Musical Scales
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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2w ago
And now for something completely different… As I mentioned in my post about speculative evolution, some fields of study are universally applicable, like physics, chemistry, and evolution, while others, like economics and psychology, are not generalizable. Music theory is an extreme case of the latter: it was made up to explain music that had already been created, which didn’t follow any consistent rules; when you ask “why” enough times, the root reason is usually “it just sounds good”. As a result, there are numerous exceptions to rules, unexplainable phenomena, and unnotateable sounds that st ..read more
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Prehistoric Beast Profile #5: All The Funky Triassic Reptiles!
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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1M ago
While it’s hard to argue that any geologic period other than the Cretaceous (145-66 million years ago) is the best one, for me, the Triassic (252-201 million years ago) comes in a very close second place. Bordered by two of the Big Five mass extinctions, it was a period of recovery and rapid diversification. Many of the lineages that appeared didn’t make it through the Triassic-Jurassic extinction at the end of the period, so there are many animal groups that are unique to the Triassic, never seen before or since. I’ve written about some of the early dinosaurs from this period in another post ..read more
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How the White Man Got His Power: A Geographical-Anthropological Just-So Story
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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2M ago
It’s not exactly controversial to state that white men hold the most power of any demographic in the world today. But why? Did it have to be this way? Or if you ran a simulation of human history over again, would a different group come out on top? Read on to find out. Evolution of skin color Let’s start with the easiest aspect to explain. Skin color is an adaptation to the level of UV light in the environment and to the amount of vitamin D available in the local diet. The higher the UV intensity, the more pigmented one’s skin must be to avoid sunburn and skin cancer; with low UV intensity, pig ..read more
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Dinosaur Photography #13: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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3M ago
If you’ve never read The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, I highly recommend it. It’s the true story of a kind of loser guy who spends all his unemployed time gaining the trust of the feral flock of parakeets that lives in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill neighborhood in the early ’90s. No one knows exactly where this flock came from, but the leading theory is that there was a pet store with a number of Red-masked Parakeets that caught on fire sometime in the ’80s, and someone released all the birds to save their lives, resulting in a small starter population. As more of this species escaped from ..read more
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A Two Week Portrait Drawing Crash Course
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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4M ago
After doing a bunch of AI-assisted portraits of fictional characters for my creative writing endeavors, as well as having done a whole bunch of photorealistic bird sketches for my Deck of Birds, I thought I might finally be ready to try drawing portraits of humans. This is something I wasn’t interested in for a long time because (a) humans have built-in face recognition hardware that’s very, very good at noticing when something is even slightly off about a face, which means drawing recognizable portraits demands a higher degree of accuracy than drawing other things, and (b) I didn’t like human ..read more
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Human-Bird Symbiosis
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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5M ago
There are lots of famous examples of mutualism, or two species cooperating to the benefit of each, in nature. Flowers and pollinators. Cleaner wrasse and sharks. Trees and mycelium. Tarantulas that keep tiny frogs as pets. But what about humans? We cooperate with the microbes in our gut microbiome that help us digest, and we domesticate animals, plants, and even microbes like yeast to better serve our needs. Many organisms that are now domestic probably started out as mutualistic relationships, like dogs and cats, which are said to have effectively “domesticated themselves”. But can you think ..read more
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Some Speculative Evolution
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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7M ago
If you saw my previous post, you’ll know that I’ve been working on a science fiction novel that includes some elements of speculative evolution. Spec evo, as it’s known in the trade, consists of applying the universal rules of natural selection to create biologically plausible organisms, whether that’s the genetically engineered distant descendants of humans or Tarrasques or how a bat might evolve to a plunge-diving lifestyle. I’ve even done speculative evolution projects in a couple previous posts. In this post, I’ll go over the various types of aliens I created for the novel, how I came up w ..read more
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Even More Creative Writing
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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8M ago
ix. Uriel, Part 3 This is a continuation of one of the stories in my previous two creative writing posts. If you haven’t read those (or forgot what happened), I’d recommend going back to read Part 1 and Part 2 and Ctrl-F’ing for “Uriel” before continuing. I’ve written a lot more than this and plan to attempt to publish it, but here’s a blog-post-length sneak peek. III. T+3.12 years “Sir, I have a surprise for you,” said Uriel. I raised my eyebrows. “Oh yeah?” The last time Uriel had surprised me had been about a year ago, when he’d revealed the second pasture and brought in Paola. I wondered ..read more
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Dinosaur Photography #12: Portugal Birds
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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9M ago
I just came back from Portugal, which was my first ever visit to Western Europe. It’s a cool place; the city of Lisboa has a lot in common with San Francisco, so much that sometimes I almost felt like I hadn’t even left. They both have steep, narrow streets, city traffic, similar scrubland flora, tourists in improbable vehicles, a bay breeze, numerous pigeons and House Sparrows, and even a Golden Gate Bridge (no kidding). Other than that, though, things were different! If you want really close-up pictures of beautiful birds, skip to the end, as I visited the Lisboa Zoo and took pictures of all ..read more
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Ancient Material Science
Obscure Dinosaur Facts
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10M ago
I had a good time researching glass for my previous material science post, and it got me thinking about other materials we often take for granted. Another source of inspiration for this post was the observation in The Human Advantage that the invention of new materials has been roughly exponential beginning from the advent of agriculture. The author provides a list of “the first ninety that come to mind”: stone, fire, obsidian, wood, bone, ceramics, copper, plaster, bronze, asphalt, cotton fabric, silk, gold, silver, graphite, glass, terracotta, parchment, papyrus, iron, latex rubber, wool, iv ..read more
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