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Human Language Gene Changes How Mice Squeak

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the let's-test-the-reverse dept.

Biotech 185

archatheist writes "Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany have engineered a mouse whose FOXP2 gene has been swapped out for a different (human) version. This is interesting because the gene is implicated in human language, and this has changed how mice squeak. 'In a region of the brain called the basal ganglia, known in people to be involved in language, the humanized mice grew nerve cells that had a more complex structure. Baby mice utter ultrasonic whistles when removed from their mothers. The humanized baby mice, when isolated, made whistles that had a slightly lower pitch, among other differences, Dr. Enard says. Dr. Enard argues that putting significant human genes into mice is the only feasible way of exploring the essential differences between people and chimps, our closest living relatives.' The academic paper was published in Cell."

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this can only end.. (5, Funny)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147487)

... with ultrasonic zombie mice.

Re:this can only end.. (1)

V4L3R4 (1526175) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147541)

Is that such a bad thing?

Re:this can only end.. (5, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147621)

Is that such a bad thing?

One Celine Dion was enough, thank you.

Re:this can only end.. (5, Funny)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147611)

This is just the beginning. They started off with a cut down version of the gene (due to patent restrictions on the method used in working with the full gene) that only allows the mice to squeek in the lower tone, do the high pitch whistle, and make one other noise, such as checking its email. The three squeek limit will be a limitation until the Mice Generation 7, when they'll be able to have as many squeeks as they like, but the amount of memory they can use will be limited. This is of course until the EU gets their hands into them, and they will be born without an ability to browse.

Re:this can only end.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147709)

That was, quite possibly, the most unrelated post I have ever read.

Re:this can only end.. (4, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147757)

This is slashdot. Everything's related to Microsoft-bashing.

Re:this can only end.. (4, Funny)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147975)

Unrelated?! There's bits about TWO front page slashdot stories in there, as opposed to the other posts which relate just to the ONE? That makes my post *doubly* related.

I'm sure that's how it works. Isn't it? :-p

Re:this can only end.. (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148537)

Well, I don't care whether your post is unrelated or not, because I LOL'ed.

Re:this can only end.. (3, Interesting)

kanweg (771128) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147855)

"This is of course until the EU gets their hands into them, and they will be born without an ability to browse.'

I think this would have been more accurate: And they no longer have a browser-pellet forcefed to them, but are made concious that they are free to browse as they like.

Bert

Re:this can only end.. (0, Offtopic)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147945)

How is that more accurate? I've never known anyone who couldn't use another browser in *any* version of Windows. My Mom ran Netscape on Win95 and 98, she runs Firefox on 2000, my dad runs Opera on XP and 2003, and the kids (my young siblings) I noticed recently running Google's Chrome on XP and Vista. Quit letting your opinion be swayed by your bitterness over the fact that a browser from a company you don't like is widely used. If you really have trouble using a non-IE browser, that reflects only on your own abilities.

Re:this can only end.. (1, Informative)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148161)

Well, this thread is off topic, but I'll bite.

Quit letting your opinion be swayed by your bitterness over the fact that a browser from a company you don't like is widely used. If you really have trouble using a non-IE browser, that reflects only on your own abilities.

This polemic is not about the user. The trouble is not in using another browser, the trouble is writing websites for IE. It is a frustrating fucking nightmare. It is such a mess that anybody who has written a website in the last 5 or 6 years can not believe that people would choose IE of their own free will. Of course, the mess is transparent to the user who will blame the website if it does not look right in IE.

Now, I know that the IE situation has gotten better (but is still pretty bad) since IE7, but IE6 just won't die because its quirkiness caused a kind of lock in: corporate intranet sites are written for it and they are too expensive to correct. For these people, using another browser really has become impossible. Whether this corporate lock in was deliberate is debatable, but that is the reason the EU gets involved.

Re:this can only end.. (-1, Offtopic)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148223)

"It is a frustrating fucking nightmare"

I never have problems with it... sure there was some stagnation issues with there being such a large gap between IE6 and 7 that meant you had to drop in a bit of extra code to support transparent pngs etc, but I much prefer coding under IE to firefox. I had a page the other week, iframe in the middle with a 1 pixel black solid css border around it... IE, Safari, Chrome, Opera, all rendered the black rectangle correctly, Firefox (3.0 and 3.1 beta) was only drawing three sides of it... and that's just a black rectangle. I much prefer the way IE exports the window.event object making it much more readily available than firefox, being able to say
body.onkeypress=functionname; and then being able to access window.event from within the function is way cleaner than having to attach the event in a way that lets you specify passing variables. The setCapture() and releaseCapture() functions make window manager type stuff, or any other kind of dragging where there may be iframes on the page a billion times easier. Iframes... very useful, where did they come from again? Oh yeah, IE. Extra HTML tag properties exported as DOM properties rather than having to use getAttribute and setAttribute I also find preferable. Chrome and Safari4 are also much nicer to code for than Firefox, but they're pretty new. They do however show that it IS possible for other browsers to support features that MS have invented, features that (many of them) actually make things better. How hard would it be to export window.event? I bet it would be a piece of piss, but FF developers haven't, so who's fault is it that stuff doesn't work on it that does on IE?

Basically, whatever platform you're used to programming for, be it mozilla or ie, the other one IS going to seem alien to you, and stuff is frustratingly not gonna work on it. To me, IE, Safari4 and Chrome are a bliss, and I wish firefox would just die. In the latest generation of browsers, it's SO far behind the curve, it's a real pain to support. Thankfully, doing mostly webapp stuff at the moment, I can just get my clients to use any other browser but FF.

But for you, the one you hate is IE rather than FF, which can only lead to the conclusion that IT'S SUBJECTIVE! So quit with the 'better' or 'worse' thing like there's any kind of authority on the issue. All browsers put stuff in that doesn't work on the others, and so lock in is possible on all browsers. So many of the missing features from FF are available in Safari4 and Chrome; they run a lot of my webapps that previously was IE only, I was most glad to see. Proof that it is possible. It's just whinging from the Mozilla corner instead of coding.

Re:this can only end.. (2, Insightful)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148573)

I can't reproduce your border error. I bet it has to do with your iframe having width set in a way that causes it to run under another element that does not take the extra 2 pixel width of the iframe+margin into account.

You really should not be attaching events that way. This is bad for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is that you only get one event per element. Personally, I really like the observe method from prototype.js, but with what you are talking about MooTools might be better.

It is really pretty rare that you should have to pass variables that way. Just use objects and store your variables in that object.

They do however show that it IS possible for other browsers to support features that MS have invented, features that (many of them) actually make things better.

Yes, but a lot of them make life harder [positioniseverything.net] , and a lot of IE's quirks are just plain buggy [positioniseverything.net] . The point is that the web should be cross-platform: you have a standard and you code to it. Vendors should not have to implement features invented by a third party that may or may not be properly documented (ooxml anyone?). This is why we have the W3C to develop and innovate standards. Hell, MS helped write a lot of the standards that they don't implement.

Basically, whatever platform you're used to programming for, be it mozilla or ie, the other one IS going to seem alien to you, and stuff is frustratingly not gonna work on it.

A browser is not a platform. It should implement the standard so that we can code to it... "write once, run anywhere" should not be a paradigm reserved for Java.

But for you, the one you hate is IE rather than FF, which can only lead to the conclusion that IT'S SUBJECTIVE!

It is not subjective. There is a standard. While no browser implements it fully, IE is (still) the worst.

Re:this can only end.. (3, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147847)

And the mice will suddenly start to develop extreme communication skills and figure out how to upset the results of the scientists.

This is an interesting part of science, even if it's not always morally "right". The outcome should be that we will learn more about ourselves and to design better drugs to treat illnesses.

But the more worrying kind of action here is that it also invites to tampering with genes that can make humans meek and controllable. A new level of slavery can be developed. Just imagine a totalitarian state with zombie slaves to do all the dirt work. If the Nazis had had this technology they would have used it! And super-humans that can exceed all current Olympic records.

Let's just say that we live in interesting times!

Re:this can only end.. (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148021)

But the more worrying kind of action here is that it also invites to tampering with genes that can make humans meek and controllable. A new level of slavery can be developed. Just imagine a totalitarian state with zombie slaves to do all the dirt work. If the Nazis had had this technology they would have used it! And super-humans that can exceed all current Olympic records.

Nah, that won't happen. They will escape their human creators along with the rats next door and migrate out to country, steal resources from local farmers, and then proceed to create a super colony. Biding their time, and building their resources, they will ultimately take over the earth. All in the guise of cute little rodents.

Re:this can only end.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148579)

"Just imagine a totalitarian state with zombie slaves to do all the dirt work."

We already have that, it's called america.

Re:this can only end.. (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148605)

A new level of slavery can be developed. Just imagine a totalitarian state with zombie slaves to do all the dirt work. If the Nazis had had this technology they would have used it!

What? No they wouldn't. Why go to all the trouble of genetically engineering a subhuman slave race when you've already got millions of untermenschen all over the place that you need to find a use for? The whole point of the Third Reich was to get rid of the inferior breeds, not to create more!

Mengele would probably have played with this technology, but as a matter of policy the Nazis were fixated on genetic purity. Cross-species gene tampering of this kind would probably have disgusted them.

Re:this can only end.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148771)

No, see, if the Nazis could create the ULTIMATE Arian they absolutely would. All they would have had to do was take all the genes out of their Ultimate Arian that are found in Jews. So once their Ultimate Arian had no genes in common with Jews they would rule the world! I mean, that would be like totally pure genes, right.

Re:this can only end.. (4, Funny)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148611)

And the mice will suddenly start to develop extreme communication skills and figure out how to upset the results of the scientists.

"How better to disguise their real natures, and how better to guide your thinking. Suddenly running down a maze the wrong way, eating the wrong bit of cheese, unexpectedly dropping dead of myxomatosis, - if it's finely calculated the cumulative effect is enormous."

Re:this can only end.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148613)

It's ok, the research is bound to lead to at least one really smart mouse.

And he will try to take over the world.

Re:this can only end.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148643)

RTFS (summary). The ultrasonic sound is ""before"" the gene swap, ergo not funny.

Massive reverse engineering job (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147501)

Today's biology is finite component analysis done at a massive scale.. Figuring out how a machine as big as a person works is going to take millenniums.

Re:Massive reverse engineering job (3, Interesting)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147603)

Sounds like a job for... better tools. :)

Well Said (4, Funny)

tobiah (308208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147659)

One could pick apart the errors of the parent statement, but the fact remains that if a simulation is too slow or wrong to make meaningful predictions, there's something wrong with the simulation.

Re:Massive reverse engineering job (5, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148053)

Today's biology is finite component analysis done at a massive scale.. Figuring out how a machine as big as a person works is going to take millennium

Maybe not, high-throughput molecular biology is getting better all the time.

-With the genome sequenced we have a rough idea of how many genes there are and can find homologies between genes, so you can begin clustering genes by presumed function.

-With mutagenesis screens, you can sometimes identify most of the genes involved in a given process.

-High-throughput protein interaction studies can identify complexes, grouping proteins into functional groups.

-There's an attempt to make a knockout mouse [wikipedia.org] for every gene in their genome.

None of those will give you the full story for any one gene, nor will any give you good stories for most of the genes by themselves. But used together, we can have a rough idea of what genes do what, and can take a closer look at what we need to. This gene, FOXP2 for example, was not chosen at random.

And that's just with technology I've heard of that exists now. I don't know much about genomics, and we certainly are going to continue to invent ways to get research done faster. I think the human genome project came in under budget and ahead of schedule largely due to technology that was advanced as the project was underway. It's too early to make such long forecasts.

Re:Massive reverse engineering job (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148227)

Thing is, high throughput molecular biology is still being done by biology post-grads pretending to be engineers (who would just be pretending to be industrialists anyway). Until we work out a way to encourage the kind of innovation and ingenuity that one sees in industry we'll never get to the bottom of all this.

 

And their mother says... (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147517)

Squeak to me, baby, squeak to me!

Life imitates art? (5, Funny)

DamienNightbane (768702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147525)

This is how The Secret of Nimh began, isn't it?

Re:Life imitates art? (2, Informative)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147535)

Speaking of Art, here is some cool FoxP2 Art: http://www.foxp2.org/ [foxp2.org]

Re:Life imitates art? (2, Funny)

DamienNightbane (768702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147561)

Wow, that's not what I was expecting when I clicked on a URL that had "fox" in it in a reply to a comment about the Secret of Nimh.

Re:Life imitates art? (1)

tobiah (308208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147685)

See, this is the problem with trying to understand function by studying the disfunctional, and trying to understand disfunction by studying someone else with similar symptoms. I don't really see this as a breakdown of the scientific method so much as a failure to understand the method.

Re:Life imitates art? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147559)

Perhaps, but The Secret of MPIEA just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Re:Life imitates art? (2, Funny)

ethana2 (1389887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147601)

I hear the rats of Nicad were pretty dense.

/me ducks

Re:Life imitates art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147665)

Since when is nickel-metal hydride a secret?

Re:Life imitates art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147839)

Since the mice started a war against the Duracell bunny.

Where is the line? (4, Interesting)

hibji (966961) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147543)

I'm assuming most people here won't have a problem with this research. But truly, where is the line? What about injecting human brain cells into mice? How about into chimps? Do we have any moral obligations not to cross this line? I am in awe and at the same time terrified about the future.

This article raises some of these questions. It's quite interesting that it was written in 2004. It even mentions the FOXP2 gene.
http://www.reason.com/news/show/34941.html [reason.com]

Re:Where is the line? (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147637)

"What about injecting human brain cells into mice?"

No that would just be silly. Firstly, keeping brain cells alive long enough to put them into a mouse is gonna be difficult, secondly, the mouse's immune system's gonna just reject and kill the cells as soon as they are put into the mouse, and thirdly, even if you got the cells into the mouse they wouldn't do anything because they wouldn't be connecting into the mouse's neural network. The genetic approach is probably gonna remain much more effective.

Re:Where is the line? (4, Informative)

hibji (966961) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147649)

The linked article seems to disagree with you:

Stanford University's Irving Weissman has injected human neural stem cells from aborted fetuses into the brains of fetal mice, where they have integrated and grown into human neurons and glia that intermingle with mouse brain cells, making up about 1 percent of the tissue in their brains.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147681)

Great, next you're gonna tell 'im that actually MIT have created monsters to go under the bed. Sheesh!

Re:Where is the line? (5, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147793)

Nah, if we are not careful the monsters could be the scientists and rest of us.

From the link:
> However, there is no evidence the chimeric mice began to contemplate the meaning of life. We need to give such chimeric mice no more or less moral consideration than we already give laboratory mice.

Really? How do they know that - they don't speak mice.

And what about the humans who don't contemplate the meaning of life? Most of us don't contemplate the meaning of life every minute of our lives.

OK say 1% human is still not human enough. At what percentage does a subject become too human to experiment on?

Yes, look at it that way.

And they'd probably do things the other way round too - start adding nonhuman (not necessarily animal) parts to humans.

So maybe you might decide to reject an "upgrade" because you would be no longer be classed as human and thus be no longer eligible for human-only medical insurance or "NHS".

Just because the tech is ready, doesn't mean the laws, systems and societies are ready.

Re:Where is the line? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148211)

And what about the humans who don't contemplate the meaning of life? Most of us don't contemplate the meaning of life every minute of our lives.

