Thursday: Hili Dialogue

Preliminary note for newbies: The cat below is pronounced”Hee-Lee”, with long “e”s, not “Hilly”.

Good morning on Thursday, December 13, 2018, with 12 shopping days left until Coynezaa. It’s National Cocoa Day, but didn’t we have that yesterday? YES! Someone screwed up, so we have to drink cocoa on two straight days. Well, I can think of worse things, like having to read Reza Aslan one day in a row.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot below to see it) is a series of seven sequential drawings that celebrate the Geminid Meteor Shower that will take place tonight and Friday. Every December Earth is approached by an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, a 3-mile-wide rocky body that leaves a trail of debris. It’s this debris, incinerating as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, that produces the often-spectacular meteor shower.  The best time to see the meteors will be before dawn and after moonset tomorrow—Friday.  (You can see more details about the shower and Doodle here). Maybe some readers can take photos for us.

It’s not much of a day in history. On this day in 1577, the Mallard Captain Sir Francis Drake, on orders from Queen Elizabeth I, set out from Plymouth, England to circumnavigate the Earth. It took three years, and he was the second expedition to succeed—and the first in which the captain survived.  (Do you know the first expedition?) Here’s Drake’s route:

On December 13, 1642, Abel Tasman became the first European to see New Zealand. Then we skip three centuries to December 13, 1943, when the Nazis created the Massacre of Kalavryta by German forces occupying Greece. More than 500 Greeks—all the males in that town—were shot in reprisal for guerrillas killing German soldiers.  On this day in 1949, the Israeli Knesset moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem.

On this day in 1971, “Jane Roe” (real name Norma McCorvey) filed a lawsuit against the Dallas County Attorney, Henry Wade for the right to have an abortion. Texas law at that time allowed abortion only to save the life of the mother, but also winked at women getting abortions after rape or incest. McCorvey came by her fetus the usual way. This, of course, resulted in the case of Roe v Wade, decided in 1973 by a 7-2 vote of the Supreme Court.

Finally, and I remember this, it was on December 13, 2001 that the Indian Parliament building, the Sansad Bhavan, was attacked by terrorists. Fourteen people were killed, including five terrorists, six Delhi police, 2 Parliament security guards, and a gardener.  Since then security at the Sansad Bhavan has increased tremendously, and I couldn’t even approach the building on my last several visits to Delhi.

Notables born on this day include Heinrich Heine (1797), Alvin C. York (1887), Bill Vukovich (1918), Dick Van Dyke (1925; still with us at 93), and Taylor Swift (1989).

Those who expired on December 13 include Donatello (1466), Alexander Selkirk (1721, the model for Robinson Crusoe), Samuel Johnson (1784), Wassily Kandinsky (1944), Grandma Moses (1961), Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (1992) and Zal Yanovsky (2002).

Some artwork from those who died on this day:

Donatello (David):

Wassily Kandinsky, one of my favorite painters (“Swinging”):

Grandma Moses (“Christmas”):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej picked up Hili for a cuddle and then took a selfie. (Remember, the cat is “Hee-Lee”

A: Do I disturb you?
Hili: Just a bit.
In Polish:
Ja: Nie przeszkadzam ci?
Hili: Tylko troszkę.

In London, readers Laurie and Gethyn, the staff of the coffee-drinking cat Theo, are worried because he scratched himself furiously until he drew blood. They took him to the vet and provide the narrative below. I’m a fan of Theo, so please spare a thought for him and his staff:

We originally thought he caught fleas at the vet; and before we knew it, he had scratched his head and shoulder until there were open wounds on each.  They proceed with treating him as if for an allergy and gave him  steroids and put him in the collar.  His head is better; but, he was still able to reach his shoulder and injured it more.  That’s why the medical sweater.  The Dermatologist will determine if it’s allergies or something skin-related.  But if there are no answers forthcoming, they will have to admit him for tests.

Poor guy! Look at that get up (admittedly, it’s Christmas-colored):

A photo I found on Facebook:

Science presenter Ziya Tong found this cool demonstration of close-up magic. Be sure to watch the trick:

Tweets from Grania. First, the satirist Titania McGrath comments obliquely about the British-Russian comedian asked to sign a “behavioural agreement” so as not to offend any University of London students:

Oops—wrong green!

