05 November 2007

Welcome to the Monkey Brain

For a while now I've been wanting to start a blog on my professional and academic interests. I would have started it long ago, but there was a serious problem: What do you call a blog about biology, systematics, programming, and linguistics? (This is coupled with a similar problem: Who on Earth would read it? But I'll let that one sort itself out.)

What do these topics have in common, besides me being interested in them? Actually, quite a bit: tree-like structures, iterative evolution, lexical signification, ancestry and descent, simple rules giving rise to complex systems, etc. I'm sure the same parts of the mind are at work when pondering these topics. (Mathematics is not far off, either.)

A couple of candidates for the title of this blog occurred to me:
  • Branch-Based. In the PhyloCode, a "branch-based definition" is used to define a taxon (group of organisms) that includes everything sharing more recent ancestry with one thing than with another thing.
  • Nomina Dubia. Latin for "doubtful names", this is a term referring to taxonomic names based on specimens too poor to properly assess.
Both of these names nicely touch on everything I want this blog to cover. But they both have a problem: They are horribly boring and eggheaded.

Finally, I went back and tried to think of the few times in my life I might have approached saying something witty. I remembered one spontaneous observation:

Philosophy is the art of understanding the universe using a three-pound monkey brain.

Maybe that gets to the root of it. Here I am, an anthropoid primate trying to usefully simplify the world around me so I can cram it into 1500 cubic centimeters of grey matter. Systematics, linguistics, and computer science all involve specifying simple rules which can be realized in complex ways.

What to Expect

Readers of this blog can expect to read about:
  • The evolution of organisms as well as the evolution of languages, both of which involve heredity, lineages, phylogenies, drift, and reconstruction.
  • Reports of new organisms, particularly fossil vertebrates.
  • The nomenclature of organisms, as based on their evolution.
  • Ideas pertaining to computer programming, particularly object-oriented programming.
  • Practical observations on programming (particular with ActionScript, Java, and XML), with actual code examples.
  • My occasional forays into translation, particularly of Germanic languages and Ancient Hebrew (the latter stemming from my interest, as a nontheist, in theology).
  • Constructed languages, alternate spelling schemes, etc.
  • Tales of etymology (some related to taxonomy).
  • Web projects of mine that tie some or all of these interests together.
(Readers can also expect plenty of hiatuses, if my past web efforts are any indication.)

Who would want to read all that? Well, I would. Maybe five other people out there somewhere. But who cares? I'm just gonna write.


  1. Egads the umbrella has landed! Nomen Dubium no more!

  2. Sweet, I'll be keeping tabs!

  3. "What do you call a blog about biology, systematics, programming, and linguistics? (This is coupled with a similar problem: Who on Earth would read it?"

    Bad news Mike - ME ;-)

    I expect it will be good though/