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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Inaugurated This Day (1889): The Eiffel Tower

In 1889, the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, was inaugurated, becoming the world's tallest tower of its era. With a height of 300-m (986-ft), it remained the world's tallest structure until surpassed by the Empire State Building, 40 years later. The designer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, 56, celebrated by unfurling a French flag at the top of the tower.

The immense iron latticework design was chosen unanimously from 700 proposals submitted in a competition. Construction took from 26 Jan 1887 to 31 Mar 1889, using 300 steel workers. It was erected for the Paris Exposition of 1889, which had 1,968,287 visitors. link

A very young version of The Pixies tip their collective hats to Alex Eiffel:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

We Found The Super-Tribes of Tomorrow (1963) by Alex Toth


My Greatest Adventure #77 (March 1963) © DC Comics
Art by Alex Toth

LIKE THIS?: Read The Spookman!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blackhawk “Madame Butterfly” (1948) by Reed Crandall (plus Jack Cole)

Even though evolutionary biologists have long recognized the size discrepancy (sexual dimorphism) between male and female animals, they have struggled for decades to solve a major paradox: How can males and females of one species be of different sizes, given that they share the same genetic blueprints dictating their development and growth?


To solve the problem researchers followed more than 1,200 caterpillars of the giant hawk moth (Manduca sexta) from the time they hatched, all the way through four molts and until they pupated.

Stillwell and Davidowitz discovered that female caterpillars initiate final larval stage a bit later than the males. By the time the female caterpillars pupate, they are larger, making for larger moths when they emerge.

So where is the advantage in being larger if you're a female insect?

"Biologists think selection favors large females because they can produce more offspring," Stillwell said. link

Modern Comics #78 (Oct. 1948); © DC Comics (probably).
Pencils by Reed Crandall; Inks by Chuck Cuidera

(Is it just me or do those henchmen look too much like they should be working for The Monarch from the Venture Bros. series?)
Ref.: A developmental perspective on the evolution of sexual size dimorphism of a moth. 2010. R. C.Stillwell and G, Davidowitz. Proc. Roy. Soc. B, published online before print on March 10.

Plus, from the same issue, a one-page gag strip by Jack Cole:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shmegeggi of The Cavemen By Harvey Kurtzman & William Stout

Twenty years ago Marvel Comic’s published “Harvey Kurtzman’s Strange Adventures” through their Epic Comics line. The oversized hardcover featured a bunch of Mad-style stories written by Kurtzman and drawn by some of the best in the business.

This story has Kurtzman showcasing his Goodman Beaver character in a different guise, while Bill Stout lovingly channels Frazetta's finest cavemen & women.


© Harvey Kurtzman and William Stout

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Scorpion's Reversible Evolution

Spider-Man © Marvel Comics
Blind scorpions that live in the stygian depths of caves are throwing light on a long-held assumption that specialized adaptations are irreversible evolutionary dead-ends.
According to a new phylogenetic analysis of the family Typhlochactidae, scorpions currently living closer to the surface (under stones and in leaf litter) evolved independently on more than one occasion from ancestors adapted to life further below the surface (in caves).

"Our research shows that the evolution of troglobites, or animals adapted for life in caves, is reversible," says Lorenzo Prendini.. "Three more generalized scorpion species living closer to the surface evolved from specialized ancestors living in caves deep below the surface."

The family Typhlochactidae includes nine species of scorpions endemic to the karstic regions of eastern Mexico. All species in the family have adapted to the dark with features such as loss of eyes and reduced pigmentation.

Three of the species (including T. mitchelli) live closer to the surface and are more generalized morphologically than the other six, making this family an excellent model with which to test and falsify Cope's Law of the unspecialized (novel evolutionary traits tend to originate from a generalized member of an ancestral taxon) and Dollo's Law of evolutionary irreversibility (specialized evolutionary traits are unlikely to reverse).

The results show that adaptation to life in caves has reversed among this group of scorpions: two of the less specialized, surface-living species, T. mitchelli and T. sylvestris, share a common ancestor with a much more cave-adapted species, and a similar pattern was found for the third less specialized, surface-living species, T. sissomi.

"Scorpions have been around for 450 million years, and their biology is obviously flexible," says Prendini. "This unique group of eyeless Mexican scorpions may have started re-colonizing niches closer to the surface from the deep caves of Mexico after their surface-living ancestors were wiped out by the nearby Chicxuluxb impact along with non-avian dinosaurs, ammonites, and other species." link

Ref.: Troglomorphism, trichobothriotaxy and typhlochactid phylogeny (Scorpiones, Chactoidea): more evidence that troglobitism is not an evolutionary dead-end L. Prendini, et al. Cladistics 26: 117-142.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The First Batman (1956) by Bill Finger & Shelly Moldoff

Cover by Sheldon Moldoff
Whoa! Bruce Wayne really became Batman because his Father was the first Batman to put on the iconic costume and catch bad guys? Why isn't this in current continuity?

Pretty convenient, as well, to find a film (with sound!) showing Wayne, Sr., in action!


Detective Comics #235 (Sept. 1956) © DC Comics
Script by Bill Finger; Pencils by Sheldon Moldoff; Inks by Stan Kaye