What goes around comes around, and Michael Cohen’s going away for three years:

It seems that Artists of Yore couldn’t draw sloths any better than they could draw cats. This thing has a head the size of a ping-pong ball on a body the size of a German Shepherd, and a human face as well:

I’m pretty sure that back in those days they put rocks in the snowballs:

A friendly sea lion. Note that it has external ears so it’s a sea lion rather than a seal. (I remember that because “sea lion” has more letters than “seal”, and has an extra body part, too.)

Tweets from Matthew. The first is real population-genetics history: Motoo Kimura was instrumental in developing and popularizing the “neutral theory” of evolution, positing that many variant alleles did not differ in their contribution to fitness and so were not subject to natural selection. Lewontin, of course, was my advisor, and the two papers at issue (Lewontin & Hubby 1966) were about the large amount of genetic variation at genes that coded for soluble proteins, variation that Kimura undoubtedly wanted to analyze with his neutral theory. Steve Orzack was a friend a fellow grad student at Dick’s lab at Harvard when I was there. (Graham Coop is a population geneticist at UC Davis.)

Predation. The strength of this wasp, when it flies away with its orthopteran at the end, is stunning. Translations of the Japanese welcome.

Another peaceful encounter with orcas. Matthew’s comment:

“Mum and two youngsters – presumably Mum thought the swimmer might be a baby whale in difficulty, hence the non-bitey interest. Many stories of cetaceans saving drowning sailors.”

Science writer Matt Shipman points out the unfair lack of interest in insects of many biology textbooks:



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    It just so happens I started drinking cocoa instead of coffee yesterday.

    Went well, so again today.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    I believe Magellan was the first but died before the trip was complete. I am still trying to understand the magic tricks. I think those guys had their fists around the snowballs.

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Antidote [double strength!]:

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Fresh from the lab – so to speak

      • Merilee
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        That’s too fluffy to be a Lab🤓

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink


  4. David Coxill
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Has anything happened to Gus ,you haven’t mentioned him lately .Poor old Theo ,my cat Misha is always scratching himself under the chin ,the vet says he has acne .

    • darrelle
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      Our cat had that problem last year. Our vet said they often pick that up from eating and recommended cleaning / changing out the cat’s eating bowl frequently and using a wide shallow bowl. Both things we had already been doing, so no help there.

      But they also prescribed a topical of some sort and that worked great. After first making our poor cat sick for 3 days. The first time we applied it she of course immediately cleaned it off. Turns out it wasn’t good for cats to ingest. She threw up for 3 days. After she recovered we began treatment again, but we would apply it and then hold her for 10-15 minutes and then thoroughly clean it off. Within two weeks of that her chin, which had been in pretty bad shape, was back to normal.

      • Merilee
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        A dab of hydrogen peroxide rubbed on the chin does wonders for kitty chin acne.

        • darrelle
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

          Makes sense, thanks!

          • Claudia Baker
            Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

            I’m wondering about Gus too. Miss seeing pics of him basking in Winnipeg sun or snow.

            • Posted December 14, 2018 at 4:31 am | Permalink

              Gus’s owner was angry at me over something and flounced. I miss him too!

        • David Coxill
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

          Hydrogen peroxide ? Wasn’t that stuff the Germans powered the Me162 with ,something else as well

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

            Those 1930s Hollywood movie babes were using hydrogen peroxide [v weak solution of 3%? I guess] to bleach their hair & to whiten their teeth. It’s a major ingredient under the sink: bleaches, soap powders, germ killers. It’s very nasty stuff concentrated & it’s part of that weird smell in dry cleaners & women’s hair dressers.

            The He 162 used diesel or gasoline for the jet engine
            The Me 163 rocket engine used hydrogen peroxide [around 85% which is high concentration] as one of the two chemicals that mixed together produced a hypergolic reaction [sometimes an explosion]

            Also used on the V1 doodlebug sometimes – powering the bomb up the launch ramp with auxiliary rocket power [on the sled? in a catapult?]

            • Merilee
              Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

              Booker’s chinny-chin-chin is already white, so no bleaching would be noticeable. However Lucy Poochie (and her predecessor Currie-the-Pooch) showed no signs of bleaching when I had to de-skunk them (as I did with Lucy night before last), and Currie had mostly black fur.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

                What’s the dilution out of the bottle? Does it say benzoyl peroxide or hydrogen peroxide on the label? I dunno how long it takes to bleach hair.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

                I’ll check the dilution. Most def hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).

