Love Is in the Air


Mating Butterflies

Mating Butterflies

Love is in the air everywhere I look around.
Love is in the air every sight and every sound.
– John Paul Young

John Paul Young’s lyrics attribute sight and sound as the two main vehicles of love and in musical theater that may be true, but he has forgotten the important sense of smell and its effects on love. Last week, on the day after Valentine’s Day, our holiday dedicated to romantic love, I attended a lecture by Tim Holy (Washington University) entitled, “Pheromones: The Science of Love”. By way of definition, pheromones are chemicals released into the environment by an animal, especially a mammal or an insect, affecting the behavior or physiology of others of its species. The proximity to Valentine’s Day may have led Dr. Holy to take some latitudes in his introduction, but the overall fundamentals of his talk seemed solid enough.

He quickly brushed past the effects of pheromones in humans, with an ‘I don’t know’ and did speak about pheromones and their effects in insects, but the focus of his research is pheromones in mice. He described an experiment where he stacked two cages. In each cage he placed one mouse. In all of the possible combinations, only when he place a female mouse in the upper cage and a male mouse in the lower cage did he obtain results that were positive for transmission of pheromones. He measured this transmission using an electron microscope that was used to examine the olfactory nerves in the male mouse’s nasal cavity.

I suspect that this examination did not go all that well for the male mouse. I am reminded of a Garrison Keillor story that describes an analogues situation in the Minnesota woods. It is fall and there is a certain crispness to the air. The male deer, the buck is in rut. As he prances through the woods his nostrils are filled with the scent of female does in heat. Unexpectedly their scent is soon masked by the smell of cigars and coffee. The muzzle flash of the hunter’s gun soon puts an end to all of this young buck’s thoughts of love.

But I digress, let’s get back to the science. Under the electron microscope Holy has identified 17 different types of olfactory nerves in these mice. Only in the girl on top and boy on the bottom situation does one of these 17 nerve types light-up. Holy hypothesizes that its excitation is due to pheromones. In fairness to Dr. Holy, I’m not sure that I have adequately communicated his results. If so, then I apologize. Anyway, it was an interesting lecture.

Nicholas Orzio’s Occupied Japan


Musician and Child, Nicholas Orzio

Musician and Child, Nicholas Orzio

Saint Louis has this odd penchant for collecting unusual museums. When we first moved here, this city was the home for both the Dog Museum and the Bowling Hall of Fame. Since then bowling has left town completely and West County has gone to the dogs or more correctly the dogs have moved west. New museums have arrived to fill the void. There is the Chess Museum, Moto-Museum (European motorcycles) and of particular interest here, the Photography Museum or more formally, the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum, which we had a chance to visit last week. Showing there were a collection of photos that were taken in 1948-49 in occupied Japan by Nicholas Orzio, a then 19 year-old US Army photographer. I have included a couple of his pictures here as examples. Most of these photographs deal with scenes of everyday like, like the two that I’ve included, but some of them are of historical significance, like photos of the Emperor, Douglas MacArthur and the last picture taken of then convicted war criminal Tojo, before his execution.

Family history peaked my interest in this show. My Great-Aunt Alice was a nurse in the Army of Occupation. Part of this exhibit includes a selection of period Life Magazine covers. One of which showed a nurse, Lt. Hines. She is seen wearing a US Army women’s wool jacket over her nurse’s uniform. Anne wears this style jacket now, the same one that Alice once wore and it still looks pretty sporty. Later, not too long after the formal occupation had ended, but while the American military was still a formidable presence in Japan, my Dad was stationed in Japan. My Mother and I both joined him there and I lived most of my first year of life in Japan.

Fishing Village, Nicholas Orzio, 1949

Fishing Village, Nicholas Orzio, 1949

Morpho Madness


Last week I went to Faust Park, home to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Butterfly House. I picked a good day to go, because there had just been a huge Blue Morpho hatch. There were hundreds of these little critters fluttering about. These butterflies have a two-toned color scheme. The top of their wings is a brilliant iridescent blue, while their bottoms are a mottled brown, with distinctive “eyes” for camouflage. When they fly about, usually at eye level or below, their bright blue side makes them pretty to watch as they brush close by. Small children often are frightened by these frequent near misses, but the Morpho butterflies seem unperturbed by these close encounters. When they land, they immediately fold their wings together, presenting their camouflaged side. This behavior made it difficult for me to get a photo of their blue side, but I persisted and was able to get the above picture. There were many other species of butterflies in the house too, but their numbers were dwarfed by the number of Blue Morpho butterflies. In addition to the butterfly house, Faust Park also features a merry-go-round. It is a gorgeous structure and was a big hit with the small children, who loved riding it.

Running Hot and Cold


Red Powder Puff Blossom

Red Powder Puff Blossom

It was a beautiful day here today. I did some gardening and then Anne and I enjoyed a long walk together. On the way back, we swung by the grocery store and in the checkout line, Anne was fanning herself with her hat. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she was Hot, but I already knew that. Maybe, she should have dressed like I had, t-shirt, shorts and sandals, because it’s hard to be Cool these days, even in February.