CLOSE
Original image

5 Creatures That May Not Exist, But Get Government Protection Anyway

Original image

Dave Shealy is founder of the world's only research center dedicated to the skunk-ape (the 7-foot tall, 450-pound apes that supposedly stroll through Florida reeking of rotten eggs). He's spent much of his life trudging through the Everglades looking for signs of the creatures and has even gone so far as to call for the state of Florida to pass a law outlawing the hunting of them.

This guy is nuts, right? No matter your answer, he's not the first person to try this with the skunk apes, and certainly not the first to push for government protection of a cryptid (an animal whose existence can't be proved with scientific certainty). In Florida, the US, and even elsewhere in the world, individuals, politicians, and organizations have fought for legal protection for cryptids.

Here are five times where they've been successful.

1. Whitey

A portion of Arkansas's White River, between the towns of Jacksonport and Possum Grape, is a protected wildlife refuge. The wildlife in question? The White River Monster, a gray aquatic creature roughly the size of a boxcar affectionately known as "Whitey."

Whitey was first sighted in 1915, and has been spotted intermittently since then. In 1973, after another sighting, State Senator Robert Harvey introduced a bill that would create the White River Monster Refuge and make it illegal to harm Whitey within its boundaries. The bill was quickly signed into law by a large majority. [Image courtesy of Ozarks Magazine.]

2. Champ

champ.jpg
A similar river creature enjoys protection from both Vermont and New York. In the 1980s, the two states passed resolutions helping Champ, a serpent-like creature that inhabits their shared waterway, Lake Champlain. The resolutions declared Champ a protected species and made it illegal to harm him in any way. Champ's protected species status also earns him conservation funding from the Lake Champlain Land Trust.

Champ lovers are patiently waiting for Quebec, which also borders the lake, to pass a similar resolution. [Image courtesy of Heurtley.com.]

3. Bigfoot

FilmHarryHendersons.jpg
Speaking of the Canadians, Mike Lake, a member of the Canadian Mounted Police, petitioned the Canadian Parliament earlier this year to add Bigfoot to the country's Species at Risk Act alongside the Whooping Crane and Blue Whale. According to Mr. Lake, the reason that there haven't been many Bigfoot sightings is that the creature is endangered, and not shy like many believe.

The Skamania County Board of Commissioners in the state of Washington realized the same thing Lake did and passed an ordinance in 1969 that set a $10,000 fine and five years in prison for anyone who killed a Bigfoot in the county. [Image courtesy of Monorails.org.]

4. Migoi

yeti.jpg
The cryptid protection trend isn't limited to North America. Plenty of countries have their own legendary creatures and their own laws protecting them. The migoi is the Bhutanese version of the Yeti, but with a few more quirks. The red haired creatures reportedly stand eight feet tall and often walk backwards or turn invisible to fool trackers and hunters. They've been part of the country's legends for centuries, and even show up in ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan texts.

In 2001, the Bhutanese government created the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a 253 square-mile protected habitat for the migoi. The sanctuary is also home to pandas, snow leopards and tigers, but in a display of Big Government spending at its best, the Bhutanese maintain that the refuge was created specifically for the migoi and cuddly pandas are simply a bonus. [Image courtesy of Zinester.com.]

5. Nessie

lochness.jpg
And here's our big star, the diva of the cryptid world: the Loch Ness Monster. Not only did Nessie get protection from poachers under the provisions of the Scotland's 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, which makes it illegal to snare, shoot or try to blow her up, but the old girl helped out one of her distant relatives in the process.

In the summer of 1985, the Scots received a request by the Swedish government for guidance on how it should draft formal legal protection for the Storsjo monster, the Swedish equivalent of Nessie in Lake Storsjo. The Scottish government consulted their Nature Conservancy Council, decided a lake monster would be protected under the 1981 legislation, slapped a "protected species" sticker on Nessie and advised the Swedes that "the legislative framework to protect the monster is available, provided she (or he) is identified by scientists whose reputation will carry weight with the British Museum."

