Giant Isopods and Coconut Crabs

This is an edited chat discussion with research links about giant isopods and coconut crabs as affecting design theory on crab-clawed bugs, or isopods as bug larva


why are they so cute looking!
8:28 PM
me: wow! Might be the rounded head outline
8:29 PM
They’re not spikey and threatening. The tiny version would be garden poly-polies

Stella: and the large eyes

me: y

Stella: like silk moths

me: y compre that to the mantis shrimps, which look badass, and you see these look cute
8:30 PM
A lot of kinds of moths look fuzzy and cute, come to think
8:32 PM
petition I think you’d get behind tooo
8:34 PM
heard an interesting NPR intereview, guy who’s been interviewing people and written a book about life inside the MExican drug cartels. Cutting off the cocaine trade flying directly ito Miami (very very profiable) drove the Colombian cartels to us overland through MExico. Of course th eMexican cartels grew and gained control. Now it’s a majorwar/insurrection because the gov’t has proven itself so corrupt that nobody can count on them for the rule of law.

WHo knew that the PRI kept a lid on all kinds of things with their lock on power 20 years ago?
8:38 PM
more on isopods, some of those pix came from this website

Giant Isopod

they say it’s terrifying
8:39 PM
further info
8:40 PM
Oh, here’s a great pic! They say it’s 2 1/5 feet long
8:42 PM
Stella: pretty cool huh

I think I looked up crabclaw image
8:43 PM
looking for stuff to morph

me: It looks more threatening unfolded where you can see the claws and mouth parts

Much more charming all curled up
8:44 PM
Stella: Y

me: ahh! Well, that one with it stretched out and the legs unfolded does have some great clawlike structures there
8:45 PM
This one has some spiny lobsters in there–looks like somebody cooked lunch almost!
8:46 PM
Which brings up the really awful idea–what if local folks in th swamp capture stra bugs (not implanted people, but the original bugs themselves) as young swimmers escaped as larvae from the bug labs? And they’re cooking them like shrimp or lobsters


8:47 PM
It’s bad when you ooog yourself out worse than anything other people manage.

I meant to say, stray bugs there
8:48 PM
Stella: ROFLMAO!

well, tit for tat yeah

don’t look like there would be much good eating on them

8:49 PM
me: The meat section supporting the legs, like the tail of the odder kinds of lobsters. Or more like crawfish, perhaps
8:50 PM
Ok, there’d be another question if I actually used that idea (blergh!1 argh! Calvin-an-Hobbes yucky face!!!)

because the implanted bugs have problems with germs in the swamp, fungla infections just knock them down in four days.
8:51 PM
But if the stray larvae can survive, that sugests a kind of bug that would thrive in the swamp. NOT goood news for our side!

as an ah-hah Now What moment, it could be pretty nasty.
8:52 PM
nasty grin

Might be Seung who ids it by the smell
8:53 PM
Stella: ONoly of there’s room for it in the story

me: That would explain more motivation for geting rid of the bug labs all at once, before they can further develop such “resistent” bugs

Dunno, that’s much later on

Stella: only if you can make room for that in the story…

make a not of it though

8:54 PM

me: But it’d be cool if that was a piece of info Seung brings to the table when he first meets everybody, a sort of, “oh, by the way, did you realize–”

Stella: yes

me: because he’s had a great deal of exposure to bug troops on the way to the keys etc

Stella: and i could so imagine him shrugging

and saying “yeah, we eat them
8:55 PM
me: oh god yes while everybody else freaks out

Stella: is good food

me: heeheh!

Stella: like big shrimps

me: yes

get tough if you cook too long

Stella: LOL

me: odd taste after, like oil

Stella: everyone wants to barf
8:56 PM
me: prolly because they’ve been trapping and eating the damn things like lobsters too

Stella: youknow there is anendangered crab in tahiti called the coconut crab

me: I actually sat down and watched a series of leisurely Cajun vids about how to build a modern-day crawfish trap. He uses zipties, frex.

Stella: used to be so big a woman could stand on one and it would walk withher on it’s back

me: I could see a guy like that feeding people on bug larvae!
8:57 PM
Stella: now they are eaten up too fast, no chance to grow that big

me: No, I didn’t know that! I bet the pix of that would be awesome

I’ve heard the name, had no idea they got big

Stella: they have a spot behind their head that is full of pure coconut oil

me: now there’s an intriguing thought

does anyone know why?

Stella: you roat the crab ion your beachside bonfire, crack it open, dip the meat in this heated coconut oil
8:58 PM
it’s a food supply for the crab

me: jeez, self-marinating

Stella: and au juice for crab eaters 😀


me: y!

Stella: so, our bugs might have a pouchof oil that you want to watch out for

me: yes!

Stella: don’t let it contaminate the meat
8:59 PM
me: that’s where that oily smell comes from later on

Stella: yes

me: the metallic bits are like a preservative, to keep germs from infecting the oil

what a cool idea!

Would Keisha know that bit about the crabs, or is it more of an Emma factoid?
9:00 PM
Stella: Keisha might not know about them because she doesn’t sail the pacific

me: Maybe heard stories from other sailors??
9:01 PM
the oil might have other properties too

can be enlarged tank in the flamethrower bugs

with toxic elements to it

like Greek fire
9:02 PM
Stella: good idea!

me: depending on the target, the bug can inject a jellying agent that makes the burning fluid cling to things

really nasty shit
9:03 PM
Stella: all of this should be written up and put into the library section

me: yes

maybe grab this chat text and pop it in as is?

I do like being able to go back and consult notes in chat

Stella: sure!

…chat about how to add related items deleted…

saved the pic of the isopods and the crabs on the tray looking like lunch

GOd, I am fond of the idea of Seung very offhandedly saying, those are baby bigs you know”
9:15 PM
or just pointing, saying, “Baby bugs”
9:16 PM
and maybe people have been eating those because the catch has been low on a lot of other things wherever those are found–eating their way through the ecosystem

Stella: Doc Alex if that’s his name?

me: So hunting them down would actually be doing the local animals a service

Stella: would be VERYUPSET

me: YES!


Stella: and curse like a motherfucker
9:17 PM
me: esp if the bugs also eat things like seagrasses and vegetable stuff and mow everything down to the nubs, omnivorous

Stella: people would be going “We ain’t been getting sick none, whats your problem

me: yews!!

sorry that was yes

Stella: I thought so


me: and the conundrum if you want to stop them causing damage, people need to catch more of them

now here’s a question–can Seung or Dance tolerate eating them?
9:18 PM
Or would they actually prefer them over other things??

Stella: Ooh yeha they should have no problem with them

cast iron stomachs aside
9:19 PM
there’s some shared DNA

me: Dr Alex might insist people ought to catch the bugs and kill em and feed them to fish (like trout chow) because less possbility of cross contamination than with feeding it to pigs or chickens

would that metallic oily smell put off the nagas?
9:20 PM
but I also bet plenty of folks will ignore the dr and eat em personally, or feed the scraps to the chickens

Seung’s ot a pretty strong set of tastebuds, he might like it as a sort of “tang”

Stella: ah. yeah, now that you mention it, theyare very attuned to that smell

it’s the smell of enemy

me: but there might be a sort of hunting instinct there which, instead of getting sick on it, it’s more like, nailed that sucker!
9:21 PM
Stella: and maybe the babies don’t reek as bad as the mature ones
9:22 PM
me: There’s also an interesting possibility that the bug larvae growing out in the swamp, tolerant of it, are so modified that they can’t be used YET for command and control and implanting people. That genetic change to tolerate the swamp has made them alien to their own hives
9:23 PM
They’d keep experimenting to cross that gulf, but for the time being, not getting overrun with swmapyt bugs. But it’s possible (here’s another idea) that the reason that Cesar etc were able to defy bug command is that they were implanted with bug larvae that were swamp tolerant

that’s why they can continue to exist in the swamp hiding out

and make everybody very nervous that bugs will come to tolerate fungi instead of falling apart
9:24 PM
Could be a fun scene where a hostile swampy blasts those guys with a faceul of Kombucha spores, and they just blink and wipe em off
9:25 PM
It’s sort of parellel to the threat of Dance and Seung–they make great allies, but if the enemy gets hold of them, it could get a lot worse
10 minutes
9:36 PM
me: I just flipped through a doll post (girl singer doll repainted) and I find… wait for it… the name of the band is Larvae Cure.

No joke.

Stella: you’re starting to think like a sci fi writer :*

me: starting to?

Ok, it was Larva Cure, no e

my bad

Stella: more than I’ve ever noticed really

me: ah

9:37 PM
sometimes the writing comes first and then you find something that fits it, in this case a cool idea sparks off plot ideas

AndI can always watch Seung when he wants to talk!
9:38 PM
You know, Drin might know about coconut crabs

he bummed arounquite a bit in that period he doesn’t recall very well between healing from bug burns and the motorcycle wreck


Dramatis Locae

The place we’re talking about, Bayou Rainette

Possible locations

Since the setting is practically a chara in its own right… I didn’t check on whether the Chitimacha tribe was in this area, I know that Tina had a spot in mind there.
ETA later:
The Chitimacha Reservation is located in LA, St. Mary’s Parish, which is about 45% water. The Parish seat is Franklin, which has a major sports/high school war with neighboring Morgan City. Franklin has an elevation of 10 feet and a lot of well-preserved grand mansions from the plantation era.

This whole area is west of New Orleans, on the other side of the main peninsula from it, probably a little more sheltered during storms; on the east bay side more towards Galveston. Much further west compared to my earlier locational comments below. Along Highway 90 there’s a lot of cleared land fanning away from the highway. Beyond that on either side looks like heavy tree cover and canals. There’s some interesting land in heavy cover and lots of little canals west of Franklin, but a lot more of it runs east and north of Franklin.
It looks like it is less urbanized and has broader wild areas than the area I noted below, I like it better for the story’s purposes.,-90.027466&spn=3.380916,4.943848&z=8

The area I talked about in an earlier edit is north and east of New Orleans, below:

I was surprised recently checking on Goolemaps how urbanized the area NE of New Orleans looked; it was *exactly* like views of the big ricefield towns of the Central Valley here, which is not exactly low population.
I know we discussed the setting a little when Hal’s athnicity was decided.
In addition, a friend of mine with some map expertise suggested the following for “a larger wilderness area with waterways in the track of the storm paths”

…I’d say it depends on how much wilderness you’re looking for. If you want to stay in the immediate New Orleans area, go north and west to the area around Lake Maurepas, west of Interstate 55 and south of the town of Ponchatoula. This isn’t an official wilderness area (and it’s popular with boaters) but it does have a lot of undeveloped bayou.

North of Baton Rouge in Mississippi is the Homochitto National Forest, at about 300 square miles, but it’s not very “wilderness” (and it’s a fairly long drive from New Orleans).[It’s closer to Baton Rouge–would match well with teh description of the area around Fozzie & Lacie’s ranch, though] If you want a larger area of wilderness (or semi-wilderness), you’ll probably have to go further to the east. In Mississippi you can find the De Soto National Forest (nearly 600 square miles). However, it’s not all wilderness; there are two designated wilderness areas, the Black Creek Wilderness and the Leaf River Wilderness. The Leaf River area is about 40,000 acres; the Black Creek area is only about 5,000.

Google map links to the area:,-90.027466&spn=3.380916,4.943848&z=8

[for a bayou near Ponchatoula, I kind of like the area with the name Skulls Creek, but there’s plenty of highways and towns nearby. It also looks like there’s artifical ponds further south, which *may* be fish farms.]

I’d say it depends on how much wilderness you’re looking for. If you want to stay in the immediate New Orleans area, go north and west to the area around Lake Maurepas, west of Interstate 55 and south of the town of Ponchatoula. This isn’t an official wilderness area (and it’s popular with boaters) but it does have a lot of undeveloped bayou.

North of Baton Rouge in Mississippi is the Homochitto National Forest, at about 300 square miles, but it’s not very “wilderness” (and it’s a fairly long drive from New Orleans). If you want a larger area of wilderness (or semi-wilderness), you’ll probably have to go further to the east. In Mississippi you can find the De Soto National Forest (nearly 600 square miles). However, it’s not all wilderness; there are two designated wilderness areas, the Black Creek Wilderness and the Leaf River Wilderness. The Leaf River area is about 40,000 acres; the Black Creek area is only about 5,000.

Google map links to the area:,-90.027466&spn=3.380916,4.943848&z=8

I was envisioning a place closer to Houma, a little further south and a lot more watery. I was looking at actual swampland. Hal doesn’t have to be near the res to be a Chitimacha. *shrug* I do think I need to figure out where they are, because where I was figuring was wildly different from where you were. I can change the places I’ve referred to easily enough. -Tina 8/24/09 6:24 PMActually, I’d rather go with your idea for more swamp/water, just haven’t checked it out yet for ideas or pix. -Heather Gladney 8/29/09 11:49 AM

Added a note that Keisha is related to Lacey -Heather 5/6/09 5:55 PM

I love the diagram!! cute!! Which one is the clinic, and where’s Tee-Pom and Coral’s house, and Steve’s, and the Trio? Dance and Emma walk over tot he clinic, so they must be on the same side with Steve.-Heather 12/30/08 7:46 PM

Thanks, I’ve been sick this week, so I’ve had a lot of time to futz around with wierd stuff. -Tina 12/30/08 9:58 PM So Jackie’s at five has a chicken coop(s), right near by, there’s an “empty” slot at 3 where the neighbor lady said Dance could grow stuff on her land the other side. Also, one of those is Tee-Pom and Coral. It looks great! who’s in the one at Seven? I an’t help but the think having an empty place next to you would really be right up Turner’s sort of alley! -Heather 12/30/08 8:05 PM Yeah, I figured the coop is probably inside one of the smaller fenced areas. -Tina 12/30/08 10:07 PM had to revert again, that grab-delete trick drives me bonkers. Are you feeling any better? -Heather 12/30/08 8:09 PM Heh. Not really, but I saw the doc today and didn’t get put in the hospital over New Year’s, so that’s good. I have a respiratory thing – repressed immune system is one of the lovely things about fibro. I’ve been thinking about having a tender romantic bit about Dia getting sick *snerk* Thanks for asking, tho — I have drugs now, and I’m not afraid to use ’em! -Tina 12/30/08 10:10 PM better living through chemistry! Yaya! -Heather 12/30/08 8:13 PM Yup! If you’re looking for empty lots, there are some across the dirt track, and more across the bayou — there’s a road there somewhere, I’m sure. It can’t have a name, since it’s not there…. Not officially, anyway -Tina 12/30/08 10:13 PM Which means the empty places must be zoomorphs or weres with summer places?? The road probably has a community name from its history, like the name of the family who usd to own all the land there, or somebody who lived on a dirt track at the end of it backin teh twenties or thirties(like Steve’s Mom! Or Mama Gigi’s family!), or the name of that with some feature in the landscape, so-and-so’s well, etc. -Heather 12/30/08 8:15 PM It might just be Rainette Road after the bayou name, or we could think of something else. Gigi is from NOLA, and Steve is from Arkansas (I had to cheat and look) BTW, a Rainette is a tree frog… maybe Frog’s family was there first??? It could be -Tina 12/30/08 10:17 PM -Tina 12/30/08 10:22 PM Thanks! a frog? How perfect is that? Yes, I bet Frog’s family were there first! that works! I bet th road is on the “empty” side of the levee, on the side with Seven. -Heather 12/30/08 8:18 PM -Heather 12/30/08 8:22 PM
I still have the program file, so if you would like some changes, like an empty lot (which I forgot about, frankly) I can futz some more. -Tina 12/30/08 10:24 PM well, the space between 4 and 5, with the tree on it, could be another lot, or between 3 and 4. I don’t want to make you have to work on it again! It’s a great graphic, I love it! -Heather 12/30/08 8:25 PM Thanks! XD Now I want to do moar!!! Have you heard anything from Stella about the State of POM? -Tina 12/30/08 10:28 PMIt’s interesting,w hen I was working on text, the empty yards were just there, obvious, but I didn’t think about them much. Just how it is, yeah? And then when I see it here, I’m thinking, that’s a zoomorph group of folks, there’s money in there, they wouldn’t let just anybody move in there. Haven’t heard from Stella. I did see lj post from kiya awhile back talking about extra shifts from the snowstorm (sounded nasty) so that’s gonna delay her getting in gear with us, but at least she’s working on Antler pr0n, a good sign! Haven’t heard from Gj. -Heather 12/30/08 8:31 PM Yeah, like sixteen hour shifts with 7 hours in between, and then more. I was exhausted just reading it! It’s too cold by the door to read Antler prOn, but it’s on my list of yummy things to do when I feel better. -Tina 12/30/08 10:33 PM yep! -Heather 12/30/08 8:33 PM Hopefully I can stay up later soon, but I’m dead right now. I’ll try to write something newish tomorrow! 😀 -Tina 12/30/08 10:35 PM okay, hope you feel better soon–and I love the drawing, it helps! -Heather 12/30/08 8:36 PM

One = Aunt Frog’s house (with workshop and shed)
Two = the other two Wyerd Sisters, Penelope and Steve
Three = Tee Pom and Coral
Four = DD&E
Five = Rene and Jackie
Six = Miss Hester and the Tiggers
Seven = beats me *shrugs* probably the Bienvilles. Think there’s a road there, but it’s not drawn in.

The clinic is totally portable — not in the picture. Probably moored at the dock next to Six.

Header Picture Credits

Many thanks to the great photographers and artists that have consented to have their work to be converted/cropped/mauled into banners for the site!

1 Bird Island – B. Gladney (artbeco)
2 Boy Dragonfly Wings – B. Gladney (artbeco)
3 Boy on Chair by Window – B. Gladney (artbeco)
4 BW Landscape – B. Gladney (artbeco)
5 BW Piano – B. Gladney (artbeco)
6 Cowboy Boots – B. Gladney (artbeco)
7 Egret – B. Gladney (artbeco)
8 Goats – B. Gladney (artbeco)
9 Pelican – B. Gladney (artbeco)
10 Popup Card Trees – B. Gladney (artbeco)
11 Toy Bunny – B. Gladney (artbeco)
12 Snout – Bjørn Bulthuis
13 Hurricane Shrimp Boat – Infrogmation
14 Rescue Efforts – Wikimedia Commons
15 Cemetery – Infrogmation
16 Wrecked Mailbox – Infrogmation
17 Home Interior – Infrogmation
18 Dance’s Eye – H. Gladney
19 Credits: Photographer:Bryan Crump Year: 2007
20 Horse’s Back – stormlor
21 Underwater Beam – badinstinct
22 Drin’s Eyes – H. Gladney
23 Brambles
24 Crappie
25 Dance Hands
26 Dan’s Truck
27 La Cresenta Fire
28 Mayflies
29 Piling Head
30 Plant Life
31 Quetzalcoatle
32 Shoreline
33 Smokescape
34 Swimmer

35 Luo -_sdink

mantis shrimps and Circular Polarized Light

Coiled ribbon sensors might be antennas capable of picking up CPL.

Mantis shrimps have th ability to pick up on circular polarized light (CPL), which no other animal on earth does.

They’ve evolved on their own since the Cretaceous, and they’re pretty damn strange in their own right.  They also used to be the recordkeeper on fastest-moving animal reactions.  Also interesting!

ETA October 27, 2009: Latest article on the shrimps from Sci Am Online:

…Unlike linearly polarized light, in which the electric field oscillates along a plane, circularly polarized light’s field twists like a spiral spring as the ray propagates. Such light is not commonly reflected from animal bodies and so was long dismissed as a virtual nonfactor in physiology, but research last year showed that some stomatopods have the ability to discriminate circular polarization. A paper published online October 25 in Nature Photonics unpacks the mechanism behind the mantis shrimp’s ability and concludes that its eyes handle circularly polarized light more effectively than man-made optical devices do…

…But the creature is physiologically remarkable in at least one other way: The compound eye of the peacock mantis, the new study’s authors found, harbors a natural quarter-wave retarder, a sort of filter that converts circularly polarized light to linearly polarized light, which then activates receptors below. “Biologically, this is unique,” says study co-author Thomas Cronin, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “There is nothing else known anywhere in biology” that enables detection of circularly polarized light, he adds….

…The stomatopods reflect circularly polarized light from their bodies, so their ability to detect such light—and to parse clockwise from counterclockwise polarization—likely plays a role in signaling or identification. In some stomatopod species, reflection of circularly polarized light is sex-specific, which could play a role in sexual signaling or mate selection.

Wave retarders work by refracting light differently depending on the angle of its polarization, delaying one wave component of a light wave relative to the other. “If it’s just the right degree of delay, which is one-quarter wave or 90 degrees phase, that converts circularly polarized light to linearly polarized,” Cronin explains. But unlike wave retarders available commercially, which are tuned for specific wavelengths (and hence colors) of visible light, the wave plate in the O. scyllarus eye performs almost identically across the visible spectrum.

The mantis shrimp’s eye, Cronin explains, “works on a principle that is not used currently but could be used in manufacturing systems”—balancing the optical properties of the eye structure with those of the lipid molecules that fill the structure. “The two have different wavelength functions—they have different curves of changing retardance with wavelength—and so the animal trades them off,” Cronin says. “It trades off structure against material to cancel out the two variations.”…


Link that Kiya came up with, very cool ideas for how Dance may be generating/sensing polarized light.

Coiled ribbon sensors might be antennas capable of picking up CPL.

Mantis shrimps have th ability to pick up on circular polarized light (CPL), which no other animal on earth does.

They’ve evolved on their own since the Cretaceous, and they’re pretty damn strange in their own right. They also used to be the recordkeeper on fastest-moving animal reactions. Also interesting!

Also gorgeously colorful animals for a tropical saltwater aquarium, but they’re pretty large animals, which puts a strain on a system. Peacock mantis shrimps are popular, they can be 4” long. That’s big for an animal you keep in a burrow by itself. Oh yeah. No other mantis shrimps in there, very territorial. If it’s a spearing type? No fish. A hammer type? No shrimps, clams, etc.

Another article, from Wired about the same time in 2009 discusses the same technical possibilities from studying the eyes.

There’s a lot of videos of mantis shrimps online, moving around, attacking things like crabs, and many of the vids include the pistol-shrimp noise that the striking arms give. Some of the better-shot vids make it clear these are not merciful critters, they almost seem like they’re playing with their food.

Every vid that I looked at showed a totally different species. They all had a slightly different body shape and coloration, but they look sort of like a shrimp-centaur. Add a lobster-like heavy thorax with these weird round sensor-flaps at the front end of a long shrimp.

They are all alert, active predators. They don’t get the job done on a crab in one blow, and the crabs can hurt them back. But they keep coming at the poor crab. You’re warned: It’s kind of disturbing to watch, the crab doesn’t have a prayer.

I would say, shrimp is to mantis shrimp as snake is to dragon.
From Wired magazine online:


More elaborate information on the visual processing and eye structures can be found in Wikipedia:


…As became clear when Cronin finished explaining CPL and started talking about the animal, what gets these guys to the lab in the morning is the mantis shrimp itself.

“They’re enchantingly violent,” he said in an affectionate, almost paternal tone. “They catch other animals by either spearing it through the heart or smashing it to pieces. Unlike most predators that grab prey, these pummel it and destroy it. When they interact with each other over a burrow, they use their armored front appendages and smash each other on the face. Whenever they get into any type of situation, they smash things. You can’t pick these up. They’re really great animals to have around.”

Cronin seemed especially pleased that the shrimps’ visual uniqueness would return them to the record books. “The movement they use to hit prey used to be the fastest movement made by any animal,” he lamented. “But it turned out there was a jaw-snapping behavior in an ant that’s even faster.”…

…Cronin noted that some species have a CPL-reflecting patch on their tail, which they use to signal each other while negotiating mates or territory — but there are plenty of other ways to do this. Then again, when you and your possible opponent are so fundamentally bash-inclined, it makes sense to keep every possible communication channel open.

And channels the mantis shrimp has in abundance. Though CPL-sight is their greatest claim to optical fame, their eyes are chock full of weird cells and structures that let them distinguish between no fewer than 100,000 colors — ten times more colors than we can see…

So why do mantis shrimp — which followed a solitary evolutionary trajectory out of the Cambrian, developing a physiology so weird that scientists called them “shrimps from Mars” — have such marvelous eyesight?

“One idea is that the more complicated your sensory structure is, the simpler your brain can be,” said Cronin. “If you can deal with analysis at the receptor level, you don’t have to deal with that in the brain itself.”

