Pharyngula

Commuting? Moi?

I was asked to contribute to Forbes Magazine package on commuting — never mind that I live across the street from my job, and “commuting” has become a trivial, alien concept — so I had to talk about animals that commute.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    I don’t know if foraging=commuting.

    But if it does, the albatross is a consummate commuter.

    Does it use the Levy walk, though?

    That’s good to see at Forbes, in any event. Rather business-centric, still getting their minds out of the city for once.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  2. #2 Zeno
    July 30, 2008

    Ah, the good old days. I used to live across the street from the university when I was a grad student. A quick stroll and I was at my office. Sweet! Now I commute every school day on a schedule that is dramatically mass-transit incompatible. That’s getting expensive and I’ve starting looking at vehicles that are more thrifty with their fuel. It’s probably hybrid time, at least as an interim solution till electric cars really arrive.

    Maybe I should try for one of those two-day schedules that my colleagues covet. Sure, you do a terrible job teaching nonstop for eight hours at a stretch and your students suffer, but those three free days are worth it! (Not. In. A. Million. Years.)

  3. #3 Helioprogenus
    July 30, 2008

    Don’t forget the commute that crackers have to make down our digestive tract. Does the host have a home? I suppose it’s the sewers of the underworld, so yes, you can apply that standard.

  4. #4 Zeno
    July 30, 2008

    Hey, Glen! You totally forgot to say “First!”, or something really clever like that. How disappointing!

    Personally, I’ve been thinking how nice it would be to write “First … of one thousand!”

    I know. Childish.

  5. #5 amstrad
    July 30, 2008

    f(x,y) = f(y,x) for every x, y ? A.

  6. #6 Coturnix
    July 30, 2008

    Nothing on seasonal migrants? Forbes would have lived that ;-)

  7. #7 Qwerty
    July 30, 2008

    I would guess that panhandlers are the closest humans who act like the animals that wait for their food to drift by, but they still have to take the loose change to buy something. So, perhaps, it ain’t all that close.

    When I was a student in college, there was a professor who got into trouble for living in his office. He would take the occasional shower at the gym. I don’t know what he did for cleaning his clothes. I had him in a literature class. I remember that he was as weird as the Kafka stories we had to read. He would stare at the ceiling while lecturing us.

  8. #8 Nemo
    July 30, 2008

    IMHO it doesn’t really read like you. Edited much?

  9. #9 Coturnix
    July 30, 2008

    How about telecommuting in the animal kingdom?

  10. #10 JJR
    July 30, 2008

    Yay! I also do the bipedal commute to my job (i.e. walk), unless it’s pouring cats & dogs outside. I live about 5-6 blocks away from my university job. My Apt is 1 block south of campus, but the library’s clear on the other side of campus. Still it was the best Apt I could get in the area for I price I was comfortable with.

  11. #11 PeteC
    July 30, 2008

    @2: I wonder, if you take the price of a new hybrid car and divide it up over the years you will use it, will it really save you enough money? If it gets, say, 40mpg as opposed to 25, that will save $13 every 200 miles at current prices – so if the car costs $20,000 then it will pay for itself once you’ve driven 300,000 miles.

    Of course, you’ll spew 4500 fewer gallons of gas equivalent of pollution into the air, too, so it’s better for the environment — unless you want to take into account how much petroleum was used to build the new car in the first place.

    Yes, you see, once you post your commuting habits you invite a chorus of people who want to tell you how they know better. Er, sorry. =)

  12. #12 ZorkFox
    July 30, 2008

    I wish I could live across the street from my job again. Or, well, within a brisk, 30-minute walk, anyway.

  13. #13 Olorin
    July 30, 2008

    @5: Yes there are such things as symmetrical functions. Did you have in mind any particular domain for “A”?

  14. #14 aleph1=c
    July 30, 2008

    I live 1 mile from work, which kicks booty. I hate it when I miss the green light, because it nearly doubles my commuting time.

    Just a thought: If the Bay Area has the BART and Dallas has the DART, what does Philadelphia have?

  15. #15 Olorin
    July 30, 2008

    @5: I mean, something less obvious that addition or multiplication of numbers.

