Blob World

This is wonderful. There’s a guy on YouTube, going by the name of Primer, who uses a computer model to explore evolutionary concepts, which he discusses on his YouTube channel.

Visually, it’s all very simple but there is something remarkably appealing about watching these amorphous blobs evolve and survive as he discusses the concepts being displayed.

It gets better though. Jasper Palfree at MinuteLabs have taken Primer’s simulator and made an online gadget that allows you to play around with the initial settings and watch the blobs evolve.

The blobs have three traits — speed, sight and sense range — all of which mutate at a predetermined rate. You can choose both the initial values for these traits and the rate of variance, and then you let it run and see what happens.

It’s fascinating.

Of frogs and beetles

Another heatwave is upon us and I should probably be staying in the shade rather than obsessively meeting my daily exercise target. But if I had stayed indoors, I wouldn’t have seen this guy sunning himself.

Frog783

This sent me down something of an internet rabbit hole. While the French are normally famous for eating frogs legs, I remember seeing somewhere that archaeological evidence points to the English having come up with this idea first — by a few thousand years. While trying to confirm this, I came across something much better.

When This Beetle Gets Eaten by a Frog, It Heads for the ‘Back Door’

Here’s the proof. You have been warned.

Five Things #27

Song of the Water Bear by Laine Bell is a surprisingly effective story about tardigrades, from their own perspective.

I am constantly perplexed as to why so many people are people panic-buying toilet paper. Neuroscientist, Dean Burnett explains.

Sara Elsam talks to Games Workshop co-founder Ian Livingstone about fantasy, bringing D&D to the UK and the birth of Warhammer.

Kieran Fisher argues Buffy the Vampire Slayer Is the Perfect Binge Watch. This is part of a series, all of which is worth a look.

Dana Najjar considers the billion year algae that hints at the origin of land plants.

Five Things #16

The Hidden Girl by Ken Liu is a tale of magic and morality set in eighth century China, a time when rivalry among military governors —- the jiedushi —- was often violent and bloody.

“By studying rats in a smarter way, scientists are finally learning something useful about why some drinkers become addicted and others don’t.” Ed Yong on a landmark study on the origins of alcoholism.

George Nash looks back at Gremlins, and the timely return of Joe Dante’s controversial creatures.

Nick Tyrone rediscovers football after a ten year absence and wonders if the gentrification of the sport has gone too far.

Simon Brew salutes 2019’s most underrated –- and finest -– blockbuster movie villain

Five Things #12

The Etiquette of Mythique Fine Dining by Carolyn Rahaman is a light but effective exploration of the challenges and dangers that come from cooking and eating magical foods.

Ed Yong on the predator that makes great white sharks flee in fear. Better to run than to have your liver squeezed out.

André Spicer on how organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door.

Denzil at Discovering Belgium takes an 11 km circular walk through the Forêt de Soignes and discovers the Monument aux Forestiers, a stone circle that memorialises foresters killed during World War One.

We Are Cult revisits Clockwise.

An admiral in the garden?

The question mark in the title of this post is deliberate and in place because I have never made an entomological attempt before today. But while outside this afternoon, I noticed that the nettles still clinging to our back fence were covered in caterpillars. And I do mean covered:

Obviously, I wanted to know what species of caterpillar these are and, after some searching, I have managed to convince myself that these are Red Admiral larvae.

I couldn’t find an exact photographic match but this is a native species and this does seem to be the right time of the year for them. And, of course, they were all over the nettles, which is the sole diet of Red Admiral caterpillars.

We could be in for quite a colourful autumn this year.

Some people deserve a patronising response

Some bunch of utterly childish anti-GM crops activists have taken it upon themselves to destroy (via) years of publicly funded research into a genetically modified wheat that can repel insect pests by emitting a repellent-smelling substance.

Their reason:

Matt Thomson, from Take the Flour Back, told The Independent yesterday that action against the Rothamsted site would go ahead as planned.

“The concerns that we have are not addressed in this letter,” he said. “The way that Rothamsted have publicised this trial has been patronising. This wheat contains genes that are not naturally occurring.”

Frankly, anyone who seriously thinks that going out and vandalising years worth of research into a staple food – research that will help us avoid crop failure and famine – because they didn’t like the publicity has no sense of proportion, no idea what they are talking about and no concept if the impact of their actions.

Sense About Science has a more measured response and petition you can sign and circulate.