Richard Dawkins continues to admire him in his engaging book ★★★★★


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There are many ways to defuse the fly. It is more accurate to remove iron. These are two knob-like protrusions, just behind its wings. Cut it and the fly will spin helplessly. These two small weights are indispensable for its stability in the air. But if you later regret this cruel measure, you can still help fly. a movement. Stick a small feather on his stomach. Then fly again. A bit bulky, yes. Actually only in a straight line. But it works.

Whether you’re a bird, fly, or designer of aircraft, flying is a compromise. Choose either agility or stability. The fly once chose agility. That requires the ability to step in at lightning speed during flight, and thus good senses, a lightning-fast brain, and the right tools, like those dumbbells. At one time there were two wings, but in the fly and all other members of the two-winged family, two of the four wings are reduced to “control knobs”. Two wings, that’s all this graceful family needs. When it comes to flying, less is always better. weight issue. This is why the hummingbird is getting smaller and smaller.

On the other hand, those who choose stability do not need a fast brain and also have to pay less attention to their weight. However, there may still be problems when getting started. Albatrosses (although an easy 10 kg) breed in large colonies, never far from a large strip of flat land that is used as an “amphitheater”. Long wait times and imminent deaths are the order of the day at that airport. And of course everyone knows how far the swan (at the same heavy weight) kicks off. Richard Dawkins writes: “I hear a loud and regular whistling of their wings, and then I hurry to see them take off slowly and with great difficulty from the Oxford Canal, which passes near my window.”

strange phenomenon

rushes to see her. The world-famous biologist, who turned 81, is still fascinated by the strange phenomenon of flight – so strange that he wonders aloud how nature came up with the idea that such a thing is possible. The answer to this question must be that Mother Nature has succeeded countless times over millions of years.

at The miracle of flying Dawkins goes through technical possibilities one by one. You can float on the wind. Or turn your skin into an umbrella. Make yourself as light as possible and turn your fingers, arms, legs, or the edges of your shield into a wing. And if you’re the lucky scale owner, you can take the last genius step: feathers. And you do it all step by step. As long as every step is useful in the struggle for existence, natural selection allows those adaptations to thrive and grow, until eventually flying spiders, dinos, squirrels, mice, fleas, and fish are present.

But there is also a downside. Flight consumes energy and wings are clumsy on the ground. Once you find enough food in there, the wings will be gone again in no time. Then you get emus and penguins. The ant queen does not wait for it; Once it is fertilized in the sky and landed safely, it just nibble at those useless things.

Half a wing is better than nothing

The miracle of flying It effortlessly takes the reader through millions of years and across all continents. In a loose, emphasizing fire style patented by Dawkins (beautifully illustrated by Jana Lenzova). But Dawkins wouldn’t be Dawkins if this book didn’t have a deeper message. The phenomenon of flight occupies a central place in his long-running feud with creationists. How could such a thing arise gradually, is the question that he must answer regularly. What is the use of half a wing for an animal?

That leads him to perhaps the best chapter in this book, on how those weary dinosaurs of yesteryear, with their colorful clothing of “primitive feathers” (perhaps meant for solitude), came up with the idea of ​​flight. Current full and half kites offer plenty of suggestions for how this might happen, but Dawkins conjures a new bird of the top hat: the big-legged grouse. The young of this bird emerge from the egg covered with feathers and can also fly a little. But when danger threatens, they don’t fly away but use their wings as an “assist engine” to climb vertically against a tree trunk as quickly as possible.

In short, Dawkins wrote, there are “many circumstances in which half a wing is better than no wing at all.” Mother Nature is diverse, always experimenting and pushing boundaries. That is why Dawkins never tires of seeing pelicans smash into the sky in the Oxford Canal.

Richard Dawkins: The Miracle of Flight. Translated from the English Roelof Postoma. New Amsterdam; 304 pages 27.99 euros.

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