an all too powerful government, but having their nude pictures watched over by spies, who should be busy with something else, anyway.
But that sort of iconography is indeed dear to our fellow citizens. Take 1934 public enemy No.1, for instance. A photo of a dead John Dillinger may have created the biggest hoax about him: it looks as if he’s having a post-mortis erection right under the blanket.
Unlikely, of course. It was probably a fluke. But does it matter? His notoriety is now forever melded to his supposedly endowment, regardless if it has anything to do with guns or not. Go figure. And don’t forget to check the Skip Showers for Beef‘ campaign. You may thank me later.

GRAVE ROBBERTS & THE VAMPIRE
On to the main course. For fans of gore (and low-standards real life puns), the theft of F.W. Murnau‘s head is a full dish, to be savored with cheap wordplay and poorly concocted theories. But it really happened: the grave of the Nosferatu‘s director in Berlin has been desecrated.
Worse: news reports about it wound up adding further grievances to his family and fans of one of the greatest masters Continue reading

Heed My Leaps

Come on Blue Rock, Put
on Some Speed, Will Ya?

This is getting to become a routine. Tonight, just before 8pm, you and seven-plus billion of your closest friends will be granted an extra second. Again. For what, it’s up to you. For as it turns out, Earth is dragging time again, unable to keep up with our busy schedules.
Last time it happened, most people didn’t even have time to enjoy the extra period. No one knows how many died or were born at that briefest of the moments either. But you’ve been warned; it’ll come and go real fast. Unlike our planet, apparently. Now try not to waste it, ok?
Harold ‘The Fly’ Lloyd (no, he was not a fighter; maybe a lover, who knows?) hung for way much longer than a second, and that was his own stunt. Since it’s the time one has to say, ‘1, 1.000,’ do CPR practitioners, who count it all the time, get to enjoy it better than you?
We’re not getting too deep into this. We’ve written about this before, and you can read it all about it below. In fact, the importance of this scientific adjustment is lost to most of those close friends of yours anyway. And if this post lasted just a second to read, it’d suffice.
Humans are the only species to have created a way to keep track of time, which has been an enormous waste of time, if you’d ask us. But we know how exactly we plan to spend that ever so elusive wrinkle of time, invented to compensate for Earth’s (age-related?) slowdown.
We’ll be looking up. That’s right. Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest ‘stars’ in the sky, will be very close together tonight, marking the occasion. We can’t think of anything more fitting to do. After all, they don’t need no stinking clock to track time in order to awe us. Enjoy it.
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* Quantum Leap

No, Wait


The Leap Second &
The Doomsday Clock

Just when you were ready to celebrate the fact that summer this year will last a bit longer, and we mean, a very tiny, teeny little bit longer, here comes the buzzkillers to tell you that we’re actually wasting it, meaning, that we’re in fact very late and even close to the end.
These are but just two of the ways that we obsess with measuring time, or at least, fool ourselves with the illusion that time can be measured. But at the end of the day, we’re no better than that Lewis Carroll rabbit, always rushing, insanely busy and ever so late.
And if you thought that such obsession is a mere product of our modern times, hum so over the top and, as that old Lennon song would say, running everywhere at top speed, you haven’t heard the one about the South Pacific.
As it turns out, a tiny, teeny sun-drenched island Continue reading

Space Droppings

The High-Speed Junk Our
Dreams Left Above Earth

Look at that sky above you. See how the stars are bright tonight. Think about the immensity of the universe, quasars and nebulae, waiting to awe you, just beyond the reach of your fingers. And be careful with the falling debris of thousands of objects man placed on Earth’s orbit.
That’s right. We can’t seem to live without producing many times as much as we’re capable of consuming. And just like the oceans, all that floating garbage is choking us. Or, in the case of space, either falling often over our heads or racing around the planet at top speed.
So, hail poets and philosophers and astronomers and dreamers. But also, hail the new class of space cleaners that will have to be trained and sent to do what janitors have been doing since time immemorial, besides taking the blame for their bosses’ crimes: cleaning after us.
The U.S., and as a distant second, Russia (as in former Soviet Union), are by far the biggest producers of space junk around. But neophyte China‘s also doing its part, as it launched this week a monitoring center to protect its over 130 space objects in orbit.
Other countries are concerned too. A month ago, Japan announced that it’s studying the possibility of laser-blasting, Star Wars-style, all that junk out of existence, probably from the International Space Station itself. Just imagine George Lucas losing his sleep over this.
But theirs is only a slightly more sophisticated idea that’s been tried before, with disastrous results. We’ve covered that a few years ago. Then as now, there were few reasons Continue reading

