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Today I am trying to work on a talk about nutrient regulation in crickets and leafcutter ants. One of the things I struggle with, in giving these talks, is how to set up an effective "hook" - how to get people excited about nutrition in insects.

Things I am toying with:

-Asking the audience if they're familiar with Soylent, the drink.
-Asking if they've read The Omnivore's Dilemma (written by some guy who is here at this university, coincidentally).

But these might be too distracting.

I was happy to come across this recent critique of Pollan's efforts subsequent to writing TOD. Randomly, I tend to conflate Pollan and Jared Diamond because they have both followed a certain kind of intellectual trajectory: write a book and get the public's attention, then basically rewrite the same thing again, repeatedly. Stuck in one variety of success formula. Read their early works and then stop.

Maybe it's better to be more like EO Wilson, who is a pretty hardcore ideas guy, but whose ideas are a thorough mixture of good, bad, and mediocre.

Actually, I'd rather be like Richard Levins, although I don't think I stand a chance of being nearly so brilliant and insightful. Yeah. Hmm. I should read Biology Under the Influence.


( 4 remarks — Remark )
Feb. 24th, 2016 08:54 pm (UTC)
Could you use the eating of insects as your hook? Has a good "ew" factor without being too pop culturey.
Feb. 26th, 2016 07:15 pm (UTC)
This one gets a little tricky to manage. I've done it before, but the problem is that it turns into a misdirect. I don't want to couch all of my work in the context of eating insects because it deals with a whole lot more than that...this is related to how I wound up switching from telling people "I study nutrition in insects" to telling them "I make radioactive crickets," because then they are more open to hearing about other things about crickets that make them cool and interesting.

Thinking about the current audience made me think that a better hook might be to talk about how nutrition plays a key role in animal ecology and evolution. If you look at the phylogenetic tree for certain animal groups, it's clear that switching diets has been involved in species diversification in a whole lot of different cases. I found a fairly straightforward example with beetles, so I'm going to give that a test run to see how it goes in a practice talk. Otherwise I might find a series of cool pictures of ant mandibles - organism jaws can be a nice visual illustration of how animals evolve to deal with different kinds of diets.
Feb. 24th, 2016 11:55 pm (UTC)
I'd rather you be like EO Wilson or Richard Levins, since they're right at least some of the time. :)
Feb. 26th, 2016 07:10 pm (UTC)
It would be nice to have that sort of positive impact on the world. :^)
( 4 remarks — Remark )

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