Thursday, March 10, 2011

Punching a Dolphin in the Mouth Could Release Isovaleric Acid

The anti-antisocial experiment continues. Tonight I left work on time to go to Book People for Matthew Inman's book signing.

There was a presentation before the signing where he showed some of his comics to illustrate the range of topics he covers and to discuss using the internet to make a living with creative work. This is a topic I think about a lot. I couldn't rationalize the extravagant price of a pass to SXSW Interactive to hear about this stuff so I went to this instead.

I made friends with a mechanical engineer in the audience after the talk. We had to wait over an hour to get in line for book signing. When we got to this glass case you see behind Matthew Inman in the picture my new friend noticed what was in it -- anatomically correct Chinese figurines demonstrating sexual positions. Kind of perfect since Matthew Inman started after a consulting job for a sex toy company didn't work out. He got a lot of page views with quizzes on his online dating site so they wanted something like that. He made a quiz for them but they said it was highly inappropriate. It's called How many baboons could you take armed only with a giant dildo. (I can only take 29.) The sex figurines in the glass case weren't very big though. About the size of a peach pit. If you threw them at a baboon they would just wipe shit on them and throw them back.

I'm trying to more stuff normal people do, so I asked my new friend (I forgot to ask his name. I fail at society) to take my picture with The Oatmeal. It's like a festival of social awkwardness. Could we look any less relaxed? Notice I'm wearing a shirt I designed myself. Cool, huh? I bet Isaac Mizrahi wears his own stuff all the time too. (For sale in the Teephage store, see right side) This is a new thing I'm trying based on a quote on a Talking Heads album cover. "People will remember you better if you wear the same outfit."

My friend had Matthew sign his book "Yes, I am the motherfuckin' Pteradactyl" from the lyrical song of the Pterodactyl. I was not as well prepared. He just wrote The Oatmeal in my book. The book is titled 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides). The eponymous comic is of course a satirical guide, not literal (a topic for another comic). He's not really advocating punching dolphins any more than Jonathan Swift thought a society of racist horses was a good model for English society when he wrote Gulliver's Travels. So I didn't tell Matthew what I learned about dolphins in Ocean Acoustics class. It may have implied I am a humorless idiot who is accusing him of something I'm not. So here's the interesting thing about dolphins' mouths.

Dolphins have a very thin-walled hollow jawbone. If you really did roundhouse kick a dolphin in the face it would probably break his jaw. And that would be really bad for the dolphin. That hollow bone is filled with a special fat with unique acoustical properties. It's kind of an impedance matching material to better transmit the sound from the water to the ear without reflections that could interfere with the phase information in the signal. It's like why you have to use 75 ohm coaxial cable for your TV and not just two wires like telephone. Anyway, this fat is so unique that it is actually toxic to the dolphin if it gets out of the jawbone. I am totally not making this up. It's toxic for skin contact, inhalation, and the gastrointestinal tract. It's not like venom, which you can drink and it's fine. It's got isovaleric acid in it, which is apparently pretty nasty stuff.

Dolphins are so evolutionarily superior to humans it's the natural reaction of an inferior creature to want to punch them in the mouth. They don't call it "only human" for nothing.


  1. I wish we could communicate in dolphins clicks. You're click click eek click awesome.

    And I feel incredibly dumb(er) reading that second to last paragraph. I know only two things in this world: It takes three licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop and you're blog is fab.

  2. Thank you Nicole! I don't mean to make anybody feel dumb, but it is apparently my superpower.


  3. There I was thinking my RG-6 had a characteristic impedence of 75ohms. Damn.

  4. Shit! Thanks, Chris, you're right! I fixed it. It's been so long since I worked in communications I scrambled up the digits from 50 ohm ham radio cable with 75 ohm TV cable. If anybody didn't believe I really have dyscalculia there's your evidence.