The Loom

Flying Princesses and Sportive Octopuses

i-e5584854005994325c23c2e6411c9c9b-jumpinggirls.JPGMy radio silence is the result of a perfect storm–reporting trips, upcoming holidays, and the minor matter of my deadline for turning in my book at the end of the year. Any free moment gets gobbled up before I can even think about blogging. But I can point you to some pieces of mine that are now coming out in various non-blog outlets. First up: the natural history of play. It’s part of a special report on games that appeared yesterday in


  1. #1 Colin Purrington
    December 15, 2006

    Are these your kids, Carl?

  2. #2 Carl Zimmer
    December 15, 2006

    Colin–Yup. Charlotte left, Veronica right.

  3. #3 Drumming up business on the Loom
    December 15, 2006

    Polish member of the European Parliament, Maciej Giertych, retired head of the Genetics Department of the Polish Academy of Science, and father of Polish Deputy Prime Minister, Roman Giertych, introduced a public seminar on the General Theory of Evolution to fellow Members of the European Paliament. Professor Giertych questioned the value of teaching a continually falsified hypothesis – macroevolution – to students throughout Europe, as well as pointing out its lack of usefulness in regard to scientific endeavor. Professor Giertych introduced the subject by relating how his children had returned home from school having been taught about the theory of evolution. They were told that the proof of macroevolution – the common ancestry of biological life – was to be found in the science of genetics. This was news to Professor Giertych who had spent his life working at the highest level of genetic research. He revealed to the meeting that such proof does not exist in genetics, only disproof. This was reinforced by the speech of Professor Emeritus Joseph Mastropaolo who had traveled from the USA to participate in the Brussels hearing. He explained that the biological sciences offer no empirical proof of macroevolution, just insurmountable problems. The theory of evolution consists merely of interpretational evidences, which by their very nature could be interpreted in many different ways. He told the audience that the theory, after more than 150 years, still lacked any empirical proof. Dr. Hans Zillmer, a German Paleontologist and member of the New York Academy of Sciences, told the meeting that the fossil record holds no proof for evolution theory either. Instead of showing gradual change from one species to another, as is often claimed in the classroom, it actually reveals the stasis and stability of life forms. Finally, Dr. Guy Berthault spoke to the audience about the results of his empirical research programs concerning the deposition of sediments. Contrary to the established idea that the geologic column was formed slowly over millions of years, horizontal layer by layer, he revealed that his ongoing research proves empirically that the whole column could have been laid down in a matter of months. His research, which has been published in journals of the National Academy of Sciences in France, Russia and China, shows that continuous deposition of water borne sediments sort themselves mechanically and a simple change in current velocity cause strata to build upon each other whilst still progressing in the direction of flow. In opposition to the existing notion of sediment deposition that is generally taught, Dr. Berthault revealed that his empirical experimental results clearly show that parts of undisturbed lower strata are actually younger than parts of higher strata laid down in a continuous flow. This means fossils cannot be dated by the strata in which they are found, neither can rocks be dated by the type of fossils found in them. This research makes nonsense of the geologic column as it is currently taught.

  4. #4 Carl Zimmer
    December 16, 2006

    Wow. I was tempted to just trash that last comment for its utter irrelevance to this post, but then I thought I’d just let it stand here as a monument to creationist rhetoric. The commenter uses the same email address as “Dougman,” who left a doozy of a comment earlier about the great flood here.

  5. #5 David
    December 18, 2006

    Too bad you can’t go back in time and unread something. I think my IQ went down a few points from reading that comment. Do these people get dropped on their heads as children or something?

    Back to the original topic of the thread, I have been planning on getting a pet octopus in the near future, and one of the major reasons is because I want to observe them as they play. It seems like octopus are the closest I’ll get to being able to interact with an alien intelligence (well, so foreign to the vertebrates I normally interact with it might as well be alien.) Several people on an octopus forum I occasionally visit ( have said their pet octopus really seem to like playing with legos and other toys. It’s too bad they have such a short lifespan. Most only live a year or two, with the giant pacific octopus being the longest-lived at 5 years. I wish there were a way to artificially lengthen their lifespan to see what that big brain of theirs is capable of.

  6. #6 Owlmirror
    December 19, 2006

    NB: The second link to the Forbes site (the one to the collection of articles) is broken (it has two consecutive “http://”s).

  7. #7 DianeAKelly
    December 23, 2006

    “Everyone likes to play,” she said. “Except for grown-ups.”

    I suppose a five year old would get that impression. Adults play, but they play very differently from children. Young children play by fooling around. Adults play by performing tasks within predetermined patterns and rules. Sometimes the rules are pretty arbitrary — just look at golf. When kids play “lets pretend,” anything goes and the game can change as they play it. Adults who like to play “lets pretend” depend on rule books that quantify the probablility that you can hit the dragon with your sword and how much damage the dragon does to your body when it bites you. Maybe you should have spent the extra gold pieces for the Mithril shirt.

    Obviously, the shift from free-form to rules-based play is gradual. I can see the difference in my kids. The 3 year old shifts seamlessly from being a knight on a horse to a fearsome dinosaur to a pirate depending on how the mood strikes him. The 10 year old now plays D&D once a month with her friends. To the 3 year old, it looks like the big kids are sitting around on the couch and talking. But if you ask the 10 year olds, they’re trying to stop the latest threat to the kingdom.

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