Friday, September 7, 2018

Trouble holding gyms? Think like a lizard.

Okay, I've already blogged on side-blotched lizards under the metaphor of rock-paper-scissors. But let's go for a different game as a metaphor: Pokemon Go. Before we begin, I'd like to mention that I'm Team Instinct, but will try not to introduce bias.

Okay, so before we begin, let's introduce both our lizards and our metaphor. So, the side-blotched lizard, a desert species found throughout the Southwestern United States, has 3 color morphs, namely a reddish-orange morph, a blue morph, and a yellow morph, each of which have male lizards with different mating strategies.
And Pokemon Go, our chosen metaphor, has 3 teams players can join. Which also happen to correspond to the previously mentioned colors. Remember the team names, I'll use them to refer to the lizards.
So, we need to know some stuff about strategy. Both of our groups are interested in holding territory, but for different reasons. Our lizards want to hold territory because then they get free rein of all the females on their territory and can spread their genes to later generations. And our Pokemon Go teams want to hold territory, in the sense of gyms located at places like parks, churches, and public art, to get in-game currency and show off how awesome they and their Pokemon are.

Then getting further into strategy, there are some fundamental differences in what strategies the teams and lizards use to hold territory, which happen to conveniently parallel each other.

Valor or the reddish-orange lizards get bonuses in gym battles, and thus tend to hold large numbers of gyms and defend them aggressively. Valor (red-orange) lizards hold large territories with large numbers of females which they aggressively defend, essentially holding a private harem. One of their main issues is that the aggression means they compete with each other over females. And yes, I can confirm that Valors do that.

Instinct has the fewest members in Pokemon Go, and yellow lizards generally don't actively hold and defend territories of their own, instead taking advantage of the fact that Valor lizards have so many females in their harems they can't keep track of them all and mate with unguarded females when the Valors aren't looking. They use small size and coloration similar to that of females to do this. I won't disclose whether Instinct members in Pokemon Go do that, that's confidential information.

Mystic has the most members in Pokemon Go, and both Team Mystic's members and blue lizards gain advantages and territory by working together. Blue lizards are monogamous and focus all their attention on one female. This means that they don't have to compete with each other over females and actively work together, warning each other about intruders and even sacrificing themselves for their comrades. I haven't seen a Team Mystic member do that yet, but I wouldn't put it past them.

So that's great, but what about when the teams interact? But you see, their strategies keep each other in check. This is in reference to lizards, in Pokemon Go, it varies depending on team balance in your area.

Mystic<Valor because Valor lizards possess enough aggression and testosterone to chase off Mystic lizards from their territory, even in large numbers.

Instinct<Mystic because Mystic lizards are too vigilant about their females to let Instinct members sneak in and mate with them.

Valor<Instinct because Valors keep so many females that they can't defend all of them.

And then, we finally have a question. If this happens and the teams are fighting each other, wouldn't one of them eventually win out? Wouldn't evolution favor one team and result in the rest dying out?
The beauty of this is that the teams' strategies counter each other. Each group of lizards keeps one other group in check, and thus everyone gets mates/territory/gyms. And such, by fighting and competing with each other, they maintain balance. In many ways, their competition isn't really competition so much as evolutionary collaboration. Is that true for Pokemon Go? We'll have to see. And by the way-you want to maintain your gyms? Think like a lizard. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018



Saturday, September 23, 2017

A New Theory of the Evolution of the Hissi

All Neopets terms, characters, etc. are copyright Neopets, Inc 1999-present.

Hello, Neopians. What you are about to read is not an article in the traditional sense, but rather a transcript of a talk from the Annual Neopian Conference of Biology, hosted at the University of Brightvale. This talk, by Researchy, the famed Fire Hissi scientist, proposes a new theory of how the Hissi, that serpentine Neopet we've all grown to love, came into existence. Please enjoy this edifying view of what your Neopet truly is.

