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.

Graphosoma lineatum

Following on from yesterday’s caterpillar post, the reason I had my camera with me in the garden was that I’d previously noticed a number of black and red beetles at the back of the garden. I only found one out there yesterday, and here he is:

It turns out he’s a Graphosoma lineatum, also known as the Italian Striped-Bug or Minstrel Bug.

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.

Quote of the Day: Pass the pork scratchings

I think the defense, for all the incoherence of its arguments, will ultimately prevail — not because they are right, but because it’s just too damned inconvenient to be wrong. If you think too hard about this sort of thing, you’ll recognize the injustice; recognizing the injustice, you might feel obligated to do something about it. But that means making changes in the way you live; that means giving up things you’ve grown accustomed to. It means getting off the couch. Better not to think about it. Better to just look the other way.

Peter Watts on PETA’s ill-fated legal attempt, on behalf of five killer whales, to declare their incarceration to be in violation of anti-slavery laws. Go read the rest.

Celebrate!

Today is Darwin Day

Darwin Day is an international celebration of science and humanity held on or around February 12, the day that Charles Darwin was born on in 1809. Specifically, it celebrates the discoveries and life of Charles Darwin — the man who first described biological evolution via natural selection with scientific rigor. More generally, Darwin Day expresses gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity.