The Large Lobster Effect

Have you ever had a large lobster? I mean, a really large one, like five pounds or more? They are hard to get these days. Most of the good Maine Lobsters (and all lobsters are Maine Lobsters unless otherwise specified) come from Maine in the US, and Maine has a rule that you can’t harvest large lobsters. But back in the old days, when I was buying lobsters off the boat or occasionally eating them on the boat, you could still get them. And you can still get large lobsters from New Hampshire and Massachusetts but a) they are not as good and b) they are too expensive to even consider for those of us in the 99%.

Anyway, if you get a regular lobster, say a 1.5 pounder, you can suck meaty juice and obtain tiny slivers of meat from the spidery legs, but most of the meat comes from the claws and the tail. But if you get a larger lobster, say 2.0 pounds, you’ll find a layer of slimy meaty stuff on the inside of the body cavity along the exoskeleton, and a few other places. Also, the fins at the end of tail may have some meat in them. When you get up around 3.0 pounds, those tail fins are worth digging into, and the slimy slabby things on the inside of the main body cavity are now more like claw meat, and the legs are starting to yield real results. When you get to the 5 or 6 pound range, there are veritable steaks in the body, and the legs are full of meat, and you will most definitely not go hungry.
i-e92787137794c3e4aceb2d9c829c0e0a-BaitingTheTrap_1989-maine-009.jpg

Off-shore near Acadia, MDI, Maine. Rebaiting the trap after catching a lobster. The lobster went straight into a pot of boiling water previously prepared on deck.

The Large Lobster Effect is of course a metaphor. Any small thing or small group may have things that are only sometimes there but usually not, and when they are they are not large or numerous enough to get on anyone’s radar screen. Take High School Sports. I went to a 7-12 grade school with a total of 360 people in it. Can you imagine trying to get a football team out of that school? We barely fielded a fencing team (which I was on, of course). Any large metro area with suburbs will have a hierarchy of high schools divided by ability to field major teams, and the top five or six will always have the winning football teams, because the distribution of body size and skill and so on is such that you can get a few dozen players distributed over a few years of school who are all big, interested, able, and available in the largest schools. Large lobsters have meat small lobsters don’t have. Large high schools have football teams, small high schools don’t.

Let me be clear: The Large Lobster Effect isn’t just the amount of something increasing in proportion to the whole. It is the possibility of something novel emerging as a threshold is passed.

I don’t know if high school football teams are good or not, but of course lobster meat is. The Large Lobster Effect is not always good, though. For instance, just as you can get a great Debate Club or Environmental Club in a larger school, you can also get a larger gang of psychotic migrants or very serious bullies. And in society as a whole, as a society gets larger you get museums and bridge clubs and quilting bees but you also get the Klu Klux Klan and Mens Rights Activists.

Writing this blog post has made me hungry. Unfortunately, the nearest decent lobster is like a thousand miles away. I think I’m going to go eat a chicken. I saw one of those in my freezer a little while ago.

Comments

  1. #1 umlud
    October 27, 2011

    “Veritable stakes”?

  2. #2 Iain
    October 27, 2011

    I used to use a similar analogy from ecology when our administrators wanted all departments to have class sizes like Psychology did. My comparison was that University Departments have an ecological feeding hierarchy. So some are like wildebeest habitat where the students feed coarse grasses in huge numbers. Others are like dik dik where very small numbers of small bodied specialists eat the highly nourishing berries and new shoots on scattered shrubs. Worked for me.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2011

    Umlud: They were vampires.

    Iain: And the administrators are like baboons, which …..

  4. #4 Russell
    October 27, 2011

    When I was in graduate school, I took logic from John McCarthy, quantum theory of measurement from John Wheeler, and Greek history from Peter Green. My regret is not studying harder. There are real advantages to a large, research university. The lobster effect describes that well.

  5. #5 daedalus2u
    October 27, 2011

    Also, the Maine lobster fishery is one of the few fisheries that is well managed and not in danger of collapsing. Most fisheries have collapsed due to over fishing. You don’t hear about them because they no longer exist.

    The reason you can’t get large lobsters in Maine is because it is illegal to take lobsters below a certain size, or above a certain size, or lobsters that have eggs, or that have ever had eggs when taken (lobsters with eggs are marked if taken and then returned).

    The large lobsters are the breeding stock for the new lobsters.

    The usual practice of only taking the largest fish, selects for small fish. This is clearly visible in the size of fish taken over time. It doesn’t take many generations of intense selection pressure to change the gene pool such that it takes a very long time to get back to where it was before.

  6. #6 Tony P
    October 27, 2011

    I graduated high school in a class of almost 450 people.

    The school overall was grades 9 through 12. And each class had approximately the same number of students in it so close to 1,800 of us in ONE school.

    So yes they fielded all sorts of sports teams, literary teams, etc.

  7. #7 Razlo
    October 27, 2011

    “as a society gets larger you get museums and bridge clubs and quilting bees but you also get the Klu Klux Klan and Mens Rights Activists.”

    Do not try to draw similarities to Men’s Rights Activists & confirmed bigots like the klu klux klan or feminists. The Men’s Rights Movement is a a rapidly growing movement for the betterment of men, women, their families & society wide egalitarianism. There is no more justified & desperately needed movement today, then the cause of men’s rights.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2011

    Razlo,

    … hmmm… you might not like what I say about the Men’s Rights Movement here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2011/10/27/a-rape-in-progress/

  9. #9 Razlo
    October 27, 2011

    “as a society gets larger you get museums and bridge clubs and quilting bees but you also get the Klu Klux Klan and Mens Rights Activists.”

    Do not try to draw similarities to Men’s Rights Activists & confirmed bigots like the klu klux klan or feminists. The Men’s Rights Movement is a a rapidly growing movement for the betterment of men, women, their families & society wide egalitarianism. There is no more justified & desperately needed movement today, then the cause of men’s rights.

  10. #10 Razlo
    October 27, 2011

    Oh, apparently you’re just another lapdog mangina & serial dissenter who spouts lies about the MRM & MRA’s in general just to get a pat on the head from your feminist masters.
    Carry on then, I understand this is your only means of combating the MRM & MRAs because in a debate with us, you lose & you know it. Most people with an IQ higher than 4 can see right through your fog of bullshit & lies, so you really don’t constitute a threat to us.

  11. #11 Alan
    October 27, 2011

    Mens Rights Activists?

    Why is John Cleese, leaving the US? In his divorce his wife got $13M and he got $8M, on top of that he has to pay her $1M/yr in alimony for the next 7yrs. In other words she got $20M and he got $1M.

    There may be a few pigs in the MR movement but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a valid complaint. As an ex-single dad of 2 teenagers it was my observation that there is a lot of not so subtle discrimination against single fathers in the western world. Luckily I had a good income so I could afford to ignore most of it.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2011

    Actually, Razlo, I am your worst nightmare. Don’t go to sleep tonight!

    But seriously, this post is not about MRAis. You’ll have a better time digging in over here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2011/10/27/a-rape-in-progress/

  13. #13 Razlo-MRA
    October 27, 2011

    Alan, you just don’t get it. There is never a legitimate reason to take up the cause of men’s rights. You’re just supposed to let your kids be taken from (& poisoned against) you, have everything you own confiscated & then allow yourself to be thrown in jail for crimes you did not commit based on accusations alone. If you survive all of this, the only question you should be asking yourself is: “What else can I give to my ex & the government”? If you think this is wrong then you are obviously a misogynist, & a bitter knuckle dragging oppressor, & there is something very seriously wrong with you. In fact, you’re no better than the “klu klux klan”. Get it together man.

  14. #14 Razlo-5000
    October 27, 2011

    LOL!
    “Worst nightmare”?
    LOL! Come on dude, I got work tomorrow. Its too late for me to be laughing this hard.

    There is no possible way you could ever, EVER challenge the MRM. We got the truth sucker. All you got are lies, & groundless accusations of….well, every single “ism” in the political correctness dictionary.
    I have all kinds of fun pointing out how low functioning & weak your side is, & if it was even the least bit challenging, I would probably have a very healthy sense of accomplishment by now.
    http://razlomra.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/an-un-lofty-existence-the-question-of-feminist-cowardous/
    Alas, I don’t.

    If you know something we don’t, then by all means, call into the next A VOICE FOR MEN radio show here:
    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/avoiceformen
    & share it. Go on, do it. Why don’t you call in & put all of us knuckle dragging misogynists in our place?
    You won’t because you’re a lying coward & a pussy begging bitch. I’m not even going to click your links by the way, I know that this is the only way they see any traffic.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    October 28, 2011

    You better not go to sleep, I’ll be in your dreams, bro!

  16. #16 Ermine
    October 28, 2011

    Damn, if I thought that MRAs had any credibility before, Razlo has shaken the scales from my eyes now!

    Let’s see, what do you call Greg here in just a couple of posts? “lapdog mangina” (with) “feminist masters”, “pussy begging bitch”, and even “bitter knuckle dragging oppressor”!

