Hungry Like the Wolf

I’m puppy-sitting today, watching my parents’ ten-week-old rat terrier while they’re working and attending various doctors’ appointments.  I pray that the day I go to the doctor and various specialists as frequently as my parents do is still decades away.

Dogs are interesting critters.  It’s kind of amazing that our ancient ancestors domesticated wolves and bred them to hunt on behalf of humans, instead of merely hunting humans.  It’s even more interesting how breeding for selective traits led to various breeds.  There’s a whole art and science to animal husbandry that is fascinating.

The rat terrier, for instance, is the result of various combinations of terriers (for hunting), greyhounds (for speed), and chihuahuas (for compactness—the rat terriers had to be small enough to get into rat holes).  According to my dad, who has become something of an authority on the breed since getting the puppy, rat terriers used to be very common in the United States—most farmers had one or two to help kill pests.  Theodore Roosevelt kept one named Scamp around the White House to kill mice (although Scamp may have been a different variation of terrier).

Of course, the question that interests me is thus:  if we domesticated dogs once, couldn’t we do it again from their cousins, wolves?  Naturally, there’s no need to do it again—it was surely a long process—but doing so would help us to understand how difficult domestication was, and why our ancient ancestors thought it was worth the effort.

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SimEarth

Yesterday I wrote about SimRefinery, the oil refinery software lost to time (I’m praying it’s sitting on a long-forgotten floppy disk somewhere).  What I didn’t tell you was that I had succumbed to a mild but annoying stomach virus, so I was essentially useless for the rest of the day.

Of course, what better way to spend one’s time when sick than with video games?  After writing about SimEarth and doing some nostalgic reading about the world-building simulator, I tracked down a playable DOS version.  A helpful commenter also linked to the game’s 200-plus-page manual, which is necessary for accessing the game.  Anyone familiar with 1990s-era computer technology will recall that, in order to prevent piracy, games would often ask users to look up some piece of information buried in the manual, the theory being that if you owned the game legally, you’d have the manual.

During this sickly walk down memory lane, I realized how much I had forgotten about SimEarth.  The game is more complicated than I remember.  It’s not that deep, but what makes it difficult is balancing all the different inputs to your planet—the amount of sunlight, how much of that sunlight is reflected by the clouds and the surface, how much cloud cover to have, how quickly animals mutate and reproduce, how frequently meteors strike the surface, etc., etc.

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Tarantulas and the Hygge

One of the joys of blogging is discovering the weird side of the Internet—the fun weird side, not the dark, inappropriate weird side.  Today’s post is a trip down one of those byways of oddity.

My blogger buddy photog posted a striking stack photography image a couple of weeks ago with the enigmatic title “Name That Tooth.”  He invited readers to identify a truly remarkable fang.

After studying the image for a few moments, I ventured a guess, which turned out to be correct:  it was the lethal, chitinous fang of the mighty tarantula.

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Albino Giraffes Poached

As if dancing plagues and Chinese viruses weren’t enough, albino giraffes are getting poached.

From the BBC:

Two extremely rare white giraffes have been killed by poachers in north-eastern Kenya, conservationists say.

Rangers had found the carcasses of the female and her calf in a village in north-eastern Kenya’s Garissa County.

A third white giraffe is still alive. It is thought to be the only remaining one in the world, the conservationists added.

Their white appearance is due to a rare condition called leucism, which causes skin cells to have no pigmentation.

Apparently, no one knows why these giraffes were killed; the poachers’ “motive is still unclear,” per the BBC.

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Gelernter Gives up Darwinism

Yale Computer Science professor and—as I found out today—Trump supporter David Gelernter has given up on Darwinism, finding it to be a “beautiful” but flawed theory.  Gelernter acknowledges that species make small adjustments based on their environment, etc.—adaptation—and that Darwin was correct in that regard, but that the process of new species developing from existing ones is mathematically impossible, even if the universe is trillions of years old.

For conservative Christians, skepticism of Darwin’s theory of evolution is something you keep quietly to yourself, lest you’re mocked roundly, or that you militantly espouse, which tends to turn people away—they tune out.  Regardless, the world at large has bought into Darwinism completely, even with holes in the theory (like the lack of a plethora of pre-Crambrian fossils that should, according to Darwin’s theory that all life descended from a common ancestor, be present given the Cambrian Explosion).

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