The Long View 2008-01-30: ESB Anomaly; New Candidates; A.D. 2424; Mole Rats; Convergent Evolution

Mole rat.png

John J. Reilly had something of a horrified fascination with naked mole rats.

He also brings up here his review of Simon Conway Morris’ Life’s Solution, which I still find an interesting idea, but one that is probably dismissed more than it should be just because it is looking at final causality, an unfashionable topic at present.

ESB Anomaly; New Candidates; A.D. 2424; Mole Rats; Convergent Evolution

There are some strange neighborhoods in New York City, but Midtown Manhattan is not one of them. Nonetheless, the question has been asked: Is the Empire State Building New York's Bermuda Triangle?

Every day about 10-15 cars and trucks simply stop working within a 5-block radius of the 102-story building, according to a report in the New York Daily News... “You pull the car four or five blocks to the west or east and the car starts right up,” says Isaac Leviev, manager of Citywide Towing, in the Daily News report.

According to the Daily News, some engineers and automobile experts hypothesize that radio signals from the Empire State Building’s 203-foot-long, antenna-laden spire is at the root of the problem.

This should be easy enough to test with historical data. The Empire State Building's transmitters were much less used after the transmitter on the World Trade Center went into service. After 911, the Empire State Building transmitters were again pressed into full use. Do the records of tow-truck companies reflect an uptick in business after that point?

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Speaking of embarrassingly simple explanations, Mark Steyn has a suggestion about why new faces in politics do so well at first:

[C]ome presidential nominating season a big swathe of the populace expresses a kind of aesthetic distaste for the entire business by plumping for the freshest face on the national scene – ie, Obama or Huckabee. Both of them seem nice mainly because they’re new. A primary or three later, and they don’t seem so new, and don’t seem so nice. Politics will do that.

Maybe this is why poor Rudolph Giuliani never made any progress at all in the Republican primaries. He was a fresh face to most of the country, but he was running on a platform of not being a nice guy.

* * *

Persons eager for an apocalyptic conflict in which they can play an active role but which does not require much near-term inconvenience should consider this model:

According to the Kalachakra presentation of historical cycles, barbaric hordes periodically invade the civilized world and try to eliminate all possibilities for spiritual practice. A future invasion is predicted for the year 2424 of this common era, when it is said there will be another brutal world war. At that time help will come from Shambhala to defeat the barbarians. A new golden age will dawn, with everything conducive for spiritual practice, particularly of Kalachakra. All those who have previously received the Kalachakra initiation will be reborn at that time on the victorious side. The highest motivation for receiving the empowerment is to be able to practice the Kalachakra methods now in order to achieve enlightenment in this very lifetime. Nevertheless, people have traditionally flocked to the initiation with the motivation of planting karmic seeds to connect themselves with this future golden age so as to complete its practice then.

Please note this calculation does not fit the scenario in Spengler's Future, so there must be some mistake.

* * *

There is actually a serious science-story here about the neurology of pain, but it's still completely horrible:

Naked mole rats live in cramped, oxygen-starved burrows some six feet underground in central East Africa. Unusually, they are cold-blooded — which, as far as anyone knows, is unique among mammals..."They're the nicest, sweetest animals I've ever worked with — they look frightening, but they're very gentle," said neurobiologist Thomas Park at the University of Illinois at Chicago ..."Their insensitivity to acid was very surprising," Park told LiveScience. "Every animal tested — from fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and all other mammals — every animal is sensitive to acid."

So you are taking shivering, friendly little mole rats and injecting them with acids to see how much makes them hurt? You bastards!

* * *

At long last, the refutation of the "It's a Wonderful Life" model of evolutionary history is penetrating to the level of popular science, or so we may surmise from Olivia Judson's New York Times article, The Repeater:

[D]ream: 10,000 planet Earths, starting from the same point at the same time, and left to their own devices for four and a half billion years. What would happen?...The conventional answer to this question — the one championed by the late Stephen Jay Gould, for example — is that chance events, from mutations to asteroids, play such a large role in evolution that each of the planets would be totally different....Looking around the Earth, it’s striking how often similar traits evolve in similar environments. we’re unpicking the genetic basis for the repetitions. And the startling thing is, evolution often repeats itself at the genetic level, too....

As an example, take three-spine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). These little fish usually live in the ocean, but like salmon, they come into rivers to spawn. As the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age — a process that went on between ten and twenty thousand years ago — a series of lakes began to form in the northern hemisphere, and the sticklebacks moved into them. Initially, the lakes would have been linked to the oceans by streams and rivers, but as the glaciers retreated, the land rose up (ice is heavy), and the exits to the lakes closed, leaving the sticklebacks in each lake marooned and isolated. And so the animals stuck there began evolving to live exclusively in freshwater.

Which is a real-life version of the evolutionist’s dream: each lake is an evolutionary experiment, a natural laboratory. Because there are so many lakes, the experiment has been repeated many times; and because we know the ages of the lakes, we know roughly how long each experiment has been going on. And sure enough, fish in different lakes have evolved a variety of similar features, repeatedly and independently.

The article includes a bibliography, but Simon Conway Morris's Life's Solution is missing. (It is mentioned in one of the reader comments, however.)

What a shame that the Times did not report on this matter while it was still a reputable paper.

Copyright © 2008 by John J. Reilly

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