Monday, 22 October 2018

The Latest Viral Meme Trend Is (Possibly) Not As Stupid As You Think

The Latest Viral Meme Trend Is (Possibly) Not As Stupid As You Think
02 Oct

The whole internet loves memes, the fun images we share with our friends! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the memes are filled with moths

If you’re on any online platform, you may have noticed a sudden uptick in the amount of bizarre, vaguely nihilist, even downright confusing lepidopterology humor gracing your screen lately. So it’s no wonder so many people are coming together to ask: “uh… what?”

It all started, as so many memes do, on Reddit, when user u/No_Reason27 posted a photo of a moth outside his window.

Although many other users posted interesting facts and information about the fuzzy goth butterflies, the top reply was something a little different.

And it seemed to tap into something primal on the Internet.

You might say people… saw the light.

The meme isn’t extremely sophisticated: moths, in the immortal words of Brick Tamland, love lamp. But unlike racist amphibians or non-standard scientific negligee, moth memes actually come with something vaguely approaching a scientific seal of approval.

“I thought it was pretty funny and I was surprised that there even was a moth meme,” Chris Grinter, a lepidopterist from the California Academy of Sciences, told Inverse. “I didn’t realize it was as popular as it was because it seemed surprisingly accurate. Usually, the insect photos that aren’t actually entomology-themed memes do the best.”

According to Grinter, one reason why the moth memes seem to have taken off is because the behavior it lampoons is so inexplicable. Despite being such a well-known phenomenon that it inspired its own idiom, science still doesn’t know why moths are, in fact, drawn to the flame.

One of the most popular hypotheses is that the artificial light given off by lamps bamboozles the moths, who use the Moon to navigate. The theory goes that the moths are dazzled by the light, or confused by the “moon” being so close, and somehow end up flying towards the light source.

Not everybody is convinced, however.

“I’m dubious of the idea that they’re using moonlight as an orienting device in the first place,” entomologist Jerry Powell told Live Science. “That would probably only be done by species that migrate. But that would not explain why the 50 or 70 percent of moths that are small and don’t migrate would also use moonlight to navigate.”

Most of the moth memes instead appear to be inspired by the work of Philip Callahan, an entomologist from the 1970s who came up with the bizarre-sounding theory that moths were sexually attracted to artificial light. 

“The male moth is highly attracted to and dies attempting to mate with the candle flame,” wrote Callahan in a 1977 paper.

Ultimately, we just don’t know why moths love those lamps so much. But we intend on enjoying their fame to the full – until, like the ephemeral lives of their subjects, it flickers out, and we’re back to relying on dank af robot memes



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