1398: "Snake facts"

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1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Eutychus » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:23 am UTC

Image

Alt text: "Biologically speaking, what we call a 'snake' is actually a human digestive tract which has escaped from its host."

The snake was the wisest of the animals in the garden, too. Or so it is said.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby standingwave » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:32 am UTC

First?

Venom, not poison. Well done.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby slinches » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:35 am UTC

xkcd wrote:The world's longest snake is found in Brazil, Peru and Chile.

Wow, that is a long snake.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby owneroperator » Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:08 am UTC

xkcd wrote:if you laid out all the bones in a snake end-to-end, you would have a snake


well, you'd have part of a snake.

Does anyone else find this comic, for lack of a better term, lazy? Or have I just come to expect too much from RM?

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby waveney » Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:14 am UTC

For the longest snake to be in Brazil, Peru and Chile it would have to be over 600km long - that is impressive!

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:23 am UTC

That 'longest snake' reminds me of an example from a philosophy class, about the reality (or lack thereof) of abstract objects: we looked at the sentence "The horse is a four-legged animal found throughout Eurasia" and tried to pin down a concrete referent for the phrase "the horse", and someone (possibly the professor) commented that that must be a big damn animal or else travel a whole lot if it is regularly found all throughout Eurasia.

(That discussion is also one of my proud points from school, where I asked the professor "Doesn't this problem just go away entirely if we write 'horses are four legged-animals…' in the plural instead of 'the horse…'?", and he paused, did a double-take back at the sentence at the board, and then said "I hope not" and proceeded to examine whether or not that little bit of rephrasing solved this centuries-debated metaphysical topic that was to be the subject of the day's lesson).
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby The Moomin » Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:36 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That 'longest snake' reminds me of an example from a philosophy class, about the reality (or lack thereof) of abstract objects: we looked at the sentence "The horse is a four-legged animal found throughout Eurasia" and tried to pin down a concrete referent for the phrase "the horse", and someone (possibly the professor) commented that that must be a big damn animal or else travel a whole lot if it is regularly found all throughout Eurasia.

(That discussion is also one of my proud points from school, where I asked the professor "Doesn't this problem just go away entirely if we write 'horses are four legged-animals…' in the plural instead of 'the horse…'?", and he paused, did a double-take back at the sentence at the board, and then said "I hope not" and proceeded to examine whether or not that little bit of rephrasing solved this centuries-debated metaphysical topic that was to be the subject of the day's lesson).


Could the horse not have been cut up with parts dropped off throughout Eurasia?
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby HES » Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:51 am UTC

The Moomin wrote:Could the horse not have been cut up with parts dropped off throughout Eurasia?

Similarly, being centuries old, it is probably dead and decomposed by now. Who knows where its remnants have ended up.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby jules.LT » Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:09 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That 'longest snake' reminds me of an example from a philosophy class, about the reality (or lack thereof) of abstract objects: we looked at the sentence "The horse is a four-legged animal found throughout Eurasia" and tried to pin down a concrete referent for the phrase "the horse", and someone (possibly the professor) commented that that must be a big damn animal or else travel a whole lot if it is regularly found all throughout Eurasia.

(That discussion is also one of my proud points from school, where I asked the professor "Doesn't this problem just go away entirely if we write 'horses are four legged-animals…' in the plural instead of 'the horse…'?", and he paused, did a double-take back at the sentence at the board, and then said "I hope not" and proceeded to examine whether or not that little bit of rephrasing solved this centuries-debated metaphysical topic that was to be the subject of the day's lesson).

"The horse" simply refers to a category rather than a single animal. Did the professor seriously think there was something problematic about that beyond the use of unclear language? :?

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Mutex » Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:46 am UTC

jules.LT wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:That 'longest snake' reminds me of an example from a philosophy class, about the reality (or lack thereof) of abstract objects: we looked at the sentence "The horse is a four-legged animal found throughout Eurasia" and tried to pin down a concrete referent for the phrase "the horse", and someone (possibly the professor) commented that that must be a big damn animal or else travel a whole lot if it is regularly found all throughout Eurasia.

