The evolution of personality

30 12 2014

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Good little episode of ‘Discovery’ on the World Service just now:

Nice too to hear some familiar voices like Ben Sheldon and Daniel Nettle (tempted to email them and tell them I love their accents!).

2014’s blog in review (thanks to WordPress)

30 12 2014

“The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog” (they tell me… which is great, but they don’t acknowledge that 13,000 of the 14,000 views were just me, checking for typos).

Big increase from last year anyway, with “Hot mink boobs” apparently still a big hit, hurrah.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

H is for Happy Christmas …

24 12 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 11.24.03 AM

.. and for H index: mine just went up to 34!

Happy Christmas!

Chromodacryorrhoea in pigs?

23 12 2014

A loScreen Shot 2014-12-22 at 8.04.47 PMng time ago I was interested in “bloody tears” (chromodacryorrhoea) in rats, and my ears perked up when Jeremy Marchant-Forde told me he thought he’d found a similar phenomenon in pigs. His talk on it was also one of the best presentation at this summer’s ISAE.

Scored on a five-point scale, it seems to increase with social isolation but decrease with environmental enrichment, shows his new paper now due out in Animal Welfare in January.

Queen of spleens

23 12 2014

FullSizeRender-8Back to work in Guelph, Mike,  Maka Natsvlishvili and I had a long day of killing mice, dissecting out heart and leg muscles to see if intense wheel-runners are physically fitter, and freezing spleens in dry ice for so that we can look at telomere length.

As ever, Maka’s use of cervical dislocation was swift and humane, and though we pay a lot for her help it’s well worth it (also great to hear all about Georgian Christmas food, which involves a lot of walnuts – who knew?). My job was to take every spleen out; after doing this 79 times today (with another 73 to do tomorrow), I know what I’m going to dream about tonight.

Sandra the orangutan: a “non-human person” unlawfully deprived of freedom

21 12 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 5.19.54 PMA landmark case in Argentina just decreed that an orangutan held in a zoo can be freed & transferred to a sanctuary, after the court recognised her as a “non-human person” unlawfully deprived of freedom.

Click here for a good write up, & here for a recent US case where the same principle wasn’t applied to a chimp.

“…systematic, inappropriate attempts to manipulate … peer review”

21 12 2014

Just had another interesting & bizarre email from BMC saying “several lines of enquiry point to the systematic, inappropriate manipulation of journals’ submission and peer review process by a third party“, and then linking to a statement from the Committee on Publication Ethics.

This statement in turn says: “While there are a number of well-established reputable agencies offering manuscript-preparation services to authors, investigations at several journals suggests that some agencies are selling services, ranging from authorship of pre-written manuscripts to providing fabricated contact details for peer reviewers during the submission process and then supplying reviews from these fabricated addresses. Some of these peer reviewer accounts have the names of seemingly real researchers but with email addresses that differ from those from their institutions or associated with their previous publications, others appear to be completely fictitious”.

Wow. Wonder if this affects some fields more than others (really cannot imagine it happening in animal welfare).


Glad P. Bites doesn’t charge interest

20 12 2014

I met up with old friend Nigel Warburton yesterday, to catch up and also pay my dues: Maria’s defence present had been a donation to Philosophy Bites, but once I had $300 in crumpled notes on my possession, I frittered them away on shoes, chocolate and other essentials. Five months later, this was my chance to make good (proof below).


Nigel’s latest projects include scripting ‘A History of Ideas’, a series of short animations on big issues like the problem of evil (one for you Becky!).

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Congratulations Jeanette!!!!!

19 12 2014

Jeanette had her PhD defence, ooops no MSc defence (but really it was a PhD quality thesis), just now, and passed with flying colours.

With me connecting in from Oxford and Axel Moehrenschlager from Calgary, it was bound to be a technological nightmare, and lo so it was: the start was delayed by 45 mins because the audio wouldn’t work (me worriedly imagining poor Jeanette pacing in the corridor), and even then I could only ever be seen or heard, not both.

But Jeanette’s presentation was great and her answers to the examiners’ thoughtful questions — led by Dave Barney, our external from Toronto Zoo – were flawless. Just sad not to be there to toast her in person. Below are a couple of screenshots of my view for the last 3 hours.

Gd 1

Gd 2

Is the horse on the left more worried than the one on the right…..

19 12 2014

…. or is anthropomorphism just a powerfully seductive force?

Apparently ‘horse people’ often use eye wrinkles to assess equine affective states, but does this have any real validity?  That’s the topic of Berne student Sara Hintze’s PhD.

There’s been a flurry of facial expression research recently (some better than others), perhaps inspired by Mogil’s work on facial expressions of mice in pain. Done well (and I think this will be, with a decent N and proper use of blinding) it’s very cool stuff. Can’t wait to see what she finds.

No or only very subtle wrink-1Marked wrinkles forming a sh