Saturday news for penguins

Two items yesterday from friends offering penguiniana: from Victor Steinbok, a report of a (somewhat goofy-sounding) scientific research project on the stability of walking (that is, waddling) penguins; and from Chris Waigl, a German cartoon about philosopher penguins.

The Willener study: male King penguins in courtship, on a treadmill. From the Nothing To Do With Arbroath blog yesterday, “Study found that fat penguins on a treadmill fall over more often than slim ones”:

Fat king penguins are unsteady on their feet while waddling compared to their slimmer counterparts, but carrying a bit of extra weight comes with an important advantage when it comes to reproduction, biomechanics researchers say. A research team led by Astrid Willener from the University of London’s department of life sciences travelled to the subantarctic region of Antarctica to research the king penguin, which can grow up to 1m tall and up to 16kg, making it the second largest species of penguin behind the emperor. Ten male king penguins who were in courtship and who weighed more than 12kg were captured near the shoreline at the edge of a colony. The penguins, which are serial monogamists, have the longest breeding cycle of all the penguin species – 14 to 16 months – and produce just one chick per cycle. Weight gain is essential in courtship so that the penguins have enough fat reserve to survive their fast while taking care of their eggs.

“However, being too fat make them less stable [link to a Guardian article] and thus easily spotted and eaten by predators,” Willener said. “So understanding the biomechanics of how penguins deal with walking with an additional quarter of their usual weight, while still being quite stable, is very interesting.”

… the study [was] published in the online science journal PLoS One

Getting penguins to perform on a treadmill was no mean feat, by the way. Somewhat murky photographs:


The German penguin philosophy cartoon.



The Meta Bene cartoon is from Zeit Online (the on-line version of the newspaper Die Zeit) yesterday, under the title “Viecher über Moralapostel”, literally ‘creatures [pl of Viech] on [that is: about, on the topic of] morals apostles [the noun Apostel is the same in the pl as in the sg]’, but this is clunky English, and it’s not easy to get an English equivalent. In the context, critters would be better than creatures. And maybe ethics crusaders would work better than morals apostles, but that’s still not right.

Then there’s a tongue-in-cheek intro, expressing mock horror about the temper of the times and suggesting we turn to the paper’s cartoon penguins for help:

Was darf man heute noch sagen? Was sollte man tun? Unser Wertesystem ist reichlich aus den Fugen. Zum Glück leisten die Pinguine aus unserer Comic-Serie erste Hilfe.

What should one do? Our values system is reichlich aus den Fugen, freely translatable as way out of joint / off the rails / out of whack.

So the penguins from the Philosophical Colloquium have come to the door, saying they would like to speak to the resident about die Maxime Ihres Handelns, the maxim / motto of the resident’s trade / business. The resident replies: “Fuesse abtreten!”, about which Chris helpfully says: “Füße abtreten! = Clean your shoes on the doormat!” Always good advice.

[Added a bit later: Chris suggests the alternative translation: “Wipe your feet!”]

On the cartoon and its creator:

META BENE wird von Robin Thiesmeyer zu Papier gebracht. Nach einem Studium der Philosophie und Politikwissenschaften absolvierte er den Studiengang “Kreatives Schreiben und Kulturjournalismus” Universität Hildesheim. Er veröffentlichte Kurzgeschichten und Erzählungen in Zeitschriften und Anthologien. Seit November 2013 zeichnet er META BENE. Seine Kalligrafien finden große Verbreitung über soziale Medien und

So from philosophy and political science to cultural journalism and cartooning (website here). Meta Bene is a play on nota bene, and the strip’s critters include not only penguins but also giraffes, flamingos, snails, fish (sharks?), perching birds (crows?), and what appear to be cockroaches — all in miniature, and none with individual variation in appearance.


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