Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘darwin’

Here’s something fun from the bird kingdom: a mating dance that looks like Michael Jackson’s moonwalk and a researcher who posits an aesthetic sensibility in animals.

WNYC radio in New York has the story.

Richard Prum is an ornithologist at Yale University … Some of Prum’s latest work is on the philosophy of aesthetics. It stems from his earliest research, as a young scientist, studying small South American birds called manakins. Manakins are known for outlandish mating displays. The males perform an elaborate dance, including moves that look a lot like moonwalking.

“To Prum’s eye, the diversity and complexity of these dances could only be explained as an appeal to the birds’ aesthetic preferences — in other words, it’s art. ‘My hypothesis is that ornament in manakins evolves merely because it’s beautiful,’ Prum says.

“This idea clashes with the view of most evolutionary biologists, who see displays like these as signs of evolutionary fitness. They think the male manakin’s dance signals to females that he is healthy and will sire strong offspring. …

“Prum says that Charles Darwin was on his side. ‘That was Darwin’s original idea about mate choice — it’s about the aesthetic faculty’ …

“Doesn’t this idea about animals having aesthetic preferences anthropomorphize them? ‘I think that we don’t anthropomorphize birds enough!’ Prum says. ‘We’re afraid of talking about their subjective experiences, because we can’t measure it. But in fact, what they experience is desire, the subjective experience of beauty, of being attracted to something.’ ” More here.

Video: NatGeoWild

Read Full Post »

Our 5-year-old grandson’s friend had been planning to attend an American Repertory Theater musical with her grandmother today at 10 a.m. We decided to go, too.

The show was The Pirate Princess and was loosely (very loosely) based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It was a hoot for me, and the young man in the photo seemed riveted. But whether he could make head or tail of the  convoluted plot, I have my doubts. It will be interesting to see down the road what he remembers — and whether he wants to see more plays.

The plot involves a brother and sister who get separated in a shipwreck (in this case, it’s thanks to a monster called the Kraken) and have separate adventures with characters who later mistake the sister dressed as a boy for the boy and vice versa. (I kept whispering in my grandson’s ear, “The pirate thinks he’s the girl that he thinks is a boy”; “The Queen thinks he’s his sister but doesn’t know his sister is a girl.” My grandson didn’t respond.)

There were songs, musical instruments, fancy costumes, pirates storming up lighted platforms in the middle of the audience, sword fights, and imaginative special effects. I especially like the jellyfish created by glowing umbrellas with streamers, carried along the aisles in the dark. The Kraken with his many legs was pretty great, too.

After the show, we had hot chocolate and cookies at the Darwin on Mt. Auburn Street. I’m not sure what our grandson will be able to tell his parents about the madcap entertainment he witnessed, but bits and pieces will likely emerge over time. I myself saw Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland when I was four, but I didn’t become a theater nut until I was 10.

010216-hot-chocolater-after-theater

Read Full Post »

Don’t you love that term? I needed to know more and found it at the Governing blog.

“Darwin’s theory of natural selection was simple but significant,” write Emily Malina and Kara Shuler at the blog. “Variation occurs naturally within any population, and nature will favor and spread characteristics that are advantageous for survival. Like a species, a workforce can go through a similar evolutionary process driven by individuals with unusual but favorable behaviors.

“These outliers, or ‘positive deviants,’ sometimes bend the rules, but their practices enable their success and survival in the workplace. …

“This positive deviance approach is grounded in a systematic process that includes identifying outliers and the specific behaviors that contribute to their success, and then scaling those behaviors across the workforce. It can be especially useful when other efforts have failed to bring about the desired results, and it is more effective when the issue requires behavioral change instead of technical solutions.”

Asakiyume, I think you will like the example the authors give. It’s about some outlier prison-guard behavior in Denmark.

“Burned-out prison guards: The prison environment, with its stressful conditions and psychological burdens, has historically resulted in high absenteeism and early retirement among guards.

“Danish prison-system officials looking to address this problem began by observing the behaviors of resilient guards, those with five or fewer days of missed work. They found that ambiguity in inmate-intake protocols allowed for positive deviants to emerge. The rule called for guards to gather background information from new inmates, and the common approach was an interrogation-style interview.

“Instead, the deviant guards offered inmates a tour of the prison facility and engaged them in a conversation. This small but powerful difference not only better equipped the guards to deal with the stresses and mental challenges of their jobs but also improved behavior of the inmates under their supervision, as evidenced by fewer violent threats and greater enrollment in treatment programs.” More.

Gate_sea_Aug08

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: