Sensibilities 2.3: Ordinary/extraordinary
Welcome back to Sensibilities! Here's some of the far-ranging resources, ideas, and inspirations that have been bouncing around in our heads this November, in the hopes that they pique your interest, jumpstart your creativity, or simply add a little intrigue to your day. Happy exploring!
1 is the Merry Cemetery in Săpânţa, Romania, where the grave markers are as beautifully detailed as they are unflinchingly honest about the lives of the townspeople and the ways that they died:
via Romania Tourism: "When someone in the village dies, the family comes to Pop and asks him to create a cross, which he hand-carves from oak in the small workshop behind his house, just around the corner from the church. Pop alone decides what the picture will portray and what the verse will say. The poems aren't irreverent - they don't mock the grave or its tenant - but some of them do seem, well, a touch indiscreet, telling witty stories of infidelities, indiscretions and a fondness for alcohol. You'd think that some of the relatives might be miffed, but not so, Pop says. 'It's the real life of a person. If he likes to drink, you say that; if he likes to work, you say that ... there's no hiding in a small town,' Pop says, adding that no one has ever complained to him. 'The families actually want the true life of the person to be represented on the cross.'"
2 is the remarkably big-brained experience of being a spider:
via the Atlantic: "In 2008, the researcher Hilton Japyassú prompted 12 species of orb spiders collected from all over Brazil to go through this transition again. He waited until the spiders wove an ordinary web. Then he snipped its threads so that the silk drooped to where crickets wandered below. When a cricket got hooked, not all the orb spiders could fully pull it up, as a cobweb spider does. But some could, and all at least began to reel it in with their two front legs. Their ability to recapitulate the ancient spiders’ innovation got Japyassú, a biologist at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil, thinking. When the spider was confronted with a problem to solve that it might not have seen before, how did it figure out what to do? 'Where is this information?' he said. 'Where is it? Is it in her head, or does this information emerge during the interaction with the altered web?'
"In February, Japyassú and Kevin Laland, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Saint Andrews, proposed a bold answer to the question. They argued in a review paper, published in the journal Animal Cognition, that a spider’s web is at least an adjustable part of its sensory apparatus, and at most an extension of the spider’s cognitive system."
3 is the remarkably big-brained experience of being two:
via Slate: "'I know what this is,' Clark said, crouching to point at the undercarriage of one of his toy trucks. 'It’s the cab that holds the trailer. And this is where the heat comes out. And this is where it moves, if the engine is on.' This impressive lecture on vehicle mechanics followed several minutes in which Clark nonchalantly tried to hide his red toy dinosaur down the front of his mother’s dress. Not once did he stop to wonder if I, his guest, might find such behavior awkward. And I didn’t, of course, because Clark was 2, and what can you expect?
"Parents might wonder if explaining mayors means they should also try to explain more complicated ideas their kid might not grasp: the voting process, the prospect of political corruption, term limits. 'It can’t hurt,' [researcher Anna] Waismeyer said. Anything you say about corruption will likely be over the head of a person who can’t process the concept of lying, she pointed out, but if you use concepts that make sense to them 'there’s never any reason not to present the nuanced picture.'"
4 is the wonder-filled interactive animations of VJ Suave and their "suaveciclos," which put art on wheels and send it out into (and onto!) the streets:
5 is the underwater phenomenon of a halocline, where the difference in density between saltwater and freshwater create an eerie, mirrored boundary: