For a long time I’ve been interested the Snake Detection Hypothesis, which says that it was primates’ co-evolution with snakes that allowed for the rapid development of our excellent vision—we had to be able to quickly recognize camouflaged snakes so they wouldn’t kill us as we coexisted for millions of years in the same habitat. My hunch has been, though I’ve never found any research on this topic, that it’s this same high-contrast pattern detection that allows us to read text, and that the “visual word form area” of the brain is an adaptive overlay on top of the snake detection area. If you look at the pattern on a snake, it kind of looks like text. Which has cool implications for the Eden myth, where it was the snake that taught us knowledge. I have no idea whether or not this is true, but it would be interesting if it is.
Anyway, this paper points toward that hypothesis, showing that the visual word form area is pre-wired into the brains of infants. They put 40 newborns into an fMRI machine and showed that they already have the VWFA. Which begs the question—how could this module have already evolved when majority literacy (let alone universal literacy) is only 75 years old? In 1820, only 12% of the global population could read—yet we already have a pre-wired VWFA just 200 years later? How is that possible? My answer: snakes.
your first words
snaking across the page
parting the grass
A lot of the cool things about this story are in the science paper but not the article: They found mile-long tracks at White Sands National Park and determined it was a girl carrying a toddler, shifting the kid from one hip to the other and occasionally putting it down. She walked in a straight line like she knew exactly where she was going, at about 3.8 mph, so a brisk pace, and then followed the same path back a few hours later without the toddler. During the time in between, a giant ground sloth and a mammoth crossed her tracks. The mammoth just kept walking, but the ground sloth sniffed, then stood on its hind legs to look around, seemingly worried about human predation. A whole mysterious story in these tracks—and what happened to the toddler?
such a long walk into the future fossil
Might it be possible that students are protecting their teachers? “Previous infection with other types of coronaviruses may lessen severity of COVID-19,” says science. In Scotland, we also find that having school-age children decreased risk of severe COVID illness by 17% per child.
in this classroom
every morning the same morning the same squawk of
the ironing board unfolding the clink of spoon against
bowl his oatmeal like tar sugarless the same
voices spilling over it midwestern dialects most bland
therefore most pleasing to that secret place where
proximity stands for comfort repetition the golden
status quo of Good Morning America a car bomb
rocked North Ireland overnight but first how to fold your
linen napkins into swans of origami and lying in bed
as the water ran the swish of steam his hand pressing
hard into Dockers he’d complain to no one about the
pleats about a woman’s work the silence of the
house what he wouldn’t give for a blowjob and a bagel
right now or just a day off his feet and down the
hall in my dark room under comic book sheets
call it the shadow of his second-hand solitude call it
prescience or longing call it letting go or grabbing
on to patriarchy his villainy stripped away with my
presence but for the first time and every time I
wanted to be him in forty years I wanted his grey hair
and grunting acceptance I wanted every day to begin
and end just like it did: bright morning on the yellow
walls warm steam from an iron the day’s news a
garbled redundancy on a small screen of black and white