The Human Is an Animal That Schemes

By Whitney Kimball on at

Why apply the word “murder” to “murder hornets”? This is a question that The New Yorker asked on Wednesday. “A murder requires premeditation. We don’t speak of bears or tigers murdering people,” the author explained while laying out their thought process. They suspect that the moniker is a mangled translation of the Japanese “satsujin bachi,” or, “killer hornet.”

This caused considerable back-and-forth at Gizmodo today as we questioned the nature of murder, the nature of premeditation, and the nature of nature itself. Hudson “Mungojerrie” Hongo, Gizmodo’s resident cat, immediately chimed in with his own observation about humans and their deeds. “The core distinction of humans as an animal is Scheming. The human is an animal that schemes,” he explained.

Hmm. Science editor Rose Pastor countered with this spider which makes fake spiders; surely this was an example of diabolically creative scheming. Senior staff reporter Andrew Liszewski jumped in with trickster dolphins who prey on dumbass fish. Damningly, managing editor Kaitlyn Jakola pointed to a chimpanzee troop’s stealth raid on their enemies – war is a scheme of the most insidious variety. But Oxford’s online dictionary defines scheme, the verb, as to “make plans, especially in a devious way or with intent to do something illegal or wrong.” Can animals do crimes?

Pandas suffer covid-19 bamboo shortage

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We love pandas because they eat bamboo, so this news from the CBC was particularly alarming:

Zoo asks for expedited panda shipping in face of COVID-19-related bamboo disruptions.”

A Canadian zoo, no longer capable of obtaining bamboo due to supply chain disruption, is returning two giant pandas to China (they were on loan). “Can you imagine not having bamboo for a few days?” zoo president Clément Lanthier asked CBC News. The PandaCam is already offline, so hopefully they’ve already returned to doing what pandas do best. Eat bamboo.

Things that I have learned from this piece:

Just tell us

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Possibly aware that people can’t storm Area 51 now, or in “fuck-it” quarantine mode like the rest of us, the American government has selected the pandemic as a good time to release UFO documents. The US Navy honoured FOIA requests from The Drive, releasing eight hazard reports involving unidentified flying objects. We’re left with spooky details and few answers: a silver object the size of a suitcase, undetectable by radar, two “balloon-like” objects, a plane-shaped thing with no distinguishable features, and something that could have been a drone or a missile. The Drive notes that the limited set of reports is strange, given US Navy pilots’ repeated assertions that objects were frequently flying around between 2014 and 2015. Hinting at the frequency, though, reports from March and April 2014 state that it’s “a matter of time” before an object collides with an aircraft.

Wuhan to test 11 million people

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Wuhan plans to test all 11 million residents for covid-19 in a ten-day time period, the New York Times reports. For comparison, the US has reportedly tested less than 10 million people in total since the outbreak. The Chinese government has said that the country can now produce five million tests per day. President Donald Trump says America is number one at testing.

The Times adds that Chinese media has admitted that nearly three-quarters of a million tests per day for Wuhan (which would exclude people who’ve been tested) is way beyond the current estimated testing capacity of 100,000. The upside of a quick, massive undertaking is that the city could identify asymptomatic infected residents and isolate them so that they don’t spread the virus.

Feline friend or furry infection vector?

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Researchers stuck a bunch of cats together and found that asymptomatic cats can give each other covid-19. Can they give it to us? Further investigation is needed, researchers write in an open letter, pointing to a 2016 case in which around 45 Manhattan shelter cats caught the avian flu and transmitted it to a vet, as well as covid-19-infected tigers at the Bronx Zoo.

Don’t adapt

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Naomi Klein has coined the term “Screen New Deal” to describe the pandemic-necessitated plethora of digital ventures now supplanting real-world business and community services. Klein observes that the outbreak has accelerated and exposed the race to digitally pave over real-world businesses and hide labourers behind the screen, encouraged by politicians who seem to think that this is a great idea. (The piece was first published on The Intercept earlier this month, but it’s so good that the Guardian re-ran it last week.) An excerpt:

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centres, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploitation. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

The piece is a critical reminder to pay attention to Google and Amazon’s consolidation of power, as they seize an opportunity to cozy up to recently-sceptical governments.

So long, Troll Jack

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Elon Musk isn’t the only tech guy speaking his truth: meet Bitcoin Jack, Jack Dorsey, whose Twitter profile just says “#bitcoin” now. That’s his motto, and he’s sticking to it. We’ll miss the messy bitch who lived for Zuckerberg drama, but all good things must come to an end.

A very large photo

Image: Rijksmuseum

You, who’ve familiarised yourself with every crack and scuff on the walls of your house over the past two months, can now examine every brushstroke of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” courtesy of a data scientist-led imaging team at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. They combined 528 images to reach 20 pixels per micrometre – that’s a 44.8 gigapixel image. Go nuts and zoom for days.

France still bans face coverings, requires face masks

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Per Le Devoir, France’s mandatory facemask policy highlights the absurdity of their face veil ban that targets Muslim women:

“In France, at the moment, a woman who wears a niqab risks a fine of €165, but she risks at the same time, by complying with this law, a fine of €135 by appearing in the metro without a mask.”

Women who wear burqas can also be sent to a mandatory “citizenship” course, the Washington Post reports. “If this temporary situation was painful and difficult for us to live in because it hampered our freedom to come and go, then imagine what the French women who wear the headscarf have been feeling for 10 years,” political scientist Fatima Khemilat told the Post.

Hot dog gets loud

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We’ve reached the outer limits of possibilities with carrots (as bacon), bread (as a frog), and mac n’ cheese (in a MUG). But one voice from the distant void asked: What is the sound of a wiener?

The answer:

Featured image: Getty