The pfeilstorch

by Suspended Reason

The unofficial mascot of TIS has, for a while now, been the pfeilstorch.

Pfeilstorch” is a German word—pronounced file storage”—that translates to arrow stork.” Up until very recently, humans had no idea where birds went for winter. The Greeks, following Aristotle, believed that they hibernated, or else changed their form with the seasons (transmogrification). As late as the 1700s, a popular theory held that they flew to the moon.

In the early 1800s, several storks were found or shot down around Germany, each featuring a spear through its neck, the length of a yardstick. When the birds were brought in to local universities, the spears were identified as African in origin, helping ornithologists realize that the storks had been migrating to and from Africa, their wintering grounds.

We have an idea that progress in science requires rigorous, statistically significant data collection and analysis. But often, noticing the right detail can undermine a reigning paradigm, or suggest a new direction forward. This hunt for the right details, through stamp collecting and everyday noticing, is a core part of what I hope TIS might become.