              • Merilee
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

                The bottle says 10Vol 3% W/V (which I assume means Weight per Volume, but no idea what the 10Vol means).

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

                According to Quora 10V H2O2= 1 litre of H2O2 gives 10 L of O2 at STP.
                I looked up a hairdressing site: “Permanent hair colour is mixed with 10 vol (3%), 20 vol (6%), 30 vol (9%) or 40 vol (12%) hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), known as an oxidant. The choice of oxidant is key for achieving the correct target shade and depth.”

              • Merilee
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                So 10Vol means the same as 3%.
                Since I never bleach or dye my hair, I am not concerned with the other strengths. I’m glad that my critters don’t end up streaky, though.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

                10 VOL means 1 liter of H2O2 produces 10 liters of O2(a gas). It’s a measure of strength.
                40 VOL would be too strong to safely use in bleaching hair.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

                But where does the 3% come in? It’s been a long time since I took chem, inorganic or organic. I remember 9 hrs of quant analysis labs/week and molar (and molal?) ratios.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 5:52 am | Permalink

                Same here. Chemistry is far in my past. I’ll stick my neck out on a limb and say 30 grams of liquid(solid?) H2O2 in 1 liter of water.

              • Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:06 am | Permalink

                The solution for disinfection is 3%, while that for hair bleaching is whole 6%.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

              I just bought a few pounds of that stuff as a powder for cleaning. Not sure how concentrated a solution I could get. I’d better us rubber gloves and a face mask. Pray that I don’t create an Me 163 in the sink.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

                It’s very safe. You can even gargle with it. Good for canker sores.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink


          • Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

            Hydrogen peroxide has often been used as a rocket fuel but the stuff we have in our medicine cabinet is only 6% or less diluted with water.

  5. Hunt
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Hit the weights, David.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      In the story David was only a lad & the lack of musculature emphasises the difference between him & Goliath [supposedly 6’6″ or more]. Also Donatello was trying out a new style different from what went before him.

      • Hunt
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        True. Even Michelangelo’s David was kind of a girly man. Late 20th/early 21st century critics (I) have been programmed to the Brobdingnagian ideals of Schwarzenegger and Stallone.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

          Absolutely. Also some modern art historians claim Donatello was gay & this statue is a display of homoeroticism [the wing of Goliath’s head gear going up the back of the innocent, virginal lad’s leg…]

          Art historians are full of it of course – they are the gatekeepers that have allowed, fot coin, the art world to be flooded with forgeries & misattributions [“it’s the ‘school of’ darling precious, cos we all say so!”]

          • rickflick
            Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

            I’m not sure we should blame the art historians for forgeries. I’m pretty sure they are not producing them. Perhaps they are responsible for not detecting forgeries? Detection is now a technical field where materials x-rayed and chemically analyzed.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

              My starting position is to be suspicious of art historians, dealers & auction houses & work from that back to a position of credibility on a one by one basis.

              Theodore Rousseau former vice director and curator-in-chief of the Metropolitan Museum: “We should all realize that we can only talk about the bad forgeries, the ones that have been detected; the good ones are still hanging on the walls” – hardly anything hanging on the walls has been tested to modern standards & there’s plenty of stuff known with 99% certainty [never 100%] to have been destroyed in wars & fires that can magically reappear decades later by stuffing the copy in among the art effects of some just dead eccentric collector. The temptations are absolutely huge.

              There’s various scandals involved in finding enough quality classical fine art to stock the galleries of the EIGHT [or more?] new art galleries being built in the middle east oil states & it looks to me as if the buyers don’t really care to look to close as long as there’s the papers & chain of ownership & the word of some art nob that “yes that $400M portrait is a Rubens” [Rubens ran a factory basically & ancient letters from Rubens mentioning current work are popular proofs…] .

              The big thing is the misattribution [in both directions] industry – there is so much of it going on. Like this example:

              The thirst for ‘proper’ art is insatiable & pockets are bottomless. I believe the scam is bid business & just as tainted as say insider trading on the financial markets. How could it not be so?

              • Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

                Reminds me of a wonderful visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum (or was it the British Museum) where they had a whole exhibit devoted to fakes. There is something satisfying in hearing how those old stuffed-shirt curators were fooled.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

                I’d have to doubt the ability of many buyers to know good from bad in the first place. I’m pretty sure the sheiks hire buyers which adds yet another layer for potential grifters.
                I think it’s a shame that so much injustice and corruption can distort the art and it’s appreciation. But, from a less haughty perspective, it’s almost amusing that an artistically illiterate Arab or Kuwaiti can exalt in a painting which is almost the real thing. Picasso or Caravaggio might just smile. The prices at the high end for collectors do not reflect any possible intrinsic value of the art. I’ve heard that the buyers can be thought of as a club of a few dozen billionaires who trade paintings like we trade postage stamps. Lots of ego and not too much sensibility or insight.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

                Some reading I did a decade ago:

                Art, stamp collections – anything light & expensive are also used as a guarantee in large drug deals. The art stays in one place, but the code or key to it is exchanged [one of those ‘use once’ only electronic key tokens]. A lot of dodgy wealth is kept in this form [or bullion] under the city of London – it is not accounted & the value of the art is a notional figure decided by those involved [less than presumed auction value]. It would have to be notional given that a lot of the art is stolen anyway.

                These high security permanent storage facilities are found near all major airports & they’re more anon than bank security vaults. Just the code key is needed.

  6. darrelle
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    That woman is so lucky. Life changing experience indeed.

    • mikeyc
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      She’s lucky in another, more immediate sense. We humans are not normally prey for Orca, but that could change in an instant. It’s not out of benevolence that she wasn’t eaten. It’s like walking past pigeons on your way to work – they’re pretty safe because chickens are our preferred avian food but under the right circumstances, they’d be lunch.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        I agree there is something to what you say. But orca attacks on humans are very rare. Well, except in captivity. Of course, being such large and powerful creatures they can kill humans without necessarily intending to (oops).

    • Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      I’ve swum with dolphins many times, but I would never feel safe with orcas. In my view , orcas are about as apex as our planet has. She is lucky to be alive…that’s the life changing feeling she has.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        Agree, they are the apex of the apex. Dolphins are also large, powerful and arguably more dangerous statistically speaking, in the wild, to humans than orcas are.

        According to Wikipedia (I know, but it’s a place to start), “. . . , wild orcas are not considered a real threat to humans, as there is no record of a wild Orca outright attacking or harming a human. Looking at a couple of lists of wild orca incidents that does seem to be fairly accurate. There is one recorded incident of a bite in the 1970’s, but there are no records of orcas in the wild killing a human.

        • Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

          That in itself is kind of amazing. If I had chompers like those orcas, I would probably at least try humans once. After all, how different from seal could they be?

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

            It’s the packaging 🙂

        • mikeyc
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          Occasionally you hear of dolphins dragging drowning people to safety. It does happen. Of course, we never hear from the ones they drag to sea.

          Same with Orca-eaten humans. We just call them “lost at sea”.

          • Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:11 am | Permalink

            However, if a predator has no inhibition to attack humans, it soon becomes well known. Many shark victims were “lost at sea”, yet everyone knows not to mess with certain sharks.

  7. Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:41 am | Permalink


    Francis Drake’s ship was named “Pelican” not “Mallard”. Also, he didn’t set out to circumnavigate the Earth but to capture Spanish treasure ships. Coming back the long way was just convenient for him at the time.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink


      Mallard Captain Sir Francis Drake

      I think “Mallard” was a jest, riffing on “Drake”

      • Posted December 14, 2018 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        Yes, because we had a mallard in the pond this year named Sir Francis Drake.

    • David Coxill
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Didn’t he have a golden behind?

  8. jay
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Parking lot virtue signalling:

    A while back while travelling there were open spots labelled ‘high efficiency or low emissions vehicles only’. My wife jokingly asked if we qualified, looked at my old Jeep and declared ‘hell no!’

    But she has a handicap, so we got a better parking space anyhow.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      I haven’t seen signs like that here in the UK except when associated with recharging points & they usually give a time restriction of say 4 hrs so others can charge. That photo is conveniently cropped of context & it’s all over the usual sites that glorify personal freedom above public good – the places that mock “libtards”.