(That discussion is also one of my proud points from school, where I asked the professor "Doesn't this problem just go away entirely if we write 'horses are four legged-animals…' in the plural instead of 'the horse…'?", and he paused, did a double-take back at the sentence at the board, and then said "I hope not" and proceeded to examine whether or not that little bit of rephrasing solved this centuries-debated metaphysical topic that was to be the subject of the day's lesson).

"The horse" simply refers to a category rather than a single animal. Did the professor seriously think there was something problematic about that beyond the use of unclear language? :?


I don't really get it either, unless "the horse species" isn't a concrete enough reference. Which could be argued, since "species" is a fuzzy concept.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby The Moomin » Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:53 am UTC

HES wrote:
The Moomin wrote:Could the horse not have been cut up with parts dropped off throughout Eurasia?

Similarly, being centuries old, it is probably dead and decomposed by now. Who knows where its remnants have ended up.


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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby cellocgw » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:26 am UTC

jules.LT wrote:"The horse" simply refers to a category rather than a single animal. Did the professor seriously think there was something problematic about that beyond the use of unclear language? :?


I mean, it's not like Wittgenstein never happened...


He was a Philosophy prof. Common sense or rules of grammar are far too concrete for him to be able to deal with.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Brace » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:29 am UTC

This post had objectionable content.
Last edited by Brace on Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:40 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:44 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That 'longest snake' reminds me of an example from a philosophy class, about the reality (or lack thereof) of abstract objects: we looked at the sentence "The horse is a four-legged animal found throughout Eurasia" and tried to pin down a concrete referent for the phrase "the horse", and someone (possibly the professor) commented that that must be a big damn animal or else travel a whole lot if it is regularly found all throughout Eurasia.

(That discussion is also one of my proud points from school, where I asked the professor "Doesn't this problem just go away entirely if we write 'horses are four legged-animals…' in the plural instead of 'the horse…'?", and he paused, did a double-take back at the sentence at the board, and then said "I hope not" and proceeded to examine whether or not that little bit of rephrasing solved this centuries-debated metaphysical topic that was to be the subject of the day's lesson).

No, pluralizing doesn't help, because "found throughout Eurasia" isn't marked for number, and so is equally ambiguous either way, at least in English.

Of course, I'd argue that "the horse" as a generic noun doesn't have any concrete reference, as it's referring to the species as a whole, which isn't concrete but abstract.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby da Doctah » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:55 am UTC

owneroperator wrote:
xkcd wrote:if you laid out all the bones in a snake end-to-end, you would have a snake


well, you'd have part of a snake.


Or you'd have just one part of the body art of Ms Robyn Garcia, a tattoo artist I met briefly in a Phoenix comic-book store roughly twenty years ago. (When she showed up on a cable-access show, they didn't mention the snake skeleton tat, but did point out the bite-mark-and-accompanying-bruise carefully inked on her neck.)

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby mathmannix » Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:22 pm UTC

waveney wrote:For the longest snake to be in Brazil, Peru and Chile it would have to be over 600km long - that is impressive!


Actually, it looks to me like it would have to be over 1000 km long! (or 600 miles to use proper units...)

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Locoluis » Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:40 pm UTC

Longest snake ever: Titanoboa, which lived about 60 MILLION years ago, only in Colombia.

Longest extant snake: Python reticulatus (Reticulated python). It's native of Southeast Asia, from Bangladesh to Indonesia and the Philippines.

Longest (and largest) snake in the Americas: Eunectes murinus (Green anaconda). It lives in South America EAST of the Andes, and is neither found in Chile nor Argentina.

Longest snake in Chile: Probably Philodryas chamissonis (Long-tailed snake). Just 1.4 m (4.6 ft) in total length. It's endemic to Central Chile.

There are only a few species of snakes found in Chile. Those that can also be found in Peru only live in the coast.

I'm not knowledgeable about snakes, but I still found the range depicted in the comic quite improbable.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Burton » Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:47 pm UTC

Blue Whale fact:

The blue whale can grow up to one hundred feet (which it uses to scuttle across the ocean floor, stirring up plankton to eat).

Edit: It can also grow up to thirty meters (if it needs to measure pressure depth or oxygen levels or other such things).

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:40 pm UTC

I thought Snake was found on Shadow Moses Island...

