Science Saturday

Could a Monkey Really Do Your Job? Boxer and Feinstein, two female rhesus macaque monkeys presumably named after California’s U.S. Senators, demonstrated that they could perform mental addition nearly as well as college students. According to scientists Jessica F. Cantlon and Elizabeth M. Brannon of Duke University’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, “…Monkeys perform approximate mental addition in a manner that is remarkably similar to the performance of the college students. These findings support the argument that humans and nonhuman primates share a cognitive system for nonverbal arithmetic, which likely reflects an evolutionary link in their cognitive abilities.” The researchers published their findings in PLoS Biology. According to a press release from Duke, “While the college students were correct 94 percent the time and the monkeys 76 percent, the average response time for both monkeys and humans was about one second.” In previous research, Cantlon and Brannon discovered that “monkeys have a semantic perception of numbers that is like humans’ and which is independent of language.”

How I Wasted the Last Two Three Hours. A dashing young SnagglepussWhile reading about asteroids, I began thinking about a Snagglepuss (my favorite Hanna-Barbera character) phrase that had popped into my head a couple of days ago: Heavens to Murgatroyd (only, I thought it was spelled “Mergatroid”). Where did Snagglepuss pick up this expression? That was easy to find. So then I was trying to think how I could tie in Snagglepuss with today’s Science Saturday, because then I could mention Snagglepuss, which I think sounds funny. There must be some kind of a scientific twist on an anthropomorphic mountain lion. This sent me down a branching Wikipedia search through linguistics and idioms, and then I tried to find a link on idioms and cartoons, which went nowhere, except to tell me that cartoons are a good way to teach people about the meaning of idioms. Then I started thinking about my husband’s Wikipedia addiction and found this. Which led me to this: a cartoon using an idiom!

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