Here Comes Mr. Starling

We’re pleased to announce the successful run of our stage play Here Comes Mr. Starling, our theatrical bio-pic homage to Eugene Schieffelin! If you don’t know who that is, he’s the guy you have to thank the next time a flock of Starlings craps on your car.

And if you were in the New York area and had a chance to catch the Q&A after final performance with writer/director Gulivur Stranuss, you’ll be happy to know that Mr. Stranuss is planning on releasing his DIY bird mimicry book later this year.

Excerpts from the play are featured in the Encyclopedia of Life Podcast this month. You can also listen to the episode here:


Lose Weight Like a Bird!

Forget triathlons or Ironman workouts, if you really want to get in shape, you need to do what the Bartailed Godwit does: fly non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand in 9 days. This incredible land bird should be an inspiration to all birds and not only breaks the record for non-stop long distance migration but is also the focus of the first installment of our new cartoon series, “Meanwhile in the Animal Kingdom.” The original NPR link also provides some background on our avian athlete who goes by his New Zealand moniker: the Kuaka.

Our favorite physics photographer, Caleb Charland, has his first solo show “Fathom and Fray” opening at the Michael Mazzeo Gallery in New York (on exhibit until the end of June). There will be 17 pieces ranging in size from 32×40 inches down to one piece that is actually palm sized. If you’re in town, it’s worth checking out. Congrats Caleb!

To commemorate the Ides of March (and Caesar’s untimely but apparently not unpredicted death) here’s a piece on the awkwardness of Roman numerals. Yes, there’s a connection because Brutus and the rest of the senators who presumably knifed Caesar in the Theatre of Pompey, were Romans and therefore used Roman numerals.  So how awkward are these numerals that are actually letters used as numbers? Try singing “99 Bottle of Beer on the Wall” using roman numerals (letters).

The great marine poet Thomas Dylan has a special place in his heart for even the tiniest sea creatures – dinoflagellates. Which is why we were thrilled to work with him in celebrating these under appreciated sea creatures in our first live musical event: Dinoflagella. Microscopic and coming in all different weird shapes, Dinoflagellates serve as food for most of the ocean’s animal life. But when they get together in large numbers they do things you can actually see…some of which are toxic. Here is a piece done for the Encyclopedia of Life that excerpts some of the show and features Dylan’s poetry.

(Lifted from the Imaginary Foundation)

Caleb Charland shows off more of his work for Wired:

His latest endeavor (working title: Node Project) focuses on those points on a plant from which leaves and branches sprout. “Each of the little nodes—they just felt like they could be an armature for an image,” he says. To create the effect shown here, Charland spray-painted a shrub black, then highlighted each node with glow-in-the-dark paint. Next, he stuck the plant in a ceramic pot and rotated it under a black light, exposing a sheet of 4 x 5 film to an illuminated pattern of potential growth. As Charland puts it, “I like the idea of taking something simple and ordinary and making it mesmerizing.”

The full article with more photos is here.

Here’s a proof-of-concept we threw together for a segment about the naming of genes. The background: fruit fly geneticists display signs of humor by sometimes come up with joke names for the genes they discover. A gene that increases the lifespan of a fly, for example, is called the INDY gene (short for I’m Not Dead Yet – an almost quote from Monty Python’s Holy Grail) and a gene that produces fruit flies without external genitalia: “Ken and Barbie.” We thought this would make a great vaudeville act (yes, we know, it’s way too hard hitting and in-depth for a science segment).  Some people find that gene jokes are not as funny as we did. The NPR segment makes this clear. We still think genes are funny. Genes. Heh.

If you’re a lobster, death can come in many ways. You might, for example, get eaten by an octopus, smashed into rocks, or get caught by humans and pressurized to death in the Big Mother Shucker. One thing you don’t have to worry about, though, is dying of old age. Apparently, lobsters show no signs of aging; their metabolisms don’t slow down, they don’t get weaker, and they don’t lose reproductive ability – they just get bigger and bigger. In fact, the only indication of a lobster’s age is it’s size. So in theory, there could be a HUGE lobster that has survived simply by being careful enough to live a long, happy life, uninterrupted by sudden death. In theory he could then share his wisdom through song, and, in theory, be called Leroy. Here’s the NPR piece featuring the song and here’s a totally anticlimactic video of a lobster molting (molting of course being THE KEY to getting really big).

Table Scraps I: B-Flat

If you were wondering what’s missing from the original B-Flat song, then this is probably what you’re thinking, “I wonder what’s missing from the original B-Flat song?” Well here’s a short list: all the bits that are missing. These missing bits are generally referred to as “everything that’s missing from the bit that made it on NPR.” Not everything makes it into the final radio piece. Here is some of what we had left over, unredacted. Enjoy.

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