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:21 pm UTC

Locoluis wrote:Longest snake ever: Titanoboa, which lived about 60 MILLION years ago, only in Colombia.

Longest extant snake: Python reticulatus (Reticulated python). It's native of Southeast Asia, from Bangladesh to Indonesia and the Philippines.

Longest (and largest) snake in the Americas: Eunectes murinus (Green anaconda). It lives in South America EAST of the Andes, and is neither found in Chile nor Argentina.

Longest snake in Chile: Probably Philodryas chamissonis (Long-tailed snake). Just 1.4 m (4.6 ft) in total length. It's endemic to Central Chile.

There are only a few species of snakes found in Chile. Those that can also be found in Peru only live in the coast.

I'm not knowledgeable about snakes, but I still found the range depicted in the comic quite improbable.

It's not a map of the range of a species of snake, it's a picture of the location of one particular snake. Hence the joke.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby ahammel » Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:16 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote: Of course, I'd argue that "the horse" as a generic noun doesn't have any concrete reference, as it's referring to the species as a whole, which isn't concrete but abstract.

That still leaves the problem of determining the truth value of statements about generic nouns ("horses have four legs"), doesn't it?
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Emperor_Z » Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:16 pm UTC

Locoluis wrote:Longest snake ever: Titanoboa, which lived about 60 MILLION years ago, only in Colombia.

Longest extant snake: Python reticulatus (Reticulated python). It's native of Southeast Asia, from Bangladesh to Indonesia and the Philippines.

Longest (and largest) snake in the Americas: Eunectes murinus (Green anaconda). It lives in South America EAST of the Andes, and is neither found in Chile nor Argentina.

Longest snake in Chile: Probably Philodryas chamissonis (Long-tailed snake). Just 1.4 m (4.6 ft) in total length. It's endemic to Central Chile.

There are only a few species of snakes found in Chile. Those that can also be found in Peru only live in the coast.

I'm not knowledgeable about snakes, but I still found the range depicted in the comic quite improbable.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby RghtHndSd » Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:59 pm UTC

It's not a map of the range of a species of snake, it's a picture of the location of one particular snake. Hence the joke.


Yea, still not getting it myself. Unless the joke is "this statement is utterly ridiculous. Ha ha" in which case I'm glad I don't get it.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby JudeMorrigan » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:06 pm UTC

I'm fairly certain it's also a joke about the shape of Chile. The country, not the fruit.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby jules.LT » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:17 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
gmalivuk wrote: Of course, I'd argue that "the horse" as a generic noun doesn't have any concrete reference, as it's referring to the species as a whole, which isn't concrete but abstract.

That still leaves the problem of determining the truth value of statements about generic nouns ("horses have four legs"), doesn't it?

How so? The statement in common speech really means "typically, horses have four legs", which is clearly true.
It only becomes false if you take it so literally that you consider the existence of any horse with a different number of legs invalidates the statement.

Abstracts can be absolute, but that's because they're simplifications. That's why we use them: they're easier to work with than reality.
In reality, there are almost always fringe cases which don't quite fit.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby tim314 » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:18 pm UTC

The joke is that it *sounds* like he's talking about the range of some species of snake, but then the sentence "It is believed to be over 60 years old" and the accompanying picture reveal that he's making an absurd claim about a single gigantic snake.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Envelope Generator » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:29 pm UTC

We've been 166'd.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Znirk » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:34 pm UTC

Envelope Generator wrote:We've been 166'd.

Or, in this context, boomslanged.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby ahammel » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:54 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:
ahammel wrote:
gmalivuk wrote: Of course, I'd argue that "the horse" as a generic noun doesn't have any concrete reference, as it's referring to the species as a whole, which isn't concrete but abstract.

That still leaves the problem of determining the truth value of statements about generic nouns ("horses have four legs"), doesn't it?

How so? The statement in common speech really means "typically, horses have four legs", which is clearly true.

The sentences "a football team has three goalkeepers" and "a football team typically has three goalkeepers" seem to mean slightly different things, though. In the first case, I would assume that there's a rule or a very strong convention that a football team keeps three keepers on the payroll, whereas if you told me the second thing I would take it to mean that a plurality of football teams employ three goal keepers, but it wouldn't be all that noteworthy to find a team with two or four.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby jules.LT » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:10 pm UTC

Well, something stronger than "typically" that still allows for the fuzziness of reality, then. You get my meaning.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby ahammel » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:18 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:Well, something stronger than "typically" that still allows for the fuzziness of reality, then.

