Friday, February 23, 2007

Monkey Business

A story making headlines right now is the account of chimpanzees observed to sharpen sticks and using them to spear small, lemur-like creatures for food. Doesn’t it send chills down your spine to hear of this advance, not unlike the first time you viewed our ape ancestors getting the idea to use bones as weapons at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey? The research team, headed by Iowa State University anthropology professor Jill Pruetz, made this discovery between March 2005 to July 2006 in Fongoli, Senegal. Isn’t it funny how discoverers are often congratulated for what they discover, as if (using the present instance) the fact that some chimps are smart enough to sharpen sticks stands as a reflection on themselves? Of course, recognizing the importance of what you see is what makes discovery a laudable thing; and, I suppose, to actually go looking for something and finding it, instead of stumbling upon it, must make it especially fine indeed . . . or does it?

With all this in mind, I recently set up a hidden observation post in my kitchen to test my hypothesis that hungry teenagers, when left on their own and having no money to order pizza, will find a way to feed themselves using what’s available. The two subjects were Daughter Number 1 (19 years old) and Daughter Number 2 (16 years old).

Scanning my notes, here, in brief, are my findings:

8:03 PM: DN1 enters holding stomach, an evident sign of hunger. Attempts to open refrigerator door with teeth. Fails and leaves.

8:32 PM: DN1 and DN2 enter. DN1 shows DN2 refrigerator. Attempts by DN2 to open refrigerator by butting door with head ultimately fail. Finally, DN1 uses her hands and succeeds in pulling the door open.

Skimming ahead, we find both subjects eventually come into possession of a jar of Prego spaghetti sauce, a box of vermicelli, and a cooking pot.

9:52 PM: DN1 fills pot with water and sets on stove. Both subjects watch the pot intently.

10:21 PM: DN2 indicates to DN1 that heat must be applied to boil the water. Both subjects turn their attention to the knobs at the top of the stove.

10:22 PM: DN1, by twisting the knobs, causes fire to appear in one burner. Both subjects scurry in fright to far side of kitchen.

10:23 PM: DN2 sets pot on top of the gas flame.

Skimming still further ahead, we find that both subjects, by working together, boiled the spaghetti, drained the water, separated it out onto two plates, and poured sauce onto each mound, all very complex tasks. But what follows is something no teenager has ever been recorded to do:

11:10 PM: DN1 places dirty plate into dishwasher.

There, my discovery — and completely unlooked for! A teenager actually attempting to clean up after herself! This, I suggest, is extremely rare, and to actually have the event witnessed and recorded is unprecedented!

Please look for the full article to appear soon in the scientific journal Nature.

7 Comments:

Blogger Michele said...

"A teenager actually attempting to clean up after herself! This, I suggest, is extremely rare, and to actually have the event witnessed and recorded is unprecedented!"

I too can apprecitate your excitement at having witnessed such an event! This event is just as rare with boyfriends and 8 year old daughters.... ;)

1:20 PM  
Blogger LL said...

Ah yes... but was anyone there to confirm your research? If there's no corroborating evidence, I'm afraid you'll never get anyone to believe that...

and Michele... GO UPDATE YOUR BLOG! :P

1:03 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Poor DN1 & DN2. Completely unaware of their dear ol' dad's observational abilities.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

Hmmm.... I don't know.... Starving children, father present and fully capable of helping, yet willfully refraining from doing so....

Sounds like a clear case of child neglect to me. I'm calling the authorities!

5:53 PM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Truly you have stumbled upon quite a miraculous sight. Almost as rare as seeing a male of the species put down a toilet seat.

12:15 PM  
Blogger SzélsőFa said...

I'd really love to see this article appear in Nature :)

But wait, let me see, there was a third subject, at the same place of observation between 8 and 11 PM, for a whole 3 hours, doing...what?

6:36 AM  
Blogger tiff said...

I'm sure the clean up was only because they are girls......boys would leave the plate on the countertop so the sauce can harden overnight.

8:09 AM  

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