Monday, April 4, 2011

Geeks hijack narwhal and beluga

Despite the vast ways to keep track of the latest news about narwhals and other marine mammals in the Arctic, it’s also increasingly challenging to do so because both the narwhal and beluga have been hijacked by the high-tech world.  An online search of news about narwhals usually turns up an abundance of stories and blogs about the Ubuntu Natty Narwhal, which is apparently the latest open source operating system produced by Linux.  And searching on beluga finds that it is the name of a new group messaging application that was just purchased by Facebook.
On the one hand, the names given to these programs are causing plenty of geeks to take a moment to learn a little about the Arctic marine mammals that the products are named for, as is evidenced by several articles by IT columnists, like these in the Manila Standard Today and The Atlantic.  And I learned a little from these articles, too.  Like the fact that earlier versions of related Linux products have been named after an alphabetical listing of wildlife, the most recent of which (before narwhal) are ibex, jackalope, koala, lynx and meerkat.  I bet the next one will be opossum.  Or oriole.
But at the same time, I worry that the real narwhals and belugas will lose their identities in the mass of high-tech marketing for these products. The whales are already among the lesser known marine mammals on the planet, largely because their Arctic ranges are far from human populations. Rather than becoming even more obscure, the whales need to have additional attention brought to their amazing life cycles, behaviors and habitat, which is the purpose of this blog in the first place. 
But I can’t do it alone.  So give these amazing whales the props they deserve.  If you find yourself using the high tech products named for the narwhal and beluga, make sure to give your friends and colleagues a natural history lesson by sharing what you know about the whales so they get a little benefit from their namesake products.  It’s the least we can do.

1 comment:

  1. Good article! I had no idea of the non-wildlife versions of these things.