The Thinking 
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Why Do Cicadas Sing?

August 1, 2009

Some people dislike the insistent drone of cicadas. Cicada-song grows intense in this part of the world in August. I consider it one of the greatest of nature’s sounds, comparable in beauty to waves hitting the shore. It drowns out man-made noise and calls to mind times past.

Jean Henri Fabre, the 19th century French entomologist, investigated the widely-held belief that the cicadas’ song was purely a mating ritual. His investigations probably would not meet modern scientific standards, but they are fascinating. He wrote:

For fifteen years the Common Cicada has thrust his society upon me. Every summer for two months I have these insects before my eyes, and their song in my ears. I see them ranged in rows on the smooth bark of the plane trees, the maker of music and his mate sitting side-by-side …. Whether drinking or moving they never cease singing.

It seems unlikely therefore that they are calling their mates. You do not spend months on end calling to someone who is at your elbow. Indeed I am inclined to think that the Cicada himself cannot even hear the song he sings with so much apparent delight ….

On one occasion I borrowed the local artillery, that is to say the guns that are fired on feast days in the village. There were two of them, and they were crammed with powder as though for the most important rejoicings. They were placed at the foot of the plane trees in front of my door. We were careful to leave the windows open, to prevent the panes from breaking. The Cicadas in the branches overhead could not see what was happening.

Six of us waited below, eager to hear what would be the effect on the orchestra above.

Bang! The gun went off with a noise like a thunderclap.

Quite unconcerned, the Cicada continued to sing. Not one appeared in the least disturbed …

I think, after this experiment, we must admit that the Cicada is hard of hearing, and like a very deaf man, is quite unconscious that he is making a noise.

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Should Smart Women be Housewives?

August 1, 2009


Jen writes:

After reading several of your posts, I’m intensely curious to know how you believe the mother’s childrearing “cycle” should go. If a housewife/stay-at-home-mom places the utmost importance on education for their children, a HUGE reason for staying home to literally raise their own children, what would be the expectation for their children to grow up to be? To further clarify, I read an article written a few years back about how many students at Ivy Leagues have decided to discontinue their careers and become stay-at-home moms once they have children.
Should the quest to give their children a chance to have amazing learning opportunities (given at Ivies and top-tier schools) be dropped down in prominence over the teachings of cooking and cleaning? I’m vastly serious here.

I’m curious to where this cycle began. Many of those children were also raised by their moms (as opposed to daycares and the like I mean). But did those moms invest energy, time and resources in preparing their little girls for the ivy league just to have them quit…….and eventually do the same to the grandkids? What if their children were truly gifted in the sciences or math? Should they not pursue becoming doctors just because they want to have children some day?  What’s your opinion on this?

Realistically……can a child (who is gifted in math/science) grow up to attend an ivy and become a physican, but eventually become the stay at home mom they wish to be?

The line is just fuzzy for me (maybe ’cause it’s late) on where the hard-work of education brought on by the mom’s payoff by raising successful children who will eventually do the same. Hopefully you can help me on this. I would love your input. Thank you.

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