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Croak & Dagger: Following the Trail of a Herpetologist Spy

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,8 days | from the tales-of-science-and-intrigue dept.

Science 40

bmahersciwriter writes "When Rafe Brown started doing field research in the Philippines, he constantly found himself in the long shadow of Edward Taylor, an irascible giant of herpetology (the study of amphibians) from the mid-20th century, whose legacy was tarnished by accusations of fraud, questions about his naming methods, and rumours of a double life working for the U.S. government. Brown forged a bond with his predecessor and has begun to restore a collection of Taylor's specimens that were lost during the Second World War, and which could aid in allocating resources for conservation. He has meanwhile found out more about Taylor's extracurricular activities, which included work with the organization that would eventually become the CIA."

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Sounds like a movie (0)

ackthpt (218170) | 1 year,8 days | (#44820917)

Doctor of Archaeology finds himself battling Nazis for possession of a relic of supernatural power...

Re:Sounds like a movie (2)

LoRdTAW (99712) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821045)

Oh man, what a great movie plot. If they ever make it into a movie, I hope they cast Harrison Ford, he did a great job playing Han Solo in Star Wars A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

Re:Sounds like a movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44821159)

No way would Ford do it. He hates snakes.

Re:Sounds like a movie (1)

ackthpt (218170) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821161)

Oh man, what a great movie plot. If they ever make it into a movie, I hope they cast Harrison Ford, he did a great job playing Han Solo in Star Wars A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

Yeah, but I just remembered something ... he hates snakes.

Re:Sounds like a movie (1)

grumpy_old_grandpa (2634187) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821163)

Dude, did you just dial in from 1980? Tell me which week, and I'll beam you the lottery numbers, OK? Oh, and if you could do something about that horrible fashion trend coming up, that'd be great!

Re:Sounds like a movie (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44821281)

Bob from '80 here. I'm worried about where the fashion is trending, too; it'll be a dull future with everyone in plain white robes and shaved heads. I'll get right to work on changing that --- see if I can turn it in a completely different direction. A bit of lottery money would probably help with that (March 3, if you please).

Re:Sounds like a movie (1)

Aonghus142000 (908581) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821365)

That reminds me, Marty. You better not hook up to the amplifier. There's a slight possibility of overload.

Re:Sounds like a movie (1)

Aonghus142000 (908581) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821395)

Oh, and Marty, be careful around that Griff character. He's got a few short circuits in his bionic implants.

Re:Sounds like a movie (1)

gfim (452121) | 1 year,8 days | (#44827143)

Sorry, none of the three Star Wars movies is named "A new hope"...

Herpetology (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44820923)

I really thought it was the study of Herpes.. me and my cold sore are sad :(

Re:Herpetology (2, Informative)

WarJolt (990309) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821031)

Nope....but it also includes reptiles.

Why Herpetology Studies Reptiles and Amphibians (4, Informative)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821393)

But herpes and herpetology are etymologically related. The Greek verb herpyzo means to creep or crawl (apologies for using Latin letters, I've tried Greek on /. before and it isn't pretty). So a herpeton is a creeping thing: i.e. snakes, lizards, salamanders, etc. Thus we end up with the study of creeping things or herpetology.

Herpes became the Greek word for shingles (herpes zoster in the medical books) because it was a creeping (or lurking) disease. It would seem to be gone but would lurk about only to resurface again. It was only natural, therefore, to apply it to what we commonly call herpes now (herpes simplex).

Re:Why Herpetology Studies Reptiles and Amphibians (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | 1 year,8 days | (#44822247)

I wish we'd go back to medical names that are whimsical and memorable like that rather than boring and forgettable. H1N1, for example, we could have done better. We could have called it "Tiger Woods Flu" or something.

Gene names, they're working on replacing the ones with memorable names as well. Catch22 and sonic hedgehog, for example.

Re:Why Herpetology Studies Reptiles and Amphibians (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44822935)

H1N1 was much more scary though. Everyone is afraid of numbers that sound like secret shadow government codenames for evil research projects that involve harvesting the organs of small children, while practically no one is afraid of Tiger Woods.

Re:Why Herpetology Studies Reptiles and Amphibians (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44823805)

while practically no one is afraid of Tiger Woods.

Tiger left a message for you. He'd like to borrow your SUV.

