Science Caturday: Chimps seek Freedom; Cats Have Other Goals

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This week brought confusing news on the legal status of research animals, as a judge in New York state seemed to grant two chimps legal personhood and then revoke it the next day.

New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe signed an order on April 20 requiring Stony Brook University to respond to claims by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) that two research chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, were being unlawfully detained. The NhRP then claimed that by this action the judge had implicitly granted the chimps legal personhood, because the document, called a writ of habeas corpus, can only be granted to a person in New York state.

However, after extensive media coverage on April 21, Jaffe amended the order, letting arguments on the detention of the chimps go forward but removing the words WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS from the top of the document.

Sorry, chimps. As far as legal status, cats really do seem to have it better. In 2012, Hank the cat ran for the senate in Virginia, while in 2011, a cat in Italy inherited $156 million. Power. Money. Noms and naps. What next, kittehs?

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Mammoth ain’t Mopey

I am very pleased to announce that the Mammoth is Mopey project of Jennie & David Orr passed its $104 funding goal on IndieGoGo last night. Personally, this means my kids will be getting a copy of this beautiful and inspiring book, one of our local libraries will be getting a copy of this beautiful and inspiring book, and that I will also be able to show my love for ankylosaurs on my messenger bag with a cool “Paleontology Fancier*” button.

Mammoth is Mopey by Jennie & David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Adapted with Permission)

It also means that you have one week left to pledge your support in the confidence that any pledge is actually a pre-order. You can get a print copy for only $15. My fellow parents know that $15 is actually a pretty good deal for an illustrated book that about which you are enthusiastic – and, if you are not enthusiastic about reading, art, and prehistoric animals, I really don’t know what you are doing here.

You can still take the “Which Mammoth is Mopey Character are You” quiz too. I got the artistic ankylosaur, which I think confirms the accuracy of the quiz beyond any shadow of doubt.

Ankylosaur is Artistic by Jennie & David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

*More like fanciest – am I right?

Science for the People: Severed

sftpThis week Science for the People is looking at our scientific curiosity – and morbid fascination – about the human body and its amazing anatomy. We’ll speak to anthropologist and author Frances Larson about her book Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found. We’ll also discuss the experience of learning anatomy through human dissection, with Laboratory Supervisor Haley Linklater, and masters student Noah Mintz, from the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Western University.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Trollslayers

On 10 April, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key aspects of patent-troll Personal Audio’s “podcasting patent” following a petition for review spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with assistance from the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and other pro bono attorneys. Personal Audio had been using the patent to threaten podcasters with lawsuits unless a settlement was paid out.

ORDERED that Petitioner has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 31–35 of U.S. Patent No. 8,112,504 B2 are unpatentable…

A key aspect of the successful petition was the evidence of “prior art” – podcasts or podcast-like productions that pre-dated the patent – which were researched in part through crowdsourcing.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key claims in the so-called “podcasting patent” today after a petition for review from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)—a decision that significantly curtails the ability of a patent troll to threaten podcasters big and small…In petitions filed with Patent Office, EFF showed that Personal Audio did not invent anything new before it filed its patent application, and, in fact, other people were podcasting for years previously.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Art of Science: Juan Travieso Paints Endangered Species

Juan Travieso, Extinction is Eternal, Acrylic on Canvas, 2013

Juan Travieso, Extinction is Eternal, Acrylic on Canvas, 2013

Earth Day seems like the perfect moment to showcase the work of Juan Travieso, a Cuban-born painter based in Miami. Travieso’s oil and acrylic paintings feature endangered species, particularly a vast array of endangered birds, juxtaposed against design elements that suggest encroaching buildings, technology, and disease – in other words, some of the things that endanger them.

In a recent interview with the art blog Hi-Fructose, Travieso explained his inspiration. “As a part of nature, I am aware of the fact that we are trying so hard as a species to disconnect ourselves from what we are. I feel that it is my responsibility as an artist and as a citizen of the world to give voice to the powerless species on this earth. Therefore, I have been focusing on endangered species for the last six years. One of my goals is to paint all of the endangered birds in the world.”

The ambitious scale of that goal is part of the point. Travieso notes that after two years of painting endangered birds, he realized that the message of the paintings would be magnified by their sheer number.  “The more different species I painted, the more the audience would understand the great value of their loss. One of my dreams is to have a retrospective with all of my bird paintings under the same roof. It would be a grand statement on the toll we have taken on nature.”

You can read the full interview here  and see the full Endangered Birds series at Travieso’s website.