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Keeping Up
Published on June 5, 2016 By Phil Osborn In Science & Tech

I'm going to try to supplement my aging bioram with a record of whatever brilliant - or not - spin-offs from material in "Scientific American" that I'm able to generate. 

1> The article "Eggshell Education" in the June 2016 issue dovetails nicely with some thinking I've been doing about mockingbirds.   The OC went through a major decline in the Mockingbird population when the crows moved in en masse about 20 years ago.  Every evening brought rivers of crows from the farms and orchards to the South up to the county center of Santa Ana. 

A single mockingbird is a match for a crow, as it is much quicker, and thus a mockingbird nest would seem to be defensible by two parents, but the crows are smarter, and will put on a show to distract both parents attention until a third crow swoops in from behind and grabs a baby.  The crows then shriek in triumph as they fly off, first making sure to kill the baby by dropping it on rock or concrete. 

But mockingbirds are pretty smart in certain areas, such as bird calls.  After the West Nile virus killed off the huge crow flocks, the mockingbirds made a comeback, and now seem to be everywhere. 

Q?  How do mockingbirds get all those strange bird calls, many of which are completely alien to the West Coast?  I don't think they made them up, so if we traced them via micro variations, I'm betting we would find that there is a nationwide network that might even have stored calls from birds long extinct.

Oh, and the SciAm article dealt with the discovery that adult birds communicate their calls to fetuses in the egg.   I wonder how that applies to mockingbirds.   And why is it that crows and ravens so rarely diverge from their standard calls when they have the capability to imitate virtually anything - like, for example, a crowd of children at play?

2> A recent SciAm Editorial basically endorsed the proposed Swiss guaranteed income.  This idea keeps showing up here and there, including in several of my blogs here, such as my "Solution to Poverty."  The problem is that both left and right are looking at it from the wrong models.  The right wants property in general to shred out to derivatives of something like Locke's "Mixing ones labor" while the left wants any semblance of property to be strictly as a state license.  Property should be that which is fairly determined to be under some kind of exclusive control by its "owner."  Not unlimited and not arbitrary, but a contract between individuals and groups and the commonwealth.


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