  16. #16 Parris Hughes
    July 30, 2008

    Seems to me (years and years ago) I read an article somewhere about life forms evolving to take advantage of our highway systems; something like a squirrel with wheels instead of legs tooling by you in the fast lane.

  17. #17 Brownian, OM
    July 30, 2008

    I take the bus to work, but then I use the internet to commute to Pharyngula and my mind to commute to exotic locales full of attractive and libidinous women.

    No wonder I’m so tired.

  18. #18 Zeno
    July 30, 2008

    I live 1 mile from work, which kicks booty. I hate it when I miss the green light, because it nearly doubles my commuting time.

    What? You live one mile from work and you still drive there? Or perhaps you’re biking. That would make more sense.

    PeteC @ #11: Since I tend to keep a car for many years, I could well reach 300,000. And current prices are not going to last, are they? Break-even could arrive in 100,000 miles. (No need to apologize for the free advice. To think I could be looking at so much greater improvement if only I currently had an aircraft-carrier-size Ford Explorer like my niece does. Massive savings would be easy!)

  19. #19 Janicot
    July 30, 2008

    I wish I knew of a methodical study to validate this but…

    Here in AZ, the quail seem to commute. They seem to prefer to bed down each night in the same heavy brush, but each day they take their regular route to their preferred feeding grounds. In the city they can even be seen leading their broods of young chicks several blocks to the food then back to the nests.
    FWIW.

  20. #20 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    I’ll take the slight connection between commuting and ballooning, and update the old story of the priest who died when attempting a flight via a collection of party balloons. They found the body.

    There are also pictures of the priest, and of the beginning of the flight:

    SAO PAULO, Brazil (July 29) – DNA tests confirmed that a body found off the coast of Brazil is that of a priest who disappeared while flying over the Atlantic buoyed by hundreds of brightly colored party balloons, authorities said Tuesday.

    The body of Catholic priest Adelir Antonio de Carli, above right, was found off the coast of southeastern Brazil on Tuesday, police said. De Carli disappeared on April 20 after floating out over the ocean suspended by 1,000 party balloons.

    The Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli set off from the Brazilian port city of Paranagua on April 20 strapped to 1,000 helium-filled balloons in an attempt to raise money to build a rest stop and worship center for truckers.

    But the 41-year-old Roman Catholic priest soon lost contact with his ground team, and the cluster of yellow, orange, pink and white balloons was found in the water a day later.
    Tugboat workers discovered a body off Rio de Janeiro in early July that authorities believed belonged to the cleric.
    Medical examiner worker Rosane Alves said Tuesday that tests comparing DNA samples from de Carli’s brother to the body confirmed their suspicions.

    The brother, Moacir de Carli, said the news came as a relief.

    Story & pictures

    Mostly it seems bizarre at this time. It’s good that they found the body, though.

    Glen D

  21. #21 aleph1=c
    July 30, 2008

    I don’t think f(x,y)=f(y,x) denotes commutivity. However, f, in this case, is a symmetric polynomial. Functions like z=x+y, which can have their variables permuted, yet remain unchanged, are symmetric. What about z=x+y? Not symmetric. To denote commutivity, I was thinking more along the lines of x?y=y?x, for some operator ?.

  22. #22 aleph1=c
    July 30, 2008

    @#18

    No! I never said I drive. I usually ride my bike. Sometimes I walk. I drive if I have to bring something big or heavy.

  23. #23 Feynmaniac
    July 30, 2008

    Is #5 a world play on commute? If so, binary operations are usually not written f(x,y). It would more typically be written:

    x*y=y*x for all x,y ?{Animals}, therefore animals commute.

    If this is not what #5 meant then I have no idea what else it could mean.

  24. #24 amstrad
    July 30, 2008

    @ 13,21 :

    I was thinking: for any binary operator f:AA -> B, f is commutative on set A if f(x,y)=f(y,x) for all x,y in A.

  25. #25 leki
    July 30, 2008

    I encountered a professor of mine shuffling down the corridor in pyjamas and slippers looking quite haggard and somewhat spaced-out at the campus mall one morning (really really early in the morning). I greeted him, he looked shamed, I asked how he was and he said that he was camping out in his office because his wife left him and not to tell anyone lest he get in trouble. He lived in that office for the rest of the semester. Poor soul. I brought him baked goods that didn’t require refrigeration.

  26. #26 SteveM
    July 30, 2008

    I wonder, if you take the price of a new hybrid car and divide it up over the years you will use it, will it really save you enough money? If it gets, say, 40mpg as opposed to 25, that will save $13 every 200 miles at current prices – so if the car costs $20,000 then it will pay for itself once you’ve driven 300,000 miles.

    You forgot to subtract the cost of the alternative. So the better analysis is if the hybrid costs $4k more than an equivalent non hybrid and gets 40mpg vs 25mpg. If gas is $4/gallon then the hybrid gets 10mp$ vs 6.25mp$, the difference is 3.75miles per dollar, to recover $4k is then 15k miles.

    And even if you are talking about replacing an existing vehicle, you still need to consider its resale value and the amount of “life” left in it. Either of which should reduce that 300k number considerably.

  27. #27 chaos_engineer
    July 30, 2008

    #23, most animals commute but there are a few non-commutative species. (e.g. donkey x horse = mule, horse x donkey = hinny)

  28. #28 themadlolscientist, FCD
    July 30, 2008

    When I was a student in college, there was a professor who got into trouble for living in his office.

    =LOL= I knew a couple of guys in grad school who lived in their offices. We just said, “Enh, computer nerds. Whaddya expect?” But nothing beats one of my profs who, when he was a student, camped out in a tent because he thought the dorms were too expensive.

    Which might have made some sense, except that he was at the University of Toronto.

    If the Bay Area has the BART and Dallas has the DART, what does Philadelphia have?

    Oh, please……… what we do have is bad enough: SEPTA [Southeastern PA Transit Authority], AKA “Septic,” AKA “The Toilet.” Unless you live in the city proper, or near one of the suburban commuter rail lines, it’s a big joke. With some of the highest fares in the country IIRC.

  29. #29 SteveM
    July 30, 2008

    most animals commute but there are a few non-commutative species. (e.g. donkey x horse = mule, horse x donkey = hinny)

    isn’t lion and tiger similarly non-commutative, that is a “liger” is considerably different than a “tion”?

  30. #30 Mary
    July 30, 2008

    #27, don’t forget ligers and tigons.

    This remind me of a joke. Why did the abelian group cross into the mesopelagic zone?

  31. #31 Hap
    July 30, 2008

    The Columbus Dispatch (not my favorite paper, but…) did a comparison on how long hybrids take to earn back their extra purchase prices – at current rates there were three or four cars (Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Saturn SUV hybrid) that would make up the added cost in five years or less (at current gas prices). The others (mostly domestics, but maybe Toyota SUV hybrid as well?) were estimated to take up to ten years to make the money back.

    I have a nonhybrid Civic that I plan to drive into the ground. By the time it dies, maybe it’ll be clearer what (if any) the next car will be (ethanol, electric, h2, etc.).

  32. #32 Canuck
    July 30, 2008

    I have a 5 minute bike ride to my faculty office. It’s a 15 min. walk in summer, 20 in winter (25 if it’s a bad storm). But I never drive to work. I haven’t been behind the wheel of the car since April. When I was younger I bought fast, upscale, sexy cars. I loved cars. Now I see cars as part of the large problem we humans have. I’ve grown to detest them. I’ve been cycling seriously for 20 years and have become a hard core cyclist. The bicycle is the greatest mechanical engineering invention of all time. We need to embrace it. I can eat what I want, drink the beer that I want, and I stay fit and don’t gain weight. I weigh what I did when I graduated from high school, about 32 years ago.

    Peak oil is coming, or here, and we need to wean ourselves from the cars. It’s much more serious than crackers.

  33. #33 multipath
    July 30, 2008

    [blockquote]He is the editor of Pharyngula, a biology blog.[/blockquote]

    They pigeonholed ya. Twice.

