Inspirations: Rat Laughter and Blind Rumphius (Biodiversity)

As part of an ongoing effort to encourage further exploration of the topics raised in In Layman’s Terms, we will be updating posts with the inspirations for the pieces found within the issues. Check back frequently for more inspirations!

You can read “Lab Notes” and “We Observe yet Belong to the Creatures” by Devon Balwit in Volume 1: Biodiversity.

Regarding the inspiration for these poems, Devon says, “They come out of my experiences as an amateur naturalist and as someone who loves reading up on the history of science. The sestina on Rumphius was inspired by how in his dedication to documenting what he saw in bright tropical sun, Rumphius blinded himself, but, even blind, he continued to catalogue shells.  [Lab Notes] responds to recent work showing that animals think as we do and engage with the world in ways much more similar to us than different—even at the level of “higher” thinking like morality.

Did you know that some non-human animals laugh?

Here’s a short video to get you started: Rats Laugh When You Tickle Them

Jesse Bering at Scientific American goes into further detail about experiences tickling gorilla toes and rat laughter in their article, Rats Laugh, but Not Like Humans

Understanding laughter in other animals can also shed some light on our own behavior and well-being.  Liz Langley of National Geographic states, “Studies of laughing chimpanzees and rats offer clues about our evolutionary past—as well as our  mental health.” You can read more here: Do Animals Laugh? Tickle Experiments Suggest They Do

Just who is this Blind Rumphius?

Jacob Mikanowski goes into the history of The Doomed Blind Botanist Who Brought Poetry to Plant Description

J. F. Veldkamp explains just how Georg Eberhard Rumpf, better known as Rumphius became “the undisputed patriarch of Malesian botany, zoology, geology (including fossils!), colonial history; pharmaceutical, architectural, juridical (local and Western), ethnological, linguistic, historical, and religious matters, including astrology and magic.” Read more here: Georgius Everhardus Rumphius (1627–1702), the blind seer of Ambon

Do you have more to add? Insights into how these discoveries or people have influenced the world and people that inhabit it? We’d love to hear your comments below!

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