Sunday, August 31, 2014

When symbology means something completely different to you

I saw that one of my friends changed his Facebook profile pic to this:

The first thought that came into my head was, "Well, so, too, were the dodo and the passenger pigeon..."

The next was, "...and shouldn't it read, 'You are the result' - unless the message is for a 3rd person plurality, which is strange given how signs accompanied by messages to "you" are generally meant for the 2nd person...?"

My thoughts on grammar continued with, "...and shouldn't it be '... evolutionary successes...' since evolution is a process requiring consistent - and relatively constant - successes in mating and survival...? I know that the sign could mean to use success in the uncountable form, but that would be incongruous, given how "results" is used in its countable form."

My thoughts then strayed back to the implications of the wolf, given the message, and it was something like, "...and what's the point of using a wolf... a species that has been extirpated in much of its native range, and is - in many ways - a prime example of a species that, despite it being the culmination of billions of years of evolution, has until recently been going the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon?"

Maybe - as an ecologist with an evolutionary background and a great interest in grammar - I'm just thinking about this too much?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Apparently Russia and Canada can't agree on what belongs to Russia

NPR had a fun-with-maps story about how Canada's delegation to NATO tweeted the following map to show where Russia is (and isn't):
This was in response to Russia claiming that the Russian military convoys and vehicles that had entered Ukraine were just lost... or something similarly implausible.

However, look at the map that the Canadian delegation sent. It fails to label Kaliningrad as being part of Russia. By the way, here's a handy map showing you where Kaliningrad is:
Whoops! Apparently the GIS program that the Canadians were using didn't automatically include Kaliningrad as Russia. But the lack of recognizing Kaliningrad as part of Russia was apparently less important than showing that Crimea was Russian and that Abkhazia wasn't Georgian. This is the "corrected" map that Russia tweeted back to the Canadians:
(Never mind that almost the entire world doesn't recognize Abkhazia. Never mind that almost the entirety of the world doesn't recognize Russia's claim to Crimea, either.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mozart rap: Great advice for growing up

Wish I knew some of these things when I was a teen. Wish that I had followed up earlier on some of these things that I knew.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When People Do and Don't Listen to Scientists

I saw the following on a friend's Facebook wall:

This reminded me of a talk that was given by Dan Gilbert back in 2007. As I summarized when I wrote about this, this is because:
Four features global warming lacks:

A face: understanding what other people are doing is so crucial that our brain has developed an obsession about human agency. This is why we see faces in the clouds, but not clouds in peoples' faces. Global warming is not trying to kill us, and that's a shame.
A violation of moral suasion: Visceral emotions are aroused by things our brains have been concerned: food and sex. NOT atmospheric chemistry. Societies are built around who you can sleep with and what you can eat, and not about how much you can consume.
A threat to the present: The brain is an exquisitely designed "get-out-of-the-way" machine. Only recently has our brain been able to think about the future and take actions againt a future event, which is why we use dental floss and invest in 401k plans. However, global warming is still in the "R&D" version.
Ability to see absolute changes: Because we are so bad at perceiving changes gradually, we are more likely to tolerate it since it was a day-to-day gradual change, not an abrupt one.
 While global warming lacks these things, ebola has all of them.
A face: ebola is carried around by people.
A violation of moral suasion: There are many social hangups about the sick, and some people (and societies) explain one's sickness as an outcome of one's past moral choices.
A threat to the present: Over and over again, one of the most prominent things that is said about ebola in its description is it's high mortality rate: up to 90% mortality. That's a pretty immediate threat to the present.
Ability to see absolute changes: One day a person is well, the next day that person is sick, another day and that person is dead; very, very absolute changes.
 So, yeah, when people are talking about global warming, who cares about what the scientists are saying? (Because global warming doesn't punch the "reactionary buttons" that we have evolved.)

Conversely, when people are talking about ebola, who cares about what the scientists are saying? (Because ebola punches - and punches hard - all of the evolved "reactionary buttons" that we have.)

Here's the video of Dan Gilbert's 2007 talk: