19 July 2006

Look! Up in the Sky!

I've been sloshing cold water over myself with a flannel every so often, and I don't appear to have spontaneously combusted yet. The Met Office have now changed their tune and are predicting that tonight will be cooler even in the absence of a thunderstorm -- although I see there's one due already in Cornwall, so maybe we're supposed to be getting the benefit of that.

I've been thinking some more about the cats' divergent attitudes to rotary ceiling-fans. It seems odd that Scully should be so afraid of them, since as far as I know (and it would be a little unlikely around these parts) she's never been threatened by an aerial predator. It's particularly odd since she's usually by far the braver of the two: Mulder has a terror of strangers, doors that suddenly open, suits, plastic bags and the like which borders on the existential, while Scully's usually serenely unbothered by anything except (not unreasonably) small children.

Presumably Scully's phobia[1] is a hard-wired instinct that would have been a survival trait in ancient Egypt, where eagles and the like were considerably more common than in modern south-west England. This does, however, raise the question of why Mulder doesn't share it. Surely if it's a survival trait for one individual, it should be generally useful to the whole species?

The answer, I presume, is one of genetic diversity. Certain humans suffer from a fear of spiders or snakes or decay, a healthy range of phobias in the population ensuring that the survival of the species is protected against many different dangers, while leaving most of its members able to deal with everyday occurrences like retrieving spiders from the bath, wrestling anacondas or coping with the compost bin.

I'm not sure of the mechanics of how such a diversity would actually evolve... but it certainly means that Scully will be the better placed to survive should Bristol ever be beset by an infestation of gigantic rotating predatory birds, especially ones which specialise in hovering just underneath ceilings to await their prey.

Mulder, on the other hand, will be much more likely to survive in the event of a heatwave.

In entirely unrelated news, if we're still alive this evening we're going to see Superman Returns[2]. Hurrah!

[1] Possibly rhipiphobia, if this is anything to go by. Although "fan for making it less bleeding hot in your bedroom" isn't listed among the options.
[2] B. and me, that is, not me and the cats. I think the idea of a flying man would traumatise Scully for life.

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