On Friday evening, NASA's Minotaur V rocket blasted off from its launchpad at a spaceport in Virginia, carrying the LADEE spacecraft on the first leg of its trip from Earth to the moon. The scene that resulted was beautiful. It was inspiring. It was epic.
It was also not without its casualties.
The picture...snapped on Friday by one of the remote cameras NASA had set up for the big launch, captured a creature that found itself, alas, caught in the crossfire of humanity's drive to explore: a frog. A possibly very surprised, and certainly very unfortunate, frog. Launch pads, you see, are generally built near marshes and ponds whose water can absorb the flames of a rocket's ignition. And this little guy was in the wrong place at the wrongest possible time.
For obvious reasons, the picture reminded me of this picture of a TIE Fighter-looking International Space Station in front of the sun.
As Brown made his career studying biodiversity in the Philippines over the next two decades, he could not escape Taylor's long shadow. The elder herpetologist had logged 23 years in the field over his lifetime, collecting more than 75,000 specimens around the world, and naming hundreds of new species.
There is a darker side to Taylor's legacy, however. He was a racist curmudgeon beset by paranoia — possibly a result of his mysterious double life as a spy for the US government. He had amassed no shortage of enemies by the time he died in 1978. An obituary noted that he was, to many, “a veritable ogre—and woe to anyone who incurred his wrath”2. More damaging, perhaps, were the attacks on his scientific reputation. After the loss of his collection in the Philippines, many of the species he had named were declared invalid or duplicates. The standards of taxonomy had advanced beyond Taylor's quaint descriptions, and without the specimens to refer to, his evidence seemed flimsy.