Yesterday, the Field Museum launched its Máximo the titanosaur chatbot. I’m sure that you won’t be at all surprised to learn that I have spent hours interviewing him. For science. Here’s what I learned.
My daughter came down one morning dressed entirely in black, sporting a pair of gold-tinted sunglasses and a green knit cap with two blue feathers sticking out of it. She was clearly dressed up as some superhero, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out who. “I’m Mothman, Mommyo.” Mothman? Who’s that? Some crappy off-brand Batman?
While reading Dava Sobel’s book The Planets last week, I learned that Uranus is the only major planet in our solar system named after a Greek myth instead of a Roman one. Off-hand, I couldn’t remember any mention of Uranus in Greek mythology. So I decided to look it up. Who was Uranus? Why is he the only Greek god to get his own planet?
It’s easy to see how the Bird of Paradise flower got its name. It looks like a crane’s head crafted from flower parts. Now I’m no botanist, but even I know enough about plants to realize that when such a highly specialized and unique structure evolves in nature, there’s generally a reason for it. All of which made me wonder: Why did the Bird of Paradise flower evolve to look the way it does?
I don’t know about you, but I have a terrible time convincing anyone in my family to wear bug spray. It just smells so bad. Sadly, that stink is why bug spray works.
My sister and I have been talking about medical things more than usual lately, and since she also inherited our family’s wildly roving mind, somehow we got on to the topic of leeches, and whether this medieval practice was still popping up in modern medicine.
Have you heard about the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Every Kid in a Park program? In a nutshell, the program offers fourth graders (and 10-year-old home-schooled equivalents) a free annual pass to every National Park in the U.S. Between now and August 31, 2019, fourth graders can use their passes to get free admission to any park in the National Park system for themselves and a select number of family and friends.
My father has been having a few health issues lately, which have resulted in my flying down to Texas a couple of times to help out with this and that. My daughter, being the curious and caring sort, has had all sorts of questions about what’s going on with Grandpa. Respecting both my father’s need for privacy and my daughter’s desire for answers has been challenging at times. On my last trip, I accidentally hit upon a good solution. I thought I’d share it with you in case you also wanted to try it.
I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading and thinking about curiosity lately. One of the first articles I came across was by Daisy Yuhas of the Hechinger Report. In it, she talks about a set of studies that demonstrate that curious people are happier in their jobs, better at social interactions, and enjoy greater academic success. Reader, I had questions.
Did you know that Darwin was an avid breeder of fancy pigeons? No really. Breeding fancy pigeons was a thing respectable people did in the 1850s. But why pigeons, and not, say dogs?