There you have it: the world’s most sensitive eyes allow them to be simple! And smash things! And it’s worked for 400 million years…

More on the shrimp’s vision in another Wired article here:

peacock mantis shrimp
one of the prettier mantis shrimp


Like insects and other crustaceans, mantis shrimps possess compound eyes composed of thousands of rows of light-detecting units called ommatidia. These are especially refined in mantis shrimps, containing a mix of photoreceptors and filters that let them see 100,000 different colors — 10 times more than can be detected by humans.

Two decades ago, Cronin, along with co-authors Justin Marshall at the University of Queensland and the University of California, Berkeley’s Roy Caldwell, noticed that sections of the mantis shrimps’ ommatidia are arranged at a slant.

This suggested an ability to detect circular polarized light, in which photons follow a corkscrew path and ostensibly enter the ommatidia at a correspondingly slanted angle. After finding a species that seemed to send signals with a CPL-reflecting patch of exoskeleton, the researchers decided to test whether the shrimps’ oddball ommatidia really registered the light.

First they hooked severed eyes to electrodes to measure whether the cells energized when hit with circularly polarized light; they did. Then they trained the shrimps to associate CPL-reflecting boxes with food. The shrimps passed the test with flying colors.

Cronin said the shrimps probably use CPL to communicate during sexual and territorial encounters, though he doesn’t know why they evolved such a one-of-a-kind system. Further research may illuminate those origins — and, Cronin said, could help scientists refine their use of CPL in computer screens and signal transmission, where its tightly rotating configuration lends itself to loss-free transmission….

More elaborate information on the visual processing and eye structures can be found in Wikipedia:

Squilla mantis, showing the spearing appendages:

Both types strike by rapidly unfolding and swinging their raptorial claws at the prey, and are capable of inflicting serious damage on victims significantly greater in size than themselves. In smashers, these two weapons are employed with blinding quickness, with an acceleration of 10,400 g and speeds of 23 m/s from a standing start [6], about the acceleration of a .22 caliber bullet. Because they strike so rapidly, they generate cavitation bubbles between the appendage and the striking surface [6]. The collapse of these cavitation bubbles produces measurable forces on their prey in addition to the instantaneous forces of 1,500 N that are caused by the impact of the appendage against the striking surface, which means that the prey is hit twice by a single strike; first by the claw and then by the collapsing cavitation bubbles that immediately follow [7]. Even if the initial strike misses the prey, the resulting shock wave can be enough to kill or stun the prey.

The snap can also produce sonoluminescence from the collapsing bubble. This will produce a very small amount of light and high temperatures in the range of several thousand Kelvin within the collapsing bubble, although both the light and high temperatures are too weak and short-lived to be detected without advanced scientific equipment. The light emission and temperature increase probably have no biological significance but are rather side-effects of the rapid snapping motion. Pistol shrimp produce this effect in a very similar manner.

Smashers use this ability to attack snails, crabs, molluscs and rock oysters; their blunt clubs enabling them to crack the shells of their prey into pieces. Spearers, on the other hand, prefer the meat of softer animals, like fish, which their barbed claws can more easily slice and snag.

…Some species have at least 16 different photoreceptor types, which are divided into four classes (their spectral sensitivity is further tuned by colour filters in the retinas), 12 of them for colour analysis in the different wavelengths (including four which are sensitive to ultraviolet light) and four of them for analysing polarised light. By comparison, humans have only four visual pigments. The visual information leaving the retina seems to be processed into numerous parallel data streams leading into the central nervous system, greatly reducing the analytical requirements at higher levels.

One species has been reported to be able to detect circular polarized light

I would say, shrimp is to mantis shrimp as snake is to dragon.

Close-up of Pseudosquilla ciliata’s trinocular vision

Reasons given for powerful eyesight

The eyes of mantis shrimp may make them able to recognise different types of coral, prey species (which are often transparent or semi-transparent), or predators, such as barracuda, which have shimmering scales. Alternatively, the manner in which mantis shrimp hunt (very rapid movements of the claws) may require very accurate ranging information, which would require accurate depth perception.

The fact that those with the most advanced vision also are the species with the most colourful bodies, suggests the colour vision has taken the same direction as the peacock‘s tail.

During mating rituals, mantis shrimp actively fluoresce, and the wavelength of this fluorescence was shown to match the wavelengths detected by their eye pigments [2]. Females are only fertile during certain phases of the tidal cycle; the ability to perceive the phase of the moon may therefore help prevent wasted mating efforts. It may also give mantis shrimp information about the size of the tide, which is important for species living in shallow water near the shore.

Another theory is that the invertebrate brain is unequipped to analyse all the incoming data in real time and so the processing is performed physically by the eye…


…Mantis shrimp appear to be highly intelligent, are long-lived and exhibit complex behaviour, such as ritualised fighting. Scientists have discovered that some species use fluorescent patterns on their bodies for signaling with their own and maybe even other species, expanding their range of behavioural signals. They can learn and remember well, and are able to recognise individual neighbours with whom they frequently interact. They can recognise them by visual signs and even by individual smell. Many have developed a complex social behaviour to defend their space from rivals.

In a lifetime, they can have as many as 20 or 30 breeding episodes. Depending on the species, the eggs can be laid and kept in a burrow, or carried around under the female’s tail until they hatch. Also depending on the species, male and female come together only to mate or bond in monogamous long-term relationships.

In the monogamous species, the mantis shrimp remain with the same partner for up to 20 years. They share the same burrow, and there are reasons to suspect that these pairs can coordinate their activities. Both sexes often take care of the eggs (biparental care). In Pullosquilla and some species in Nannosquilla, the female will lay two clutches of eggs, one that the male tends and one that the female tends. In other species, the female will look after the eggs while the male hunts for both of them. Once the eggs hatch the offspring may spend up to three months as plankton…

…Many saltwater aquarists keep stomatopods in captivity. These aquarists may play a role in understanding the mysteries of the mantis shrimp. However, mantis shrimp are considered pests by other hobbyists because they can be transported unwittingly in a load of rocks destined for an aquarium. Once inside the tank, they may feed on fish, corals, and smaller crustaceans. They are notoriously difficult to catch when established in a well-stocked tank, and although there are accounts of them breaking and destroying glass tanks, such incidents are very rare…

An article on the mechanism of the smashing claw:

The mantis shrimp – the world’s fastest punch

… Mantis shrimps are aggressive relatives of crabs and lobsters and prey upon other animals by crippling them with devastating jabs. Their secret weapons are a pair of hinged arms folded away under their head, which they can unfurl at incredible speeds.
The ‘spearer’ species have arms ending in a fiendish barbed spike that they use to impale soft-bodied prey like fish. But the larger ‘smasher’ species have arms ending in heavy clubs, and use them to deliver blows with the same force as a rifle bullet.

Fastest claw in the west

mantis shrimp claw
fastest claw in the west

When Sheila Patek, a researcher at USC Berkeley, tried to study these heavy-hitters on video, she hit a snag. “None of our high speed video systems were fast enough to capture the movement accurately” she explained.
“Luckily, a BBC crew offered to rent us a super high speed camera as part of their series ‘Animal Camera’.” (Photograph above by Sheila Patek & Wyatt Korff)
With this cutting-edge equipment, Patek managed to capture footage of a smasher’s strike, slowed down over 800 times. What she found was staggering. With each punch, the club’s edge travels at about 50 mph, over twice as fast as scientists had previously estimated.*
“The strike is one of the fastest limb movements in the animal kingdom”, says Patek. “It’s especially impressive considering the substantial drag imposed by water.”Water is much denser than air and even the quickest martial artist would have considerable difficulty punching in it. And yet the mantis shrimp finishes its strike in under three thousandths of a second, out-punching even its land-living namesake.

The need for speed
If the animal simply flicked its arm out, like a human, it would never achieve such blistering speeds. Instead, mantis shrimps use an ingeniously simple energy storage system. Once the arm is cocked, a ratchet locks it firmly in place. The large muscles in the upper arm then contract and build up energy. When the latch is released, all this energy is released at once and the lower arm is launched forwards.
But Patek found that even this system couldn’t account for the mantis shrimp’s speed. Instead, the key to the punch is a small, structure in the arm that looks like a saddle or a Pringle chip.
When the arm is cocked, this structure is compressed and acts like a spring, storing up even more energy. When the latch is released, the spring expands and provides extra push for the club, helping to accelerate it at up to 10,000 times the force of gravity.

