\ Visualizing Evolution: "M&Ms prove Darwin was right"

Monday, November 3, 2008

"M&Ms prove Darwin was right"

This is from Roger Ebert's blog--something someone sent to him. It's amazing:
"I received this message on the blog, but it obviously fits no known topic. The author is something of a mystery: "R. Crutch," no city, no e-mail. But I felt it necessary to share with you. RE

From R. Crutch:

Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels.

Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them breaks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round.

I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theater of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world.

Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.

When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A., along with a 3x5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."

This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.

There can be only one."

One fun and engaging way to teach the foundations of natural selection to kids is to lay out large pieces of colored construction paper, representing different 'environments'-- red, green, blue, yellow, and brown--then spread out some M&M's, dim the lights, and let the kids simulate predation and go wild eating for a few minutes.

Then flip on the lights and have them count how many of each color are left in each environment. Bam! Natural selection!


Kumah said...

In the end will we have spiked indestructible candy?

Adrian Thysse, FCD. said...

Those are great examples.

For a non-candy-coated chocolate perspective: my daughter provided another example. We have a pond with goldfish of mixed colors and every year we have to catch them and all the new fry (usually hundreds!)to bring them in before freeze-up. This can take a few weeks and it is usually my daughter who does most of the netting. She noticed that the last ones she catches are invariably dark coppery brown (rather than nacreous or orange) because they are hardest to spot against the dark pond liner.

Heidi Richter said...


I guess the next step would be to ask her what she thinks the population in the pond would look like in ten or twenty years if you left a few dozen fry to die every winter.

She must be a very bright girl. : )

So what do you do with all those fish, anyway? Hundreds??

Sherrie Y said...

I have a friend who insists on sorting M&Ms taxonomically before consumption. I'll have to ask her which ones disappear first.

One must also question the selective breeding habits of M&Ms, as suggested by their packaging. In the wake of examining said packaging in a Halloween bowl of "fun-size" packets, my partner noticed that it's Yellow who seems to get around and chat up the ladies FAR more often than Red.

Adrian Thysse, FCD. said...

Re: hundreds of fish...
Except for the adults and the best looking fry which we retain, most of the fish we bring in are given away or selected (naturally and unnaturally!) by my own painted turtles and by a friend's pike characins.

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