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?
Coffee’s here! SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft made its rendezvous with the International Space Station yesterday, delivering food, scientific experiments and other supplies, including the first espresso machine in space.
The machine, called ISSPresso, was produced as a joint venture between the Italian coffee company Lavazza, the engineering firm Argotec and the Italian Space Agency. Lavazza, which expects the machine to operate for several years in orbit, will supply the ISS with capsules of coffee year round, so they never run out – a good plan if they want any science to get done up there!
The honor of brewing the first espresso in space will go to Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who has somehow been surviving on instant coffee until now.
(Our caffeine-deprived space kitty was originally designed by Ben Ducker for British company O2)
Once upon a time, ten-foot-tall carnivorous “terror birds” roamed the earth. In a paper published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, scientists revealed fascinating new details about their anatomy and hunting technique, based on studies of a nearly-complete fossil found in 2010.
Laura Geggel reports in LiveScience that the researchers, led by Federico Degrange, learned a great deal about the behavior and anatomy of terror birds by studying the skeleton of Llallawavis scagliai.
“Given its extraordinary condition, the fossil has helped researchers study the terror bird’s anatomy in detail. The specimen is the first known fossilized terror bird with a complete trachea and complete palate (the roof of the mouth). It even includes the intricate bones of the creature’s ears, eye sockets, brain box and skull, providing scientists with an unprecedented look at the flightless bird’s sensory capabilities.”
The researchers also discovered that the bird’s skull is more rigid than in other species, suggesting that Llallawavis scagliai may have killed by slamming its large beak up and down upon its prey.
Geggel’s article and the paper itself have many more fascinating details. But I think we’ll just leave it at that because we’re frightening the cat.
All of us at The Finch and Pea send our wishes for a joyous Easter to all those who celebrate, and a sciency Sunday to all.
Sorry, no science today, kittehs are busy making surprises for your Easter basket.