The Swedish government passed legislation to protect their monster, but it was revoked a few months ago after a government watchdog group challenged the law, claiming legislation was not necessary to protect an unproven species.

Nessie is still protected to this day and no cryptids were harmed during the writing of this article.

Matt Soniak is our newest intern. (Well, he's tied.) You can learn lots more about him here, or read his own blog here.

10 Songs Bill Nye Made Educational

Bill Nye may have graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, but it wouldn't be too surprising if the Science Guy picked up a minor in parody songwriting along the way. For all but four episodes of his five-year stint on PBS, Nye capped off his show with a music video spoofing a pop song with an educational spin. With the 20th anniversary of his show (September 10) just in the rear-view mirror, here are 10 of fictional Not That Bad Records' greatest hits from the not-actually-real album "Soundtrack of Science."

1. Nyevana — "Smells Like Air Pressure"

For the show's 1993 pilot episode, Nye drew inspiration from the Seattle grunge rock scene, borrowing a page from the Kurt Cobain songbook to explain the properties of air pressure. "Smells Like Air Pressure" tips its metaphorical cap to the iconic "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video, cheerleaders and all. Nyevana's shaggy blonde mane-sporting Cobain lookalike pumps the rock star's famously incoherent slurs with some serious educational clout — the chorus rambles with the lines, "Air has pressure, and it's moving / All around us, and it's grooving."

2. Bill Nye — "There's Science in Music"

Instead of employing a parody band to spoof The Rocky Horror Picture Show's "Time Warp," Nye flexed his own pipes in a musical number about sound waves titled, appropriately, "There's Science in Music." The Science Guy plays off Richard O'Brien's vocal delivery from the original "Time Warp," deadpanning the opening lines: "It's vibrations / Sonic sensations." And with a spot on the Dancing with the Stars roster for the show's 17th season, Nye proves he can cut a rug with some wobbly moves in the music video.

3. Sure Floats-a-Lot — "Bill's Got Boat"

An ode to the backside doesn't seem like spoofing material for a song about buoyancy, but while Sir Mix-a-Lot outed himself as a fan of female posteriors in his 1992 hit, Sure Floats-a-Lot gets "psyched" about learning how boats stay afloat in "Bill's Got Boat." The rap explains water displacement in a second-verse stanza that features some true hip-hop rhymesmithing: "Buoyancy's the name of this song / Don't even try to tell me I'm wrong / When something's placed in the water / It gets pushed down with this weight / Then gravity pulls / Science rules."

4. Momentisey — "The Faster You Push Me"

Nye's elastic sense of humor and off-the-wall personality don't exactly scream "let's parody Morrissey," but that didn't stop the Science Guy from riffing on the morose Smiths frontman's bleak "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get" in an episode about momentum. Retitled "The Faster You Push Me" and shot entirely in black-and-white, and the show's Moz impersonator forces a British accent when he croons, "The faster you push me / The farther I get / You're adding velocity."

5. Steven Odd — "50 Fifty"

Having a song that teaches science students about probability through flipping coins be a "Loser" (alternative rocker Beck's 1993 hit) takeoff is a little oxymoronic—after all, there's only a 50 percent chance of being a loser when calling heads or tails in the air. But "50 Fifty" draws influence from Beck's laid-back flow and slide guitar instrumentation to inform viewers that "Probability depends on the circumstances / If I figure 'em out, then I'll know the chances."

6. Third Nye Blind — "Atoms in My Life"

Only Bill Nye could take a Third Eye Blind hit about battling a crystal meth addiction and reimagine it as a squeaky clean pop-rock romp about atoms and molecules. The Nye-ified educational revamp features lyrics like, "Those atoms are so tiny you never see them / Like hydrogen and carbon and oxygen," which are leaps and bounds more school-friendly than the original's not-so-oblique "The sky was gold, it was rose / I was taking sips of it through my nose."