This smasher’s arm is truly state-of-the-art natural technology. “Saddle-shaped springs are well-known to engineers and architects”, explains Patek, “ but is unusual in biological systems. Interestingly, a recent paper showed that a similarly shaped spring closes the Venus’s fly trap.”

Killing with bubbles
Patek’s cameras revealed an even bigger surprise – each of the smasher’s strikes produced small flashes of light upon impact. They are emitted because the club moves so quickly that it lowers the pressure of the water in front of it, causing it to boil.
This releases small bubbles which collapse when the water pressure normalises, unleashing tremendous amounts of energy. This process, called cavitation, is so destructive that it can pit the stainless steel of boat propellers. Combined with the force of the strike itself, no animal in the seas stands a chance.
Large smashers can even make meals of crabs, buckling their thick armour as easily as they do aquarium glass. And they are often seen beating up much larger fish and octopuses, which are unfortunate enough to wander past their burrows. Not just a good right hook
Some scientists think that the mantis shrimps’ belligerent nature evolved because the rock crevices they inhabit are fiercely contested. This competition has also made these animals smarter than the average shrimp. They are the only invertebrates that can recognise other individuals of their species and can remember if the outcome of a fight against a rival for up to a month….

Some Music to Calm the Savage Beast

While Dance is freaking out, half out of his head on toxins, Emberley puts on music. Familiar, soothing things. Things he knows that Dance will have to follow in his memory, reminding Dance of the bowing and fingering motions so well known in his muscle memory. These are things he’s sure that Dance will have some kind of long-term emotional associations with, even if maybe they aren’t all nice ones.
Heavens, they may remind him of screaming sessions with temperamental divas and soloists–but it will remind him of work, or the symphony, of mundane real life.

While Dance is freaking out, half out of his head on toxins, Barret puts on music. Familiar, soothing things. Things he knows that Dance will have to follow in his memory, reminding Dance of the bowing and fingering motions so well known in his muscle memory. These are things he’s sure that Dance will have some kind of long-term emotional associations with, even if maybe they aren’t all nice ones.

Heavens, they may remind him of screaming sessions with temperamental divas and soloists–but it will remind him of work, or the symphony, of mundane real life.

Canon and Gigue for 3 violins & continuo in D major: Canon, Johann Pachelbel

Suite for orchestra No 3 in D major, BWV 1068: Air, Johann Sebastian Bach

Oboe Concerto in D minor, BWV 1059r: Excerpt, Johann Sebastian Bach

Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622: Adagio, Mozart

Horn Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, K. 447: 2nd movement, Mozart

Concerto for oboe in D minor, Op.9/2: Adagio, Tomaso Albinoni

Orfeo ed Euridice, opera, Wq 41: Dance of the Blessed Spirits, Christoph Willibald Gluck

Symphony No. 9 in E minor (‘From the New World,’ first published as No. 5), B. 178 (Op. 95): 2nd movement, Antonin Dvorák (this is the soft, intimate string section that reminds Dance of being at home with Emma)

String Quintet in E major, Op. 11/5, G275: Minuet, Luigi Boccherini

Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor (‘Pathétique’) Op. 13: 2nd movement, Ludwig van Beethoven

Ellens Gesang III (‘Ave Maria’), song for voice & piano, D. 839 (Op. 52/6), Franz Schubert (the classic Maria music…bane of many soloists…)

And certainly he will be putting on many more things, scrambling around among the available music cds.

sexy viola mofo

Well, holy shit.  Check his other videos too.  

Note the place the tone of viola tends to strike the body–I get it in my shoulder blades–what about you?   



[Sorry, this one has lost the link to the original vid.]

Well, holy shit. Check his other videos too.

Note the place the tone of viola tends to strike the body–I get it in my shoulder blades–what about you?

[Instead, have a very silly cover of a lady Gaga song… very undramatic, straight-faced, split screen version.

Lady GaGa: Poker Face – VIOLA TRIO COVER (split screen)

An excerpt of the musician’s technical notes, which go on to explain how he did the video:

This video is featured in a commercial promoting the 52nd Grammy Awards on CBS … also seen here:

Lady GaGa : Poker Face – VIOLA TRIO COVER (split screen) * “HQ” — Make sure you watch in “High Quality”

This is the 11th video in my continuing series of classicalized popular music. The song was requested by so many people its hard to point the finger at any one. The original video of the song may be seen here:

This performance is the 6th of my split screen videos where I play with myself, and the 2nd where I play a trio with myself. It’s all about the viola this time, just like Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.6, a concerto for strings, yet it features no violin parts. I steal my ideas from the masters of course. To do this video, I listened to the original song and by ear wrote out a sheet music score, then arranged it as a trio for 3 violas, and then performed it. I recorded each part separately. I was able to sync up and mix the 3 parts on my computer with a sound wave editor…

Background on Dance’s Korean names and nickname

Referenced in "The Times Before", in various places such as "Running Water" and "Family Snapshots".

(reposted to capture the pictures associated with the original googledocs referece work.)

 Dance of Knives, as translated into Korean by Babelfish

칼의 춤

the hangeul written vertically

Both the websites “Ask a Korean”
and and Korean alphabet

give the Korean alphabet’s proper name not as hangul, as in Wikipedia, but spelled as hangeul. The alphabet website also notes that text used to be written vertically, right to left like Chinese, but since 1988 has been written horizontally like Western scripts. [end of edit]

Another one of those rilly rilly spooky random Wiki thngs:

Just a random Wiki suggestion on the opening page:

Can you see ‘Dancheong’ being mispronounced as ‘Dance’? what is “dance of knives” translated into korean? -Stellaaaaaah 9/20/08 12:45 PM I’ve got the hangul up there. Don’t know who it would be pronounced, though. IT’s so distinct to the guy that I’m not trying to argue with him about it…-Heather Gladney 9/20/08 1:23 PMa bit wikiheavy on this one too! -Heather Gladney 9/20/08 1:43 PM god no– it’s not like he asks for so much, anyway… I should be able to get a translation around here somewhere -Stellaaaaaah 9/20/08 1:55 PM I just asked babelfish to rend “Dance of Knives” into Korean, and it gave me the hangul characters, but not how it would be pronounced. -Heather Gladney 9/20/08 2:14 PM nice explanation you’ve addded in up there… -Stellaaaaaah 9/20/08 2:36 PM thank you! I’m grabbing around for whatever, and of course Emma jumps in!! -Heather Gladney 9/20/08 2:45 PM Not sure, but I think that “che” in the middle is a hard “ch” sound. Still, it reads like Dance, which matters a lot! And it is beautiful. -Jlwitwer 9/22/08 4:05 PM
.I was hearing it as a hard ch too. -Heather Gladney 9/22/08 11:38 PM

Also, note the association of colors to directions explained here, a question I believe came up earlier.

Dancheong refers to Korean traditional decorative coloring on wooden buildings and artifacts for the purpose of style. It literally means “cinnabar and blue-green” in Korean.[1] It is based on five basic colors; blue (east), white (west), red (south), black (north), and yellow (center).[2][3] Dancheong has various symbolic meanings. Dancheong also represented the social status and rank by using various patterns and colors. It functions not only for decoration, but also for practical purposes such as to protect building surfaces against temperature and to make the crudeness of materials less conspicuous. Applying dancheong on the surfaces of buildings require trained skills, and artisans called dancheongjang (단청장) design patterns and paint.[3][4][5]

Here’s another example, posted over on my lj by a friend visiting Korea:

The origin of dancheong can be traced from cave paintings and wall paintings which appeared more than 20,000 ago in the history of mankind, although they may be served for different purposes and functions from the stylized dancheong.[5]

In the 12th century document titled

Gaoli tujing


) which literally means “Illustrated Account of


” (918-1392), the Chinese author

Xu Jing

described the majestic apperance of Goryeo’s royal palaces as well as the luxurious


on the places at that time. He said that Goryeo people liked building royal palaces and the structure of king’s residence was built with round


and a square


. The colorfully adorned edge of the roof in connection looked like it flied to the sky.

