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Schwarzenegger Beetles (and other celebrity species)

Recently, Stephen Colbert had a segment on his show where he celebrated a great honor: a spider being named after him. John Cleese said last week that having a lemur named after him was an honor he liked more than the possibility of knighthood. It's not unusual for species to be named after celebrities. In fact, a look through nature's nomenclature is practically equal parts Latin textbook and US Weekly. But how do celebrities get this honor?

Some scientists saw a resemblance between their creatures and the celebrities in question. For example, the Agra schwarzeneggeri is a beetle with a developed middle femora, which resembles a bulging bicep, not unlike bodybuilder/actor/governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's. Or there's the Greeffiella beatlei, a worm with particularly shaggy fur reminiscent of the Beatles' early haircuts.

Other celebrities got the honor because they are so admired by scientists. Geeky comic larson bug.gifartist Gary Larson, best known for The Far Side, is widely idolized in the scientific community (what lab doesn't have a copy of a Far Side cartoon taped up somewhere?), so it only made sense that he would be given a species of his own. He was memorialized with the Strigiphilus garylarsoni (shown at the left), a louse. Noted environmental activist Harrison Ford also got an ant (Pheidole harrisonfordi) named after him for his work with Conservation International.

A few other interesting names and their origins:

  • Mastophora dizzydeani, named after baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean. This spider is one of the Bolas spiders, which catch their prey by "pitching" a ball of sticky silk blob attached to a thread.
  • Campsicnemius charliechaplini, named after Charlie Chaplin. These flies tend to die with their legs up in a bandy-legged position, similar to Chaplin's signature stance.
  • Fantasy author Terry Pratchett has the turtle Psephophorus terrypratchetti for his series of books where the world is housed on a turtle's back.
  • Orson Welles has a series of spiders named after him and his more famous roles: Orsonwelles othello, Orsonwelles macbeth, Orsonwelles falstaffius and Orsonwelles ambersonorum
  • Hugh Hefner has a rabbit (natch) named after him: the Sylvilagus palustris hefneri.
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science
What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

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History
Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter
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Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]

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