  34. #34 jj
    July 30, 2008

    I live 5 miles from my work, takes me 2 extra minutes to take my bike, with gas @ 4.50 (okay it dropped to $4.25 this week)and since my job actually pays me to use alternate transportation, I always ride my bike!

  35. #35 JoJo
    July 30, 2008

    If the Bay Area has the BART and Dallas has the DART, what does Philadelphia have?

    We won’t consider what Fairbanks might have.

  36. #36 Rosie Redfield
    July 30, 2008

    Our local crows commute. They spend their nights in a wooded area that serves as a dense bedroom community, way on one side of the city. Every morning they all leave for their various urban feeding areas. Every evening they come back, beginning as small scattered groups all over the metropolitan area and condensing into massive flocks as they get close to home.

  37. #37 CrypticLife
    July 30, 2008

    Wow, I’m rather encouraged by tales of profs/students in odd living situations. For a semester and a half in college I slept wherever I could on campus — in the greenhouse (stone floors are okay if you’re flat on your back and have something under your head), at the tops of stairwells, abandoned rooms, on top of the library, and in my professor’s office (once, though I didn’t know they cleaned at night :().

  38. #38 travc
    July 30, 2008

    PZ, that was a very fuzzy, imprecise, and metaphorical piece of writing… and very very good!

    If you ever get tired of snotty undergrads, you should take up a career as a science writer/journalist. That is the way it should be done IMO.

  39. #39 Sam
    July 30, 2008

    Nice article PZ! I love the description. I can’t say I ever thought about animals commuting.

  40. #40 Dave McCone
    July 30, 2008

    If the Bay Area has the BART and Dallas has the DART, what does Philadelphia have?

    Seattle has the SLUT (South Lake Union Trolley)

    http://www.ridetheslutshirts.com/index2.html

  41. #41 Gail Reed
    July 31, 2008

    You could have talked about things that don’t commute, like subtraction and matrices under multiplication.

  42. #42 Autumn
    July 31, 2008

    The wife and I just bought a motorcycle. With one or the other of us taking it to work, we will be saving a couple of thousand dollars a year in two years, including all the extra stuff (helmets, insurance, maitnance, etc.).

  43. #43 Autumn
    July 31, 2008

    Holy crackers, I have no idea how I managed to misspell “maintenance” as badly as I did above.

  44. #44 Bride of Shrek OM
    July 31, 2008

    Canuck at #32

    Great except for the beer bit. Its actually a DUI offence where I live if you’re caught on a bike over the legal .05 limit ( same as the car). Actually it’s an offence to be in charge of any vehicle or mode of transport. I personally have had a client who has a DUI for riding his horse home after some country event after having a few bevvies and I recall a story in the national newspaper about ten years ago about some pissed up law student wearing a pink tutu getting charged DUI because he was travelling home up the main street of Brisbane at 11 at night on ROLLERSKATES!!!!

  45. #45 GunOfSod
    July 31, 2008

    PZ: Is it a great idea to give the Interweb yousers a better idea of where you live? There’s a bunch of crazy cracker crunchers out there.

  46. #46 Joe Dunckley
    July 31, 2008

    Well, you certainly wrote the best item out of the bunch. Sorry, that’s something of a backhanded compliment considering the quality of some of the others. Klaus Kneale succeeds in presenting the second worst “argument” I’ve heard all week…

  47. #47 Drhoz!
    August 1, 2008

    the flying foxes over here in Sydney commute – they roost in the Botanical gardens next to the CBD, and every night navigate out to the suburbs following the major street lights.

  48. #48 khan
    August 1, 2008

    What? You live one mile from work and you still drive there? Or perhaps you’re biking. That would make more sense.

    For many years I walked to work (about a mile).

    Then they took out the street and put in an interstate ramp and moved the gate a 1/2 mile in the other direction (military base). To walk directly I would have had to cross unlit railroad tracks and unmown fields and a 4 lane state route.

    I spent several years driving about 2 miles each way.

  49. #49 DD
    August 5, 2008

    Earth orbit: Seasonal migrations, migrants
    Earth rotation: Daily commutes, commuters
    Difference of Temporal & Spatial scale

    Commute + mutate = commutation?

    (sorry, just felt like playing)

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