Re:Why Herpetology Studies Reptiles and Amphibians (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44840101)

There's a solid reason for this. The new names are descriptive if you speak the local jargon, and they work across disciplines. (I'm a neurobiology doctoral student.) Sonic Hedgehog makes sense only in its original context, making fruit flies look odd (Hedgehog) and then a version of it named by someone who played Sega.

A lot of whimsy is lost but some still sneaks in. Look at some papers written about fucokinase.

Re:Why Herpetology Studies Reptiles and Amphibians (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44840043)

And you get herpes from creeps and lounge lizards?

Herpetology (3, Informative)

_Ludwig (86077) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821103)

Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians.

Re:Herpetology (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821227)

So he was assassinating foreign spies not only with rattlesnakes he put into their bedrooms, but also by prickling them with rings laced with the skin secretions of his beloved Dendrobatidae pets?

Re:Herpetology (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44822661)

He used The Speckled Band...

Re:Herpetology (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821457)

And before anyone ask "how's this news for nerds?" has obviously never had a herp-keeper as an acquaintance. I was a fish-guy (40 tanks in my bedroom during college, ranging from shoeboxes to 75 gallons), so I understand the obsession, even going so far as to plan my rare weekends off to go collecting on my own. The "spy" aspect makes it even more fun.

Re:Herpetology (3, Funny)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821501)

Your friend's name wasn't Augustus Fink-Nottle perchance?

Re:Herpetology (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44822765)

What, ho: off to the Drones, are we?

Re:Herpetology (1)

camperdave (969942) | 1 year,8 days | (#44822323)

And before anyone ask "how's this news for nerds?"...

Nobody asks that anymore. That hasn't been a Slashdot slogan since Dice Holdings took over.

Re:Herpetology (1)

geekoid (135745) | 1 year,8 days | (#44824445)

I know you form such shows as 'the Simpsons'.

woefully esoteric?

Re:Herpetology (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821581)

As opposed to Derpatology, the study of felines that want to haz cheezburgers.

Re:Herpetology (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44822133)

God damn it yes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herpetology
Herpetology is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians (including frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and gymnophiona) and reptiles (including snakes, lizards, amphisbaenids, turtles, terrapins, tortoises, crocodilians, and the tuataras). Batrachology is a further subdiscipline of herpetology concerned with the study of amphibians alone.

Re:Herpetology (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44823431)

Been training my newt for about the last fifteen years, the dude is totally dumb and doesn't do much but lay around. Maybe that's key to living longer, no stress, a rock to lay on, some sun, water and a few floating flakes to chomp, life is good.

Herpetology Definition (1)

ZincFinger (982714) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821125)

> herpetology (the study of amphibians) err... Batrachology is the study of amphibians alone, Herpetology is the study of both amphibians and reptiles.

well (1)

geekoid (135745) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821181)

he only studied herpetology until he croaked.

9/11 any remember where he was 12 years back? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44821333)

On this in 2001 Bush looked awfully silly sitting in that chair in front of a group of young children after being told of the strikes. Obama would have gotten up right then and there and got up on his cavalry mount, raised his saber, and said, CHARGE! If only. But you had Bush. WOW.

Croak, heh! (1)

OakDragon (885217) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821453)

Somebody just wanted to write "Croak & Dagger".

Herpetology (0)

Alex Kasa (2867743) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821459)

The science of Herpes

My Favorite Science Article Today (4, Interesting)

snookerdoodle (123851) | 1 year,8 days | (#44821469)

And yes, it WOULD make a great movie plot. The protagonist really is a spy. And he really is a herpetologist, And he's pretty good at both. His character flaws could easily be written to develop from his time in secrecy and from the unfair disqualification of his research. Brown is just an epilogue: 35 years after his death, it turns out his research was right. They don't even need good writers if they stick to what actually happened.

Re:My Favorite Science Article Today (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44823825)

Yeah, especially since people just love watching movies with lots of snakes.

What's so special? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44822235)

I thought the French had spies for a long time.

Just what I need (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#44822749)

Sounds like he's the guy I need to see. I caught Herpes from a whore in Manilla.

Stefano (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#44831961)

The police are hot on his trail, from his tattooless ankle to his eyebrowless forehead! The Italian Fiend!

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