Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Trouble With Reality

I recently read an article in The Economist (14 Feb 2009) that noted a scientific study that found that in the animal world, bigger predators had an advantage ... up to a point. Once they got too big, it's too hard to lug themselves around after smaller and more agile prey.

Now, I'm all in favor of house-sized super-bears and wolves galloping across the tundra like horses, and it's articles like this that spoil everything! Ever since I learned on 3-2-1 Contact that an ant can only get so big (i.e., not very big at all) before it's so heavy that its little stick-legs can't support it, I've been disappointed in science.

But wait: imagine that some predator -- lions, let's say -- evolves bigger and bigger, fiercer and fiercer, faster and stronger. Then when they cross that mass/speed threshold ... they keep getting bigger but now they're getting slower. Socially they're still at the top due to sheer size, but the reality is they need the smaller lions to bring them their food. Bigger. Bigger. Until what you have is a corpulant, fly-swarmed, glistening thing that barely resembles a lion, served by a small and agile corps of sycophants who bring food to the terrible swollen thing out of sheer social necessity. Ha ha, gross; cool! Maybe science isn't so bad.

The image reminds me of the corporate world, where executives -- but no! I mustn't speak ill!

Still, all things being equal I'd prefer to imagine spiders the size of kittens and eagles so big they punch holes in thunderclouds.

1 comment:

Peter S said...

With spiders that size you could hear them eating. And feel them pulling down the blanket as they crawled up the foot of the bed.