After Earth: pheromones, murder-birds, and language evolution

This movie

Not well reviewed. Will Smith’s “painful failure.” The real twist is the lack of explanation for things. Jaden Smith wisdom.

Accent and language

The future “language” in the film. The difference between accent and dialect. how languages change over time, by example. Trying to understand original spoken Shakespeare and generally succeeding. Trying to understand original spoken Beowulf and completely failing. The mutual intelligibility of Old Norse and Old English.

Creatures

Surprise! There are aliens and they want to kill us. Engineered animal-weapons (the “Ursa”). Improving the Ursa design: giving guns to blind animals for fun and profit. Komodo dragon-mode leeches. Evolving from parasite to hunter. The combat techniques of butt-spiking murderbirds (shrikes).

Phereomones

“Smelly handshakes.” Mammary pheromone response in human infants. Getting used to stinky things. Tales of accidental moth pheromone pranks.

Quarantine earth

Surprising evolutionary directions in the absence of humanity. Even a thousand years later, baboons still don’t appreciate getting hit with rocks.

Atmosphere

The dangers of low atmospheric oxygen. Using the top of Everest as marker for O2 danger. Climbing Everest in shorts.

Links

In Our Time – Pheromones: BBC
“Butchering Bird” (the shrike): YouTube
Eddie Izzard “Babies on spikes” bit without any context: YouTube
Lion scent-marking with non-scientific audio: YouTube