Saturday, April 12, 2008

Movie Keywords

My wife Debra found this meme. I have made a list of 10 wonderful movies and looked up keywords. The idea is for you, the one or two readers of this blog, to guess the name of the movie based on the official plot keywords. Good luck.

1. lion, goat, hostage, car trouble

2. police, pizza, Mother, adultery

3. frozen corpse, informer, whacking, bar fight

4. toddler, criminal, dream, parenthood
Answer: Raising Arizona, guessed first by Rebecca

5. mistaken identity, bus station, train, police

6. sword fight, rabbit, shrubbery, coconut
Answer: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, guessed by Rebecca
NOTE: having this movie #6 in the list does not mean that it is my 6th favorite; it is way closer to #1

7. cross, justice, rooftop, revenge

8. panties, fence, laughing, oppression

9. flat tire, eyeglasses, essay, bully

10. discussion, problem, continuously, virus


On the Origin of Species

It's a bit overwhelming "reviewing" this book. There is so much to say, and yet the words seem inadequate. It is a brilliant piece of work that was meticulously researched and written. Darwin did not simply state his brilliant insights concerning how species evolve through natural selection, how new species can be "created" by this process, and how all organisms on earth are related in a huge "tree of life". He also discussed alternatives to these hypotheses, problems raised by the hypotheses, inadequacies of these hypotheses, and ultimately, how these hypotheses compare to the predominant idea of the time, which was that species were individual acts of creation by a deity. If all the man wrote about was natural selection, the book would have been brilliant. But, by throwing in the origin of species and the common ancestry of all life (descent through modification), he really wrote one of the most, if not the most, important books on biology ever.

I loved each and every chapter, but my favorite was the one about geographical distribution. He discussed how species came to be where they are. Creationism states that god put them there in current form. Darwin thought that this made God one busy micromanager. Darwin thought seeds could float from mainland to islands. He even tested this by soaking seeds in ocean water for a month and then planting them to prove that they were still viable. (My class is currently repeating this experiment). He thought that mollusc (snail, clam, etc) larvae could be transported on duck feet. He also tested this. He thought mud on duck feet could transport seeds as well (which he also tested!). I loved his idea of how seeds could be transported to distant islands because fish eat seeds, birds then eat the fish, and then the bird will defecate the seeds on the island (he did not test this idea, however!).

It is an excellent persuasive essay, or "one long arguement" as he put it. At one point in the book he asked "does my theory or their theory explain these facts?" Well, if you ask me, yours does, Darwin.

A brief review of Huxley's "Man's Place in Nature"

I read this book as part of the Decades Challenge. I've always admired Thomas Huxley simply by reputation as "Darwin's bulldog", and especially for his response to Bishop Wilberforce who asked him if he was related to apes on his Mothers or his Father's side. Huxley responded basically that if he had a choice of being related to an ape or a man who was an idiot like Wilberforce, he would gladly choose the ape. Huxley did state it much more eloquently, however. And his writing was eloquent in this book in a Victorian kind of way. The book was written in 1863 and did have the long, run-on sentences characteristic of Victorian science writing. The book basically reviewed what was known at the time about chimps, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons, discussed anatomical similarities between man and apes, and then discussed some of the "newly" discovered fossil homininds of the day, notably the Neandertals. I found it all interesting, but especially the part where Huxley dismantled Richard Owen's claim that only humans had a hippocampus minor (brains structure related to memory formation). Huxley knew better, but Owen was obstinate. Huxley's evidence was overwhelming and time has proved him to be correct and Owen to be incorrect. Huxley wrote a new preface for this book in the early 1890s and he admitted that much of the information was out of date. It certainly is today, but for those interested in the history of evolutionary thought, Huxley is a very important and interesting character, and this is a very enjoyable read.