Sunday 26 July 2009

What BoingBoing taught me today

  • There's now a database with service records of soldiers from the Hundred Years' War. Robert Fogel did awesome work using data from the US Civil War showing just how much economic growth has improved our lives since the 1850s; I wonder what will come of this new dataset.

  • You may have heard of the experiment from the 30s where the researcher raised a chimp infant alongside his own son. You may not have heard the "what happened next".
    The real reason he abruptly halted the study, then, was likely because of results that Kellogg never anticipated: his son Donald started imitating the chimp.

    For example, though Donald had learned to walk before Gua joined the Kellogg family, he regressed and started crawling more, in tune with Gua. He'd bite people, fetch small objects with his mouth, and chewed up a shoe. More importantly, his language skills were delayed. At 19 months, Donald's vocabulary consisted of three words. Instead of talking he would grunt and make chimp sounds.

    Gua got sent back to the Yerkes center in Florida, where she promptly died. And Donald? Not much is known of his life, but, at 43, he committed suicide.

    This study got a lot of press when it was published, but Kellogg ended up deeply regreting it -- not because of what it did to his son, but because it prevented him from being taken seriously as a scientist.
  • Another dodgy use of copyright: this time, to keep folks from fighting their traffic tickets in the UK. Are speed camera photos really what folks had in mind when trying to protect the returns to intellectual innovation? I hope not.

  • Bat shark repellent exists and is effective


  1. Judith Harris noted that chimp fact in The Nurture Assumption. A great quote "Gua was more fun than a barrel-full of Donalds". It should also be noted that Donald's imitative wall-chewing was not evidence of any mental deficiency, he became an accomplished doctor.

  2. I've not read Harris but saw the discussion over at EconLog when the book came out.

    My son Ira is 18 months; though he's not been raised with a monkey, chewing objects is pretty standard....