Category Archives: Weird Sh-t

Plants with Eyes

Inspired by our recent trip to Safari West (where we got to play “Keeper for a Day”, which is why I got to hand feed a giraffe) and by watching The Mist, I’ve been amusing myself lately speculating about future directions of life on the surface of the Earth. Mostly I’ve been thinking about how marine ecology is full of things that sting, bite, deliver venom, lure unsuspecting critters to be food, and things that are just awfully good at hiding from the other things that want to eat them.

Now, marine life has been around significantly longer than surface life. Life on Earth first evolved in the oceans about four billion years ago, but the first land plants didn’t show up until about 475 million years ago, and it took about 75 million years after that for the for surface animals to show up in the form of simple insects and plants that bear seeds. This means that marine life has a significant head start over land life in evolving stinging, biting, eating, and venomous organs. Life underwater is much more fraught with peril than life on land (I know, try telling an antelope on the savannah that spending its life avoiding lions is a lot better than spending its life as a little fish avoiding a Portuguese man of war’s very poisonous stingers). So, given a couple more billion years, what will surface life on Earth look like (assuming that human beings are no longer around, having become extinct or simply gone on to better things)? The earth probably won’t be around in another four billion years, since the sun will become a red giant by then, so my speculations will necessarily be limited to two to three billion years.

Will surface life be just as full of stinging, biting, and muching things as underwater life? Insects, which have been around for a lot longer than other forms of animals, have got a jump on this sort of thing. Plants do it pretty well too. Some reptiles are pretty good at this sort of thing as well. Some simpler mammals have stingers that deliver poison (the platypus springs to mind, though as far as I know only the male of the species does), but most larger, more complex mammals simply rely on their big teeth and their big brains.

I’m not a theoretical biologist, though, so most of my speculations are limited to science fictional notions that I’ve picked up from other sources. In “The Mist”, King presents an alien ecology which is extremely dangerous to human beings, who barely stand a chance against even a relatively small insect like critter whose venom can kill one of us in just a few minutes. And David Gerrold, in his increasingly sparse and decreasingly impressive “War Against the Chtorr” series, presents a future in which the Earth is being “terraformed” by an alien species into an ecology much more dangerous and invasive than our own, and some of the character speculate that the alien ecology is much older than our own, so in its sheer ferocity it more resembles an underwater ecology rather than a contemporary surface ecology.

Of course, it’s also possible that the surface animals will simply continue to develop bigger brains and bigger teeth, relying more and more on those than on other means of hunting each other and hiding from each other. Maybe the future of life on earth will consist of faster antelopes and bigger lions. One thing that struck me as I was learning about the African savannah at Safari West is that Africa is simply swarming with antelopes and antelope like animals. Prey animals, in other words. And prey animals, with exceptions like giraffes and zebras, are usually antelope like (again, though, I have no expertise here, so any qualified zoologist, or any college student who has taken a introductory zoology class, will probably be able to correct me on this point). So maybe future ecologies on the surface of the earth will simply include variations on contemporary themes.

Then again, maybe things will get weirder, like the plants in this video:

Is that the coolest video ever or what? It’s from an animation studio called “1st Avenue Machine” and I like to think that plants in future ecologies will be just as bizarre as these.

Anyway, whether the future of the earth involves just variations on what we have already or something nightmarish like from the imaginations of King and Gerrold, it’s still a fun thing to speculate about. And maybe some day I’ll write a story about this theme.

Tip of the hat to the Weird Universe blog for the video.

Not a Mystery To Me

National Geographic News is reporting that a mysterious "swarm" of earthquakes has struck the Oregon border. According to the news story, more than six hundred of these little quakes have struck a region about 30 miles across, about 190 miles off the coast of Oregon. Theories abound about the cause these quakes; there could be a volcano in the area, geologists say, or some unusual tectonic activity in the middle of the Juan de Fuco plate. A group of scientists are headed out on a three day cruise this weekend to examine the area and see if they can figure out what’s going on.

For someone as well-versed in Lovecraftian lore as I am, there’s no mystery here at all. This is obviously R’yleh getting ready to rise up from the depths, so that Cthulhu and the rest of the Ancient Old Ones can reclaim their dominion over Earth from humanity.

Or possibly Godzilla.  Maybe Cloverfield.

It just seems unlikely to me that a tectonic plate, which is by definition rigid in the interior, could be experiencing tectonic or volcanic activity. The only possible explanation is that some horrific event involving giant monsters is about to be unleashed upon the world. The scientists and the government probably already know this; the "scientific expedition" is more likely a sacrificial one.

Hey, you got your conspiracy theories, I got mine.

Why I'm not as weird as you might think.

Once again, reality has beat me to the punch when it comes to making up strange stories.  Last week, a man who bought a smoker at a self storage auction found that it came complete with an amputated leg (some people have all the luck).  Personally, I think this line is my favorite:

The mother, Peg Steele, explained her son had his leg amputated after a plane crash and kept the leg following the surgery "for religious reasons" she doesn’t know much about.

Today, a follow up story has emerged.  It turns out that the man who bought the smoker, Shannon Whisnant, is now in a custody battle over the leg with John Wood, the man who originally owned it.  I’m fascinated by Wood’s story; he sounds like he’s either really down on his luck and suffering serious depression, or simply isn’t the sharpest toenail on the foot.  After the leg was amputated, he had it shipped to him (so that he could be buried with it when he died), and stuck it in a freezer.  When his power was cut off, he hung the leg in the smoker to dry.  When he was evicted from his home, his mother offered to pay rent on a self storage unit for his belongings for two months; after that time, however, it would be John’s responsibility to pay for the storage.  He failed to make the payments, so his belongings were put up for auction, as is usually the case with these things.  And one of the items was the smoker with the leg in it.

Whisnant is making money off the leg, by charging people a couple of bucks each to take a look inside the smoker and see the leg, so he naturally doesn’t want to give it back, claiming that he bought it so its his.  Wood’s livid, however.  I have to say I’m on Wood’s side with this one, though; Whisnant sounds like kind of a schmuck.  Sure, it may be irresponsible to lose a limb in the first place, and losing it again when your belongings are auctioned off after you failed to pay the rent on your storage unit may be more irresponsible.  But, dammit, it’s your leg.  You should be allowed to retain custody over your own body parts.

It will be interesting to see how this case resolves.

And it only now occurs to me that it’s a strange coincidence that this story emerges on the day after I just finished a short story which involved a mad scientist doing something very similar to this.  Who would have thought?

The Furry Grim Reaper

Death CatJennifer found this story:  Cat Plays Furry Grim Reaper at Nursing Home.

The cat, who goes by the name Oscar, seems to have an uncanny ability to predict within a few hours when one of the patients in the nursing home is going to die; he is so accurate that staff members will actually call the family of a patient that Oscar has curled up with, knowing that the patient will very likely die soon.  He doesn’t look much like a grim reaper to me; that’s his picture to the left.

It’s kind of sweet in a way, if somewhat disturbing.  If I were living out my last days in such a nursing home, and dying uncomfortably, it might be nice to have a cat to cuddle up with.  On the other hand, getting a visit from the Cat of Death is probably never a comforting thing.