A bid to determine what the most popular colour in the world has been foiled by a quirk in the researcher’s sample space.
“It turns out that nearly half the candidates surveyed were colour blind, rendering the results useless,” said coordinator Fergus McCray, “We first noticed the issue when a candidate told us that he couldn’t answer the question. He laughed and said, ‘It’s a trick, right?’ And, after a couple of questions, we figured out what was wrong. Then we went back to our previous candidates and tested them for colour blindness. It was a disaster.”
Three quarters of the allocated samples had been completed and the study, which had already been plagued by administration and technical issues, was halted.
Around 5% of the population have some form of colour blindness, a condition that makes the differentiation of some or all colours difficult or impossible. The study has been abandoned and it seems likely that no further grants will be forthcoming, adding an extra blow to the blunder.
“This kind of thing doesn’t just happen. Mathematically, we’d be more likely to have a meteorite hit our lab. At least then we might have a chance with insurance. I’m thinking it was sabotage by (a former employee, name has been suppressed for legal reasons) who was responsible for selecting the population sample. If we can prove it was (the former employee) we’ll be seeking damages for lost time and reputation.”
Elephants now join the ranks of humans and sea-otters for a rare classification – they remember birthdays. “There’s a lot to the saying that an elephant never forgets, so it’s only natural that these wonderful creatures show such an amazing ability,” says biologist Ramsay Helifax, “The evidence is pretty clear.”
Ramsay and his team monitored a herd of elephants in Africa for over five years, using satellite trackers to detail their movements. One year after the birth of every elephant in the herd, to the exact hour, each elephant raises their trunk in salute.
“The ‘birthday elephant’ walks in circles while the other elephants raise their trunks and trumpet what we can only imagine is the pachyderm equivalent of ‘happy birthday’,” Ramsay says, “The ceremony is over in five minutes, after which they get down to some serious eating.”
Every elephant in the herd received the treatment, Ramsay noted, except for one, “Billy, a young bull, was the only one who missed out.” When pressed for his opinion as to why, Ramsay jokes, “It’s probably because he’s the <expletive> of the herd.”
Ramsay hopes to repeat his studies in India and inspire other researchers to follow in his footsteps.
Bottle-nosed dolphins have always been regarded as clever, now recent footage has shown a new side to their intelligence: they cook their food.
In a recent underwater dive to examine volcanic vents, a geologist caught a rare glimpse of an underwater barbecue. He was surprised to see dolphins drag their catch down and throwing them over the vent to ‘cook’.
The dolphins would then ascend to catch the cooked fish as they were elevated by the rising hot currents.
“I don’t know where this behaviour comes from,” says Rob Pritami, owner of the footage, “I’m a geologist, not a biologist. I guess it just shows that everyone likes a barbecue – even dolphins!”