Friday, January 17, 2014

Origin of Species

There are biodiversity "hot spots" in a few places in this world.  The classical understanding of biodiversity is driven by isolation.

The same "original recipe" can be dumped on to each island (Galapagos Islands), valley (South Africa) or well watered mountain top (desert regions).  Each population co-evolves along diverging trajectories, unconstrained by the iron hand of regression-to-the-mean.  This is a very concrete, exceptionally vivid concept that is easy to explain to college sophomores.  It retraces Darwin's thinking and is where many concepts in evolution came from.

A less understood phenomena is when a positive feedback loop occurs due to some critical mass of diversity.

Sugar Maple in the background.  Larch in low area around pothole lake.  Picture from HERE

In Northern Michigan it is common to see extensive areas comprised of a single species of trees.  It may be Red Oak.  It may be Aspen or Sugar Maple.  It may be Jack Pine, Arborvitae or Larch.  The progeny of each seed bearing plant is tightly coupled to the mean by an aggressive swarm of pollen from many, many individuals.

In tropical regions, it is not uncommon for a hectacre (2.4 real acres or about 100,000 square feet) of forest to have 100 trees an no two specimens of the same species.  The lack of other specimens of the same species within close, physical proximity means that the progeny of each seed bearing tree is much more lightly coupled to the mean for the species.

Other social commentators have given this topic much consideration.

That is, once diversity reaches some degree of richness virtually all species become untethered from the mean and spin off on their own evolutionary trajectory.  It as if gravity took a holiday and each organism drifts off on its own, private evolutionary expedition.


Culture also functions via the iron hand of regression-to-the-mean.  The tribe defines the super-organism, who is inside the skin and who is an alien and subject to attack, based on regression-to-the-mean.  Anybody who doubts this needs to spend a little bit of time with middle school students.  It is where we came from.

It is plausible to presume that the vast panorama of diversity available on the internet will enable many of us to untether from the playground and coffee shop bullies who enforce uniformity.

It is not all skittles and cream in the land of the internet.  Bullies still lurk in dark corners, stalk and isolate their victims.  But there are tools to filter and ignore them.  There are communities we can join and engage in well-meaning, spirited exchanges of ideas.

I value the crazy, contentious, very thoughtful shipmates sharing my life-raft floating in the vastness of the internet.

24hourcampfire Michigan Get-together

I will be driving to Coopersville, Michigan tomorrow to eat breakfast with some guys (mostly) from the 24hourcampfire forum.  We will eat too much bacon and drink too much coffee at New Beginnings Rest-your-rump and then we will go to the Coopersville Sportsman's Club and shoot some guns.  Lies will be told.  Pictures will be taken. 

I will take my ugliest gun.  It is a Turkish Mauser (M-38) that was Billie-bobbed with great enthusiasm.  The barrel was shortened from 29 inches to 22 inches.  It sports a Lyman front globe sight, a Mojo rear sight, and has a Timney trigger.  The stock was bobbed to match the barrel and it has has a sugar maple spacer to increase the length of pull and a butt-ugly sissy pad.  The bore looks like 55 miles of really rough road and the action is slicker than a frog's belly.

Going to this event is more about meeting the guys and putting faces on their names.  I expect to get cold (17 degrees F predicted) and have a great time.

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