On being nerdsniped by Dynamic Ecology

Photos: Artificial moths from @mothgenerator; thanks to Katie Rose Pipkin for permission to reproduce them here.

Warning: 100% silly.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Jeremy Fox over at Dynamic Ecology nerdsniped me with this link to the Moth Generator twitter account.

If you haven’t seen it, Moth Generator is a clever bot that constructs fictional moths by (somehow) recombining a library of graphic generation rules. For an entomologist and a nerd, like me, this is completely fascinating.  If you’re either or both, I recommend that you check it out.

Jeremy’s nerdsniping of me is based on my well-known fondness for the interesting etymologies of Latin names – see, for just a couple of examples, here and here.  But I’m going to let Jeremy down.  While Moth Generator does provide both common and Latin names for its autogenerated moths, the Latin names are (as I understand it) constructed by combining elements of existing Latin names; as a result, they don’t have much backstory to write a post about.

There’s another functionality to Moth Generator, though.  If you tweet a word or phrase to it, it will add “moth”, use that as a common name, and construct a matching species.  (Unfortunately, such response-generated moths don’t get Latin names.)  My path was clear.  I generated a “Dynamic Ecology moth”:

Then I generated a “Scientist Sees Squirrel moth”:

Now, I don’t know how the moth-generation algorithm works, and there’s surely lots of randomness involved – but I do know that people read tea leaves, tarot cards, and disturbing preparations of the entrails of goats.  So I’m up to the challenge of “reading” the blog moths.

  • The Scientist Sees Squirrel moth is taller and has a broader abdomen than the Dynamic Ecology moth. If you’ve seen Jeremy and me together, you’ll know that’s about right.
  • The Scientist Sees Squirrel moth has rather un-mothlike antennae. This is most likely Moth Generator’s recognition that I’m only a mediocre entomologist.
  • The Dynamic Ecology moth has strongly patterned forewings, but drab hindwings. The Scientist Sees Squirrel moth is the reverse.  This is obviously an indication that Jeremy’s posts only seem more substantive and information-rich than mine; like my moth’s wing patterning, I have hidden depths.  In some posts, like this one, really hidden. Right, Jeremy?

So today we’ve learned:

  1. I’m easy prey for nerdsniping.
  2. Mothgenerator is really cool.
  3. Scientist Sees Squirrel can wander off almost anywhere.

 © Stephen Heard (sheard@unb.ca) May 23, 2017

2 thoughts on “On being nerdsniped by Dynamic Ecology

  1. Jeremy Fox

    “the Latin names are (as I understand it) constructed by combining elements of existing Latin names; as a result, they don’t have much backstory to write a post about.”

    I thought you’d invent an amusing backstory. But I’m equally happy to have a newly-discovered moth named after Dynamic Ecology. 😉


  2. Pingback: Friday links: the Dynamic Ecology moth, life advice from Rich Lenski, and more | Dynamic Ecology

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