Insects Frozen In Time

A discovery in India of a cache of 50 million-year-old amber has allowed scientists to discover hundreds of new species of insects.  The insects are stunningly well preserved, so much so that they look like they could escape the amber, shake off the remnants, and hop, stalk, or fly away.

An example of an insect encased in amber from an earlier find in Spain

The photos of the trapped insects are very evocative, because the insects look so much like the insects of the modern world.  They feature antennae, and feelers, and segmented bodies, and lacy wings.  It appears that, in the last 50 million years, there have been no large, developmental leaps for insects — at least, not in connection with body design and external appearance.  Instead, the insects have been biding their time for those millions of years, letting the long roll of years and the forces of natural selection hone and incrementally improve what had already proven to be a very successful evolutionary design.

One interesting aspect of the recent find is that the soft Indian amber in which the insects are encased can be dissolved, allowing scientists to handle the insects themselves.  Imagine, holding an insect that lived 50 million years ago!

Thanks Be To The Hardy Boys

What starts a person reading?  What makes a young child believe that sitting down with some printed pages and a cardboard cover and quietly reading can be an enjoyable way to spend a few hours?

For me, it was the Hardy Boys books.  I’m not sure when I first read one of the Hardy Boys books, but I’m pretty sure I immediately became hooked.  Who wouldn’t be interested in the exploits of Frank and Joe Hardy?  After all, they were two all-American, clean cut lads who lived with their wise, grey-haired Dad, who was a famous private detective, their Mom, and their Aunt Gertrude.  For some unknown reason, they were improbably wealthy — heck, they even owned a motorboat — and they had girlfriends, lots of other friends, and countless adventures.  I religiously collected the Hardy Boys novels, and tried to read every one that had ever been written.  My favorite was Hunting For Hidden Gold, where Frank and Joe were pictured on the front cover digging up a sack of gold coins by flashlight as some bad guy lurked dangerously in the background.

What was it about these books that spurred my imagination?  I’m not sure, exactly.  Maybe it was that the books used old-fashioned words, like “chum,” “sleuthing,” and “jalopy,” and that Frank and Joe had friends with weird names, like “Chet” and “Biff.”  Maybe it was that Bayport, where Frank and Joe lived, seemed to generate mystery about once a week.  Maybe it was that Frank and Joe always were impeccably coiffed and wore v-neck sweaters, no matter what season it was.  Maybe it was that their simple adventures, bravery, pluck, and nerve were just enough to trigger my imagination, but not overwhelm it.

Whatever the reason, the Hardy Boys got me in the habit of reading, and it is a habit that has lasted to this day.  For that, I am grateful to Franklin W. Dixon (and therefore all of the writers who created the imaginary world of the Hardy Boys under that durable pen name).