War Lord

Women May Lead Our
First Mission to Mars

For some three billion years, Mars looked all but dead, despite misplaced expectations astrophysics had about it all along. Now, as if acting on cue, it seems to be having a renaissance of sorts. Even a comet has paid a close visit to it last week.
Besides the two rovers still soldiering on its inhospitable surface and atmosphere, NASA plans to thoroughly explore it, with a possible human landing sometime in the next two decades. A number of international satellites are also on its orbit.
But despite its allure and beauty on our Zenith, Mars has had a problematic and somewhat disappointing history all along. It closely tracked Earth’s own development for at least a billion years, until something went terribly wrong and, by the time we showed up, it’d gone completely astray. A kind of recovery may be in the works, however, as some believe that life may have come from there.
Lucky us, disaster struck the red planet and not to the blue one. While a climatic inferno wrecked havoc on Mars, it didn’t take long, in astronomical terms, for Earth to bloom and become simply the most beautiful and friendly place in the whole wide universe.
That we act uncaring and downright abusive to this paradise is a matter for another time. The fact is that Mars has attracted so much attention that one wonders whether ancient people were up to something when they nominated it as God of War. Or hasn’t anyone heard the words ‘permanent’ and ‘war’ uttered so often together lately?
There was once a famous German astrologer that was so dedicated to find links between the influence of the Zodiac’s heavenly bodies and the human psyche that whenever a planet would be in evidence, she’d point to a corresponding ‘impact’ it’d have on us.
Thus, when the Pioneers and, later, the Voyager probes sent back those stunning images of Saturn, in the 1970s, she immediately related the event to the era’s economic recession, lines at gas stations in major Western cities, and so on. For her, it all had to do with the celestial Lord of the Rings’ particular charm.
Whether she too was on to something still depends on what one believes, but there’s no question that she was very much in synch with the Greek Pythagorean concepts of Astrology, once considered a science, to which Ptolemy formulated additional precepts. Egyptians and Romans concurred to that school too.

VOLUNTEERS FOR A ONE-WAY TRIP
NASA has been preparing a potential crew to make the trip to the Martian steppes, and even if we still lack the proper transportation to do it, a number of endurance experiments have been conducted with small groups of people. Another team has just started a six-month period of isolation in Hawaii, for instance.
Many ideas have been floated about what such a hazardous trip would consist of, including the possibility that it’d be a one-way ticket journey, meaning that the pioneering astronauts would not necessarily come back ever to Earth. A daunting prospect, indeed, but one that may have its takers.
Experiments in dieting, self-renewed sustenance, revolutionary farming techniques, even rigorous psychological training to prevent the crew from becoming overwhelmed with boredom, or worse, have followed. A variety of styles in new spacesuits are also in the works, from Barbarella to Buzz Lightyear, with all the bells and whistles that not even Ray Bradbury had dreamed of.
The latest of a long series of hypothesis and proposals to maximize a trip to Mars represents a novel idea and has a particular appeal to at least 50 percent of humankind: the possibility of sending a crew of mostly, if not solely, women to Mars. One assumes, on a round-trip basis, though.
The proposal is surprisingly not new, as NASA did consider sending a woman as the first human in space, an idea whose time was then still to come, but that now may be just ripe. The rationale has little to do with gender politics and a lot with caloric intake and preservation.

WOMEN ACTUALLY BELONG IN MARS
For such a long, perilous, and expensive journey – a price tag has been conservatively estimated to be about $450 billion – weight becomes a serious consideration. And a woman’s body does weight less in average than a man’s, consumes Continue reading

