Real World Magic

Real World Magic

Ancient Italy was rich with mythology. You can still see centaurs and unicorns depicted in the ancient frescos and mosaics of local castles. We recently visited one such castle where we learned how an early explorer won the king’s favor by presenting him with a real unicorn horn.

It worked. The king was enthralled by the offering, which was clearly authentic as it bore all the evidence of natural growth, not human craftsmanship. He had always heard tales of these magnificent beasts, but here was real evidence of the rare and mythical unicorn!

Spoiler alert: In reality, it wasn’t a unicorn horn. Turns out, there isn’t any evidence that unicorns were present in medieval Italy. In actuality, the horn was a Narwhal Tusk, harvested and then traded down from the cold north.

The old king got hoodwinked. There’s no such thing as unicorns. Those were clearly just make-believe fantasies. You sweet gullible guy, believing in magic. Watch out for anyone selling invisible clothes!

Now we know better.

Now we have science.

Now we know that horn actually came from a 10 foot, 3,000 pound subaquatic mammal who … now that I think about it, that’s actually WAY crazier than the horse with a horn thing.

Wait, you might say, but unicorns were supposed to be magic. And narwhals aren’t magic. So unicorns are better.

To which I say, aren’t they though? I mean, these creatures live under water but breathe air and they use those (dare I say magical) tusks (actually it’s a tooth!) to sense changes in temperature, salination levels, and the movements of nearby prey. Seems pretty magical to me.

Also, want to talk about magic? Have you heard of the Jewel Wasp? This thing uses its stinger to intentionally and methodically implant venom directly into two very specific sections of a cockroach’s brain – which turns the cockroach into a zombie under the wasp’s control.

Once the cockroach recovers from paralysis, it cleans itself for 30 minutes (nobody wants to work with a dirty minion) while the wasp goes looking for a dark burrow. When she returns, she leads the zombie roach (who has lost all fear or desire to flee) to her burrow, attaches an egg to its leg, and then seals the entrance. The wasp’s venom also slows the roach’s metabolism, ensuring that it is still alive enough to provide a fresh (and clean) meal when the baby wasp hatches.

Now that’s some dark magic.

Some say magic is dead but they’re wrong; it just goes by different names these days. It seems like the older I get and the more I learn, the more I see magic everywhere. Some days I can barely turn around without tripping over it.

I think Thomas Carlyle said it best, “This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle, wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.”

Real World Magic

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