10-Minute Meditations: Magicicada

Even though I’m a great believer in science, not to mention a skeptic, I do love the concept of synchronicity–the idea that the universe is constantly littering our paths with important symbols and weird coincidences that would have meaning if only we’d stop to read them. Yesterday afternoon, as I left to pick up my son, I found yet another cicada sitting in the middle of a stone beside our front walkway. Dang, the whole world is cicadas! I thought to myself (or something to that effect), and scrambled to find my camera, because you don’t usually find a cicada standing stock still in the middle of a big, flat natural backdrop. Definitely the same kind of cicada as the other day, too: one round red eye on either side of her head, a patch of bright green on either flank, a little white line across the tip of her back end. Like a craft project for someone who craves symmetry and has a hot-glue gun.

The patient cicada hardly moved while I dug out my equipment and started preparations. Picture-taking has become a hit-or-miss exercise since the tremor in my hands has gotten worse and cameras have gotten smaller. But I was determined to take as many pics as possible, even if they came out blurry. Little Fickle would love seeing them. One of the most vivid memories I have of my young childhood is my mother pointing out a newly molted insect standing beside its old shell, which was see-through and cracked down the middle and looked like sepia-colored plastic.

All set, I clicked the power button, and my camera snapped open and shut. Change the battery, read the screen. Change the battery?! With a sigh, I put my camera away and kept walking. Now I had no evidence for my nifty little tale. Now no one would believe I’d had a visit from a cicada, just days after I saved one from a group of passive suburban ice-cream eaters.

It’s only dawned on me in the last hour or so that this is exactly how a myth is made. Evidence? Why would I want evidence? Now the cicada is a story, a quiet acknowledgement that the universe knows what I’ve been thinking about. Or maybe that one insect was the same mama cicada that I rescued, and like the opening of a children’s novel or a folk tale, she’d come to give me a token of her esteem. A lucky charm, a seed, a secret lullaby that would start me on a far-reaching quest or bring back faded memories, some piece of myself I hadn’t realized I lost.

The full scientific name of the North American periodical cicada is Magicicada. Maybe once upon a time in deep summer, I was destined to meet a special creature…

Don’t believe my story? Someday, I’m guessing, I won’t believe it myself.

And Now for Something Completely Different: An Opinion on Birth Control First Published in 1919

[H]usbands and wives have a right to use such rightful means for the limiting of the number of offspring as are conducive to the interests of all parties concerned–themselves, their circumstances, the born or unborn children, the state, the nation.

–H.W. Long, MD, Sane Sex Life & Sane Sex Living, Eugenics Publishing Co.

The Fickle Nature of Values

The reliability and reproducibility of science are under scrutiny. However, a major cause of this lack of repeatability is not being considered: the wide sample-to-sample variability in the P value. We explain why P is fickle to discourage the ill-informed practice of interpreting analyses based predominantly on this statistic.

–Lewis G. Halsey, et. al., “The fickle value generates irreproducible results,” Nature Methods 12 (2015): 179-85