Like many biologists, the Phactor is both concerned about and supports conservation efforts even though his research is not focused on that issue. Conservation is an interesting field where PR is as important as the research, and generally biologists are good at the latter and poor at the former. That being said, it explains my uncertainty of how to react to this particular New Year's Eve conservation PR activity planned by the Center for Biological Diversity. CBD is going to distribute 50,000 condoms this evening each displaying one of six different slogans and artwork : the polar bear (“Wrap with care, save the polar bear”), jaguar (“Wear a jimmy hat, save the big cat”), American burying beetle (“Cover your tweedle, save the burying beetle”), snail darter (“Hump smarter, save the snail darter”), coquí guajón rock frog (“Use a stopper, save the hopper”), and spotted owl (“Wear a condom now, save the spotted owl”). Needless to say the six species are considered threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Oh, let me see it! How big of an audience does one expect will be viewing these PR messages? After all this is quite a bit different than a lapel button or bumper sticker. One wonders about sizes: snail darter vs. jaguar, and new sexual euphemisms: burying the beetle. And did George Carlin ever approve the term "tweedle"? What are parents to do because the tweedle is used in a children's book (hmm, a tweedle beetle bottle paddle battle, or some such phrase, if memory serves. F1?). Wonder who the lucky people will be? What will be the ratio of male to female recipients? What will be the age range of the recipients? If you want to have the biggest impact on human population growth the mean age will be about 16, and you might have a bigger impact giving 500 condoms to 100 teenagers (You want the bear or the hopper tonight?). Clearly the Phactor isn't cut out for PR work. And this seems a good note upon which to finish the year and wish us all better for 2011. So becareful out there tonight; you never know what someone will hand you in the name of conservation.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar: A study in fortitude and rigor
2 days ago in The Curious Wavefunction