ward’s future evolution was, overall, a highly enjoyable read, although less rich in scholarly content than expected. it provides summaries of both past extinctions and the contemporary one, and categorizes the types of contributing factors. ward’s writing emphasizes generalization over the elucidation of specific scholarly citations - and while this can be seen as a weakness when viewed alongside the decidedly oxfordian aspirations of the book’s tone, it does allow the freedom that provides for future evolution’s finest moments, in which he allows himself to abandon (at least somewhat) the academic narrative in favor of beautiful, psychedelic moments of pure speculation. in one such section, he imagines an evolutionary niche filled by aerial airborne jellyfish he cleverly terms “zepplinoids”, and creates an almost plausible (and why not, when seen from the perspective of our own genetic improbabilities?) possible explanation.
regarding jellyfish: like many, i’ve always had a aesthetic appreciation for many members of the phylum cndaria, particular for their soft-bodied symmetry and seemingly almost protozoan bauplans. however, after reading earlier today about turritopsis nutricula’s ability to regenerate against senescence itself, i can’t help but marvel at the serendipity associated with finding biological immortality in one of the most ancient of phyla. it’s definitely a zen thought.
enjoy ltj bukem? here’s the real “next level” (love that pred sample).
dear dubstep (or whatever you’re becoming), welcome to what 2010 is going to sound like.
it’s almost time for me to begin the application for my research internship this summer. i won’t mention the host school, but it’s a paid - that’s important to being able to continue my studies - bio position at a prestigious medical research university in the boston area (a narrow field, isn’t it?). although i’ve been told by the department chair at my school that i’ll be receiving their allocated nomination, i still won’t be completely settled until everything is finalized.
i’m hoping to have the chance to tangentially relate my internship to both of my primary blog interests (cephalopods and neuroscience) by being selected for a project examining the neural foundations of soft-bodied invertebrate movement. it involves working for a neuroethologist, which would be a wonderful academic connection to make. professor mark nelson’s wonderful website recommends a text which i might picked up, authored what turns out to be a local academic, northeastern professor günther zupanc. i assume the two know each professionally, as they’ve both done extensive research on electric fish; it’s a thought that makes me look forward to the possibility of someday having my own academic peers (and perhaps even rivals?)
i recently finished reading ward’s future evolution. i’ll likely discuss some of ward’s ideas more in the future posts, but one of the possible futures for mankind that he was willing to grant philosophical credence was that of a man-machine singularity.
whether the machine consciousness in question is likely to be “copied” from, “transferred” from, or “linked” to the original biological is something i’ll leave the dennetts of the future to debate, but it seems logical enough that that1 moment will be likely preceded by the creation of a lesser homonculi: an animal doppëlganger of sorts. it’s possible that one of those first animal doppëlgangers will be a simple invertebrate, such as those that i hope to study this summer.
regardless of the “döppled” species, however, we can be certain that much of the knowledge required for such a feat of engineering will be provided by the study of neuroethology - a study that seems certain to remain academically rich for some time yet. perhaps i should consider visual neuroethology? i’ll certainly have a better idea by the end of the summer.
1click here for some interesting facts found while attempting to determine whether “that that” is grammatically incorrect (it isn’t, but it still sounds clumsy to me)
i’m currently about halfway through dawkins’ “the ancestor’s tale”, and enjoying it tremendously. i’ve also started swimming freestyle laps for the first time as of the past couple weeks. it seems fitting that just as dawkins introduces the amphibians, i start to make significant progress in my swimming (from being terrible to being only somewhat terrible).
dawkins briefly mentions a fossil known as acanthostega, which shows “that ‘legs’ originally evolved for movement in water, [and] not on land”. it’s a compelling thought, made even more so by his description of a recent theory that contends the devonian period was characterized by an abundance of swamps - implying that the lobe-finned fish which are our ancestors may have left their aquatic habitats not to escape drought, but rather to migrate from shallow, oxygen-depleted swamps towards deeper waters. effectively, “our ancestors left the water, not at first to colonise land, but to return to water”.
as i get ready to grab my goggles and leave for the pool, i can’t help but be motivated by that imagery. if you’re willing to endure some dry humor, then consider this thought: that perhaps it’s not just ontogeny that recapitulates phylogeny, but michael phelps as well.
i’m not quite sure what to write first in this blog, so perhaps i should simply list some subjects of personal interest that will likely be the subject of future entries
- the biology and care of cephalopods (cuttlefish, octopodes, squid), with some general biology
- cognitive philosophy, particularly as regards jean nicod prize publications
- recent releases in electronic music, with a strong emphasis on dubstep and jungle
- evolutionary biology (explored through “popsci”, starting with dawkins and the complete works of david attenborough)
- my progress in learning lab-applicable computer science without a computer science background
- neuroscience (explored through journals and textbooks in addition to “popsci”)
- post-modernist literature and poetry, with an emphasis on muumuu house and blog-related publications (but possibly more as i grow familiar with other contemporary scenes)
about me: 21, part-time internet troll, personally ambitious, hopefully utilizing this blog as catalysis towards a greater understanding of (and fluency speaking about) the above; maybe some new efriends too?