Ratkings and Other Stuff I learnt in 2010


“I was six years old when my parents told me that there was a small, dark jewel inside my skull, learning to be me.”

The above quote is from someone else*, but let’s riff off that. What with all the oil leaks, data leaks, and all the hot air, there was plenty of learning to be had.
( *aka Perth coder / sci-fi author, Greg Egan. Read the full story ‘Learning to be Me’, online as part of ‘Stories on Themes in Science, Technology, and Society’, edited by Thomas Easton. )

How to Get Laid for Zero Dollars
While I didn’t learn the above from Miracle Jones, from their story of the same name, I did become aware of Rat Kings in 2010. Rat Kings get capitalisation, because really, what kind of editor is going to spend much time with ‘a number of rats.. intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, ice, excrement or simply knotted.’ Particularly when, said beasts ‘reputedly grow together while joined at the tails. The numbers of rats that are joined together can vary, but naturally rat kings formed from a larger number of rats are rarer.’

Tyrannobdella Rex
Also known as the ‘tyrant leech king’, this jungle leech was discovered in 2010 within the Peruvian jungle. Up to 7cm long, it comes with large teeth and was named one of the year’s top 10 weird new animals by National Geographic. From the same list, I’m kinda fond of the incredible looking ‘Yoda Bat’ of Papua New Guinea. The Sneezing Snub-Nosed Monkey from Myanmar ain’t bad either – although the only scientifically observed specimen had been killed by local hunters when researchers found it, and was eaten soon after. Amazing that we’re still discovering such large unique creatures in the 21st century, thought they’re probably better off staying away from us as long as they can manage.

Last Chance to See, Revisited
There was much to learn on Stephen Fry’s narrated documentary which retraced the footsteps of Douglas Adams* in trying to glimpse several of the world’s disappearing species. An entertaining, if sobering series, well worth tracking down. Incidentally, WWF’s top 10 endangered species included such significant creatures as the tiger, polar bear, bluefin tuna, mountain gorilla, giant panda and the Javan Rhinoceros – of which no more than 60 are thought to exist. No easy answers there, but it’s unfathomable to imagine a world where any of the above are no longer born.

( *See also, ‘Condoms, Microphones and the Death of Death.’)

Autobot Roulette:

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