Friday, November 03, 2006

Blob Zombie

So a couple of weeks ago I purchased this book called The Biology of Spiders. It's been a good read and one of the things I've learned is that spiders don't just suck the insides out of their prey, but some spiders also chew.

Last night, after the Great Locust Massacre was over (details and links to photos can be found in the post below) I went into the orchid room to fetch the cat who knows she's not supposed to be snooping around in there. While I was looking for my errant feline I kept hearing what sounded like chewing noises in the vicinity of Octavia's web.

I passed it off to imagination. If spiders can chew, I thought, it's likely a function performed in tiny, silent nips. So imagine my horrified fascination when I found this hanging in the web, like something out of the Night of the Living Insect Dead. Apparently, the sound I heard was chewing. Eeewww!

Not that it diminishes my admiration for Octavia. My sister emailed me this morning to comment on my latest Octavia photo spread. Here's a little of what she wrote:

The pictures of Octavia or absolutely INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The best
you’ve done yet. I must admit I feel for the poor grasshopper, but that’s
nature. The picture showing the webbing coming from her body is awesome. In most pictures Octavia looks so menacing, but in one shot, she’s so delicate, and
I think she hit on what I like best about Octavia: her duality. I told my sister the spider is like a velvet warrior, beautiful but still capable of Terrible Things.


sammyray said...

Upon consideration of your somments in the last entry, I agree: spiders are superior to humans, but only in the fact that they 1) destroy only what they consume, and 2) they destroy things in a beautiful way. As gruesome as we find those Octavia pictures, you cannot help but be moved by the sheer beauty and skill with which it is accomplished.

And people actually think it all happened by CHANCE??

sammyray said...

oops comments - sorry

Morgan said...

sammyray, it does seem there has to be some sort of design and - therefore - designer. Octavia's far too marvelous to be random.

Suspect said...

I never said it was random.

I'm sick and tired of hearing this argument, what many call the Boeing 747 argument. It says that something like Octavia coming out by chance is as likely as a typhoon hitting a junkyard and leaving a Boeing 747.

And the argument is absolutely right. 100%, all-the-way, nail-on-the-head right.

What's wrong is the analogy. They key part of evolution is the essentially nonrandom natural selection, in which only the fittest survive. Random mutations throw up incremental improvements and incremental degradations, and the degradations are weeded out and the improvements survive. It is a NONrandom process; in fact, it is th antithesis of randomness.

And compilations are albums, so there!

Suspect said...

What I really wanted to comment on, before being sidetracked:

Octavia is more and more like a woman, both in this post and the last one.

Form your conclusions, people.

Morgan said...

Suspect, the truth is that none of us really know if there's a Great Designer behind the designs. And we'll never know, unless there is and it's revealed to us one day. And if it's not, and we turn back to dust then what's the point of even debating it anway. Just LIVE!
If you go back and carefully read what I wrote, I said it "seems," because to me it does. But I can no more prove a god than you can disprove one.

I do believe in evolution, and recognize spiders as evolutionary wonders, but don't think it's inconsistent with seeing Something Larger at work. Have you ever created anything and tweaked it over time? I'm a writer and I was just commenting to an editor the other day about how my writing has changed and evolved over time. I think creation could too.

Per Octavia being more like a woman, I found something else in her web this morning and when I got the magnifying glass for a closer look I couldn't believe what it was: the grasshopper's wallet.

Yes, Octavia is a lot like a woman. ;-)

thimscool said...

I once designed and built a microwave cavity that had a certain shape to its voltage distribution at a particular resonance frequency, so that the atoms which flew through it were exposed to the proper pulse shape to test a particular theory.

The problem was intractably complex, so what I did was use a genetic algorithm to do the heavy lifting for me. I represented the shapes of the microwave cavity using a series of points with a simple interpolation between them, and some basic rules (simply connected domain). Each string of a few hundred points acted like a chromosome. I started with one hundred randomly chosen possibilities, and ran code that predicted the pulse shape the atoms would see. Then each ‘solution’ was ranked according to how close they were to my fitness algorithm (how well they matched the desired pulse shape, and resonance frequency). The lower half were discarded, and the upper half of solutions were ‘mated’ to produce another hundred candidates. Those were then tested for fitness, ranked, and either discarded or mated. And so the process continues, for several hundred generations, until a robust group of solutions emerged. The best of those was the one I took into the machine shop.

Intelligent design, or evolution? You be the judge.

Morgan said...

Luke, you are such a brainiac.
You make a good point. I just wonder if some might say that God's infallibility would mean the effort was perfect the first time. I personally do not, mainly because in the Biblical story of the flood God had misgivings over creating humans - who turned out to be wicked - so he flooded the world and just started over again with some select stock. Of course, we know how that turned out. Here we sit, more evil than ever. :-p
God clearly has more work to do if he's trying to evolve humans into a species that can't screw themselves up. I think he should have just populated the world with giant spiders.

thimscool said...

Exoskeletons are not effective at supporting land based organisms larger than a few inches at earth-like gravity.


thimscool said...

Suspect. Are your initials TCW?

Morgan said...

Thimscool, you've obviously never seen a coconut crab.

Who is TCW?

CJ said...

Yesterday you ruin my cream filled donut. Today you ruin my crunchy french fries. I'm beginning to think you really are a witch.

thimscool said...

"you've obviously never seen a coconut crab."

Not in person, but I'm pretty sure me and my endoskeleton could smash it, grill it, dunk in lemon butter, wolf it down, and increase my odds of survival...

They only get to be a few inches... and I doubt they have anywhere near the manuverability or survivability of like-sized reptiles or mamals.

thimscool said...

"Who is TCW?"


Morgan said...

CJ, is it my fault you read my blog before eating? ;-)
Hocus Pocus, baby.

To Luke: Coconut crabs are huge terrestrial hermit crabs reaching weights up to 10 lbs with a leg span of about 30 inches. That's a bit larger than two inches. Info and a picture can be found here:

But alas, you are correct that you and your endoskeleton could make a meal of it.

But the size of something like that gives me hope that someday giant spiders will take over the world, where they will likely find better things to do than argue about religion.

thimscool said...

How do you know that Octavia and Jimminy weren't arguing about religion?

Morgan said...

They were, Lucas. The grasshopper said, "I'd like to talk to you about Jesus. Are you saved?"

Octavia said, "Sorry, I'm not interested."

The grasshopper was like, "Well, can I just give you this tract?"
Octavia was like, "Sure, just come over here."

I have similar fantasies about the local Baptists and Mormons who try to convert me to their brand of Christianity.

Land Shark said...


Morgan said...

Candygram, my foot. Now get out of here before I call the proper authorities. You're a shark and you know it.

Suspect said...

No, my initials aren't TCW.

As for genetic algorithms, I've used them too, though not in hardware work. I wrote little program to demo genetic algos a year ago. Genetic algos are very cool from a modular code point of view. I don't know if you're into programming, but what I mean is that I can reuse almost all of my code to solve a different problem using genetic algos. I used it to solve the 0/1 knapsack problem, and then the travelling salesman problem. Of course, I never get optimal solutions, but linear time is a sweet, sweet thing, isn't it?

GAs are a very simplistic case of evolution -- guided evolution, more like. They do,however, give you something to point to everytime someone throws a "it can't be chance!" argument at your face.

To everyone who thinks I'm talking shit: read "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins. Assume, if you can, that you weren't brainwashed as a child. Then read this book. Then argue about evolution, because then you'll have more intelligent arguments.

thimscool said...

These days, Suspect, I'm just a hack. Ecommerce, cms's, and scripting backups is really the closest that I get to programming.

That was 10 years ago, and it brought a room full of PII's to their knees. Eventually I had to get time on a Cray to finish the job. Don't know if the solution was optimal, but it worked. Fun stuff.

Now days it's all about "Show me the money." Sigh.

Have you played with neural networks, or other parallel computing models that put the lie to those who think that straight logic is required to solve problems?

sammyray said...

Ugh... evolutionists are as bad as creationists. I prefer Morgan's idea: nobody can be sure about the issue until we're dead, and it won't matter then, either.

Let's get on with life. LOL

That Cleaning Lady said...

We were eating crab legs today and I was wondering if Octavia tasted crab when she was munching on her sister spiders...
I didn't see "evolution" in the one spider eating another spider story, only that one spider was faster than the other one... lunch on the veranda.
I saw what evolution did to Star Wars, and I wasn't impressed. George should have left the originals along!!! They were GOOD!!!

Suspect said...

I've played with simulated annealing a lot, and I've read around on neural nets and ant colonies, though I never got around to writing any code, lazy bum that I am.

Perhaps when I'm older...

Morgan said...

That Cleaning Lady,
I'm not sure if Octavia preying on her sister-spiders was an evolutionary tactic, merely a matter of survival. In the wild they live in clusters so it seems to me if it were about space for her offspring she would have bumped it off before it laid its eggs.
But spiders in and of themselves are marvels of evolution. So are insects and orchids.
If you've never read the book "The Orchid Thief," I highly recommend it. It's got some amazing stuff in there about the evolution of orchids.
Oh, and I agree with you about Star Wars. ;0