Quotidian Science

One of our hobbies here at Alyssa and Ania Splain You a Thing is to talk about scientific topics in a way that conveys both information and enthusiasm. A wide variety of scientific topics are highly interesting but also fairly technical, and writing versions of them that take a more conversational tone is both tricky and rewarding. Here’s what we have for you so far.

A crowd of shadowed people stands in front of a very large aquarium containing a whale shark, groupers, and a rich assortment of schooling fish.
Whale shark and schools of fish at the Georgia Aquarium. By Zac Wolf (Own work 😉 [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Bush of Life: Cladistics for the Layperson. Many of us learn a “standard” classification scheme with categories like reptiles, birds, and fish, but the modern view of classification takes evolutionary biology explicitly into account, and looks quite different. Here’s a rundown of that difference, featuring dodoraptors and a parakeet wearing a Wagnerian Viking helmet.

All In The Bauplan. A key principle in comparative anatomy is the idea of the Bauplan, the basic organization scheme that a whole animal group follows. This is what that term means and how it applies to major animal groups, complete with doodles of bug-people and the phrase “the sphincter is implied.”

Skepticism in the Aquarium Store. The aquakeeping hobby is one that has LOADS of misconceptions and common errors in it, all of which can be avoided or escaped with a healthy application of biology. Part 1 talks about tank setup and maintenance issues, Part 2 narrates common fish-selection errors, and Part 3 looks at some less common but more dangerous problems.

Fishy Redemption. Alyssa shares stories about mistakes she’s made in her fish-keeping adventures, each one a lesson about how to do right, and wrong, by one’s scaly charges.

Octo-Nope: Six Reasons Not To Get A Pet Octopus. It’s common for aspiring marine aquarists to imagine having an octopus in their homes. This is not a good idea, for a number of reasons herein described.

The Eerie Sadness of China’s Paddlefish: A journalistic search through the past few decades of encounters with China’s rarest fish, now that it is most likely extinct.

The Last Pinecone: On This World Pangolin Day: Pangolins, a strange group of mammals covered in scales of fused hair, are critically endangered due to a failure of skepticism and economics. Read about them before they are gone.

Sounds of Summer: The Charming Cicada Cacophony. Cicadas are a common insect in many parts of the world, but their great size and seasonal habits make them misunderstood and sometimes scary. They don’t have to be, though.

Think Like a Bug: How to Deal with Common Pest Arthropods. Unwanted household insects and spiders are a fact of life in much of the world. A lot of people panic or undertake bizarre and wrongheaded extermination schemes when they appear, but a little biology and skepticism can lead to far more sensible moves.

Anthropomorphic Terror: It’s common for images on the Internet to show animals doing funny things. Unfortunately, many of those animals are actually broadcasting fear or other negative emotions, and we shouldn’t encourage their suffering. Learn how to recognize some of the more common signs.

What is TMD? Alyssa has a condition called temporomandibular disorder, which takes a little explaining.

Learn Your Birthfish: A tongue-in-cheek declaration of “birthfish,” analogous to birthstones, with natural-history information about 12 fascinating fish.

Énrìçhîñg Your Märks: Including diacritical marks in text is the difference between resume and résumé, and between Spanish text that makes sense and Pope-themed body horror. Here are some ways you can access these marks in your own writing.

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