Bricksscience.com is part of the brickwahl.com universe that also includes brickspicks.com (music and culture), bricksbrain.com (cognition, perception and my epilepsy), brickspolitics.com and brickshistory.com.

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UFOs

(2015)

Whatever happened to UFOs?  A sad victim of ubiquitous cell phone cameras. I mean there should have been thousands of images and video–with audio and pop ups–by now. But there aren’t. Just cheesy Roswell videos and ancient aliens and the occasional creepy inexplicable account like John McPhee’s that still makes us wonder, even if just a little bit.

Perhaps UFO’s have fallen victim to this, the internet, the digital universe. We stare into screens now looking for mysteries and visitations and fantasies and myths to swallow whole, like Athena, fearful of dull, inexorable, science. We stare so hard that even if there were lights flitting about above us we wouldn’t see them. We wouldn’t even believe them unless they appeared on Facebook with a zillion likes. Reality is virtual now, and even analog fantasies are not to believed unless digitized.

Huge hands

Huge hands with huge fingers are not an evolutionary advantage on a smart phone. I see my kind becoming extinct, like some sort of vastly fingered megafauna. I go to the La Brea tar pits and look at the skeletons of megatheriums with their huge clumsy claws and envision me thudding at a tiny digital keyboard with ridiculous fingers, tormented by GIFs.

Losing it in the tabloids

Brick Wahl losing it in the comments section of a British tabloid:

There is almost nothing correct in this article. Aegirocassis benmoulae was not a lobster. It was not even kind of like a lobster. Not even sorta kinda vaguely like a lobster. Indeed, there is virtually no connection whatsoever between Aegirocassis benmoulae and lobsters. Had you printed the actual artist’s rendering of Aegirocassis benmoulae your readers would have noticed, after tearing themselves away from Kim Kardashian’s ass, that the lobster comparison was a bit of a stretch. Indeed we human beings are more closely related to frogs, flamingos and lungfish than Aegirocassis benmoulae was to a lobster. Which makes me a six and half foot lungfish and you a hopefully soon to be extinct failure of a science editor.

Somebody had to say it, if David Attenborough won’t.

Alas, this comment was deleted by The Express. I knew I shouldn’t have said Kim Kardashian’s ass. Arse maybe.

express_logo 

Lobsters the size of HUMANS swam the seas 480 million years ago, new fossil reveals
A Caribbean lobster

A GIGANTIC lobster bigger than a human once populated the oceans, a new fossil find has revealed.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/563304/Lobsters-size-HUMANS-swam-seas-480million-years-ago

iPhone

New iPhone. First ever iPhone, actually. Last time I used anything Apple was 1993. I was much younger then. It’s a little weird and counter-intuitively disconcerting now, this iPhone, like learning an Indo-European language vaguely familiar but full of irregularities. Plus I’m ordering all these coffees at Starbucks and I don’t even know what they are.

Also, these Apple decals are stuck to my fingers. My shirt. My hair. That lady’s pants.

Oops, gotta run. Siri just told me it’s goat yoga time.

Chinese cats

(January, 2016)

Cool stuff….appears that cats were domesticated twice–once in the middle east, and later and independently in China. The Chinese cats, which were domesticated leopard cats, disappeared once the middle eastern variety was introduced to China, so that today’s domesticated cats, even those in China, are descended from the middle eastern wild cat. They believe that those wild cats from the mid east developed vocalizations (or kept up kitten sounds into adulthood) that appealed to us, while leopard cats have fewer vocalizations for interacting with humans. They might not have been as affectionate and easy to tame either. You play too hard to get and you’re back out in the cold. You know how you cat people are.

Piscine nihilism

So a couple days ago I was harvesting white hair algae from the fish tank. Amazing and annoying stuff, it begins to clump on a leaf or stalk with bunches of fine grey filaments and you have to either remove the leaf or yank a clump of the hairy stuff from a stalk until you’ve got a little pile of algae that looks more like the floor of a Leisure World barber shop than anything algal and slimy. It smells faintly of kelp, also an algae, but a mega algae. In comparison these white hair algae are maybe an inch or two long. Yet apparently these white hair algae are actually a community of algae species, each filament a towering algal skyscraper, like a tiny stromatolite waving in the current.

But I digress.

Removing the algae stirred up the Gordian knot of plants floating in the center of the tank, a mass of interconnected triffids rising from thin stalks anchored in the gravel to take over their known universe. Suddenly, almost like magic, a tiny little fish appeared. An infant platy. Uh oh. It should have had two or three or even four dozen siblings. There should be a whole herd of tiny fishlings. But this little guy.seemed utterly alone. For the week prior all the other fish had been giving unusual attention to the eddies and recesses in that mass of plants. Now I know why. They’d been stalking baby prey. A piscicidal massacre. Even the orange platys, both mom and dad, had pitched into the feast, eating more than their share, devouring their own DNA and shitting it out again, any chance of their own evolution stopped cold. Now that’s a Darwin Award. Literally eating their own. Sick little fucks, fish.

Quirks of fate

It seems that 70,000 years ago the global population of homo sapiens was reduced to less than 26,000. Apparently they teased out that bit of info through some genetic analysis. As humans were by then in Africa and across much of Eurasia, that means we were very sparse on the ground. All seven billion of us spring from remarkably small numbers of people. Indeed, it’s been suggested that as few as seventy individuals came across the Bering Strait land bridge to eventually people the entire western hemisphere. We’ve had more than seventy people in our pad at parties. I never thought of them as a genome before. Well, I did once and got my face slapped. But I digress.

A million or so years ago our antecessor species Homo erectus seems in the genetic analyses (if I knew how they do this I’d tell you) to have been reduced to less than a thousand individuals….and remained like that on the razor’s edge of extinction for maybe a hundred thousand years. Everything we are was dependent on a population the size of a very small town or a medium sized high school or the fans of failing rock band in a big, mostly empty concert hall. Somewhere in that tiny population was some of us, genetically. Whatever genetic factors helped members of that population survive a particularly brutal hundred thousand years of Darwinian natural selection (as other related human species went extinct) lies deep in our own genome. And when 70,000 years ago something happened globally that reduced Homo sapiens to less than 25,000 individuals, we survived while the last of Homo erectus died out, unable to survive what it had once survived for a hundred thousand years. No one ever said natural selection was fair. It’s anything but. The fossil record is full of species of humans and proto-humans no longer here. Fleshed out by talented artists, they gaze at us with all the pathos of a Rembrandt. You can sense their intelligence and emotions. Then you look at the skulls again, bare and ancient and hopelessly extinct. There but for quirks of fate, is us.