Tangled Bank #107: The CYOA Edition
You’re trapped on a cruise ship in the South Pacific, bored out of your mind. The swimming pool holds no appeal. Gambling is pointless because the advantage is on the house. The books you brought with you have long been finished. You’ve even resorted to registering for a cha-cha class to relieve your ennui. But that’s no fun, because the instructor is always yelling at you for having two left feet.
Then on a Wednesday morning, the ship docks on a small island. Travelers are allowed to go on land for the day. You debark and after wandering past the marketplace filled with locals hawking loud jewelry and ceremonial masks (probably manufactured in Taiwan), you find yourself in a small clearing with several paths meandering off into the undergrowth. There’s a sign nearby saying:
“Welcome to the one hundred and seventh edition of Tangled Bank.”
At the foot of the sign is a machete.
What do you want to do?
1) Take the south path.
2) Take the west path.
3) Take the north path.
4) Take the machete and carve your own path.
5) Go back to the ship. You had wanted to see Easter Island instead.
The path winds along the coast of the island. Overhead, the sky turns dark. You see a cave nearby and reach the shelter just as lightning flickers and the rain pours from the sky.
So it’s raining. Big deal. But have you ever wondered how big are raindrops? Julie Kelsey from Mama Joules tries to tackle this question with some data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the USDA, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
In Women and Superstitions – Part Three, Kylie Sturgess on PodBlack continues her investigation on how anomalistic psychology and gender intersect with some analysis on studies involving sports superstitions and conspiracy theories.
And careful where you step (or where you drink). The guinea worm, described at Evolved and Rational, might sound like something from a B-grade horror movie, but it’s a parasite that can cause quite a bit of misery for its human host.
After a few hundred yards, the dirt path turns into gravel and then cobblestone. It terminates into a grand colonial house that looks as if it had seen better times. The door is open and inside, you discover a myriad of interesting rooms:
Ouroboros‘ Chris Patil points out an article by the linguist Steven Pinker which parses out the idea of “human dignity”. During the course of his argument, Pinker discusses life extension technologies.
The path steepens and soon dead-ends on top of a hill. But that doesn’t stop you from making your own way down to the other side where you find a number of interesting things:
Prokaryotes. Jonathan Hughes at Ramblings tells us to never trust anything with a nuclear envelope. Cause not only are they incredibly hardy in extreme environments, they don’t need us eukaryotes, even when we need them. Speaking of prokaryotes…
E. coli. P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula explains historical contingency in evolution using this bacterium as an example. It’s not because beneficial mutations just suddenly arise out of nowhere–instead, how organisms evolve is dependent on background genetics.
Telomeres. One of the many examples of noncoding DNA that is not junk. Sandwalk‘s Larry Moran describes these sequences at the end of the eukaryotic chromosomes that help protect against degradation and loss of information when the chromosomes are copied as part of a series on junk DNA and the organization of mammalian genomes.
Passenger pigeons. Wait a minute, aren’t those extinct? Pinguinus over at Great Auk – or Greatest Auk? did a bit of reading about these birds and proposes that if billions of them were still alive today, they would have a significant ecological impact.
The blade feels light in your hand as you swing it toward some dense leaves. As you make your way through an uncharted part of the island, some things catch your eye…
Like plants. As Bora Zivkovic writes in A Blog Around The Clock, the whole field of chronobiology was started with plants when a French astronomer noticed the daily opening and closing of leaves of a heliotrope plant.
As you board the cruise ship again, you bump into Bubba, the cha-cha instructor. He gives you a repressive glare. “You didn’t want to explore the island?”
You answer in the negative.
“We’re not even coming a hundred miles of Easter Island,” Bubba says incredulously. “You really are missing out on this island’s unique charms. And you have a whole day to explore! I know you don’t want to learn how to dance. So go, out!”
He pushes you back to the island.
As the ship departs, you saunter back to your cabin and glance at the itinerary that had before looked so dull. You notice something that you didn’t remember reading previously. Ah, you’ll be arriving at the next Tangled Bank on June 25, located at the next port-of-call, Wheatdogg. There’s a guided tour included! You can even submit suggestions for places to visit to the event planner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then you start wondering, does e-mail even work on a cruise ship?