Friday, April 10, 2009

Fact of the Day

I doubt that this is news: I'm inconsistent in the frequency of my updates.

To remedy the problem, I'm going to pad out this gap, and possibly future gaps, between installments by writing about the most interesting thing I read about on Wikipedia today. I realise that summerising something that someone else has written lowers the tone of the blog (from whatever it tone was to begin with), but I do so as an attempt to strike a balance between the quantity and the quality of my writing (for a given interpretation of quality).

Fact of the Day:

There are 3 sub-species of Blue Whale , two of which have been named in order to broadly represent their usual habitat: the Northern Blue Whale and the Southern Blue Whale. I admire these common names -- they are informative yet brief.

The third sub-species, which lives in the Indian Ocean, has the oxymoronic common name Pygmy Blue Whale. While I appreciate that pygmy is employed here to give the meaning smaller than your regular, I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of describing a creature that can eat 1.8 tonnes of food a day as pygmy.

Bonus fact:

The species name for Blue Whale is musculus. In Latin it has an ambiguous meaning: it can mean muscular, or it can mean little mouse. I can imagine Carl Linnaeus, namer of the Blue Whale, and father of modern taxonomy, getting a round high-fives, or the 18th centuary equivalent, from all of his geeky, Latin-speaking drinking buddies, and laughing: "Ha! I got away with naming the largest creature to ever exist little mouse! I mean, a mouse is already little, but when one applies the diminutive suffix, it makes it even smaller! But this whale is really big, and people will just think that I meant it to mean muscular! Bhahaha!"

I have a new sense of indignation towards a naming system that allows the 24 metre Pygmy Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) to unavoidably be referred to as "little".


Erin said...

Mr Burns! Amazing, how we seem to gravitate to the same Wikipedia articles. Great minds ... something alike. Or something. I have been sampling local beers in a Kathmandu night club this evening - good times. You should pop down here for a visit. Tuesday is the Nepalese New Year, and my hosts are eager party goers, it's going to be great fun. You getting my periodic emails?

Clare said...

Mr. Burns I like this. The whole lot of it. I sat down and read the entirety of your blog like I might sit down and enjoy an anticipated meal of freshly baked bread and fine cheese - with relish.
This was after my day of sitting, listening to Japanese scientists present their research to an audience of mostly other Japanese scientists, in English. There is nothing quite as simultaneously painful and admirable as citizens of the same country attempting to ask, comprehend, and answer questions in a language foreign to all of them, for the sake of political correctness. When it came to dissecting the intricacies of modeling cardiovascular fluid dynamics I wanted to stand up and say, 'Let them eat cake, and speak Japanese!' (Is there a word for things you want or wanted to say in a situation, but never did? 'How to teach on Camp' has some excellent examples of this phenomenon.)
What I want to say now, is that Biomechanicalengineering conferences do induce some interesting cultural/linguistic challenges, but are generally not quite as adventurous as Russia; nor are the expositions of scientific indulgence easily digested. These factors can partly explain why I so eagerly and readily absorbed your blog just now. I didn't need to feel around in the dark for my Dictionary of Educated Guesses at every second word.
Maybe every third...
Just kidding (another ingredient for your Word Salad?). Only the 'Racist Joke' required some feeling around for virtual reference books.

Anyhow, cheers for the enjoyable read. I laughed even though nothing could hear me, and that is a sign of true hilarity.