Seeing Through

New Invisibility Cloaks May
Hide More Than Cats & Events

If you roam this world, it’s very likely that there’s been a time when you wished you could’ve just vanished from the face of Earth. Maybe you owe money, did something despicable, or can’t possibly put up with what the Tea Party is doing with the American democracy.
There’s no shortage of reasons for getting away from it all. And while art and human imagination have contributed along the centuries to fulfill our longing for being physically oblivious to reality, there’s now a new powerful ally fast ushering us towards the void: science.
Several developments in the technology of bending light waves have brought us a bit closer, if not to the full monty of extreme discretion, at least to abscond a variety of subjects, that just a few years ago was possible only in movies and computer science.
From metamaterials, which interact with light and can been printed in large sheets, to a cylinder that doesn’t reflect microwaves, to even a combo of mirrors, lenses or tanks of water, cloaking devices seem to be the new holy grail to some scientists. Even if they have to make a cat disappear, like they did in Singapore.
By now, it’s easy to think that it may be all about smoke and mirrors, for some developments are truly fantastic. Such as an invisibility ‘time cloak,’ which can actually hide entire events by manipulating the speed of light in optical fibers. If it sounds heady, that’s because such a device is perfectly capable of blowing our minds.
In fact, when it comes to the quest for invisibility, it’s not just minds that are bound to be smashed. Think about how much the defense industry is investing in this research to grasp some pretty harry scenarios. And there’s also the practical side of being invisible, a prospect not to be rose-colored about.

SCI-FI & DREAMS OF SILVER SCREEN 
Fantastic literature and movies, of course, have been teasing us for years about the prospect of vanishing into thin air, and talking about Harry, it was one of that boy wizard’s early films that got a whole new generation on track to be mesmerized by it. Never mind the creepiness factor of lurking undetected in somebody’s room.
Cinema has contributed a huge chunk to our fascination, and the 1933 James Whale’s feature, The Invisible Man, may have laid down the rules Continue reading

Land Specks

Pop Up Isles, Sinking Atolls &
Havens for Snakes, Cats & Spiders

An unforeseen consequence of rising sea levels is that it puts a dump on that idyllic idea of retiring to a tropical island. Somehow the thought of waking up at its highest peak, with just enough time to hold your breath doesn’t have the same ring that it once had.
It’s a silly dream anyway. So when a 7.7 earthquake shook Pakistan last week, leaving over 500 dead and thousands homeless, in a nation already periodically visited by tragedy, only a heartless optimist would see the birth of a new island as a silver lining of sorts.
And yet, there it is, a 100 feet by 250 feet speck that’s now dotting the Arabian Sea. A rough, cracked piece of the ocean floor, pushed up by methane to 60 feet up above water. Almost like a natural monument and tribute for those who had to go for it to rise up so violently.
As you probably gathered by now, that’s our theme for this evening: islands, those mysterious orphans of continental drifts, giants underwater, tall enough to reach high above the waves, and yet frightfully tiny, once at the surface, always at ready to be swallowed by the vastness around.
They’ve been a surprising copious leit motif at Colltales, having graced these pages half a dozen times in less than three years. Perhaps its their endless diversity, or often violent origins, what pulls us towards them. Or that they can be placid and inhabited only by bugs Continue reading

Having Guts

Down the Chute, Where
the Slimming Bacteria Live

The mouth. While some may call it a temple for words and tastes, where great feats of thought are expressed, and divine flavors often pay visits, it’s also another, far more reductionist and not so noble, role: it’s only the first of two ends of a very long tube.
Albeit we won’t get it to that other side, not now anyway, our survival as humans still depends on what travels down into our fat lips, crosses the battleground of our guts, and gets out through the drain hole. Not all is turmoil in there, though. So come, let’s meet the locals.
For despite the many realms our thoughts have conquered, and the reasons why we orbit around the universe of the table, and always come back for more, we go out of our way to dissociate such fulfilling parts of life from what they ultimately imply, body-wise.
We made love to people and food with our months, and often recite with eloquence what they mean to us, and coyly, how we could never ever live without them. However, any mention to what goes on below the belt, and after such carnal feasts, and our appetite goes into a receding mode, embarrassed that we’d even thought about it.
And yet, deep down, you know you think about it, all the time. It’s just not something that, thankfully, most people would like to share on Twitter. But from a medical point of view, we really are what we eat, even though no parallel connection has been established yet between thought and personality.
That’s why Gulp, Mary Roach‘s book on the human digestive system in all its warts and, well, more warts, is so illuminating. And also, why there’s reason to cautiously feel good about research that points to a bacteria that may have been making people fat all along, and we didn’t even know it.

