Bleecker Street Fair.

Once upon a time, I ran kicking and screaming from the Philly ‘burbs to New York City. Once I got here, I felt like a kid in a candy store. A really fucking great candy store. One that has fantastic toys too. (Also: shoes.) There were, and still are, too many charms and treats to enumerate in a blog post, but a New York summer street fair is definitely near the top of that list.

Some street fairs have specific themes (like food, or art) but my favorites are the more eclectic affairs that feature local artisans and collectors. Sometimes the artisans run the booths, tents and kiosks themselves, and engage potential customers in interesting conversations about their work. It’s like shopping at the ultimate Anti-Mall: there is little on offer here that one can find in a retail chain store. (I often start my winter holiday shopping in July at city street fairs.)

I unexpectedly stumbled into a street fair in my neighborhood on Saturday afternoon. I had very little time, so unfortunately I could only walk about half the length of it. But I wanted to try and capture the experience in photos. For you.

xo
__________

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Bleecker Street
between 11th and Bank Streets
July 15, 2017

[NOTE: any unobscured face visible in this post is published with the express permission of said face’s owner. All rights reserved.]

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I will have a personal teleportation device very, very soon.

The first object has been teleported by Chinese researchers from the Gobi desert to an orbiting satellite 500 kilometers above the Earth. The teleported object was a “photon”—which, from what I understand about particle physics (nothing), is not the same thing as a “live human being.” But obviously that technical detail only presents a minor obstacle, one that will undoubtedly be overcome in short order.

The way teleportation works is this: quantum entanglement something something replicating information in space blah blah blah WHATEVER. The important thing to note here is that I have already developed not one but two Sooper Seekrit lists: one of all the places to which I will soon be teleporting myself, and another of all the people I will soon be teleporting to satellites orbiting the Earth.

Needless to say, the squirrels will be joining them.

THIS is why we need Breakfast Wine.

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image: from Fossils by Heartless Machine (via New York Magazine)

The current issue of New York Magazine has a delightfully dismal piece on the near-certain near-future of life on our planet. The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells is as infotaining as it is impressively bleak. Did you know, for instance:

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I want one.

Very exciting!

After the last of its kind died out about 12,000 years ago, a strange animal that stumped Charles Darwin is finally being added to the tree of life, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications.

Macrauchenia patachonica lived during the last ice age. It resembled a bulky camel without a hump, with a long neck like that of a llama and a short trunk for a nose.

Sounds freaking awesome. Continue reading

They’re hot on my trail!

[CONTENT NOTE: graphic image of child’s arm showing injuries after a squirrel attack.]

I read with alarm a terrifying story out of Jacksonville, Florida:

Young boy among 3 attacked by squirrels at Jacksonville park

Several people including a child are recovering after they were attacked by a squirrel at a park in Jacksonville.

:o

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Multicellularity, male privilege and also I need $10 million.

I watched a video of my colleagues at FreethoughtBlogs, Matt Herron of Fierce Roller and PZ Myers of Tentacly Overlord infamy, discussing some very cool science-y stuff about the evolution of multicellularity. One of the most interesting takeaways for me is that it had long been thought that evolving multicellularity would be an exceedingly rare and difficult jump to make. But it has been discovered, only in the last five to ten years, that this is actually relatively easy and common:

Matt (@3:51): I think there’s been sort of a natural assumption that it has to be difficult. And maybe it is difficult to evolve a complex multicellular organism, with lots and lots of cell types and tissues and maybe even organs, because that hasn’t happened very many times. But Rick Grossberg has a paper where he argues basically what we’ve found, which is that at least the initial steps towards a multicellular lifestyle really aren’t that difficult. It’s happened lots of times that we know of, at least a couple of dozen times, and probably more because in a lot of cases these things don’t leave any fossil record. It is surprising, compared to what people thought five or ten years ago, that multicellularity evolves so easily, but now we’ve seen it in several of these experiments. And in a lot of cases it happens within just a few hundred generations.

OMG cool, right?

Then they touch on the intersection of philosophy and biology, and specifically the question of what exactly constitutes an individual organism, as opposed to, say, a colony of creatures that appear to function as one. I don’t know about you, but this kind of stuff really gets my beanie spinning. I am reminded of my unfortunate encounter with a species known as Physalia physalis, a.k.a. the “floating terror,” a.k.a. the Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war, which I would henceforth (and forevermore) refer to as a “sea squirrel.” Despite its similarity in appearance to the common jellyfish—an individual multicellular organism that will also sting the everloving shit out of you if given a chance—it turns out that the Sea Squirrel™ is actually something very different:

[T]he Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which, unlike jellyfish, is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of specialized individual animals called zooids or polyps. These polyps are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are unable to survive independently, and therefore have to work together and function like a so-called individual animal.

Mind: blown.

These weird little fuckers are carnivorous, wielding their wickedly venomous tentacles to paralyze prey (e.g. small fish), and to inflict upon barefoot beachwalkers excruciating pain even after they are long dead (the sea squirrels, not the beachwalkers).

Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention an interesting cephalopod angle here. Blanket octopuses are immune to sea squirrel venom, which is an amazing enough trick to evolve. But these cephalopods go waaaaaay beyond that: they rip the venomous tentacles right off of those critters (hopefully while mocking them mercilessly), and then they carry the tentacles around with them to wield as weapons for defensive (and possibly offensive) purposes. Now that is some serious next level shit, blanket octopuses! I mean, can you just picture that? Because I sure can!

 

octopusseasquirrelweaponsOctopus Wielding Sea Squirrel™ Tentacles Against Douchefish.
©Iris Vander Pluym
8′ x 11′
(oil on canvas)
$10,000,000.00

But! I digress. As beanie-spinning as all of this clearly is (as evidenced by the foregoing blather), it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post. Continue reading

News from the Texas Republic of Gilead.

Via AP:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lawmakers in Texas largely failed to take any significant action to address the state’s skyrocketing rate of pregnancy-related deaths just months after researchers found it to be the highest in not only the U.S., but the developed world.

Conservatives are pro-life, everyone. FYI.

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We suck. Help save the oceans.

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(image via Avaaz)

It’s no secret that I have no love for homo sapiens (or for Sciuridae for that matter, but they are not the goddamn problem FOR ONCE). I do, however, harbor deep affection and compassion for our cousins that dwell in the Earth’s seas.

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This is a picture of all my aquatic friends in Costa Rica.
I don’t have an underwater camera. But since I snorkeled extensively in these waters, I can assure you they are fucking amazing.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marine habitats all over this planet, humans suck giant walrus balls. Hard. In fact, it invites karmic justice of the highest order that President Cheetohead and his merry band of motherfrackers are busy ensuring Earth’s glaciers and polar ice caps completely melt, covering the entire surface of the globe in water. (BONUS: this would also solve the fucking squirrel problem once and for all. Lard knows future aquatic space alien visitors shouldn’t have to deal with that shit.)

But at least occasionally, we humans attempt to mitigate some of the worst aspects of our lamentable existence. If only momentarily, we will put our violent domination proclivities on hold and shift to a collaborative worldview, as if our very lives depended on it. They actually do, of course. And this is one of those moments.

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