You can’t just randomly grab a name from a phone book for unfamiliar ethnic groups. Wiki is telling me there is an entire web of knowledge embedded in Korean names, for instance. The Family name is associated with clans, and with locations. The traditional style of two-syllable given name has one syllable used as a generational marker, in the old days across an entire family–all the Kims in Korea, for instance, using one syllable the same in their given names. Children do tend to have rude nicknames, to protect them from evil spirits–and


Ahn, also romanized An, is a Korean family name. It literally means “tranquility.” In 2000, there were 637,786 people bearing this surname in South Korea[1], making it the 20th most common family name in the country, with roughly 2% of the country’s population. North Korea does not release figures for surnames, but the percentage is expected to be similar.

For uses of similar surnames in other territories, see An.

Sunheung Clan (Dominant Clan)

The 2000 South Korean census counted 468,827 members of the “Sunheung” Ahn clan (순흥안씨, 順興安氏). Their ancestral seat is in modern-day Sunheung-myeon, in Yeongju, Kyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea. They have enjoyed “blue-blood” status as nobility (Yang-Ban) since their earliest history in the Koryeo (Koryo) Dynasty and throughout the Yi Dynasty (July 1392 – August 1910). The founder of the Sunheung Ahn was a famously petty and meticulous official of Koryeo named Ahn Ja-mi. The Neo-Confucian philosopher An Hyang, who introduced the Confucian social and government system to Korea, was his great-grandson, and is generally numbered among the clan’s most illustrious members. During Colonial Japan and during the founding of the democratic government of Korea, the most influential and respected figure is Ahn Chang Ho (Title: Dosan) and his life ended shortly after his arrest and release by the Imperial Japanese Government.

Tracking down the clan seat’s location:

Yeongju is a city in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea.

Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju is outstanding as a representative temple of the Avatamsaka Sect of Silla Buddhism. Sosu Seowon is the first seowon (Confucian academy) to have had national financial support by way of tax exemptions.

Yeongju is also home to a large Novelis Aluminum plant, employing approximately 1000 workers. This plant provides flat-rolled aluminum sheet products to customers throughout Asia. [1]

Yeongju is home to voer 40 foreigners. They range from being English teachers to factory workers.

Yeongju is also home to an authentic western restaurant called Rave in the Hyucheon area.

In further pursuit of family names, I found something else pretty amazing. Bolding on text is mine. I just grabbed the name Ahn on a whim–and then through that, I found these folks. Don’t recall seeing anything on them before, might be lurking somewhre in my hindbrain… Okaaaay. Wiki-foo hits again.

The Ahn Trio are three Korean American sisters who make up a classical piano trio. Their names are Angella (violin), Lucia (piano) and Maria (cello). Lucia and Maria are twins.

They were trained at Juilliard in New York. They achieved widespread recognition in the United States in 1987 when TIME Magazine featured them in a cover story about “Asian-American Whiz Kids”. In 2003, they were selected by People Magazine as three of the “50 Most Beautiful People” and have been featured in Vogue, GQ and in ads for GAP and Anne Klein.

Lucia, Angella, and Maria thrive on dissolving the barriers between art forms. They have fused their work with that of dancers, pop singers, DJs, painters, installation artists, photographers, lighting designers, ecologists, and even kite makers. Most recently, they performed live at the Czech Grammys with the Tata Bojs, and received critical acclaim for their collaborative project with the David Parsons Dance Company.

Their first recording, of Ravel and Villa-Lobos trios, brought raves, such as Audio Magazine’s “this is one of Ravel’s best and never better played”, and the next, an EMI recording of trios by Dvorak, Suk, and Shostakovich, won Germany’s prestigious ECHO Award. A 1997 MTV appearance on Bryan Adams‘ “Unplugged” program led to the development of “Ahn-Plugged,” which typifies the excitement and energy of the Ahn Trio. Mostly recently, they have created their own label, L.A.M.P (Lucia Angella Maria Productions), to allow them greater freedom to further explore the new, cutting edge projects they have always pursued. It is precisely this vitality and commitment to innovation that has the Ahn Trio continually drawing new audiences to classical music…

Mozart, Locatelli, Meantone Tunings

Music referenced in the "Be Here Now" sections on decoding to unlock the viola case, as in "Kochel’s Savant"

Music referenced in the “Be Here Now” sections on decoding to unlock the viola case, as in “Kochel’s Savant”


  • Op. 1 (1721) – 12 concerti grossi (in F, C minor, B flat, E minor, D, C minor, F, F minor, D, C, C minor, G minor)
  • Op. 2 (1732) – 12 flute sonatas (in G, D, B flat, G, D, G minor, A, F, E, G, D, G)
  • Op. 3 (1733) – L’ arte del violino 12 violin concertos (in D, C minor, F, E, C, G minor, B flat, E minor, G, F minor, A, D “Il laberinto armonico”)
  • Op. 4 (1735) – 6 Introduttione teatrale (in D, F, B flat, G, D, C) and 6 concerti grossi (in D, F, G, E, C minor, F)
  • Op. 5 (1736) – 6 trio sonatas (in G, E minor, E, C, D minor, G “Bizarria”)
  • Op. 6 (1737) – 12 violin sonatas (in F minor, F, E, A, G minor, D, C minor, C, B minor, A minor, E flat, D minor)
  • Op. 7 (1741) – 6 concerti a quatro (in D, B flat, G, F, G minor, E flat)
  • Op. 8 (1744) – 10 trio sonatas (in F, D, G minor, C, G, E flat, A, D, F minor, A)


Ludwig Alois Ferdinand Ritter von Köchel (IPA: [ˈkœçəl]) (January 14, 1800 – June 3, 1877) was a musicologist, writer, composer, botanist and publisher. He is best known for cataloguing the works of Mozart and originating the ‘K-numbers’ by which they are known (K for Köchel).
Born in the town of Stein, Lower Austria, he studied law in Vienna, and for fifteen years was tutor to the four sons of Archduke Charles of Austria. Köchel was rewarded with a knighthood and a generous financial settlement, permitting him to spend the rest of his life as a private scholar. Contemporary scientists were greatly impressed by his botanical researches in North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, the United Kingdom, the North Cape, and Russia. Additional to botany, he was interested in geology and mineralogy, but also loved music, and was a member of the Mozarteum Salzburg.

In 1862 he published the Köchel catalogue, a chronological and thematic register of the works of Mozart. This catalogue was the first on such a scale and with such a level of scholarship behind it; it has since undergone revisions. Mozart’s works are often referred to by their K-numbers (c.f. opus number); for example, the “Jupiter” symphony, Symphony No. 41 K. 551.

Moreover, Köchel arranged Mozart’s works into twenty-four categories, which were used by Breitkopf & Härtel when they published the first complete edition of Mozart’s works from 1877 to 1910, a venture partly funded by Köchel.

He also catalogued the works of Johann Fux.[1][2]

Ludwig Ritter von Köchel died at age 77 in Vienna.

…In the decades after Mozart’s death there were several attempts to catalogue his compositions, but it was not until 1862 that Ludwig von Köchel succeeded. Köchel’s 551-page catalogue was titled Chronologisch – thematisches Verzeichnis sämtlicher Tonwerke Wolfgang Amadé Mozarts (Chronological – Thematic Catalogue of the Complete Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart). The catalogue included the opening bars of each piece, a so-called incipit….

…Köchel attempted arranging the works in chronological order, but the compositions written before 1784 could only be estimated. Since Köchel’s work, many more pieces have been found, re-attributed, and re-dated, requiring three catalogue revisions. These revisions, especially the third edition by Alfred Einstein (1937), and the sixth edition by Franz Giegling, Gerd Sievers, and Alexander Weinmann (1964), incorporated many corrections…

For a selective list organized by genre, with commentary, see List of compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The Köchel-Verzeichnis is a complete, chronological catalogue of compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born 1756) which was originally created by Ludwig von Köchel. It is abbreviated K or KV. For example, Mozart’s Requiem in D minor was, according to Köchel’s counting, the 626th piece Mozart composed. Thus, the piece is designated K. 626. Köchel catalog numbers not only attempt to establish chronology, but also give a helpful shorthand to refer to Mozart’s works.