FANTASTIC VOYAGES
In the 1966 movie, a loose adaptation of a series written in the 19th century by Jules Verne, former Bond girl Rachel Welch leads a team of miniaturized scientists who are injected into a man’s carotid artery to destroy a blood clot in his brain. Of course, if they’d fail, the entire world would end.
It was one of the first cinematic incursions into what was known then about the insides of the body, but mercifully, they stayed clear from digging too deep or going down under. Also, because Isaac Asimov wrote a novelization of the movie’s screenplay, published right before its release, many still think he’d also come up with the original concept.
Other variations of the same theme came up too, both as movies and Continue reading

The Latte of Heaven

In Praise of That Moment
That Only a Coffee Breaks

Most of us know a thing or two about why so many absolutely love to drink and even smell coffee so much. Not only love; they’re downright addicted to the stuff. In fact, we’re way past the old excuse, that one needs to wake up and remain awaken longer hours these days.
But it’s certainly not because it contains tiny amounts of three chemicals that wouldn’t be misplaced if they were brewed in the bowels of hell: a component of cockroach pheromones, a compound that gives human feces its odor, and another that makes rotten meat poisonous.
With that out of the way, and with a little wink to how kopi luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, is produced, we shall move on. For despite all those million reasons, lets not skim over the main one that drives us to savor it daily: we do it because it’s quicker than to sleep.
Even though coffee is being enjoyed since BCE, and until it got to be known as kahveh, it had a rather serendipitous relationship with the evolution of the human society, we bet that it became an essential staple once light bulbs extended daylight deep into night territory.
When we’ve stopped calling it a day along with the farm animals, we were destined to find ways to keep us up through the wee hours. Sex and conversation helped, but a cup of brew had its own allure.
From dusk to dawn, it was a short leap for it to become part of the first meal of the day. But for those who come from cultures where breakfast was a mere cup of milk with coffee and sugar, and sliced bread with butter and home made preserves, though, boy, how far have we come.
It doesn’t change a thing that even a simple cup of coffee then could Continue reading

New Critters on the Block

Another Blue Tarantula &
a Spider That Builds a Decoy

It’s good that we have no plans of spending time at the tabletop mountains of Brazil anytime soon. Although we hear nice things about the place, there’s one particular local beauty we wouldn’t like crossing paths with over there: the newly-discovered Sazima’s tarantula.
It’s also a great asset to be of a certain stature (physical, not exactly moral); we tend to tower over spiders. But if you were the size of, say, a fly, caution would be in order: an also newly-found arachnid builds a much bigger ‘spider’, to lure and scare the bejesus out of small critters.
They’re both residents of South America’s Amazon and are truly fascinating for the way they look or go about their business of, well, eating small bugs and stuff. Think about that the next time someone talks about hiking in the jungle, and as if spring has sprung, lightly teases you about joining them.
Be strong and resist, always. In case you’re wondering too, that’s how we spend most of our Saturdays: finding new ways to terrorize our senses. In the process, as it’s pathologically common with fear, we learn a great deal about entomology, the Rainforest, wonders of travel and the natural world.
In reality, as many an enologist don’t actually drink, knowledge not always require one to touch the stuff. We’ve had quite a few fascinating conversations about bugs with people who can’t stand having one around. In some cases, clinical detachment in no way prevents anyone from getting intimate with a subject.
Before going any further, though, let’s be clear that we would hardly Continue reading

Street Smarts

The Pavement Politics 
of Avoiding Strangers

In less than 20 years, the majority of the world population will be living in cities. Way before that happens, though, we’ve already become skillful at a very subtle art: building invisible walls between ourselves. We do that through a variety of strategies, so to avoid any unintended contact with strangers.
Research now is focused on the impact of such tactics on the inevitable interactions of our daily lives. Thus, what kind of anti-social gymnastics we engage when commuting? How do we intuitively prevent sidewalk collisions? What may disturb this balance and cause us to have our noses broken?
Well, we probably won’t answer these questions to your full satisfaction, mind you. Mainly, because any number of scientific studies required to correctly determine the causes for such street strategy is still being developed through trial and error. And much hasn’t even been correctly formulated yet.
Also, even though most urbanites, which up to 2008 were evenly split with countryside dwellers, have been mastering these techniques out of the need for survival, few are even aware of what they do and why. We just learn very early on that we shouldn’t mess up with people we don’t know, period.
Finally, there’s a multitude of factors that do influence research on human behavior. And in talking about the millions of casual outdoor exchanges we go through in a single day, the element of randomness always accounts for a huge percentage in its final Continue reading