    There’s enough misogyny in those two posts alone to make it perfectly clear that he is correct in his assessment of most MRAs, while you are demonstrably NOT.

    Thanks for making it all so clear, Razlo!

  17. #17 dizzlski
    October 28, 2011

    “I won’t click on your links but you need to click on mine since I can’t produce a valid argument here.” Whoops forgot to add the shorter there. I must be a pussy beggar, or donut digger? I’m so confused.

  18. #18 Stephanie Z
    October 28, 2011

    Ah, yes, MRAs. Fighting the good fight for…insulting blog comments. I wonder why no one takes them seriously.

  19. #19 Wow
    October 28, 2011

    TBH, Steph, that was an insulting blog comment. As was Greg’s (as well as a little disturbing).

    The problem being that everyone has the hidden little coda about what’s an insulting blog comment. “Apart from ones I like”.

  20. #20 quietmarc
    October 28, 2011

    I’m having some trouble parsing this paragraph. Help?

    “Let me be clear: The Large Lobster Effect isn’t must amount increasing in proportion to the whole. It is the possibility of something being there, or being worth it, Passion a threshold as the size increases. ”

  21. #21 Stephanie Z
    October 28, 2011

    Wow, Razlo’s “activism” consists of wandering around to various blogs to leave insulting comments. His blog exists to contain one post about a blogger. In this, he is like almost all other MRAs I’ve seen. Men’s Rights Slactivists would be a much more apt name.

    The people who are actually doing something about equal rights for men tend to be feminists, not people who post out of context or made up quotes designed only to tell the world that feminists are bad.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    October 28, 2011

    That paragraph in which I wanted to be clear is my worst nightmare.

  23. #23 Marina
    October 28, 2011

    Newfoundland doesn’t have maximum size restrictions, just restrictions on egg-bearing lobsters and number of traps.

  24. #24 Achrachno
    October 29, 2011

    Rhode Island is very small state, but they have some very large lobsters and in any size they’re just as tasty as the Maine sort. So there!

    They seem to manage them quite carefully too. Though, I read that warming sea water seems to be creating problems.

  25. #25 CherryBombSim
    October 29, 2011

    The lobster industry is well-managed, but in one way, it owes its very existence to reckless exploitation. If cod populations ever come back to anywhere near their natural size, they will eat up most of the lobsters.

  26. #26 Achrachno
    October 29, 2011

    CherryB: If cod populations ever come back to anywhere near their natural size, they will eat up most of the lobsters.

    I don’t know about that. Historic accounts seem to indicate that formerly both lobsters and cod were abundant in the N Atlantic. I’ve heard that lobster were once poor people’s food because they were plentiful and thus cheap. Ugly may have contributed to price too.

    Besides, aren’t lobster mostly inshore, while cod are mostly well out at sea? How much do they even overlap in habitat?

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    October 29, 2011

    They overlap a lot in habitat. Lobsters range from near shore (where they are rare these days) to the edge of the continental shelf. Cod, pretty much the same.

    But I agree that the historical accounts indicate not only super-duper abundant cod but also abundant lobster.

  28. #28 Richard Chapman
    October 30, 2011

    I worked on a lobster boat one summer in the late 60s. It was hard work, similar to haying but a lot wetter. My boss used to say, “just being out here beats the hell out of you”. He was referring to the movement of the boat and the consent self correcting your body does to stay balanced. Then there was the sun. It beats down on you and then up on you when it reflects off the water. I turned very brown that summer.

    We didn’t fish in Maine, Long Island Sound was where we caught our lobsters. I don’t think we ever caught a lobster over 3 1/2 lbs. By the way, Long Island Sound was full of pleasure craft and my boss hated those boats stopping by to try to buy lobsters from us. I remember one particularly hideous pink yacht. Those people had no idea what real work was.

    When my boss wasn’t catching lobsters he was an English Professor at a C.W. Post College. That gave him an amazing ability; He could swear all day long and not repeat himself.

  29. #29 dizzlski
    October 31, 2011

    Not for nothin’, but any person who has done time on the sea has a connection to others who have done so. My experience was pretty mild, but being in the middle of nothing but water (or at least perceiving so) has been an experience I will never forget. Believe it or not, it’s like being in space. Bumpy, rolling space maybe, but I’ve never felt more alive than when I couldn’t see land.

  30. #30 CherryBombSim
    October 31, 2011

    I bet he cod would eat the big ones, though. I’ve heard about lobster being poor people’s food, and I suspect that is because the small ones are not nearly as good to eat.

Current ye@r *