A couple of CCCC talks about big-T turns started me thinking again about “worm turns,” a phrase I read just before the Atlanta trip in Randy A. Harris’s introduction to Landmark Essays in the Rhetoric of Science. I understood worm turns at first to mean something like “micro turns,” or smaller-scale zig-zag patterns. But, no. Worm turns–so the commonplace goes–name something of an unexpected shift in momentum, as when a downtrodden underdog (e.g., Rockworm Balboa) bounds back into a position of strength. Worm turns: the weak worm, resurgent.
I didn’t know this until earlier today, but Chemist Mickey Mouse was once in a cartoon called “The Worm Turns” (1937), in which he activated more powerful physical profiles for worm, mouse, cat, and dog.
Ancient formulae: Courage builder: The weak made strong.
And another turn overleafed this morning on researchers who dig for non-public worms, worms whose windings suggest a facility for laying low, feeling their ways through the dig-it-all underlife:
But earthworm taxonomists don’t have it so easy. One has to dig for earthworms, and even though they are blind and deaf, worms are remarkably good at evading the probes and shovels of nosy scientists. There’s also the problem of knowing where to dig. An ornithologist can simply meander through a forest and look up; an oligochaetologist must keep an ear to the ground, so to speak, and try to divine the ideal earthworm habitat.
The oligachaetologist with an ear to the ground, listening for ideal conditions. The earthworms are scarce-abundant and a taxonomist’s nightmare.
Earthworms, although numbering only about 30 species in Illinois, play an important role in the decomposition of organic matter, mineral cycling, and the aeration, drainage, and root penetration of the soil; through this activity, they also provide suitable habitat for smaller soil fauna, particularly micro-organisms. It has been estimated that earthworms can ‘move’ up to 18 tons of soil per acre each year. Abundance estimates of earthworms have been as high as three million per acre.