Sunday 24 April 2022

14 Years on (and one million views later)

The first post of this blog was published on 22 April 2008. It was an experiment, and I had no idea how long I would continue to keep writing posts. I still don't,  but the fact that the blog is still here after 14 years, was not something I foresaw at the time and for now I shall continue. Let's start this post  update with an overview of past results, as per 23 April 2022:

Number of posts: 278 (not counting this one)
Number of comments: 2485
Number of followers at present: 220
Number of views: 1,001,012

This means that each posts generates an average of 9.8 comments. I like the idea that the number of views surpassed 1 million but have no idea how many of these views represent people taking an active interest, and how many 'views' in fact represent bots.

Which posts attracted the most interest?

Swimming in sand 1: the sandworms of Dune                                             10,100  
The anatomy of giants in 'Game of Thrones'; did they get it right?                9,500
A future book on future evolution from France                                             6,470
Avatar's "Walking with hexapods" or "Don't walk this way"                        6,380
Warren Fahy's "Fragment"                                                                             4,340
More future evolution in Japan                                                                      4,250
Alternate future evolution in Japan                                                                3,890
Future evolution from France: "Demain, les animaux du futur" Review I   3,340
A century of thoats                                                                                        3,070
The future is wild... and it is Manga!                                                            3,030

Comparing the list with earlier ones show that the top 10 hasn't really changed that much. The lesson is the same as before: if I would want to maximise the number of views, I should write about popular films, TV series and books. I largely stopped doing that, which explains why the top 10 is stable.


Click to enlarge

It is interesting that the attraction of posts can differ much over time. For instance, the sandworm post attracted a great deal of interest in the beginning, followed by a steady trickle of about 20 to 100 views per day. In contrast, the two posts with Japan in the title showed a comeback in 2020 and 2021.  

Just another dragon

A post without any new material or thoughts is at best mildly interesting, so here is a minor illustration showing a schamtic view of a 'Megadraco' taking off. This is a species of the clade Dialata, discussed here.

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk

This animal is much larger than Earth's birds, so how does it fly? Well, readers will realise that pterosaurs grew much larger than birds. pterosaurs definitely flew, so how did they outsmart birds in this respect? Well, you may remember that lift is proportional not only to wing area but also to the square of air velocity. In other words, doubling velocity has the same effect on lift as a fourfold increase in wing area. Speed pays to remain airborne. The problem is how to get to such a speed from a start on the ground (jumping off a branch or a cliff is a much easier way to achieve speed) . The problem is more difficult for larger animals; if you have seen a swan or heavy goose take off, you may realise just how difficult it can be for a heavy bird to achieve that all-important speed.

The idea is that pterosaurs achieved high starting speed in a radically different way: they jumped into the air, powered not just by their hind legs, but also by their much more powerful front legs: the wings! That quadrupedal launch should be enough to get them high enough in the air for a first powerful downwards wing stroke, and from then on, they were in business. 

I like that idea and thought that evolution might well do its familiar 'parallel' trick again. If your basic body plan involves six limbs, of which the middle pair are wings, you have four legs left to propel yourself up into the air. That should help! Of course, once in the air, those four limbs weigh something but do not contribute to flight, so perhaps the resulting animals do not grow as large as the biggest pterosaurs. But even so, with a quadrupedal launch and a clap-and-fling first wing beat, these Furahan dragons get up fast enough to fly, large as they are.          

The future

The 'Great Hexapod Revolution' means that the anatomy of various animals in various already finished paintings was no longer correct. Sadly, these paintings were therefore instantly no longer 'finished'. I am working my way through them, changing legs and heads left and right. I have only about 5 more of such reviews to do, and after that I will make only two or three completely new paintings. Meanwhile, I will work on some additional material such as a Glossary, and then the manuscript of The Book is all done. I expect to achieve that goal this year, but will also move from one house to another, which always takes more time than you think, even if you take that into consideration.

And then there is the matter of finding a publisher. That is an open question. I wonder what the post '15 years on' will have to say on that subject...