Monday, March 26, 2012

The Skinks Are Out Early This Year

There is often news about the sort of paleontological and zoological topics that I find interesting.

To cite a recent example, paleoanthropologists have announced the discovery of the Red Deer Cave People, a potential new species of hominid that lived in China only about 12,000 years ago.

Or, to cite another recent example, an entirely new species of Leopard Frog has been found living in the vicinity of New York City.

Sometimes I think that I should blog about these topics. But if I did, I wouldn't have anything new to add; I would only be repeating what could be read elsewhere.

Now I do have something original to say, on a zoological topic that I've discussed before, the Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus, formerly known as Eumeces fasciatus). The unseasonably warm weather in northern Virginia over the past two weeks has brought the skinks out of hibernation at an abnormally early date. On Thursday, March 22, I saw Five-lined Skinks out and about at two localities, Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, and the African American Heritage Park in Alexandria. (The skink pictured here was at Huntley Meadows.) This is a good month before I normally first observe their spring activity.

But due to the near-freezing temperatures predicted for Monday night, the skinks will have to go back to hiding under rocks and inside logs.

I sometimes wish that I could hide under rocks and inside logs.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Things That Are Stupid

I don't normally like to blog about anything even remotely serious. And I also don't normally like to blog about my alma mater, Yale University. But I am making an exception because of a story that gained a fair amount of traction on the internet a few weeks ago (I always come in late in my blogging), and which is way too stupid to be allowed to pass without comment.

The story in question appears in the Telegraph under the title "The Plot to Create Britain's Super Race". And in general it appears to have been accepted uncritically.

The Yale Herald's blog described the story as "very unsettling and creepy" and "disturbing stuff". (I used to write for the Yale Herald, but that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.)

The story consists of two facts:

1. During World War II, members of the Yale faculty invited 125 children of Oxford faculty members to live in New Haven.

2. Many member of the Yale faculty at the time were interested in eugenics.

Supposedly these facts mean that there was a secret plot in place in which the Oxford children would return to England after the war and form the basis for a new, intellectually superior population. There is, however, absolutely no evidence presented to link Fact 1 and Fact 2, only wild speculation. Nor is there any indication of how 125 individuals could make any difference in the hereditary characteristics of a nation of millions of people. This entire idea of a secret eugenics plot is completely unsupported, yet it was published in a major British newspaper, and believed in its entirety at Yale, where people are supposed to be smart.

Maybe if someone had succeeded in creating a super race, those superbeings would have been able to understand how ridiculous this story is.