What Life is Like for a Butterfly

In 1835, Charles Darwin, on his historic voyage, visited Chile, where he met a German naturalist called Renous. Renous had recently been jailed for heresy (of all things). He was raising caterpillars to study butterflies, but the good people of San Fernando did not know that caterpillars turn into butterflies. Surely, turning one animal into another was witchcraft!

We might scoff at their ignorance, but more than 180 years later, we still know precious little about butterflies. Each year, Monarch butterflies make a voyage far more impressive than Darwin’s, flying over 7500 km (4700 miles) from the eastern U.S. to Mexico and back – that’s like a human being circling the globe 2325 times! Continue reading

AI and the Future of Drones

“Every so often in history, the emergence of a new technology changes our world. Like gunpowder, the printing press, or even the atomic bomb, such “revolutionary” technologies are game-changers not merely because of their capabilities, but rather because the ripple effects that they have outwards onto everything from our wars to our politics. That is, something is revolutionary not so much because of what it can do, but rather the tough social, military, business, political, ethical, and legal questions it forces us to ask.”

– Peter W. Singer [1]

Imagine that there are large boxes in your brain for sorting stuff that your mind learns about. Ever since you were a baby, you’ve been categorizing things into the correct “brain-box”. When you were a toddler, you got your first picture book and learned about fish. You learned that fish swim and have fins. Even as a child, you understood that a salmon is similar to a trout, but very different from a cat. Because even though cats and trout have eyes and mouths, cats don’t have fins, so they are not fish.

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Debunking: Does Cultivation Kill More Animals Than Livestock Farming?

Picture this: You’re a harvest mouse who lives in a wheat field. Being a mouse, you have excellent hearing and can easily pick up sounds that a human cannot hear. Thanks to your sensitive whiskers and small size, you’re acutely attuned to vibrations caused by large machines. Although your eyesight isn’t the best in the world, your eyes are situated high on your head and offer an excellent all-round view. And to top that off, you have lightning reflexes and dash about at a top speed of 8 miles an hour.

Now imagine that you’re perched idly on a stalk of wheat, your tail curled around it like a fifth limb. You’re smelling the crisp morning air and feeling the sun shining on your face. But then, the ground starts to shudder as a 3 ton, 4-cylinder diesel-engined combine harvester ominously starts heading your way – which, by the way, you can see without even turning your head. What will you do?

  1. Run like hell
  2. Humbly await your fate on a Kentish plum

Mike Archer, a paleontologist, goes with Option 2, which makes me wonder if he should be spending more time with living animals instead of extinct ones.

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