      I have read that IKEA, Whole Foods & various other retailers in the US have started small ‘preferred [privileged if you will] parking’ schemes to earn themselves easy green points for certification – not virtue signalling IMO, but I’m all for virtue signalling if it means the common good is served [picking up dog shit, not cycling among pedestrians, seatbelts, mufflers, alternative compact vehicles, cityscapes for people first etc]

      e.g. The United States Green Building Council apparently doles out three points for such parking schemes, toward the total of 40 needed for basic LEED certification, the organization’s green-building stamp of approval.

      • James
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        When Babies”R”Us was around they had preferred parking for pregnant mothers and families with babies. Which is fair enough–they’re catering to their market. And a nine-month pregnant woman needs and deserves special treatment.

        In most other cases, this sort of thing is just annoying. Not my property, not my call, but this is no different than those idiots who have tricked-out cars with lights everywhere and exhaust systems that rattle nearby windows.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

          If I’ve read you right James, you are claiming that stores/businesses putting a few ‘green’ parking spaces preferentially near their entry/exit points…

          “…is no different than those idiots who have tricked-out cars with lights everywhere and exhaust systems that rattle nearby windows”

          My mind is blown.

          • James
            Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

            That’s correct. It’s all about showing off–in the case of the cars it’s about showing how macho you are, while in the case of the stores it’s about showing off how woke you are. In both cases, no one is fooled and sane people think you’re a moron.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

              Tooling around in an electric car is macho? A store racking up green certification points is woke?

              You palaeontologist/geologists should remember to wear a big hat whenever the sun is out! LOL

              • Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

                Reminds me of the conflict the macho drivers must be going through now. A Tesla can blow the doors off most (all?) muscle cars, Ferraris, etc. but it’s the eco-friendly wimps’ car of choice. What to do?

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

                Good point

              • James
                Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

                “Tooling around in an electric car is macho?”

                Where exactly did I mention electric cars? I was talking about the ones with illegal lights (according to several cops in a number of states, at least), or modded to sound as though their exhaust system was broken (the words of a mechanic who offered to fix the guy’s truck, not mine). Those activities are more or less there for machismo, yes. (The exception being people who show said cars, in which case it’s for machismo and money.)

                “A store racking up green certification points is woke?”

                Is there any other reason for “green certifications”? Half of my job is cleaning up CERCLA sites, so I obviously have nothing against environmental awareness. But pseudo-environmentalism that’s just for show really only serves one’s purposes if one is trying to prove how much one adheres to various liberal orthodoxies. I may have misused the term “woke”; the definition changes every few days, and depends on who you talk to. I was under the impression that Greens fell under that umbrella, for the moment.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

              Bloody hell – you babble & write so confusingly that it’s inevitable that you end up attempting to clarify but failing. I’m not interested in this unproductive back & forth James.

              Now you’re saying that hazardous waste identification/clearance is a good thing & it’s half of what you do in your work. BUT then you declare that in a pseudo-environmentalism category you would put these [& similar] LEED V4 parking schemes. That they a part of “various [unspecified] liberal orthodoxies” & you admit you may have flung the term “woke” about juuuust a bit to freely. And you seem to have some aversion to ‘greens’.

              Are you Charlton Heston reincarnated?

              You write in such broad brushstrokes that conversation cannot progress – smearing a collection of assertions on the page is easy stuff James, but it’s a tiresome exercise to go back & forth with. A bit of an MO you have!

              I say these schemes are for certification & you decide that’s a practise that [for unspecific reasons] has your nose out of joint! It is a fact that nearly all new buildings in most locales these days have to conform to standards that include many green elements. And it’s a good thing.

              For example that LEED one is very, very basic & focuses on materials [human health & environment], performance re indoor environmental quality, smart grid credits for participating in demand response programs & water efficiency. The parking places are part of the demand response to car recharging & also [maybe] giving some privilege to green vehicle users [better car park positions perhaps as well as charging points, I’m unsure].

              Just stop with the generalisations & assertions. They are so dilute as to be worthless.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      I agree with Jay and James (rarely) that there’s a good dash of virtue signalling by the parking lot owner.

      What appeals to my sense of mischief would be to follow the arguments in court if the owner of the green ute was prosecuted for being in a space reserved for green vehicles. Kinda hard to prosecute that one.


  9. Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Theo, the coffee-drinking cat, might suffer from the same problem I do. I love my coffee but if I drink to much, my skin gets dry and itchy. TMI?

