Judge: Dr. Gillson, please explain to the Court why your last post appeared over a month ago. How do you expect to keep your following in the face of such an erratic schedule?
Me: I apologize Your Honor. There are just too many things going on these days. I can’t seem to focus.
Judge: Please clarify. You can’t seem to focus or you actually can’t focus?
Me: I actually can’t focus. What is Twitter going to look like with Musk at the helm? What will happen in the Ukraine? What about current and impending shortages in just about everything including common sense? And why won’t my dog, Sarge, make friends with his talk-buttons? Not only that, he recently nibbled the white tuft (aka “flag”) on his tail down to its nub for the second time. Anyway, I’m swamped.
Judge: Whatever. All that aside, I find you guilty of lacking clarity of speech and I hereby sentence you to get on with this post. And I’m sorry to hear about Sarge’s tuft. Why don’t you try some more niacinamide?
I dunno. Maybe we’re all just too smart for our own good. Maybe we’re overthinking things. Maybe brains are overrated. After all, there are lots of critters out there that get along just fine without brains: take the Trichoplax for example.
I’m pretty sure that Trichoplax is not the last name of a Roman General, e.g. Felix Octavius Trichoplax but you never know. The one thing I am certain of though, is that the Trichoplax is a three-layered, Flubber-like multicellular creature kind of like an amoeba except an amoeba only has one cell. Neither one of these organisms has muscles or a nervous system let alone a brain but they both exhibit complex behaviors including oozing around, repairing small appliances and running for public office. They also bear a strong resemblance to thin blobs of nasal mucus, since you asked.
Exhibit A is an amoeba, although I think it looks vaguely like a tiny cat with no neck and strange ears, executing a back layout.
Exhibit B is a Trichoplax although I think it looks more like the head of a tiny man with a large, dripping nose, a pugnacious Jay Leno-like chin and a misshapen cranium.
Anyway, the top layer of the Trichoplax bears minute poisonous spheres. The middle layer consists of goo and contractile fibers. The cells on the bottom layer have cilia (whiskers). When they want to, all the cilia can beat together to move forward or backward (depending on your inertial reference frame). They can also vote to remain motionless enabling Trichoplax to feed, pose for pictures and repair small appliances.
The cilia can also form two camps which beat in opposite directions, thereby tearing the animal in half. Researchers have likened the movements of these cilia to those of a flock of birds, a school of fish or the actions of people under the influence of social media platforms which are not, and I repeat not, Publishers or Deep State puppets. Just saying.
So many conspiracy theories: so little time.
Moving on up the ladder of evolution, we come to the octopus. These creatures are actually smart as hell. I wrote about octopi, their brainpower and their coconut-shell armor a few years ago. I just couldn’t resist throwing them in here for filler. Not only is the octopus a fiendishly clever creature, each of its appendages is capable of acting independently without guidance from its brain. Come to think of it, that describes many human teenagers: mine were no exception.
Otto, an octopus in the Sea Star aquarium located in Cobourg, Germany was trained to squirt water at visitors. That was all well and good until Otto got bored and embarked on a three-day spree of shorting out the electrical system at night by squirting water at a 2000-watt spotlight hanging over his tank. And you know what? I don’t blame Otto one bit. If I had a 2000-watt light hanging over my bed every night, I would squirt water at it too.
Disclaimer: I’m about to re-use the “courtroom conversation” literary device. No apologies. If something works for me, I stick with it.
I don’t remember typing the following dialogue. But maybe I was asleep and my fingers independently kept on typing of their own accord…
Judge: Otto the Octopus, you are charged with vandalism and willful destruction of public property, as well as driving without a license. How do you plead?
Otto: I plead not guilty, Your Honor. The third arm on my right side (counting in the mid-dorsal to ventral direction) went rogue. It’s the real culprit here.
Judge: Nice try Otto the Octopus. You squirt water out of your siphon, not your arm.
Otto: True, but that arm, completely independent of my brain, and with no accomplices, grasped my siphon and aimed it at the light. I was asleep the whole time.
Judge: Maybe so, but I’m putting that arm plus your siphon on three month’s probation and if I see you in here again I’ll confiscate your coconut shell armor and all of your tools including the chainsaw.
OK, moving right along here and leaping far away from the ladder of evolution, there’s this Dutch guy named Theo Jansen who has been beavering away for the past 25 years building ever-more-complicated, insanely creative, beach-walking, wind-powered contraptions out of electrical conduit. He calls them Strandbeests.
Strandbeest is probably Dutch for insanely creative, beach-walking, wind-powered contraption, in case you were wondering. Or maybe it means “beach creature”.
And speaking of siphons, one species of Strandbeest, the Animaris adulari, avoids drowning by continuously sniffing with its custom siphonification unit, to sample the terrain ahead of it. If water is detected, the Animaris sidles back a certain number of steps guided by its digital step counter. The step counter memory bank consists of arrays of soda bottles which can be pressurized or not, with a pressurized bottle representing a digital 1 and an unpressurized bottle representing a digital 0.
I couldn’t make that up if my life depended on it.
I am also going on record right now, simultaneously swearing on both Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine and the bust of Ctesibius of Alexandria that I am not making up anything to do with these Strandbeests.
Oh yeah! One more thing! I forgot to mention that the Animaris adulari, along with its ability to avoid drowning, can also extrude water into its joints to prevent them from being clogged with sand. I swear on the entire country of Egypt that I am not making that up.
If you see one of these things shambling along a beach, I suggest you just back away slowly. If it follows you home it might not be a bad idea to hide your chainsaw.
Again, just saying.
4 thoughts on “Brains Are Overrated”
Those Strand Beasts are amazing.
John Osth Chairman & CEO NanoSomiX, Inc. Phone: 949-215-6808 Cell: 949-922-8646 email@example.com http://www.nanosomix.com
I’m particularly fascinated by the digital stepcounter. One of the other iterations also responds when sand is aspirated, so it steers a path on the hard pack between the dunes and the waves.
A curious thought, one which I found to question but never took it seriously; my Dad Earl always claimed that a Greek invented bagpipes. Now here you are George, citing Ctesibius the scientist who studied compressed air and subsequently the bagpipes. Oh my those Greeks were deep thinkers and we should not overthink or we may be judged.
I really laughed at your take on the public washrooms. Why not put the money used to construct towards the homeless, or maybe the homeless would appreciate the upscale sanitation?
Hah! Take care and kiss those grand babies!
Love Lili Anne Xo
Sent from my iPhone
I was lying about the bagpipes
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