Wo is Basel? …a friend arrives and helps the Moazarts find the wife’s hair ribbon before going for a drive. “…The first line, ‘Dearest Almond, where is my husband?’ indicates the level of nonsense present here…”

type,+wo+is+Bandel%3F&source=web&ots=4f62VznQNm&sig=ttHP3RhxlRnZ_VcBblrT8KqNfUo&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result here I’d lvoe to grab the text from this pdf file, but it’s not letting me, dammit,

link to a sample of it:

The link to Fuchs was suggestive. Italics mine. I’m thinking something about how Emma dragged them between branes.

Info here:

The Gradus Ad Parnassum (Step or Ascent to Mount Parnassus) is a theoretical and pedagogical work written in Latin language, which Fux dedicated to Emperor Charles VI in 1725.

It is divided in two major parts. In the first part, Fux presents a summary of the theory on Musica Speculativa, or the analysis of intervals as proportions between numbers. This section is in a simple lecture style, and looks at music from a purely mathematical angle, in a theoretical tradition that goes back, through the works of Renaissance theoreticians, to the Ancient Greeks. The words of Mersenne, Cicero and Aristotle are among the references quoted by Fux in this section.

Easley Blackwood and Microtonality

Microtonal music may refer to all music which contains intervals smaller than the conventional contemporary Western


. The term implies music containing very small intervals. By this definition, the following systems are not microtonal: a diatonic scale in any meantone tuning; much Indonesian

gamelan music; and Thai, Burmese, and African music which use 7 approximately equally spaced tones in each (approximate) octave.[citation needed] However, the term “microtonal” is also used to describe music using intervals not found in 12-tone equal temperament, so these musics, as well as musics using just intonation, meantone temperament, or other alternative tunings may be considered microtonal.



Meantone tunings date from the early 1490s, as scholars such as Richard Taruskin and Patrizio Barbieri have pointed out.[citation needed] Since the time of Pietro Aron‘s treatise (Aron 1523), meantone tuning became extremely common and was considered to represent “correct” tuning throughout Europe until 1750 and in England and Spain until 1850.[citation needed]Such meantone tunings sound similar to, but more harmonious than, conventional Western tunings of 12 equal pitches per octave, when performed on an instrument limited to 12 pitches per octave, as long as the composer restricts him/herself to a narrow compass of musical keys close to the root note of the tuning (i.e., if the meantone tuning is tuned starting with C, the keys close to C major will sound like a more harmonious take on conventional Western music; distant keys, however, like Eb minor, will contain highly audibly exotic and sometimes discordant musical intervals.)[citation needed] Some early composers, however, deliberately wandered far afield from the root note of meantone tunings, producing highly microtonal effects in typical renditions of their music. One prominent example is “Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La” by the British virginal composer John Bull (composed sometime between the 1580s and 1610, and included in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book).[citation needed] Such extensive modulation in meantone tuning on a 12-note-per octave instrument sounds “wolf” fifths and other exotic musical intervals not found in contemporary Western music using 12 equal pitches per octave.[vague]

It was quite common in the heyday of meantone tuning to find keyboards with “split” keys or special organ stops, often allowing 13-16 pitches per octave of meantone tuning.[citation needed] In this way music by Handel and many other composers could be played in meantone tuning, maintaining smooth harmony and conventional-sounding melody even as the music modulated to distant keys. Teachers of string instruments, including Leopold Mozart, and of wind instruments, including Quantz, expected their students to distinguish all enharmonic pairs of pitches (like F# and Gb) in their playing, with the sharpened version of one diatonic tone being played lower than the flattened version of the next diatonic tone up.[citation needed] So composers in the meantone era who restricted their harmonic compass were doing so largely because they were writing for keyboard or an ensemble that included a keyboard.[citation needed]

In the decades after Mozart’s death there were several attempts to catalogue his compositions, but it was not until 1862 that Ludwig von Köchel succeeded. Köchel’s 551-page catalogue was titled Chronologisch – thematisches Verzeichnis sämtlicher Tonwerke Wolfgang Amadé Mozarts (Chronological – Thematic Catalogue of the Complete Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart). The catalogue included the opening bars of each piece, a so-called incipit. Did you want that in there? XD-Jlwitwer 9/17/08 10:13 PM yes. All this stuff goes to research page!! -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 11:10 PM

this is so amazingly bizarrely right!!! -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 9:29 PM

More on meantone tuning (from Kyle Gann’s website, “An Introduction to Historical Tunings”):

The generating principle behind meantone was that it was more important to preserve the consonance of the major thirds (C to E, F to A, G to B) than it was to preserve the purity of the perfect fifths (C to G, F to C, G to D). There are acoustical reasons for this, namely – though I wouldn’t want to go into the math involved – that the notes in a slightly out-of-tune third, being closer together than those in a fifth, create faster and more disturbing beats than those in a slightly out-of-tune fifth. (I can confirm this from experience with my own Steinway grand, which I keep tuned to an 18th-century tuning.) The aesthetic motivation for meantone was that composers had fallen in love with the sweetness of the major third, and were trying to get away from the medieval austerity of open perfect fifths. Sad part is I have spent my musical life in love with the medieval austerity of open perfect fifths, and have been trying to get away from the sweetness of the major third. Sigh. -Jlwitwer 9/17/08 10:15 PM ICANT READ THIS!!! -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 11:08 PM Actually, I can hear somebody making this comment of yours. Possibly Emma?? Ah–Pen!! -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 11:09 PM

There was no one invariable meantone tuning; before the 20th century, tuning was an art, not a science, and each tuner had his own method of tuning according to his own taste. The following is a chart of a meantone tuning defined in 1523 by Pietro Aaron.

Pitch: C C# D Eb E F F# G G# A A# B C
Cents: 0 76.0 193.2 310.3 386.3 503.4 579.5 696.8 772.6 889.7 1006.8 1082.9 1200

Because it determines what sounds good, tuning has a pervasive influence on compositional tendencies. Every piece of pitched music is the expression of a tuning. Meantone encouraged composers to use major and minor triads, to avoid open perfect fifths without thirds, and to not stray more than three or four steps in the circle of fifths away from a central key. Renaissance and early Baroque music played in meantone sounds seductively sweet and attractive. By playing it in modern equal temperament, we do violence to its essential nature. Perhaps that’s why this repertoire is no longer often heard. It’s been painted over with the ugly gray of equal temperament.
this is interesting too. -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 11:11 PM Now I want to hear the differences. -Numaari 9/19/08 11:14 PM

Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos

Music that’s referenced in "Paron of the Arts"

Some fun stuff here…
From Google search, not directly Wikipedia:

Music that’s referenced in “Paron of the Arts”

Some fun stuff here…
From Google search, not directly Wikipedia:

…Even though he didn’t call them the “Brandenburgs,” Bach still thought of them as a set. What he did was compile them from short instrumental sinfonias and concerto movements he had already written. Then he re-worked the old music, often re-writing and elaborating where he saw fit. In doing so, Bach created something of a dramatic arc from the brilliant first concerto to the last, which evokes a spirited chase.

Each of the six concertos requires a different combination of instruments as well as some highly skilled soloists. The Margrave had his own small court orchestra in Berlin, but it was a group of mostly mediocre players. All the evidence suggests that these virtuosic Brandenburg concertos perfectly matched the talents of the musicians on hand in Coethen. So how did a provincial town get so many excellent musicians? Just before Johann Sebastian arrived in Coethen in 1717, a new king inherited the throne in Prussia. Friedrich Wilhelm I became known as the “Soldier King” because he was interested in the military strength of his kingdom, not in refined artistic pursuits. One of his first royal acts was to disband the prestigious Berlin court orchestra. That threw many musicians out of work, and as luck would have it, seven of the best ones were snatched up to work in Coethen by its music-loving Prince Leopold.That’s why Bach found such a rich music scene when he started to work there. It gave him the luxury of writing for virtuosos and they let him push the boundraries of his creativity. Concerto No. 2, for example, has the trumpeter play high flourishes. No. 4 allows the solo violin to soar.

