Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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March 29, 2014

Do animals have a sense of humor?

(Continued)

As Bekoff points out, Darwin argued that the difference between human and animal intelligence is a matter of degree, not of kind. Or as Bekoff put it, "If we have a sense of humor, then nonhuman animals should have a sense of humor, too."

A similar sentiment inspired psychologist Jaak Panksepp to enter his lab at Bowling Green State University in Ohio one day in 1997 and tell undergrad Jeffrey Burgdorf, "Let's go tickle some rats." The lab had already discovered that its rats would emit unique ultrasonic chirps in the 50 kilohertz range when they were chasing one another and engaging in play fighting. Now the researchers wondered if they could prompt this chirping through tickling. Sure enough, when the researchers began poking at the bellies of the rats in their lab, their ultrasonic recording devices picked up the same 50 kilohertz sounds. The rats eagerly chased their fingers for more. Soon, as the news media trumpeted the existence of rat laughter, people the world over were opening up their rat cages and engaging Pinky and Mr. Pickles in full-scale tickle wars.

We met Burgdorf at his office at Northwestern's Falk Center, where as a biomedical engineering professor he's continued his rat-tickling efforts. He was cautious, however, about overselling what's happening with his rodents. "I don't necessarily call it laughter, I call it a signal of positive affect," Burgdorf told us. His careful choice of words makes sense. Not everyone was convinced he and Panksepp had uncovered real rat laughter when their rodent-tickling activities first went public. But whatever you want to call it, Burgdorf, a quick-witted guy with a boyish face and a sign on his office door that reads "Know It All," has been obsessed with that strange rat noise he first heard in 1997.

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    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

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    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

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    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

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    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

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    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • Has the iPad lost its swag?

      The company reported this week that sales of its sleek, pricey tablet were down 19 percent from last quarter and 9 percent year-over-year. CEO Tim Cook tried to reassure investors that Apple's new partnership with IBM to sell its devices to IBM's corporate customers will help make iPads ubiquitous in the workplace. "This isn't something that worries us," he said of the iPad sales decline. But the numbers are disappointing no matter how you spin them.

    July 24, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

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