Just saying "something stronger than typically" isn't a way to distinguish true statements about generics from false ones, though, which is presumably what's interesting to philosophers.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Showsni » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:20 pm UTC

The longest snake ever existed on a Nokia 3310 for a single instant, before biting its own tail and dying.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby jules.LT » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:39 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:Just saying "something stronger than typically" isn't a way to distinguish true statements about generics from false ones, though, which is presumably what's interesting to philosophers.
Generics are approximations of reality, and therefore never 100% true if applied to it (although, here again, one could theorize exceptions). The truth value of statements on them depends on how close you look. There's usually an unwritten convention about that, like "of course, we don't count horse amputees".
Only within a rigorously defined (and therefore abstract) framework can they can have definite truth values, like in mathematics.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:40 pm UTC

owneroperator wrote:
xkcd wrote:if you laid out all the bones in a snake end-to-end, you would have a snake


well, you'd have part of a snake.

Does anyone else find this comic, for lack of a better term, lazy? Or have I just come to expect too much from RM?


I was actually more puzzled that he'd never gotten the hang of image maps.

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:07 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Of course, I'd argue that "the horse" as a generic noun doesn't have any concrete reference, as it's referring to the species as a whole, which isn't concrete but abstract.

Right, that was the point of the discussion to begin with.

For context, it was a course on Berkeley, who argued against the concept of "abstract ideas", and claimed that whenever someone thinks of "the horse" in abstract, they are in fact thinking of some particular concrete horse or another; their "idea", which in his terminology meant something like a mental picture, was always some particular concrete horse typifying all horses, and never truly an idea of "the horse" in abstract.

We were then discussing how to make sense, in Berkeley's framework, of employing nominally abstract ideas in sentences like "the horse is a four-legged animal found throughout Eurasia", and my question was effectively just asking whether we could simply rephrase that as speaking of a plurality of concrete objects (the many actual horses that are found each in various places throughout Eurasia) instead of a single abstract object, and so do away with the problem entirely, as if we didn't strictly need to use nominally abstract ideas, we wouldn't need to worry about fitting them into any ontology or not; we could take them as just figures of speech.

The conclusion we reached was no, we couldn't rephrase all abstract talk into concrete talk, because we still needed to deal with things like the four-leggedness of "horses" in the abstract in the face of actual concrete three-legged horses, and so forth. But I was still proud because apparently that wasn't immediately obvious and the professor actually had to stop and consider whether there really was such a simple solution.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby mathmannix » Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:45 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
gmalivuk wrote: Of course, I'd argue that "the horse" as a generic noun doesn't have any concrete reference, as it's referring to the species as a whole, which isn't concrete but abstract.

That still leaves the problem of determining the truth value of statements about generic nouns ("horses have four legs"), doesn't it?


Horses have over two hundred million legs.

According to the UN, in 2006 there were 58,372,106 horses in the world. Each horse has four legs, more or less. The mean is probably very slightly under four, but close enough to 4 for estimation purposes. Unless the number of horses in the world has gone down significantly in the past 8 years, there are at least two hundred million horse legs out there.

The mean horse has only three legs, however. (I am thinking of a specific mean horse. That is why he is mean; he hasn't got a leg to stand on, and he knows it.)

Another horse, a horse which is greater than the mean, has more legs. Two legs in the rear, and forelegs in the front. That makes six legs, which is an odd number.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby speising » Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:04 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:Each horse has four legs, more or less.

[citation for "more" needed]

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby Whizbang » Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:07 pm UTC

speising wrote:
mathmannix wrote:Each horse has four legs, more or less.

[citation for "more" needed]


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEsOK4CZdZI (perhaps NSFW, or at least might make you feel awkward)

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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby jules.LT » Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:17 pm UTC

Can't find a specific example of horse polymelia, but there's little chance that it never happened.
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Re: 1398: "Snake facts"

Postby speising » Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:23 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:Can't find a specific example of horse polymelia, but there's little chance that it never happened.

ugh, the pig image is gross.


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