When Bach played chamber music, he usually took the viola part so he could sit–as he wrote in a letter–“in the middle of the harmony.” But for the Concerto No. 5 he had a real inspiration. He switched to harpsichord, gave it a knock-out part and, in the process, invented the modern keyboard concerto. The writing is so advanced and so intricate for its time that scholars assume the Fifth Concerto is actually the last Brandenburg Concerto Bach wrote…

Nagas, Nats, Chinese dragons, and divers other mythical serpentine sapients

An early version of Viola Lesson had this bit:


An early version of Viola Lesson had this bit:

Well, that’s a big grownup version of said critter… -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 10:57 PM O_O Dude, yikes-Jlwitwer 9/17/08 10:58 PM I think this one is more common… -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 10:59 PM -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 10:59 PM

An open-air Lingam(symbol of God Shiva) from Lepakshi sheltered by a naga

An open-air Lingam(symbol of God Shiva) from Lepakshi sheltered by a naga

Stories involving the nāgas are still very much a part of contemporary cultural traditions in predominantly Hindu regions of Asia (India, Nepal, and the island of Bali). In India, nāgas are considered nature spirits and the protectors of springs, wells and rivers. They bring rain, and thus fertility, but are also thought to bring disasters such as floods and drought. According to traditions nāgas are only malevolent to humans when they have been mistreated. They are susceptible to mankind’s disrespectful actions in relation to the environment. They are also associated with waters — rivers, lakes, seas, and wells — and are generally regarded as guardians of treasure. According to Beer (1999),[page # needed] Naga and cintamani are often depicted together and associated directly in the literature.

the cobra’s hood. -Heather Gladney 9/17/08 11:04 PM

Gigantic naga protecting Buddha amongst the other sculptures of Bunleua Sulilat‘s Sala Keoku.

Some wiki:

Nāga (Indonesian: naga or nogo; Khmer: neak) is the Sanskrit word for snake or dragon. In HinduBuddhist belief, naga are celestial dragons often able to take human form. They are usually limbless but those with legs resemble the Chinese dragon. Some naga are hooded like cobras and higher ranking ones may have up to nine heads. Even-headed naga symbolise female energy and odd-headed ones are male. The spread of Hinduism and Buddhism took the naga legend throughout South and Southeast Asia.
More info… this site has a *lot* of broken links, very frustrating!

The word Naga comes from the Sanskrit, and nag is still the word for snake, especially the cobra, in most of the languages of India. When we come upon the word in Buddhist writings, it is not always clear whether the term refers to a cobra, an elephant (perhaps this usage relates to its snake-like trunk, or the pachyderm’s association with forest-dwelling peoples of north-eastern India called Nagas,) or even a mysterious person of nobility. It is a term used for unseen beings associated with water and fluid energy, and also with persons having powerful animal-like qualities or conversely, an impressive animal with human qualities.

In myths, legends, scripture and folklore, the category naga comprises all kinds of serpentine beings. Under this rubric are snakes, usually of the python kind (despite the fact that naga is usually taken literally to refer to a cobra,) deities of the primal ocean and of mountain springs; also spirits of earth and the realm beneath it, and finally, dragons.

In Indian mythology, Nagas are primarily serpent-beings under the sea. However, Varuna, the Vedic god of storms, is viewed as the King of the Nagas, ie. Nagarajah.

(the picture shows a naga wrapped around another diety, , with two female nagas to the sides:)

Here we see the king and queen of water nagas worshipping Parshva, the Jain Tirthankara of the era before this one.


It may not be obvious on this one, but some of the naga royalty types where I’m having trouble getting pics do show multiple serpentine heads, with cobra hoods, that merge into one body. Sounds remarkably like a partial-twining process. OF course, if these hoods are capable of EMF manipulation, the wider the scoop over all, the further it can reach.)

Because of its shape and its association with renewal, the serpent is a phallic symbol. This powerful emblem of fertility is thought to bring plentiful harvests and many children — images of nagas adorn houses and shrines and temples. It is said that when a king once banned snake worship, his kingdom suffered a drought, but the rains returned once the king himself placated Vasuki.


The Indian mahasiddha, Nagarjuna, received his illuminating insights and tantric empowerment with the help of the nagas in the lake beside which he meditated. Nagarjuna is one of the main champions of Buddhist philosophy, and is traditionally portrayed with a sunshade or halo formed by a multi-headed serpent. He is called the Second Buddha, partly in tribute to his having established the Madhyamaka [Middle-Way, ie. neither materialist nor nihilist nor idealist] school of philosophy.

See the Buddha’s protector-naga in the process of transforming into Nagarjuna unsheathing the sword of wisdom at the Asian Art web site.

edited to add it finally!!

That gallery one above is a pretty nice pic, but it won’t let me load it into google docs.

I saw a special on nats on Discovery channel (I think) a couple of months ago. -Tina 10/16/08 9:47 PMineresting! I didn’t know that name was associated with these guys. -Heather 10/16/08 7:53 PM There were some locals who felt that their river was being inhabited by them – literally. -Tina 10/16/08 9:56 PM

Same site, discussing Nagas as teachers and metors (ferencing they’re something like centaurs in Greek tradition)

Tradition has it that Buddha Shakyamuni took rebirth in the naga realm just before his last incarnation on earth. Bodhisattvas of the 9th and 10th levels are reborn there in order to obtain empowerments and hidden teachings. By extension, someone reborn in any of the naga realms has the potential of reaching buddhahood in a short time without the need for any intervening rebirth. These so-called naga-buddhas are invoked by practitioners to grant special insight and siddhis [abilities].

Nagaradja (Lhudjal)

The Serpent King and Master of Tantra
(this one doesn’t appear to have multiple heads, just one giant clamshell like structure. The ribbons could of course be clothing…maybe…)

Nats and Naks

In Myanmar (formerly, Burma) a serpent-tailed spirit is known as a nat. Nats are nature spirits associated with trees and other sacred places. The West is the direction of the Nat who is the naga-master of fortune.

he funerary vehicle of a Laotian king drawn by a naga couple.

(These are from Laos. You also notice these guys don’t have a hood at all, just a forward spike. The Thai one below is like this also.)

Further link to Thai symbolism (all of these being slightly different):

The Naga and Makara live in paradises beneath the rivers, lakes and seas. They control the sources of rain and are the guardians of life-giving energy in its waters. On the balustrades to temples they represent both the rising of water to the heavens and the down pouring of rain from the sky. Thus they are powerful symbols in a culture based on wet-rice cultivation.

They may also be seen as linking the earth below to the heaven above by a celestial stairway represented by a rainbow. The colors of the rainbow represent different aspects of the unity of light at their source. The naga stairway, then, symbolically links opposites. It links the world of illusion, the Sea of Samsara upon which the viharn floats, to the formless world of nirvana. Thus the Naga and Makara symbolize the ties that bind man to the world of illusion, and the path that frees man from that illusion.

In one videogame system, Monster Rancher:

They were first introduced in Monster Rancher, and were obtainable at the beginning of the game. They have continued to appear in every Monster Rancher game. Naga was also the fourth and last of the chief villains in the anime series.They are humanoid serpents with stingers on their tails. They are known for being violent and vicious.

They have a variety of attacks, using poisonous fangs. Nagas also use Int-based attacks like their eye beam and energy shots. They are based on the mythological Naga and take their name from them.

In the dungeons and Dragons gaming style, there’s various kinds of nagas.

Amusingly, one is a “chaotic good” Iridescent Naga. Hmm.

In the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, nagas comprise a variety of similar species of intelligent aberrations with widely differing abilities and alignments. Nagas appear as large snake like creatures with humanoid torsos. They often range widely in coloring and scale patterns, but are all usually about the same size. Most will ‘stand’ at a height about equal to or just above that of a regular human (six feet or so), but because of the length of their trailing tails they can raise themselves up by a few feet, to intimidate foes, or simply get a better view. The four most common races of naga are the dark naga, guardian naga, spirit naga, and water naga.

  • Banelar Naga [1] – purplish naga that can manipulate magic items with short tentacles around its face; named after their association with the deity Bane
  • Bone Naga [2] – a unique type of undead naga
  • Bone Naga Template [3] – can be applied to any naga to create an undead creature
  • Bright Naga [4]chaotic evil naga that can mock sorcerous spellcasting
  • Brine Naga – powerful naga that resembles a sea serpent
  • Dark Nagalawful evil
  • Guardian Nagalawful good
  • Ha-naga [5] – a massive and powerful naga lord, often worshipped by spirit nagas as a god
  • Iridescent Naga [6]chaotic good
  • Master Naga – Possesses seven cowled heads, wearing giant gems whose value corresponds with the naga’s age.
  • Spirit Nagachaotic evil
  • Water Naganeutral
  • Worm Naga – powerful servants of the deity Kyuss transformed into nagas