  10. James
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I like the Princeton photo. Reminds me of college. Gotta blow off steam somehow, and mutually-agreed-upon violence is a remarkably good way to do it!

  11. Claudia Baker
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    “…like having to read Reza Aslan one day in a row.” Lol.

    Oh no! Not the black dog again…

  12. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Poor Theo! He must be in agony. I hope the vet finds the cause and is able to treat it.

  13. Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Any etymologists recommend an introductory text for their discipline?

    Also, preserve that postcard, towards the end of correspondence being easily preserved. (Intellectual historians have told me that having email doing most of it now will make it more difficult to reconstruct reading patterns and other aspects of scientific history.)

  14. Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Neutral Theory (NT) as Kimura originally framed it has been steadily walked back in response to strong critiques. Though still an important concept, it has not fared well in the explosion of genetic research advances, and still has minimal predictive ability.

    Kimura was explicit that his theory only obtained at the molecular level. But the anti-science Left has misappropriated NT to argue against selection at the phenotypic level. There’s even a certain biology instructor at an obscure state college annex who argues that NT means no phenotype variations whatsoever provide any fitness value!

  15. Steve Bracker
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    “Every December Earth is approached by an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, a 3-mile-wide rocky body that leaves a trail of debris.”

    More exactly, “Every December Earth approaches the orbit of weird asteroid 3200 Phaethon, along which the asteroid has shed a great deal of mostly tiny debris.” You can get a really good meteor shower even when the asteroid itself is far away; it all depends on the (not well known) details of how the debris is distributed in the vicinity of the orbit.

    For those interested in such things, it’s worth looking at the details of the asteroid. It moves along a highly elliptical and highly inclined orbit that takes it much closer to the Sun than Mercury and farther from the Sun than Mars. Its orbital period is 1.43+ Earth-years. As best I can tell, the asteroid and Earth are not locked in any kind of resonance, so generally the asteroid itself is far away when the Earth gets near its orbit every December. But not always. In late 2017, the asteroid really did get pretty close to Earth. For a brief time it was bright enough and moving fast enough (relative to the “fixed” stars) so that with the help of a moderate-sized amateur telescope you could see it moving along in real time (not just with time lapse movies).

    • rickflick
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

      It always sound scary to think something that big could be so close. They say the odds of an actual impact are very low, but, as you say there are many unknowns. I know there are people who spend their time observing the near Earth objects, but if something is found to have our name on it, there’s nothing we could possible do about it. I’m sure in 50 or 100 years our arsenal of deflectors will be much better, but for now, it seems, we are at the mercy of the gods.

      • Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        If the collision was immanent there would be nothing we could do about it but there are a bunch of untried things, several of which are likely to work. We’re pretty good now at computing trajectories and it would take a very small nudge to change its course. In general, the ones we don’t know about that are the real problem. A better detection system should be the first priority.

  16. Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Interesting to see the reprint request to Dick Lewontin from Motoo Kimura. It apparently arrived while I was a graduate student in Dick’s lab. It’s worth noting that in the discussion section of the Lewontin and Hubby 1966 paper, Dick clearly explained the alternative hypotheses for the maintenance of the genetic variability of these loci, including balancing selection and neutral mutation. Although he did not commit to either, this is the first clear statement of the neutral mutation theory for within-population variability. (The earlier paper by Kimura and Crow, 1964, presented some of the math of neutrality, but as the null case to evaluate the effect of balancing selection).

  17. Кузман
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    The text at the end of the Japanese wasp tweet just says “half speed” (lit. “1/2 slow”).

    The first tag is “bug fancier taken photos”, roughly. Despite sounding like someone who sells bugs, mushiya apparently just refers to enthusiasts.

    The second tag is the wasp’s common name “black digger wasp” (クロアナバチ literally “black hole wasp”, apparently Sphex argentatus) and the last tag the bush cricket’s name (クビキリギス lit. “neck katydid”), Euconocephalus thunbergi.

  18. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Keeps my paws crossed for Theo. And have learnt yet again to not trust magicians against black backgrounds (though at least that makes their tricks easier to reveal).

    I had forgotten about the irony of Cohen being locked up. Even more fun, what if the exposed Criminal-In-Chief manages to lock himself up but not the adversary he liked to make up chants about!?

    • Diane G
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      Oh please, oh please!

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