Insatiable curiosity

Where to begin?

In the middle, perhaps. Skip the intro, skip the formalities and plunge into the deep end where the wild things live. In this case, that means my brain, an untidy collection of unlabeled boxes that may contain just about anything. Half the time I don’t even know what’s in ’em which means I am endlessly confounded by the contents. My brain is like the perennial Trickster god of folklore, leading me down one path until I am just starting to feel like I know where I’m going and then pushing me off the edge of a – surprise! – waterfall. I picture it peering thoughtfully over the edge as I go rocketing down into the abyss and musing, “I hope to hell she can swim.”

You see I am insatiably curious. Not in the normal sort of hmmmm-that’s-interesting sort of way, but in the “holy-shit-tell-me-more-right-now” sort of way – a way that sometimes causes even my closest friends to begin frantically pulling things out of my medicine chest and begin muttering something about locating my psych meds.

Curiosity is an aphrodesiac to me. It’s the drug I give my mind after work. It’s a structure-free, self-organizing storm of pure synaptic pleasure that leads me down Google-lane riffing effortlessly from music to ethology, from neuroscience to religion. It takes me to all the “Keep Out” places when I am hiking. It neatly bypasses my childhood “Don’t touch that” programming. It mercilessly plows through social norms and concerns of future consequences. It’s almost like a Tourette’s tic, which incidentally gives me the additional perverse pleasure of knowing that the “You may also like” section of any given website is totally screwed when it comes to applying arcane algorithms to produce my personalized ad offerings.

And speaking of tics, (or in this case, ticks), today I am celebrating insatiable curiosity with a shout-out to Tony Goldberg. Whether  or not Tony goes down in the annals of history as a renowned scientist is a subject for the trained professionals who give out science prizes. For the moment at least, he shall have to settle for the meager satisfaction of winning the Debut Blog Post Insatiable Curiosity award.

Tony is a patho-biologist who wrote a piece for The Guardian entitled, “Experience: I discovered a new species up my nose” which landed up on my facebook wall today. A National Geographic blogger wrote about this incident in October, so apparently the information has been out there for awhile and doubtlessly passed around like a communion plate, but nonetheless it was new to me.

Two things fascinated me about the article.

First, there is the discovery of a new species of critter that has evolved specifically to burrow beyond the reaches of even those most dedicated nose-picker or social groomer. This, alone, is one of those things that makes me say “Well played, Mother Nature. Well Played.”

Second, there is the intrepid scientist, Tony Goldberg, resisting the temptation to run screaming from  the house, pawing at his face and yelling, “Get it out! Get it out!” Put yourself in his shoes – I mean really, really visualize it – and tell me that you would have the presence of mind to gather the proper equipment for a delicate DIY tick extraction, then drop the little bugger (forgive the corny play on words) into a Ziploc, mail it off for DNA analysis and then, after receiving the results (“Eureka! A new species!”), publicly thank the tick for inserting itself into your nasal cavity. Insatiable curiosity trumping inherent fear. That, my friends, is a noteworthy achievement.

I hope you will all take the time to read the article and give the man some mad-ass props in his comments section because it is an interesting piece and worth the read, if only to use as inspiration for your own scientific inquiries.

For the inquiring mind, there are 899 species of ticks worldwide according to Purdue University. Certainly enough material to keep a budding entomologist or epidemiologist busy for a lifetime. And for you homeschoolers, particularly if you live in a rural area or like to hike, share the Purdue page with your kids. It does contain information regarding the proper way to remove a tick (practical application)  as well as interesting information about its life cycle (science lesson material).

Question of the day: Why do you think nose-picking is considered such a gross violation of social norms, scoring as high on the scale of repugnant habits as. . .oh, say. . .farting in a crowded elevator? It seems logical that one would be more unacceptable than the other, however we humanoids have viscerally lumped them both together. I wonder why that is so.

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One thought on “Insatiable curiosity

  1. Tracy Smith says:

    Good start! You’ve given me a nice bit of healthy guilt to return to my dormant blog!

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