Friday, May 30, 2008

Simone's new doo

Last night I decided to get some flexi prim hair for my SL avatar. I was amazed at how different she looked compared to her normal prim self.




Simone's new doo

I like the new hair but for teaching I will stick to my old look except when I want to let my hair down...virtually that is.

A loss...

One of my favorite bloggers is Ron Hudson over at 2sides2ron. Recently his Mom passed away and I thought his post about her death and the aftermath should be shared to a wider audience.


The Evolution of Beauty

I am never away from thinking about evolution. Being at Disney last week taking lots of pictures of flowers, got my thinking about evolution and beauty. Take this shot of a flower from Disney:


Actually this structure is called a spathe and it really a group of fused flowers wrapt around by a leaf. Think of Jack in the Pulpit and you have idea.

At first glance, not a traditionally beautiful picture and yet if you really look at it I suspect you will see a certain sensuousness to this image. I am reminded of Georgia O'Keeffe who allegedly said she painted flowers because she couldn't afford models. The traditional explanation for why flowers are beautiful is that that this is a by product of the coevolution between flowers and pollinators. But that really doesn't explain why they are beautiful for us. Part of the answer maybe that flowers also coevolved with us and breeders selected for beauty. But why beauty in the first place?

In terms of sexual beauty and attractiveness, it appears that humans and other animals have innate neurological biases that operate in conjunction with Darwinian sexual selection leading to elaboration of certain characteristics. But why these biases? Why not just respond to the narrow signs required for our reproduction and not feel rewarded emotionally by flowers and other things that we see as beautiful be it a flower, a poem or a butterfly?


Of course, I would want an evolutionary explanation because of my (innate perhaps?) desire for explanation. How do things come about? How do they work? But just because scientists are interested in these sorts of questions no way diminishes the emotional response and appreciation of beauty in all its forms.

Nor does beauty exist in a vacuum. Our innate neurological biases may be enhanced or over ridden by our experience or cultural preconceptions. For instance for me the beauty of the Rhododendron in the picture above is enhanced by the presence of these little bug (actually Katydid) nymphs:

Rhododendron and bug

There is a richness of connection that the nymphs add that for me is itself part of beauty and would be missing if I had taken a shot of the flower alone.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Update on Expelled! Was Behe expelled?

I am no fan of Michael Behe but according to this post at Darwinian Conservatism he was expelled from Expelled. Seems he is just too independent for some of the other ID'ers.

Thanks Larry for pointing this gem out.

Trouble Ahead for Science?

I have been following the controversy about Ben Stein's "documentary" Expelled and no I have not seen it yet. But Ken Miller sums up scientist's fears about the effect of this "documentary" and the intelligent design movement in general.

Miller in an op ed piece in the Boston Globe writes:

"It deceives its audiences, slanders the scientific community, and contributes mightily to a climate of hostility to science itself. Stein is doing nothing less than helping turn a generation of American youth away from science. If we actually come to believe that science leads to murder, then we deserve to lose world leadership in science. In that sense, the word "expelled" may have a different and more tragic connotation for our country than Stein intended."

So why should I even waste money on seeing Expelled? Now I don't want to hearing any intelligent design whining about not having an open mind. I have looked at the trailers and read the reviews and oh by the way spent several excruciating days biting my tongue at the Kansas Board of Education hearings several years back where I heard the best the ID proponents can give and I have waded through much of the ID literature. And you know what? There is nothing there!


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Simple Pleasures for Simple Geeks

Saturdays at the Lawrence Farmer's market there is a vender who always has a display of deer skulls, skins and antlers. So this last Saturday I took this picture with my cell phone-just didn't feel like bringing the SLR.

And decided to have some fun with Photoshop. Cell phone photos really lend themselves to simple pleasures for simple geeks.

It also has not escaped me that rendering is a good choice of words to decribe this process given the subject matter.

I did this rendering using photoshop's Plastic film filter which gave a nice sort of O'Keefe sort of feel.

If you like a more two dimensional rendering then this one made by tweeking the cutout filter might grab you...