Etc: Links for 4th October, 2019

  1. Spiders can fly, and farther than you think.
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    “Spiders have no wings, but they can take to the air nonetheless. They’ll climb to an exposed point, raise their abdomens to the sky, extrude strands of silk, and float away. This behavior is called ballooning. It might carry spiders away from predators and competitors, or toward new lands with abundant resources. But whatever the reason for it, it’s clearly an effective means of travel. Spiders have been found two-and-a-half miles up in the air, and 1,000 miles out to sea.”
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  2. Ted Chiang (and if you don’t know who he is, look him up!) on parrots:
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    “Many scientists were skeptical that a bird could grasp abstract concepts. Humans like to think they’re unique. But eventually Pepperberg convinced them that Alex wasn’t just repeating words, that he understood what he was saying.Out of all my cousins, Alex was the one who came closest to being taken seriously as a communication partner by humans. Alex died suddenly, when he was still relatively young. The evening before he died, Alex said to Pepperberg, “You be good. I love you.”

    If humans are looking for a connection with a nonhuman intelligence, what more can they ask for than that?”
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  3. On rats in Alaska. A great story, lots of information that I didn’t know about rats, and lovely pictures to boot.
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    “Consider the rat—the inquisitive whiskered muzzle, those deft little paws, those assessing eyes. It looks smart, and it is. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so indestructible. Rats are highly suspicious of new things, or neophobic, which makes them hard to catch because they steer clear of traps. In 2004, New Zealand biologist James Russell and a team of collaborators released a radio-collared male rat named Razza on a small island to test just how hard. They spent the next four months chasing him, writes William Stolzenburg in his 2011 eradication-for-conservation opus, Rat Island. Razza snubbed every treat. The radio signal failed when Razza swam to another island. In the end, Razza succumbed to a trap baited with fresh penguin, in an area where scientists tracked him with rat-sniffing dogs.”
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  4. On the ongoing, escalating, sometimes bewildering war between humans and mosquitoes.
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  5. And to round off our romp through the animal kingdom, bees.
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    “Argentine startup Beeflow says it has more than doubled its tiny workers’ pollen-carrying capacity by feeding them custom compounds. The nutrients enhance the bees’ immune systems to handle colder conditions and also increase their attraction to the particular flower the farmer wants them to pollinate—blueberries, raspberries, or the all-important almonds.”
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Author: Ashish

Prof at Gokhale Institute, Pune, Blogger at econforeverybody.com, Podcaster at anchor.fm/backtocollege

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