Researchy: Greetings! Thank you all for coming out all the way to Brightvale to hear my talk. So, today, we're going to be talking about Hissies. If you don't know what a Hissi is, just look at me since I am one. We all know and love Hissies, but do we really know where they came from? Not necessarily.

The current theory of how Hissies evolved is widely accepted but may or may not be true, having much of its bases in legend and anecdotes. This theory summarizes to this: that long ago, there was an island that had a large population of Cobralls, Wadjets, Magtiles, and other serpentine Petpets. However, a rogue blast of Faerie magic launched that island into the sky, resulting in the Petpets having to develop wings. We know that island today as the Darigan Citadel and many consider it to be the ancestral home of all Hissies. But, there's a major hole in that theory. Namely, that if the Darigan Citadel were where the Hissi as a species developed, wouldn't more Hissies look like the Darigan Hissi?

But they don't. In fact, most Hissies don't look anything close to what they would really need to develop in the Darigan Citadel. Due to its location, the Citadel has a very cold climate, making it almost hostile to ectotherms such as the Hissi. Very few reptilian Neopets live on it because of this, and if they do, they generally have fur.

But the Hissi doesn't look like this. It actually looks much like it evolved in a warmer climate, having smooth scales but virtually no protection against cold temperatures.

But what warmer climate would the Hissi have evolved in? We are assuming it evolved from some sort of serpentine Petpet, but which one would it be? We are now going to discuss many serpentine Petpets found in warm climates and what the Hissi would be like if it evolved from them.


Tyrannia has a hot, humid climate ideal for reptilian Petpets to grow and thrive. It has two serpentine species,  namely the Magtile and the Reptillior.

It's hard not to notice a Reptillior's huge fangs and gleaming red eyes, making it look very intimidating and aggressive. And you must admit that it does have many similarities to the Hissi, such as the shape of its eyes and the spots on its head. But, if Hissies evolved from Reptilliors, why don't they have huge fangs? If they evolved from Reptilliors, wouldn't more Hissies look like this?

But they don't, bringing us to our next Petpet.

The Magtile is often said to be a cross between a maggot and a Reptillior, but such a pairing is impossible and makes no sense genetically. This Petpet does look much more similar to the Hissi than the Reptillior, having the slitted pupils and small fangs we often associate with the Neopet. Geneticists are currently looking into whether this is a viable ancestor.

Mystery Island

Mystery Island used to have much more wildlife than it does now, most of it being driven out by the island's growing focus on tourism. However, the one serpentine species that still exists on the island has been driven into Geraptiku. And here it is.

The Quetzal, to be honest, looks like a cross between a Pteri and a Wadjet! Analyzing it, it has almost no relation to Hissies whatsoever. The closest Hissi match we have to it is the Faerie Hissi, which exhibits similar feathers and bright coloration.


Shenkuu is rather cold and humid, but somehow a serpentine species has managed to exist there. Normally, we'd dismiss species like this, assuming them to be dragons and therefore more closely related to Draiks, but as analysis has shown this Petpet to be very closely related to the Hissi, we must take it into account when trying to piece together an evolutionary history. If it were related to the Hissi, the closest match to it would be the Maraquan Hissi, as both are adapted to be aquatic.

The Lost Desert

The Lost Desert is just about the warmest place in Neopia apart from Moltara, and exhibits remarkable reptilian diversity. There are two species of serpentine Petpet that can be found there, both of which have some quite interesting implications in relation to the evolution of the Hissi.

The Wadjet has a quite interesting history, being worshipped by ancient royals of Sakhmet and playing an important role in Brucey B's adventure, but neither of those things are relevant to the Hissi's evolution. At first glance, the Wadjet looks more like strange jewelry than a Neopet, but under closer examination, it appears that its characteristic bumps have remarkable similarity to the bases of the Hissi's wings. However, it seems that this species concurrently evolved with the Hissi, as there is no relation between them whatsoever other than some vague similarities that suggest an ancient common ancestor.

