Guglielmo Marconi by Giancarlo Masini

By Giancarlo Masini

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Extra resources for Guglielmo Marconi

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He introduced me to animal behavior and taught me many facts about the social and psychological lives of other creatures. More to the point, he taught me how to interact with them as equals, as fellow living organisms. But he could have taught me all of that and still I could have left his charge without becoming a biologist. The key to my future, which he alone among most people around him could supply, was his understanding that natural selection referred to individual reproductive success, that it applied to every living thing and trait and that thinking along the lines of species advantage and group selection, the then-popular vogue, had little or nothing going for it.

Nor was his or her death wasted (from a human standpoint). Immediately, the carcass was hauled back for parasitological inspection. The visual cues were the pupae or late larvae of flies, such as nose-bot flies. It was astonishing to see the entire nasal cavity of a deer nearly completely occluded by a series of fat insects the size of the tip of your thumb. These were waiting to finish molting in July, drop to the ground, and emerge as adult nose-bot flies, females seeking out males and then the nasal passages of caribou, within which to lay their eggs.

In Bill's view, it was always better to try to see the world from the view of the other creature. One of Bill’s deepest lessons was in how to view other organisms in a way that took into account that the very act of viewing has its own effects. This was the Heisenberg uncertainty principle applied to biology. The first lesson is to try to see the other creature from its own standpoint, and the next is to avoid affecting its behavior while you watch it. Watching an animal can set up contradictory effects.

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