Evolutionary pressures

I spent a day in airports yesterday, which can throw up questions. Here is today’s…

In a recent post I mentioned the sad demise of the Dodo.

And it is a cautionary tale indeed in regards to what can happen when certain evolutionary pressures cease to be – and then sudden change occurs. The ancestors of Dodos were birds that probably got swept onto the island of Mauritius. Over the years, due to a lack of predators and abundant food supplies, they lost the ability of flight and also all fear of being hunted. This proved to be their downfall: when Dutch and Portuguese sailors arrived end of the 16th century, they were met by birds that were quasi tame, without any fear of these strangers. Within sixty years, the pressure of hunting by the sailors, their domesticated animals and invasive species caused the extinction of the Dodo with a last official sighting in 1662.

So what does all of this have to do with airports?

Escalators and travelators, that’s what!

Technology is a fickle thing – it brings with it benefits, but also challenges. Take the instance of escalators and moving walkways, or travelators. Both these inventions were intended to help large volumes of people to bridge height or distance with greater ease, faster and more efficiently.

So why, oh why, is it that when people congregate into groups, the moment they step onto a moving walkway (say, in an airport) everything sags, all muscle tone leaves their body and they just slump motionlessly against the handrail until they reach the end of the travelator.

Two dodos on a travelator

Why this should be is a mystery to me.

Common sense would suggest that to reap the full benefit of these devices you would want to add you forward motion, e.g. by walking, to that of the escalators or travelators, by doing so increasing the speed at which you are moving and getting where you want to get to sooner. Rather than turning yourself into a inert human blob.

And here is my thought: heeding the tale of the Dodo, it is conceivable that the lack of the need for our muscles to provide forward locomotion could over time lead to our legs becoming gradually ever shorter and feebler, like an inverted T Rex, which would be fine – until the day someone switches off the escalators and travelators. Then we would be sunk.

Do me a favour, at least if you are in my company: continue WALKING on escalators and travelators if you do not want to really irritate me.

Grumpy and intolerant? Meeee? Never. Just trying to make a point.

vertical connect – again

Finally got round to making up a poster for vertical connect… these things seem to be a bit of last gasp effort at the moment, just the way it is. However, be that as it may, I rather like this one. I especially like the different transparencies of the mountains in the background, reminds me a bit of Japanese prints of landscapes, with layer behind layer.

vertical connect: it is going to be a great event. Consider yourself invited… yes, it is in German and French, but translation can be sorted in some shape or form should the need arise.

Feel the heat

It is hot.

No point beating around the bush. And forecast to get hotter towards the end of the week, with temperatures in the high thirties, Celsius, that is… around 100° Farenheit. But hey, it is August, so I do not really understand people whinging about it, after all it is summer.

OK, all you southern hemisphere folks (and all of you in Scotland), do not give up hope, your turn will come in a couple of months (unless you are in Scotland).

Chris and I will be traveling to Orlando, FL for the ISA conference this weekend. Orlando in August? An acquired taste you might think. 97% humidity? That is like… 3% off drowning. Remember to bring your snorkel! But no, no problemo. That is what we have air conditioning for, no sweat – literally.

In his book Loosing Our Cool –  Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World, Stan Cox spells it out: The amount of energy used in the US for air conditioning alone exceeds the total energy consumption of Africa – including industry! The trend today is for an ever increasing demand for cooling, also in countries such as India and China or the Philippines and Brasil, meaning that experts estimate that by 2050 ten times more energy will be used for cooling – with the net result that roughly a third of global warming will result from cooling.

What an irony.

More and more people looking out of nicely cooled spaces at a world becoming hotter and hotter as a consequence of all this cooling.

As a special feature in its next gen models, the automobile manufacturer Chevrolet is offering a miniature air-conditioned compartment… to cool you mobile phone in.


Some things I struggle to understand. This is one of them. Hot on the heels of the Dodo cruising towards extinction with chilled mobile gadgets in the freeze box of our cars whilst merrily burning fossile fuel.

Yeeeeha! Stand clear, Dodo! Here we come, and we are COOL! As a cucumber. Or a sea gherkin… oh no, don’t get me going on sea gherkins!

Nomenclature trivia

Apparently the malodorous flowers of a species in the chocolate family, Sterculiaceae, were the reason for it to be named after the Roman god of manure, Sterculius.

OK. Romans had a sense of humor, on has to hand them that.

A god of manure? I wonder who prayed to him? Or what his temples looked like – actually, I have quite a vivid image of what his temple looked like: a pile of shit. Excuse my French.

Imagine… there you are, the kid of a Titan, all the cool jobs get handed out, so by the time dad gets round to you it could play out like this…

Jupiter: Right, Sterculius, let’s see what we have left for you…

Sterculius: Wheeee. So excited. What is it going to be? God of smiths? Of river boatmen? Of motorway tolls?

Jupiter (looking at the slip of paper he has just pulled out of his… errrrr… hat): Heeeey! Whatchaknow? God of poop! Lucky punch, son! Someone has to do this job.

Sterculius: …  (gagging noises)

So yes, makes you look at chocolate in a new, slightly different, light… named after the god of manure – in a similar league to Kopi Luwak, coffee made from coffee beans that have passed through the digestive system of the palm civet.

So here is what I propose: I am going to petition the Linnéan Society, or whoever is responsible for the taxonomy and naming of plants, to reconsider. I reckon it ought to be Ginkgo sterculius, forget the biloba nonsense! Certainly up there in the stinky department.

Just saying.

P.S. It does not end there… stand by for more amazing trivia: Sterculius made a cameo appearance in “Peace, Love & Understanding,” the second pilot episode of Beavis and Butt-head, where his spirit rose from a port-a-potty crushed by a monster truck. In a rare moment of lucid thought, Butt-head correctly identifies Sterculius.

Remember, you read about it here first!