Monday, August 1, 2016

Till Human Voices Wake Us
(we used to be Apex Predators until the apices went extinct)

Our immediate response to the letter from Trahison & Clerisy (Solicitors and Commissioners for Oaths) was unfavourable. Trahison & Clerisy are our usual legal advisors at the Mad Scientist Anti-Defamation League, and this was their chance to earn the retainer we pay them, what with the impending court case arising to stand in the way of scientific progress. Always there are bleeding-heart nay-sayers going on about "things man was not meant to know", and "ethics committees", and it is at such times that those of us at the forefront of research expect support from our counsel. I was about to write "at the cutting edge of research", but under the circumstances it would be an indelicate choice of words.
Perfectly humane experiments
Instead, they appear to be rethinking their practice. "What in the name of bollocks is 'Holistic Integrative Jurisprudence'?" I exclaimed, slitting open the envelope and catching the letter as it slipped out under its own weight. It was printed on a heavy grade of deckled foolscap that demanded to be not merely read, but perused, or even pored over.

"Apparently it is the new paradigm of legal counselling," said Evangeline van Holsterin (chief barmaid at the Old Entomologist), glancing at the note as she collected the empty glasses from our table before Another Kiwi started stacking them up in another of his attempts to recreate the Tower of Babel out of glassware. "Treating the whole person rather than a narrow focus on winning specific cases. A range of traditional and non-western modalities of courtroom performance."

"Acupuncture complementing the cross-examination," said tigris.

"Chakra readjustment during deposition hearings," Another Kiwi suggested.

"When deciding which expert witnesses to call," read Evangeline, "they will base the choice on omens, auguries, entrail examination, and real-time observations of the movements of large mustelids." I was holding the letter towards me but years of experience at looking over from her side of the bar, and helping the patrons finish their crossword puzzles, have given Evangeline an ability to read printed messages whether they are right-way-up, or upside-down, or any other angle.

"The prosecution would never allow it, I said, imagining the scene. "They'd be all 'Objection, your honour! The defense is witnessing the badger!'”

In other badger observations, Clinchy et al. hid speakers within an English forest, and played back sound effects of various kinds during the night, to see which ones were most distressing and disturbing to badgers as they foraged.

68% of badgers were freaked out by fox barking, which reminded them of the traumatic experience when a Cunning Little Vixen pissed on them to drive them out of a sett.

The other 32% of badgers recalled a similar experience but rather enjoyed it.

82% of badgers were unfazed by weird avant-garde Penderecki compositions performed by large beetles on a Hammond organ, and indeed found them rather relaxing.
On the other hand, badgers are very unsettled by eerie theme-music from "Ring" and become nervous around sunken cavities in the ground, for fear that they are wells from which a long-haired ghost is about to emerge in search of revenge.
The sounds of "people speaking, in conversation, or reading passages from books" produced significantly more badger vigilance than other noises, which Clinchy et al. attribute to the fact that humans are "super-predators" who predate badger populations at a much greater rate than other large carnivores. Bear vocalisations were second scariest, despite bears being long-extinct from UK forests. This ursophobia could indicate traditions passed down through badger families, or genetic imprints of threats from past millennia; the authors are unclear in their explanation.

"The movements of large mustelids?" Another Kiwi vouchsafed. "I think they're called fiants, in the case of a badger, or spraints if it's an otter."


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Saving the poop joke for the end: good form.

Smut Clyde said...

I slipped on an otter turd once, and spraint my ankle.

H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

From The Way of Mrs. Cosmopolite: "Do unto otters as you would have them do unto you".

rhwombat said...

I'd be an otter turd if I did not thank you for leading me to a book which I'm sure will become my constant reference.

On the subject of badgering badgers in the UK, I note the peculiarly English habit of simultaneously engaging in wholesale slaughter on supposed "public health grounds (Hey, bTB infected badger, leave our mad cows alone!), while energetically decrying animal cruelty. Given the well known Oz proclivity to sympathetic treatment of the nations native fauna and flora ("If it moves, shoot it. If it doesn't, cut it down."), I'm glad that no one has yet cultured XDR TB from wombats.