Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Amberique bean flowering

with 30 comments

I don’t often come across amberique bean (Strophostyles helvula or helvola) in Austin. I did on August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. You can probably tell that this plant is in the pea family. Harder to determine is the origin of the name amberique. My research failed to turn up anything definitive, but I did come across the hypothesis that the word originated in an indigenous language.


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On August 20th I quoted from the 2021 book Noise, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Siboney, and Cass R. Sunstein. Here’s another interesting passage, this time about interviewing job applicants.

The power of first impressions is not the only problematic aspect of interviews. Another is that as interviewers, we want the candidate sitting in front of us to make sense (a manifestation of our excessive tendency… to seek and find coherence). In one striking experiment, researchers assigned students to play the role of the interviewer or interviewee and told both that the interview should consist only of closed-ended, yes-or-no questions. They then asked some of the interviewees to answer questions randomly. (The first letter of the questions as formulated determined if they should answer yes or no.) As the researchers wryly note, “Some of the interviewees were initially concerned that the random interview would break down and be revealed to be nonsense. No such problem occurred, and the interviews proceeded.” You read that right: not a single interviewer realized that the candidates were giving random answers. Worse, when asked to estimate whether they were “able to infer a lot about this person given the amount of time we spent together,” interviewers in this “random” condition were as likely to agree as those who had met candidates responding truthfully. Such is our ability to create coherence. As we can often find an imaginary pattern in random data or imagine a shape in the contours of a cloud, we are capable of finding logic in perfectly meaningless answers.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2021 at 4:31 AM

30 Responses

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  1. Finding logic…..yep, that sums it up. Truth becomes another casualty. Very interesting flower.

    eremophila

    September 9, 2021 at 4:58 AM

    • Viktor Frankl wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. It seems we really do crave meaning and coherence. Sometimes, as in the movement that led to Frankl writing his book, the coherence is tyrannically imposed on people, with disastrous consequences, including what you mentioned, that truth becomes another casualty.

      As for the wildflower, other vernacular names include annual sand bean and trailing fuzzybean.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 5:34 AM

      • In light of predicted food shortages, is the bean edible, or would you end up as a has been?

        eremophila

        September 9, 2021 at 7:27 AM

        • I appreciate your wordplay, which works well for your dialect but not quite in American English, where been is pronounced the same as bin rather than bean. I checked just now to see what might work in American English. Unfortunately all the words ending in -bene are technical terms from chemistry that people (including me) wouldn’t be familiar with, like stilbene and terebene. A fallen amberique bean is a still bean, but whether as it decays it gives off any stilbene, I don’t know.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 9, 2021 at 7:48 AM

  2. I bet that I won’t be the only person whose first impression was dragonfly.

    Steve Gingold

    September 9, 2021 at 5:01 AM

    • A dragonfly would never have occurred to me, but I see where you’re coming from. Now I’m wondering if there are any pink and yellow dragonflies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 5:36 AM

      • It brought dragonflies to mind for me, too. I did a quick Google search for pink & yellow dragonflies (surely there must be some), but all that came up were gaudy bits of jewelry. I see further research is needed.

        krikitarts

        September 11, 2021 at 5:22 AM

  3. It crossed my mind that the ‘indigenous’ language could have been French. When I saw the name, my first thought was that it was given by a French speaker who saw a resemblance to amber: as in sympathique. The yellow and pink combination always is pleasing; I assume the pink flower is one that’s fading.

    shoreacres

    September 9, 2021 at 6:34 AM

    • The -que spelling certainly suggests French. In fact my immediate association of amberique was with Amérique. The forms of indigenous words that have made it into English have gotten shaped not only by English itself, which may have borrowed directly from an indigenous language (as with skunk, for example), but often by another European language that did the borrowing first. For example, English took maize from Spanish maíz, which Spanish had taken from Arawakan mahiz or mahís. The presumed indigenous origin of amberique probably precludes any but a coincidental resemblance to the word amber.

      As for the color of amberique bean flowers, I don’t see them often enough to know the progression. I just checked Eason and found he describes them as “pink fading to yellow.” Now we know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 6:54 AM

      • Pink to yellow is an interesting transformation. I can’t remember another flower that transitions in that way; I usually see yellow becoming pink, or orange-ish. There probably are some, of course.

        shoreacres

        September 9, 2021 at 7:06 AM

        • Now you’ll have to be on the lookout for some pink-to-yellow wildflowers. You could make that the subject of a post.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 9, 2021 at 7:10 AM

  4. Beautiful photograph. Your commentary is very interesting. And I’ve seen many examples of this walking around in life. I think that’s part of the appeal of conspiracy theories even in light of cold irrefutable facts. Facts tend to be nuanced. And often require background knowledge while conspiracy theories tend to be black-and-white and thus easier to comprehend despite the fact that they are nuts.

    Michael Scandling

    September 9, 2021 at 9:20 AM

    • It’s so alien to my way of thinking when people keep believing in a claim even in the face of evidence that conclusively contradicts it. More difficult are situations in which some evidence supports a conjecture while other evidence works against the conjecture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 12:40 PM

  5. This flower looks somewhat threatening to me with its two prongs sticking out in an aggressive stance. But again it could be my imagination and the special way you took the picture, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    September 9, 2021 at 9:48 AM

    • They’re just green beans (though not edible). Maybe the pointiness, especially of the pod at the left, connotes aggression for you. And maybe the view from below enhances the imagined menace coming from above.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 12:44 PM

  6. First impression: a muppet bird character. Cute.
    Second impression: typical Steven Schwartzman sky and clouds background. Almost abbreviated it to “SS” but thought better, as those initials have another, more well known but definitely more evil association. I always say that when I shoot up at a plant with the sky as a background, that I am “channeling my inner Steve Schwartzman.” (Or just stealing from his book of techniques).

    No need to find patterns in noise, though that’s what the mind seems to do. Fortunately most of my hallucinations are musical and not conspiratorial, unless used in relation to the choral group Conspirare.

    RobertKamper

    September 9, 2021 at 10:08 AM

    • I had to look at a bunch of Muppet bird pictures to get the gist of your first impression.

      Aiming up at a subject against a blue sky seems like a natural thing to do; if anything, I wonder why not more photographers do that.

      I’ve heard the conjecture that finding patterns in noise conferred an evolutionary advantage. Someone who can pick out a predator against a confusing background is more likely to get away rather than eaten.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 1:06 PM

  7. It’s a beautiful flower, and beans. Great find!

    circadianreflections

    September 9, 2021 at 10:25 AM

  8. What an exquisite flower! Our brains are programmed to make sense… even out of nonsense.

    Alessandra Chaves

    September 9, 2021 at 11:36 AM

    • Making sense out of seeming noise is one thing, and sometimes a good one, as a person may make a discovery by noticing something that’s been out there but that no one else had paid attention to. On the other hand, making “sense” out of nonsense is likely just more nonsense.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 1:13 PM

  9. What a cool flower!

    M.B. Henry

    September 9, 2021 at 4:05 PM

  10. I laughed when I read your line about finding logic in perfectly meaningless answers but, but really I shouldn’t have. Intriguing flower – I like it!

    Ann Mackay

    September 10, 2021 at 6:20 AM

    • I’d be inclined to laugh, too, if only the consequences of pretending to see logic in illogic weren’t so harmful!

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2021 at 6:47 AM


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