Just because it looks like a leaf to us doesn’t mean it looks like a leaf to them. Preventing your prior assumptions from distorting your critical analysis of new information is hard and valuable work. There are few tools as important in making good sense of the world right now as this one: trying to recognize and account for the lenses through which you take in new information, and striving to make sure that new information comes in and is evaluated on its merits without the help of what you already assume to be the case.
Photo from Dr. Wilson via the article.
Earlier this week my favorite former Atlas Obscura writer, Sabrina Imbler (who you may remember from her piece on the Dalai Lama’s land rover) popped up in the NYT with a story about how and why the appearance of the thistledown velvet ant resembles a piece of desert fuzz. What made this piece memorable outside of the wild and colorful world of tiny insect life was the kicker at the end of the piece:
“Just because something looks like a leaf doesn’t mean it must look like a leaf to everything,” [Biologist Dr. Joe Wilson] said.”
It turns out that it’s only to our lyin’ human eyes that the ant (wasp) and creosote fuzz look alike, so the reasons why they do are way different from the assumptions we’d make and stories we’d tell about them after seeing them side by side. It was a really good reminder of this fundamental intellectual tool that always needs honing.
I won’t deprive you of the pleasure of learning about how Dr. Wilson and his team chased this down and developed an alternative understanding of why they evolved to look that way. Read more for yourself.
Look outside someone else’s window. There’s something buoying about being reminded of how varied our everyday sights and sounds are. WindowSwap is a project that serves you short video clips (with audio included) of views outside windows all over the world, submitted by users. It’s a nice antidote to spending much of your day on video calls with interior backgrounds that start to all look the same, or artificial joke backdrops that may be feeling a little tired at this point.
A static screenshot I took of Liyana’s window in Singapore (which is video + audio in the app)
From the creators:
“Window Swap is here to fill that deep void in our wanderlust hearts by allowing us to look through someone else’s window, somewhere in the world, for a while.”
Since it’s user submitted and vetted also not live views, they’ve thankfully filtered out the requisite serving of dicks you get in a system like ChatRoulette.
How much longer do Victorian Cathedrals really have? This brief Twitter thread comes to you via my friend @giflian:
The foundations of most of England’s cathedrals.
Jay’s most striking observation is this one:
If the water ever stops flowing under Salisbury Cathedral the gravel will crumble and the Cathedral will fall.
Taken together, those second two sentences are absolutely a thing of beauty. The details of the Cathedral’s foundation generally check out, and it stands as something of an architectural marvel:
“The place chosen to build the new cathedral was a on gravel peninsular formed by the River Avon. The gravel formed a raft upon which they could build the cathedral. The rest of Salisbury (as it became) is built on wet, sometimes marshy ground. The 13th century builders understood the local geology.” (from this virtual tour on a photography forum)
Original photo caption: “West window (above the Xmas tree). Modern font in the foreground. Last summer a visitor didn’t notice the running water and put her camera down on what she thought was polished marble. It sank.”
These are the three bananas I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” and it’ll go only to me. Thank you.