anonymous asked:

Opinion on people insisting that Pluto is still a planet?

They’re nutcases. Astronomy isn’t about emotional attachments to icy space rocks. They should be glad that science had progressed to the point where we can make these distinctions and categories. What would people think if I said “Aw, birds aren’t mammals? That’s terrible. It’s okay bird, you’ll always be a mammal to me.” These categories hold no intrinsic worth; a mammal isn’t worth more than a bird simply because we are mammals, just like a planet has no more scientific worth than a dwarf planet simply because we live on a planet! And it goes against all science to personify unhuman things and willfully ignore scientific classification. 

It’s weird how cis people care about scientific classification when it comes to gender and sex but totally reject scientific classifications when it comes to Pluto.

Lavender common names are a mess

Three relatively common types are called French, Spanish, and English Lavender, respectively. Sounds informative, right? No.

This is Lavandula stoechas. It’s got the leaves you might expect, but a different sort of flower. It’s native to the Mediterranean, including parts of both Spain and France, and is usually what people mean when they say Spanish Lavender. Some historical texts call it French Lavender. 

This is L. dentata. Its leaves are “toothed” (hence the name) in contrast to the simple leaves that “ordinary” lavenders have. It’s called French Lavender, and it’s native to Spain. It is not the perfume/culinary lavender grown in France.

This is L. angustifolia. Different flowers, see? And the simple leaves you expect. This is the true, or common lavender, the classic one for perfume and such. It’s called English Lavender, of course, since it’s the one that grows in those crazy beautiful fields in Provence, France:

Just to muddy the waters further, there’s also L. latifolia, which is usually called Spike Lavender I believe. It and its hybrids with L. angustifolia are used in perfumes etc. as well. It has wider simple leaves that are maybe sometimes a little toothed on the edge, just to confuse a little, but at least they didn’t name it after a country it has little to do with.

Oh - but lavandin, the hybrid, is called Dutch Lavender! As far as I can tell there is no good reason for this! The main difference there seems to be that it does a bolder branchy thing with its flower spikes. There are other Lavandula species, but now I’m tired.

This has been a Lavender Education post, or Why Common Names Are Really Dumb Sometimes (But I Like Them Anyway).


Carl Jung (Swiss, 1875-1961)

Illumination from The Red Book (Liber Novus), 1913-1930

Everything else is to be derived from this… My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.” - C. G. Jung, 1957

For 50 years after Jung’s death, this artwork was locked in a secret vault. It was shown for the first time in 2009.


Cumulus, Cirrus, Stratus…we have British chemist and amateur meteorologist Luke Howard (1772-1864) to thank for the names we use today for different types of clouds.

In 1802, Howard contributed a paper to the Askesian Society which sought to classify clouds into families and coined their now-common nomenclature.

Our copy of the 1865 edition of Howard’s Essay on the Modification of Clouds - edited by Howard’s grandsons - came with clippings, ephemera, and letters from admiring fans to W. Dillworth Howard and Eliot Howard thanking them for this beautiful new edition of their grandfather’s famous essay. Read the whole essay here.


Moth flies (Psychodidae), also called drain flies, are a small family of true flies (Diptera), not moths, closely related to mosquitos. Some harmless species are often found in bathrooms and kitchens, but the subfamily Phlebotominae  includes several blood feeding species commonly referred to as sand flies.

Scientific classification: Animalia - Arthropoda - Insecta - Diptera - Nematocera - Psychodomorpha - Psychodoidea - Psychodidae

Image sources: 1, 2


Artist Jennifer Trask makes delicate sculptures out of natural objects like bones.

Trask on her work:

Stylistically my work is influenced by the instrumentation and aesthetics of early sciences as well as the actual methodologies of collection and display. Hand engraving on my pieces refers to the scientific method of classification and documentation in the form of Latin species name, chemical notation, or place of origin. I am equally fascinated by the Wunderkammer and Victorian Curios - the displays of odd exotic items in vitrines intended for the ‘salon’ and meant to impress viewers with one’s passion for, and command of, nature itself.


On the twelfth Day of Taxonomy

My true love sent to me

A riotous display of sea anemones!

To ring in 2015, how could we resist the undersea fireworks of taxonomist and illustrator Ernst Haeckel’s sea anemones from Kunstformen der Natur? A popularizer of the then-recent theory of evolution, German biologist Ernst Haeckel helped put Charles Darwin on the map. His 1866 illustration in Generelle Morphologie der Organismen is often cited as the first published depiction of a phylogenetic tree of all life—a map of the evolutionary development of species.

A copy of Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur resides in the Museum’s Rare Book Collection, along with many classics of scientific classification. Satisfy your taxonomy craving on the Shelf Life website, and see more beautiful oceanic illustrations in the new book from Museum Curator Melanie Stiassny, Opulent Oceans

We hope you enjoyed the Twelve Days of Taxonomy–Happy New Year!

YES! I am so HAPPY! I’ve been blundering around the internet; no one seems to have an appreciation for the actual definition of the Latin and greek words being used in scientific classification which is making my research difficult and annoying. but I stumbled upon the most perfect page ever! A nearly complete list of taxonomic etymologies for classification! YES!!!

Check it out Taxonomic Etymologies

I’m so excited! Knowing what I’m writing and seeing in nature is going to be so much easier to find a mnemonic reference to.


The animal kingdom, or zoological system, of the celebrated Sir Charles Linnæus

containing a complete systematic description, arrangement, and nomenclature, of all the known species and varieties of the mammalia, or animals which give suck to their young / Class I, Mammalia :

index to plate explanations here

By Linné, Carl von, 1707-1778 

Archer, J., fl 1-92 , engraver.
Gmelin, Johann Friedrich, 1748-1804
Kerr, Robert, 1755-1813

Publication info; Edinburgh :Printed for A. Strahan, and T. Cadell, London, and W. Creech, Edinburgh,1792.

Contributor: Smithsonian Libraries

Sponsor: Biodiversity Heritage Library

Vampire Squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis)

The vampire squid is a small ( 12-inch-long ) cephalopod found in deep temperate and tropical seas. Originally thought to be an octopus because it lacks the two long tentacles that usually extend past a squid’s eight arms, the vampire squid possesses characteristics of both squid and octopi, and occupies its own order in taxonomy (scientific classification).

Its huge, bright blue eyes — proportionally the largest in the animal kingdom — dark color, and the velvety, cloak-like webbing that connects its arms give the vampire squid its common name. Its scientific name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally means “vampire squid of Hell”! While it does not suck blood like its mythical namesake, the vampire squid is a “living relic” that evolved from an ancestor of the octopus, and its lineage goes back 165 million years in the fossil record.

The vampire squid is an extremophile, inhabiting the dark ocean depths from 2,000-3,000 feet . If threatened, this defensive deep-sea Dracula does not eject ink, as do most of its cephalopod cousins. Nor can it change color to confuse intruders the way its shallow-water cousins can; living as it does in the deep ocean, where little light penetrates, color-changing is a pointless strategy. Instead, the vampire squid squirts a copious cloud of sticky, bioluminescent mucus toward would-be predators (and the occasional research ROV).

(via: NOAA - National Ocean Service)

photograph by Ocean Exploration Trust