Friday, January 28, 2011

Some People Are Really Just Overly Talented

Headline in the NY Times earlier this week: Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution Is Vindicated. (via) Some details:
Nabokov spent much of the 1940s dissecting a confusing group of species called Polyommatus blues. He developed forward-thinking ways to classify the butterflies based on differences in their genitalia. He argued that what were thought to be closely related species were actually only distantly related. At the end of a 1945 paper on the group, he mused on how they had evolved. He speculated that they originated in Asia, moved over the Bering Strait, and moved south all the way to Chile [...]

Dr. [Naomi] Pierce, who became a Harvard biology professor and curator of lepidoptera in 1990, began looking closely at Nabokov’s work while preparing an exhibit to celebrate his 100th birthday in 1999. She was captivated by his idea of butterflies coming from Asia. “It was an amazing, bold hypothesis,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, my God, we could test this.’" [...]

Dr. Pierce and her colleagues concluded that five waves of butterflies came from Asia to the New World — just as Nabokov had speculated. “By God, he got every one right,” Dr. Pierce said. “I couldn’t get over it — I was blown away.”

-- Carl Zimmer, The New York Times, January 25, 2011
This is just breathtakingly cool. Now, I've loved his fiction for years (I first read Pnin in high school, then took a course called "Nabokov" back in college), so I'm wildly biased. Still... breathtakingly cool.

Someone needs to update this book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bro who the hell are you your pofile picture gives me the creeps