The Erisim looks almost exactly like the Hissi, having the same slitted eyes, smug expression, belly scales designed for climbing, and wing-like hands as the Neopet. However, it appears that like the Wadjet, this species concurrently evolved with the Hissi, having only vague relations to it.

However, despite not forming an evolutionary history of the Hissi, these observations raise an important question. If these serpentine Petpets and the Hissi have an ancient common ancestor, then what would that ancestor be? For this question, we turn to looking at various serpentine creatures that existed long before the Hissi, possibly as long as Neopia itself...

The Snowager

This is possibly Neopia's most infamous serpentine resident, breathing ice, terrifying young Neopets, and frustrating avatar hunters since the Month of Celebrating, Y2. However, it obviously has no relation to the Hissi whatsoever, because it makes no sense that a Neopet adapted to warm climates would have sprung from a creature made entirely of ice.

The Snake Dragon

Research into the ancient history of Neopia has uncovered a curious creature known only as the Snake Dragon. This vague image, laden with the gradient fills of Neopia's past, is the only record we have that it ever existed. Looking at it, we see all the features of the Hissi. The serpentine body. The slitted pupils. The flared nostrils. The fangs. The forked tongue. But, our only record of it is that it was in the Gallery of Evil at some point. Because of this, we have no way of knowing whether it was an actual creature or just a legend. However, if it ever did exist, it probably would be the ancient ancestor of all Hissies and other serpentine creatures in Neopia, based on the fact that it seems to have existed at least as early as Y2, probably earlier. We have no way of knowing where this creature originated, but a vague image of a creature quite similar to it has been found, supposedly from either Kreludor or the Space Station.

If this creature is the same species as the Snake Dragon and it does exist, it is possible that the Hissi's ancient ancestor is an extraneopian creature. What would this mean for the theory of the Hissi and Neopia as a whole? If one Neopet originated from outside the world, does this mean that Aishas came from the mysterious Aliens that we only know as peddling gross food items? Does this potentially mean that no Neopets are truly Neopian? All we can do is wait and see to determine the true history of these creatures we've grown to love so much.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In support of the #MarchForScience

Hello, faithful followers and members of the resistance. To those of you who are marching, I wish I could be with you, but I happen to have a cheerleading competition today and I can't support my team by retweeting. But, in these troubled times, here is one thing I want you to keep in mind. 

 You are not alone.

Don't think of this resistance as scientists vs. the rest of the world. It's not. It's more like scientists, hunters, fishermen, gardeners, and anybody else who likes the environment, animals, and truth vs. the current administration. You as scientists may not like things like the hunting and fishing community, but we must ally ourselves with them. They provide a voice for nature that the Republicans will listen to. But, don't think of the situation as hopeless either. Companies like Exxon-Mobil and many others are working on becoming more environmentally friendly, and regardless of what Trump does, they will continue their work on becoming a sustainable, moderns solution. I can't tell you everything is going to be okay. I wish I could, but I can't. Not in voice, or in this blog, or anywhere. But I can tell you that there is still hope and you are supported. Anyway, have a good day and continue resisting, marching, studying, and being awesome.


