Monday, October 30, 2006

I think...

As this blog creeps toward its 1,000th visit (and as I'm trying to get back into the writing groove after another lengthy pause), I'd like to take a moment to thank those of you who are dropping by now and then. When I started writing back in July (with an entry about Syd Barrett, since he was on my mind that day) I really wasn't sure what I expected. All-in-all, however, I've been quite pleased with the results and with the feedback I've received.

The visitor numbers have gone up and down (as does, most likely, the quality of my writing...though I have yet to identify any direct connection between these two factors), but at least I no longer feel like I'm talking to myself.

Regardless, though, of whatever moments of insight I might feel I have had in these postings - I do think there have been at least a few - I am quite sure that I'll never match the pure inspirational genius of the entry Darwin made in his journal in the late 1830s, which is pictured here. The page is headed 'I think' and what follows is the first tree diagram expressing the progress of evolution.

I don't know about you, but there is something incredible and spine-tingling about the profundity of that thought, which is only enhanced by the elegant simplicity through which it is expressed here.

This page and many, many other pieces of Darwin's writing are available at the Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online, and I'm very grateful to my wife for bringing it to my attention.

On a not-unrelated note, while I was in London last week, I extended my membership as one of the Friends of the Grant Museum of Zoology. The museum is part of University College London, and I discovered it quite by chance earlier this year. It's small and a bit cramped, but it's got an incredible collection of animal specimens, and they do a lot of educational programmes on zoology and evolution. They also conduct research, including, according to their website, on something called 'morphometrics', which I don't know anything about, but which sounds tremendously cool.

As a Friend of the Museum (which will cost you less than a typical meal in London), you will not only be supporting their work, but you also get to 'adopt' a specimen. I adopted one of their axolotls.

An axolotl is an amazing little creature, which appeals to me mainly, to be honest, because it's dead cute; however, as one of their characteristics is that they remain in their larval form even as adults, it can also be said that in a sense they 'never grow up', and this is an added reason to like them.

And the dodo bones were already taken.

The museum is free to visit. So, the next opportunity you have, please do so.

And please report back to me on how my little adoptee is doing...


Chris Williams said...

John, do you know that John van Whye, the Darwin project head honcho, has spent many a happy month borrowing the scanner in our office? There's an outside chance that our [1] scanner helped to put the Darwin project online. How cool is that?

[1] For some values of 'our'.

J. Carter Wood said...

I did not know that.

I should really, really spend more time in the office. (Those of you out there who do not have the low-down on the story involving my place-of-residence versus my place-of work will not understand the humour in that statement.)

I'm very pleased to hear this. I do feel, in some small, insignificant way, closer to Darwin himself.

And, due to the close (almost familial, we might say? least for some values of 'familial'...) connection, perhaps John won't mind my using one of their images without permission.

Don't you think?

OK...I won't tell him if you won't.

Chris Williams said...

Your secret's safe with me - he was appreciably better at borrowing it than he was at giving it back.