Excruciatingly Large Things

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The President, The Entomologists and the Slime Mold of Society

→ by Danieru
Been meaning to blog this for a while...

Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi, and Agathidium rumsfeldi - three recently discovered species of slime-mold beetle - got their names from obvious members of the US government in a bout of headline grabbing metaphorical entomology. But what were the entomologists in question trying to say?

"The decision to name three slime-mold beetles after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, ...didn't have anything to do with physical features, says Quentin Wheeler, a professor of entomology and of plant biology at Cornell for 24 years until last October, but to pay homage to the U.S. leaders. "We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular," says Wheeler, who named the beetles and wrote the recently published monograph describing the new slime-mold beetle species while a professor at Cornell." - link
Let's brush aside the possibilities of irony for a moment and examine what this 'homage' is supposed to symbolise. Surely if the beetles are the leaders of the richest country in the world then that makes the slime-mold society itself. A slow developing infestation of primitive amoebae, dissolving the wonderful variation of planet Earth, molecule by molecule:
"Slime moulds generally move only about 1 millimetre per hour, although some can reach 2 centimetres per minute. They engulf their food, which can include bacteria, fungi, and decaying organic matter, and can eject inedible material.... It has been observed that they can find their way through mazes by spreading out and choosing the shortest path, an interesting example of information processing without a nervous system." - link
So maybe the metaphor of society as slime-mold isn't so misplaced afterall, and bushi, cheneyi, and rumsfeldi in their slime-devastation are simply out to hamper our 1mm an hour progress? The consumption of slime never seemed so politically motivated. The hidden world of entomological metaphoric categorisation uncovered.

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Blogger Jan said...

good writing

October 21, 2005 10:27 PM    

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