7. Alice in Genes — "It's Called Genetics"

The band name spoof might be a little misguided (it riffs on Alice in Chains, though the song itself is a send-up of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name"), but Nye's musical explanation of genetics proved the show wasn't afraid to bust out some hard rock guitar licks for the elementary school crowd. Though G-rated compared to Rage Against the Machine's notoriously F-bomb laced anthem, the song finds ways to pump lines like "DNA makes you what you are / The apple from the tree doesn't fall very far" full of pre-teen venom.

8. The Bent Wavelengths — "Light and Colour"

A homage to Rage Against the Machine wasn't Nye's only foray into scholastic thrash metal, nor was it the first: the music video for the show's 16th episode ("Light and Color") paid tribute to Megadeth's "Sweating Bullets." The very Britishly-spelled "Light and Colour" (Megadeth hails from Los Angeles, oddly enough) features shredding guitar riffs and a yowling chorus of "Light, color / Talking about the spectrum, brother," sung by a wig-doffing Dave Mustaine double.

9. J.A.C.— "Water Cycle Jump"

What better way to explain the water cycle and the process of precipitation than in a goofy homage to Kriss Kross? "Water Cycle Jump" packs in some Bill Nye background dancing and zingers like "Your brain is on vacation / If you don't know about precipitation" in its minute-and-a-half run time, but Kriss Kross purists can sleep easy knowing that the original's "wiggity wiggity wack" line is well preserved. In the context of the water cycle, J.A.C. explains that when condensation falls, it's "riggida riggida riggida rain."

10. Slow Moe — "All in Motion"

Five years and 19 Emmy Awards since spoofing Nirvana, Bill Nye closed out his 100-episode run on PBS with the series finale about motion, and in it, a parody of Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" called "All in Motion." A feature-length music video (spanning three minutes and twenty seconds), the song jumps from an acoustic guitar ballad to a squealing guitar solo voiced over by Nye. The song isn't as racy as the Van Halen original, but it does have lyrics like, "The more the mass / The more force you need / The more inertia / The more force you need."

Original image
Graham van der Wielen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Rick and Morty and The Scientific Method
Original image
Graham van der Wielen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Is Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty the future of science? The Adult Swim cartoon, which follows the adventures of alcoholic mad scientist Rick and his anxiety-ridden grandson Morty, is far from academic. But a recent video from the PBS Idea Channel takes a semi-serious look at the relationship between the show and the modern scientific method. 

PBS host Mike Rugnetta asks, "Is Rick the ideal scientist?" Rick is undeniably brilliant; he can travel to alternate dimensions, pause time, and recreate the gadgets from pretty much any modern sci-fi movie (the show, itself, was originally inspired by 1985's Back to the Future). However, his process is anarchic and frequently self-serving: Rick's not really trying to advance science as a discipline, as much as he's trying to help himself. 

But maybe that anarchic approach to science is exactly what the discipline needs. So argues Rugnetta, citing philosopher Paul Feyerabend's book Against Method. Feyerabend, who specializes in the philosophy of science, argues that the modern scientific method has become overly rigid. Too often, scientists are encouraged to specialize in one narrowly-defined subject, and discouraged from considering the ways in which their discipline may overlap with others. Moreover, he argues, while the scientific method—which involves "making observations, asking questions, formulating hypotheses, making predictions, testing against those predictions, gathering data, and developing theories"—undeniably provides a useful framework for the pursuit of knowledge, it should be a guideline for research, not necessarily the rule.

Basically, Feyerabend argues that science should be more anarchic. Scientists should be free to draw inspiration from multiple disciplines, from their own lives and interests, to pursue whatever line of inquiry they want. Which, if you think about it, is exactly what Rick does. His inventions are created in response to his own needs and interests, whether he wants to pause time to clean up after a particularly messy house party, or steal cable television programming from alternate dimensions. Rugnetta notes that Feyerabend's views on scientific methodology are controversial, and by no means held by all—or most—scientists. So whether you think Rick is a scientific role model or just a funny fictional crackpot may depend on your opinions on the scientific method. Nevertheless, Feyerabend might agree with Rick when he says, "Sometimes science is more art than science.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios