Wednesday, May 16, 2012

a brain teaser

In her new book on dolphins Diana Reiss describes a scene she couldn’t explain:
I was often puzzled at the sight of a ring of river rocks encircling the central drain at the bottom of the pool. These smooth-surfaced eight- or nine-inch oval river rocks were stewn here and there on the bottom by divers so the dolphins could rub their bodies along them. … A quick investigation revealed that the divers weren’t responsible [for the rings.] How did the dolphins move these rocks?
Did the dolphins pick the stones up with their mouths? No, says Reiss. “If they used their mouths, the dolphins would injure their teeth.”

Perhaps a dolphin would push the stone along the floor of the pool with its nose (or, as the “nose” is called in dolphins, the rostrum, there being no “nose” to the dolphin snout)? Reiss dismisses that guess, too. “Pushing with their snouts, the dolphins would injure their rostrums.”

The dolphin researchers had to keep a sharp eye out to catch the dolphins at their task.

It’s a clever and elegant solution.

They saw the dolphin, Stormy, with a stone. “Stormy turned upside dow, placed the top of her head on a rock, sucked it onto her blowhole, then turned right-side up and swam away with it atop her head.”

As to why the rings, the dolphins never told. Art?

source: The Dolphin in the Mirror: exploring dolphin minds and saving dolphin lives by Diana Reiss

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

an interesting mistake

Scientific discoveries [Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon] declared, are really quite easy to make, and will quickly perish unless they are explained with elegance and grace. That is because mere facts are not human achievements – they belong to the natural word and are therefore hors de l’homme, “outside of mankind.” Eloquence, by contrast, is the highest evidence of human agency and genius …
How closely did you read the above quote? Did you note the typo?

With “world” missing its el, the statement’s meanings struggle more than intended.

source: Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: translation and the meaning of everything by David Bellos

Monday, May 14, 2012

“saying the same thing”

[L]anguage [is] a rich, illogical, and complicated tool for making fine and often arbitrary distinctions – for discriminating, separating out, and saying the same thing in different ways.
source: Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: translation and the meaning of everything by David Bellos