|Taxonomy and Taxidermy Are Not the Same Thing
||[Dec. 1st, 2010|05:30 pm]
I have been known to mix them up sometimes. And I don't know about you, but when I think of taxonomy, I think of cabinets full of taxidermied specimens, à la Victorian amateur naturalist.
Anyway, I have come to be slightly interested in biology, which, as a somewhat squeamish person, I have avoided as much as possible. I'm not about to sign up for any dissections, but it's interesting to read about. You know, in a book, where you can't see the blood. So I have of late been reading Every Living Thing by Rob Dunn, who apparently is an ant expert. I can't say I care much for ants, but I'm kind of delighted that there are ant experts loose in the world. So we get some of Linnaeus, who made up Latin names and sent minions to gather specimens at the far corners of the world, but we also get ants and beetles and ants that look like beetles and legions of unnamed tropical insects. (Sometimes I think it would be fun to go to the tropics. Then I remember the bugs.)
Luckily it's not all bugs all the time, because there are also various weird critters like those luminous deep sea fish and bacteria that live on sulphur. And potential aliens. There's a section where he goes to an astrobiology conference and meets Francis Drake (of Drake's equation. The one for the number of alien civilizations where you have to guess at half the terms.) The thing about those astrobiologists is that they're all mildly crazy, or they're right - it's a very fine line.
Also, I'm kind of almost wishing I knew some Latin. Sure, it's not useful for everyday conversation, but you could understand all those official species names. And pretend to be smart at parties.