No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Your Inner Fish / Memoirs of Solar Pons

I loved the TV show, a 3-part miniseries. The book was also good, but maybe not quite as tight and engaging as the show. Neil Shubin discusses the lead-up to his discovery of Tiktaalik (one of the great successful predictions of evolutionary theory (and geology)), and then goes on from there to explain how certain features of human anatomy had their origins in fish. A nice blend of palaeontological, anatomical, and genetic evidences. The last chapter I thought a bit weak -- sort of a scattershot approach of listing human features and expounding on the evolutionary linkages. It felt disconnected.

A couple quotes...

"One of these creatures has the dubious distinction of almost never being seen in the wild. In the late 1880s, a strangely simple creature was discovered living on the glass walls of an aquarium. Unlike anything else alive, it looked like a mass of goo. The only thing we can compare it with is the alien creature in the Steve McQueen movie The Blob. ... Shringk the Blob down to between 200 and 1000 cells, about two millimeters in diameter, and we have the enigmatic living creature known as a placozoon."

"It turns out the pattern generator responsible for hiccups is virtually identical to one in amphibians. And not just any amphibians -- in tadpoles, which use both lungs and gills to breathe. Tadpoles use this pattern generator when they breathe with gills. In that circumstance, they want to pump water into their mout and throat and across the gills, but they do not want the water to enter their lungs. To prevent it from doing so, they close the glottis, the flap that closes off the breathing tube."

The Memoirs of Solar Pons collects yet more of August Derleth's Sherlock Holmes pastiches. I'm obliged to read them, since they were issued by Arkham House's sister imprint for mysteries: Mycroft & Moran. The first one gives away (to the non brain-dead among us) the solution in the title. A few rise above Derleth's usual hack job.
Tags: arkham, book, science

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