Update: My animal won! The night was a sell-out and fantastic fun, thanks to all who came along! It was great to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and to make some new ones. The other acts were hilarious (and hideous), and Simon was a fantastic compere! My animal was Promachoteuthis sulcus, which isn’t very well known so doesn’t even have a common name. At the event, I proposed the “human-gobbed squid” or “gob-faced squid” to a large crowd. It was agreed at this event and at the Festival of the Spoken Nerd event on Friday that the animal should be known as the gob-faced squid. With several hundred people from these events now referring to it as the gob-faced squid, it’s the most common name it has as a relatively unknown creature! I’m happy and strangely proud that my animal won the evening. Here is the new mascot for the Scottish branch of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society:
This is a message for all the amazing people who have come to the brilliant Edinburgh International Science Festival. If you’re up for some shenanigans, and don’t have a weak stomach, come along to see us at the Ugly Animal Preservation Society! If comedy and nasty ugly are your things, you’ll be in a disgusting heaven!
As well as myself, you’ll see performers including Helen Arney (Uncaged Monkeys, Festival of the Spoken Nerd), Simon Watt (Inside Nature’s Giants), Steve Cross (Science Showoff), the guys from Punk Science, and more! It will be funny, interesting, and horrific in equal measure.
It’s on Wednesday night, 9pm-11pm. You can get all the details here!
Sir Julian S Huxley (1887-1975) led quite an academic life. As you can tell from his title, he was knighted in 1958. He won the 1953 Kalinga Prize for popularisation of science, the 1956 Darwin Medal of the Royal Society, and the 1958 Darwin–Wallace Medal of the Linnaean Society. He even directed a wildlife film that won an Oscar for Best Documentary. Quite a legendary man. But looking back through the years, our appreciation and respect falters when we judge his views on eugenics. Huxley served as both Vice President and then President of the British Eugenics Society before and after World War II. He also coined the term “transhumanism”, which is still used today to describe bettering humans through science and technology, though he included eugenics as a tool for achieving transhumanism.
With such success as a scientist and science-communicator, and with such controversial views, he seems a prime target for memorable quotes. It would be quite easy to find a great creationism-bashing quote from Huxley, or a controversial view on race. But the whole point of this series of posts is to go over weirder quotes, the types that might not appear in a quick biography of a person. I’ve chosen to avoid the controversy altogether. The following quote is taken directly from a scientific paper, yet would seem quite out of place in modern papers. While others were slaving away in labs with mice pressing levers, Huxley was contributing to behavioural biology while having what seems to be a rather pleasant time outdoors.
“A good glass, a notebook, some patience, and a spare fortnight in the spring – with these I not only managed to discover many unknown facts about the crested grebe, but also had one of the pleasantest of holidays. Go thou and do likewise.”
– Julian S Huxley (1914). The Courtship habits of the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus); with an addition to the Theory of Sexual Selection. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 84(3), pp. 491–562.
I love this guy’s enthusiasm and light-heartedness. There are mistakes though. Please be cautious with “homeobox genes” and “Hox genes”. The problem here is that all Hox genes are homeobox genes, but not all homeobox genes are Hox genes. This guy makes the extremely common mistake of treating “Hox” as a shortened version of the word “homeobox”. Be cautious if you ever see “Hox” in brackets after “homeobox”.
The thoughts of a carbon-based biped from Scotland.