Friday, February 24, 2017

An Analysis on the Phylogeography of Pokemon

All right. Let's take two iconic salamander-like Pokemon. Wooper and Mudkip. One from the Johto region, the other from Hoenn.
All images and Pokemon information from Bulbapedia.
Just looking at them, you can immediately see some similarities. Like, for example, the head and tail fins, the eyes, or the coloration. But the similarities between these two Pokemon extend beyond simple appearances, and are detailed in the following Powerpoint slide.
Click to enlarge.
It is obvious from this that these two species are very closely related. They possess many similar traits in their deeper statistics and information including:
  • Typing: Both Wooper and its evolved form, Quagsire are Water and Ground-type Pokemon. Mudkip is a Water Pokemon, but its evolved forms Marshtomp and Swampert are Water and Ground type.
  • Abilities: Both Mudkip and Wooper have the ability Damp.
  • Coloration when shiny: Both Mudkip and Wooper are pink or purple when shiny.
  • Height: Each of these Pokemon has the same height of 0.4 meters or 1'04".
It can be reasonable concluded from this that these Pokemon are very closely related. As the Hoenn region is an island south of the Johto region, it can be theorized that at one point Hoenn and Johto were connected and a population of Wooper's range extended into Hoenn, and to adapt to the climate, they evolved into Mudkip. This explains both the similarities between these Pokemon and the reason that although Mudkip occurs in Hoenn, Wooper does not. However, an alternate theory is that both Wooper and Mudkip evolved from the same common ancestor, a salamander-like, Water and Ground-type Pokemon that occurred in both Johto and Hoenn. It may have looked like this.
Anyway, this was Alli of Alli's Snakes, participating in her hobby of taking video games and such way too seriously.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Protista and Fungi #sciart

The junk drawer metaphor is from the biology book I'm currently doing, the Holt McDougal high school book. It has been paraphrased. Also, don't complain about accuracy. I am going to assume that my random unidentifiable blobs have at least one protist somewhere that looks like them.
Sketches of the types of "animal-like" protists.
Poor algae cell. 😢
It's a bioluminescent dinoflagellate.
They just look so happy!
Some of the types of fungi. Those molds are adorable.
Even the hyphae are cute!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The hidden secrets of Microsoft Bob

The last time I investigated and tried to unlock the secrets of obscure software from the mid-1990s, I mentioned at the end that I wanted to get Microsoft Bob. Anyway, for Christmas, my dad, who's a computer programmer, managed to find Microsoft Bob. Don't worry, he scanned it for viruses. Once we managed to install it and get Bob to locate UTOPIA.DLL, I could begin. I gladly told the adorable dog my name, address, and anything else he needed.

Because who can say no to that face?
I immediately got to playing around, deciding to create a sun room for myself. I spent happy time angling perspective, size, and everything to make the perfect room. At the end of it all, I felt much more satisfied than I perhaps should have.
Admit it. You want to live here.
I noticed something very interesting. Bob, from 1995, has an eerie grasp of the future. First, here's Bob's "Postmodern" computer. Look familiar?

It probably runs Windows CE.
And also, the big, boxy, tan-colored plastic, big enough to wear out your back, good old 1990-something CRT monitor is listed as Retro. Think about that.
Computers looked like this back then. Unless you were a hipster with an LCD.
This was my first whiff of a breath of an inkling that something was horribly, horribly wrong. But before that, I designed two more rooms, namely a bedroom and a garage.
My dad wants that convertible.

Don't ask how the clock is on the easel.
Then, I went to design another room and explored the decorating options. I found something that quite disturbed me and did not belong in the happy, friendly, virtual dollhouse I thought Bob was. Namely, this. Those dark red pixels you see? That's blood.
Is that Bill Gates's blood?
I investigated further with the rooms in the same decorating style as the guillotine and found some quite eye-opening descriptions implying something has happened in the Bob house that Bob and Rover are trying to cover up.
Click to enlarge.
I decided to interrogate Rover.

Most of these are just comical non sequiturs, but the last two interest me. Ruby, eh? A mysterious woman? Using bribes of alcohol to get in? She's probably got Hopper under her complete control. In fact, she's probably the mistress of the whole thing. And Orby's mountain moving powers? Wouldn't they be good for say, burying the body of somebody Ruby guillotined? But then I realized, "No. It's not Ruby. It's the whole thing." That's why I've developed this theory. Microsoft Bob contains secret subliminal mental messages in its primitive graphics that slowly kill the user. Eventually, Microsoft discovered these and pulled the product. But in the meantime, Bob was very unpopular because anyone who used it died. And the blood on the guillotine? That belongs to Bob. And who did it, you may ask? I'm going with Ruby. She just doesn't seem trustworthy. Merry Christmas, people. And if this is my last post, I love you all.

Update:Apparently my Ruby theory is backed up by canon.