Alright, June 1st. So, before posts start up here with any regularity again, I should probably catch y’all up on recent events. (Consider the next few posts the recap in front of the comic and/or the “Previously On” for the seasons you missed.)
First, up above is me and Amy — whom I’ve mentioned a few times over the years — at my sister‘s wedding last October. And below is us at the Trianon in Versailles (Wilson’s base during the Conference) last summer, a day or two after I proposed.
is a criminologist at George Mason
, and while I won’t sing her praises too much here, suffice to say we get along swimmingly (perhaps in part because, yes, we do have the same last name. Good enough for Franklin and Eleanor, good enough for Jaime and Cersei.) We moved in together on Capitol Hill a year and a half ago, around the same time I left Congress and started at the Trust
. Our wedding is this September in Maui.
And this is Murf. Formerly Amy’s, now our seven-and-a-half-year-old bichon frise, Murf is completely blind after several bouts with canine glaucoma — in fact, both of his eyes have now been eviscerated. But he gets around surprisingly well by smell, hearing, and memory, almost as easily as Berk
did after he went deaf. (Maybe one day, we’ll get a basenji and complete the triptych
Speaking of the old man, and as I said here, he and Murf shared this realm for a year or so, during which they went from antipathy to generally ignoring each other before Berk’s end. They had different interests anyway. Berk was into watching, circling, and barking, while Murf is more of a sit-in-your-lap, incessant licking man. To each his own.
Pour some bacon, haribo cherries, and sundry other treats out for those who are no longer with us. Today would have been Berk’s sixteenth birthday. RIP old friend.
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“The researchers had mice run through a maze to get a reward of chocolate milk. The animals could figure out the location of the reward either through sensory cues such as rough or smooth floors, which corresponds to declarative learning. Or, they could discover the reward was always linked to either a left or right turn, which corresponds to procedural learning. The investigators discovered the mice with the human form of FOXP2 learned profoundly faster than regular mice when both declarative and procedural forms of learning were involved.”
Scared and smarter: In an experiment right out of the The Secret of NIMH, researchers discover that mice learn faster after being given a gene linked to human speech. ‘What surprised me most was that the humanized gene actually improved the animal’s behavior rather than messing up the system.'” Remember…Dubya did try to warn us.
“You’d see firefighters sitting there, unanimated, stone-faced, no emotion, and then they’d see a dog and break out into a smile,” Otto recalled. “Those dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant — and that was huge because it was a pretty dismal place to be.”
Thirteen years after a dark day, 15-year-old Bretagne, one of the last surviving 9/11 search dogs, returns to Ground Zero. “In the years that followed 9/11, Bretagne and Corliss deployed together to numerous disaster sites, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan. Bretagne retired from formal search work at age 9 — but today, even though she’s roughly 93 in human years, she still loves to work.”
“‘People have not paid attention to this in the entire history of scientific research of animals,’ says Jeffrey Mogil, a pain researcher at McGill University and lead author of the study. ‘I think that it may have confounded, to whatever degree, some very large subset of existing research.'”
Sorry, Lenny: A new study finds a potentially problematic issue for decades of research: Mice are scared of men (or males of any species). ‘If you’re doing a liver cell study, the cells came from a rat that was sacrificed either by a man or a woman,’ Mogil says. As a result, ‘its stress levels would be in very different states.’ This, he says, could have an effect on the functioning of the liver cell in that later experiment.”
“Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. I must be a creature. I must be a creature of the night…I shall become a shark.” Iconic Batman villains reconceived as cartoon sharks
, by artist Jeff Victor
. Mr. Freeze’s goldfish is a nice touch.
The True Detective
credit sequence, now reimagined with kittehs
. Because the Internet. As I said on Twitter
, this is cute and all, but Watership Down remains my go-to
for cute and depressing existential animals.
“The earth is about to become a lot less ‘natural.’ Biologists have already created new forms of bacteria in the lab, modified the genetic code of countless living species and cloned dogs, cats, wolves and water buffalo, but the engineering of novel vertebrates — of breathing, flying, defecating pigeons — will represent a milestone for synthetic biology. This is the fact that will overwhelm all arguments against de-extinction.”
By way of Follow Me Here, the NYT’s Nathaniel Rich examines the promise, challenges, and ethics of reviving extinct species, and beyond:
“What is coming will go well beyond the resurrection of extinct species. For millenniums, we have customized our environment, our vegetables and our animals, through breeding, fertilization and pollination. Synthetic biology offers far more sophisticated tools. The creation of novel organisms, like new animals, plants and bacteria, will transform human medicine, agriculture, energy production and much else. De-extinction ‘is the most conservative, earliest application of this technology,’ says Danny Hillis, a Long Now board member and a prolific inventor who pioneered the technology that is the basis for most supercomputers.”