Filtered for mammals

11.16, Wednesday 20 Sep 2017


The memetic history of medieval elephants:

After the fall of the Roman Empire, elephants virtually disappeared from Western Europe. Since there was no real knowledge of how this animal actually looked, illustrators had to rely on oral and written transmissions to morphologically reconstruct the elephant, thus reinventing an actual existing creature.

This is a tree diagram covering 700 years of imagined elephants.

I am in love.


If cancer can strike any cell, then why don’t larger animals (with more cells) get cancer more than smaller ones? Peto’s paradox: the incidence of cancer in humans is much higher than the incidence of cancer in whales. This is despite the fact that a whale has many more cells than a human.

Why? One possibility: hypertumors.

A novel hypothesis resolving Peto’s paradox: since cancer cells are predisposed to be aggressive, maybe mutant cancers appear in the cancers that then grow as a tumor on their parent tumor, creating a hypertumor that damages or destroys the original.


In larger organisms, tumors need more time to reach lethal size, so hypertumors have more time to evolve.

In smaller animals, hypertumors don’t have time to emerge, so cancer incidence is higher.


News from 1929:

[Professor] Wever and [research assistant] Bray took an unconscious, but alive, cat and transformed it into a working telephone to test how sound is perceived by the auditory nerve.

The cat telephone.

Here’s how: A telephone wire was attached to the nerve and the other end of the wire was connected to a telephone receiver. Bray spoke into the cat’s ears; Wever listened from a soundproofed room 60 feet away.

The original paper from 1930 states that speech was transmitted with great fidelity. Alas no clue on the first words spoken over the cat telephone.

(Even more alas for the cat, who didn’t come through the procedure alive.)

The first words spoken over the Chappe telegraph system, which later covered Napoleonic France with over 500 stations, on March 2, 1791: If you succeed, you will bask in glory.


Trotify. A device that attaches to your bicycle and makes it sound like a horse.

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