We do actually. Look, there's no easy way to tell you this but it's time you knew; you're one of the mice.

Re:Where is the line? (2, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148129)

secondly, the mouse's immune system's gonna just reject and kill the cells as soon as they are put into the mouse,

They'd be using SCID [wikipedia.org] mice. These mice are often used for xenografts, sometimes with human tissue. For example, here's an abstract [nih.gov] describing a study in which researchers implanted human ovarian tissue into SCID mice, and the tissue actually developed into something resembling a functional human ovary. I think I saw the lead researcher give a talk, she thought these tissues would be functional with hormone stimulation.

Re:Where is the line? (5, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147683)

the classic one anti GM nut jobs bring up is "would you eat pork with human genes in it", and i guess there will be similar objections raised over this. they try to imply it would make you a cannibal and other nonsense, ignoring the fact we already share genetic code with pigs.

in a nut shell, i'd support any form of genetic experiementation that does cause undue distress or suffering on an animal. call me a soft lefty, but i just can't stomach unwarranted suffering of animals. i feel worse for them than i do for most humans, because they don't understand what's happening and certainly don't bring it on themselfs.

once i was asked if i supported harvesting organs from animals to save people - I do, but only if it's done in a humane manner and the animals don't suffer. after all if we can't protect animals from cruelty what chance is there we will do the same for our fellow man?

Re:Where is the line? (2, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147705)

Unfortunately I believe people will cross many such lines way before human society is ready.

A lot of scientists (and other people) seem to think just because it can be done, it should be done (and if they don't someone else will do it anyway).

Will human society be willing to give such transgenic mice, chimps and pigs the full rights as other humans? If we aren't, we shouldn't be doing stuff like this.

Even if such research can benefit humans in one way, it will cause big problems.

People may ask: nut who then decides what is allowed and how? If people could manage to decide that certain classes of experiments/research on humans are banned, I'm sure they can figure other stuff out.

And they should start figuring it out. It's clear we're like toddlers stumbling headlong without looking where we might end up.

Don't forget: if we start putting too many human genes into animals, it starts to be "experimenting on humans". And I think most of us would prefer to live in a world where certain experiments shouldn't be done on humans.

There's no end of other things to do. So do those first instead.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147707)

I'm assuming most people here won't have a problem with this research. But truly, where is the line?

Soylent Green. The line is at Soylent Green. Be afraid.

If we could talk to the animals you mean? (0)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148061)

Well, let's see... I can totally see PETA trying to get animals to talk. I imagine them infiltrating "cloned beef" labs to somehow manipulate the genes to enable talking cows or some such making them say "don't eat me!" Or, similar actions by Chick-fil-A getting them to say "eat mor chiken!"

I can see where this sort of tinkering could upset a few people. After all, we are talking about learning how humans work by duplicating it in other species of animals thus confirming more and more that we are in fact animals of the natural sort and not merely "God's favorites created in his own image." Some people will never accept it, I know... but they are the same people who somehow manage to justify stepping around the "thou shalt not kill" commandment when the question of the death penalty or war come about. Oh yes, God's word is ABSOLUTE except when it gets in the way of justice or politics... which bring about something else.

People are less afraid of pissing off God than they are of upsetting nature's balance which I find refreshing in a way. While some may argue that they are one in the same, most people see a difference between the two and re/act accordingly. This says to me that people take the God myth less and less seriously and will one day yet get relegated to the same as Greek, Roman and other mythologies that were once religion.

If one day, we could elevate another species to the level of human, then we won't be alone in the world. If one day, we could create a new species that is more capable of surviving life in space, then we won't be alone in the universe. There is a lot to be careful of when tinkering this way, but there are many important and useful things we could never do without this kind of research. How many people died when trying to develop flight technology? LOTS I imagine. And I have to say it was worth it. And how many died and continue to die while we continue to advance in space? The further we go, the more risks there will be. It was risky to come down from the trees, but we did and eventually, we tamed the planet's predators... mostly. There WILL be reward for the risks we take. Could we somehow end up on "The Planet of the Apes?" Yeah... maybe.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148121)

But truly, where is the line? What about injecting human brain cells into mice? How about into chimps?

The differences between mouse, chimp, and human neurons are less significant than the higher organization of neurons. I couldn't find figures for numbers of neurons in chimps or mice, but this website [washington.edu] indicates that humans have around a hundred billion neurons in the brain, the human brain weighing 1.3-1.4kg. The chimp brain weighs 420 grams. We have more cells in our brains than mice do in their entire body.

Injecting human neurons into a mouse? Wouldn't do anything like make the mouse self aware. It would most likely cause seizures in the mouse. I have no moral objections to it, as long as it was done with a clear research goal. Otherwise, it's probably my tax dollars at work, and those immunocompromised mice they'd be using are expensive to maintain.

If researchers were wanting to make smarter mice, there's more to it than that. They'd first have to figure out how the human brain is made, what patterning differences exist, would have to change the mice, and wouldn't use human neurons. Again, there's not much special about them, it's the organization.

The line here is when they start making brains that look human like in mice. And those would be so big as to crush the mice, so I'm not really worried about that.

Anyway, why are we perpetuating this idea that biologists do morally objectionable research for kicks with their own money? Who is going to fund making a mouse think? Why would researchers be doing this? This would be expensive, would require grants, and wouldn't really have a purpose that I could see.

Re:Where is the line? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148135)

"Moral obligations?"

Morals are things built into our brains as a way to make us more viable as social animals. Animals that want to work together as a group, rather than murder each other over who gets that piece of meat, are more likely to survive.

The thing is, our "built-in" morals are designed for a situation humanity hasn't lived in for about 10,000 years. When you try to apply them to many modern situations (Is downloading an MP3 theft?) they simply don't work anymore. Worse yet, the labels we try to apply to these modern situations as "Right" or "Wrong" are completely arbitrary and serve no purpose except to help push agendas.

With a decreasing number of exceptions (Are we going to murder homeless people to get those brain cells?), you can't judge things in our society based on pure "ethics" anymore. It's just not that simple. The only thing you can do is look at the consequences of your actions and judge how they support or conflict with your goals.

Aahh crap. Back to the Chimera project! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147545)

This annoys me, as I once saw a drama about this sort of thing and I swore I would eat my hat if that sort of nonsense ever came to pass.

It was Mr Ed that I was watching.

Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (2, Insightful)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147555)

Although this kind of research is interesting, the final results of this would have wide ranging implications that I would rather avoid. Mainly, that is if animals were allowed to converse in a common language with humans, it would show us if they possess a consciousness, can reason, and what emotions that they can feel. This would either prove the sanctity of animal life or deny it, ultimately; I would rather keep the ongoing debate and not have a decision.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (1)

johanatan (1159309) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147571)

Surely there exists an entire spectrum of human intelligence which you could base your reasoning on without bringing animals into it at all.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (1)

DamienNightbane (768702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147583)

Emotions or not, I'm still eating cows.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (4, Funny)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147647)

The feeling of betrayal releases hormones into the blood that makes a steak taste just great

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148499)

http://www.murderburger.co.nz/2009/05/19/pigs-in-zen/

mmmmm bacon

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (5, Funny)

unfasten (1335957) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147703)

Emotions or not, I'm still eating cows.

A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox's table,
a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with
large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have been an ingratiating smile on its lips.

'Good evening', it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, 'I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in the parts of my body?'

It harrumphed and gurgled a bit, wriggled its hind quarters in to a more comfortable position and gazed peacefully at them.

Its gaze was met by looks of startled bewilderment from Arthur and Trillian, a resigned shrug from Ford Prefect and naked hunger from Zaphod Beeblebrox.

'Something off the shoulder perhaps?' suggested the animal, 'Braised in a white wine sauce?'

'Er, your shoulder?' said Arthur in a horrified whisper.

'But naturally my shoulder, sir,' mooed the animal contentedly, 'nobody else's is mine to offer.'

Zaphod leapt to his feet and started prodding and feeling the animal's shoulder appreciatively.

'Or the rump is very good,' murmured the animal. 'I've been exercising it and eating plenty of grain, so there's a lot of good meat there.'

It gave a mellow grunt, gurgled again and started to chew the cud. It swallowed the cud again.

'Or a casselore of me perhaps?' it added.

'You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?' whispered Trillian to Ford.

'Me?' said Ford, with a glazed look in his eyes, 'I don't mean anything.'

'That's absolutely horrible,' exclaimed Arthur, 'the most revolting thing I've ever heard.'

'What's the problem Earthman?' said Zaphod, now transfering his attention to the animal's enormous rump.

'I just don't want to eat an animal that's standing there inviting me to,' said Arthur, 'It's heartless.'

'Better than eating an animal that doesn't want to be eaten,' said Zaphod.

'That's not the point,' Arthur protested. Then he thought about it
for a moment. 'Alright,' he said, 'maybe it is the point. I don't
care, I'm not going to think about it now. I'll just ... er ... I
think I'll just have a green salad,' he muttered.

'May I urge you to consider my liver?' asked the animal, 'it must be very rich and tender by now, I've been force-feeding myself for months.'

'A green salad,' said Arthur emphatically.

'A green salad?' said the animal, rolling his eyes disapprovingly at Arthur.

'Are you going to tell me,' said Arthur, 'that I shouldn't have green salad?'

'Well,' said the animal, 'I know many vegetables that are
very clear on that point. Which is why it was eventually
decided to cut through the whoile tangled problem and breed
an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of
saying so clearly and distinctly. And here I am.'

It managed a very slight bow.

'Glass of water please,' said Arthur.

'Look,' said Zaphod, 'we want to eat, we don't want to make a meal of the issues. Four rare stakes please, and hurry. We haven't eaten in five hundred and sevebty-six thousand million years.'

The animal staggered to its feet. It gave a mellow gurgle. 'A very wise coice, sir, if I may say so. Very good,' it said, 'I'll just nip off and shoot myself.'

He turned and gave a friendly wink to Arthur. 'Don't worry, sir,' he said, 'I'll be very humane.'

It waddled unhurriedly off to the kitchen.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147759)

Did you just type that in for us? Wow. I really hope that movie gets made BTW.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147873)

No, unfortunately. I wish I had the skill to write like that, but the movie has been already: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [imdb.com] (Sadly, this scene didn't make or at least I don't remember it).

If you haven't read the books [wikipedia.org] though, I highly recommend you do. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would be a good one to pick up, as it contains all of the series.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (1)

ardle (523599) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148497)

That scene was in "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" (along with my favourite line, something like: "The lobby was almost empty but Ford nevertheless managed to weave his way through it").
I reckon MichaelSmith is referring to a movie that is almost - but not quite - completely unlike this book.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (2, Funny)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147933)

Why didn't you put in the bit about mice being the most intelligent creatures on earth, followed by the dolphins.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (1)

mellestad (1301507) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147695)

I think I would rather know than put my head in the sand.

The Ethics of Sentient Life (3, Interesting)

reporter (666905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147697)

If the human gene of speech is what gives us sentience, then we should ponder the ethics of sticking the gene into any mammal.

Suppose that this mouse is actually now sentient. Do we commit a crime when we imprison it in a laboratory or mangle its body (for the sake of some test)?

When we create chimera, we are playing god.

Re:The Ethics of Sentient Life (3, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148207)

I hate to break it to you but all mammals are already sentient. Every step on an animals tail? That noise it makes is proof of its sentience.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (0)

tobiah (308208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147727)

...Mainly, that is if animals were allowed to converse in a common language with humans, it would show us if they possess a consciousness, can reason, and what emotions that they can feel...

Cognitive linguistics suggests that consciousness is inextricably linked to language, and that an inability to express a thought represents, to some extent, an absence of the thought. Thus the sanctity of an animal's life is best expressed by the articulate expression of the animal. My personal experience is that the expression tends to be somewhat... violent.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147769)

...Mainly, that is if animals were allowed to converse in a common language with humans, it would show us if they possess a consciousness, can reason, and what emotions that they can feel...

Cognitive linguistics suggests that consciousness is inextricably linked to language

A further study of slashdot posts suggests consciousness is linked to typing. You know we once had equally dogy and self serving reasons to believe that Africans weren't intelligent.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (2, Interesting)

RancidPeanutOil (607744) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147867)

cognitive linguistics suggests that, but cognitive linguists can also assume that consciousness is an artifact of the networks languages organize our minds into. Speech is like a projection of the maps our minds use to organize stimuli, typing is linked to how we consciously view consciousness and then try to reorganize it into communication. It is not dodgy or self-serving, those old "reasons" were ad hoc methods to justify a conclusion, from a different hegemonic mindset. The dodgy part is that an inability to express a thought constitutes an absence of the thought - when in actuality, the expression of the thought is a fundamental component of the thought itself, as though thought is a component vector, and realizing the thought through speech (whether spoken or internally-articulated) is a necessary element. Consciousness is a speech act - everything else is some derivative of our reptile brain - arguably. Of course, that's just our particular mapping. YMMV

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148637)

...and Keynesian economists suggest that economic prosperity and stability are linked to their model. Surprise, surprise.

Arguments are self-serving. I believe I'm coming from the same place you are in regards to this particular thread of cognitive linguistics, but if you are going to discount it do so on its merits rather than just stating the obvious.

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (3, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148213)

I think there is a flaw in your reasoning that sanctity of life should be determined by ability of expression. Or do you think that toddlers and the mentally handicap are not worth anything?

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (1)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147751)

"I would rather keep the ongoing debate and not have a decision"

Any advance on knowledge breaks the above. We need myth to keep us going while we fill in the blanks with knowledge.
You want to keep myth ? Good for you, we need people like you to keep feeding scientists wile scientists work away
doing non food producing research. You are not a total loss ...

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (4, Insightful)

billybob_jcv (967047) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147783)

Anyone who has spent any time at all around farm animals, will tell you that they ain't got nothin' to say that's worth listening to. Which is actually much like most of the people in the world.
 

Re:Interesting, yet I don't want the results... (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148219)

What possible reason would you have for wanting to avoid knowing this?

First spoken humain words... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147563)

Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering ?

Re:First spoken humain words... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147575)

I think so Brain - but how are we going to get Natalie Portman and Jenna Haze into a room together with a bucket of grits?

Re:First spoken humain words... (2, Funny)

DamienNightbane (768702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147623)

...I like where this is going.

Re:First spoken humain words... (1)

pHus10n (1443071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148489)

Just had to stop by with a "LOL" since I don't have any mod points at the moment.

Re:First spoken humain words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148493)

Not now Pinky. I'm still working on the giant laser blueprints so we can TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!

Re:First spoken humain words... (1)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148583)

It's quite simple Pinky, I'm going to Take Over The World

Do the monkey next (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147567)

This doesn't really tell much besides what was already expected. If the same thing was done to an ape/monkey capable of being taught sign language, now that would give some real answers. But instead of just doing it they are going to quibble about it for years.

Re:Do the monkey next (4, Informative)

zebslash (1107957) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147643)

Hasn't that been done already ?

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4860483760049380308 [google.com]

Re:Do the monkey next (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148631)

Far more advanced results [youtube.com] in gorilla speech have also been achieved.

First words (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147585)

Yes, no and where's my tea?

Talk to the animals (1)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147599)

Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I'll give it to you through the door!

Welcome! (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147639)

I, for one, welcome our (soon-to-be) new, ultrasonic mice overlords.

cancelling accidental mod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147675)

i think

Narf! (1)

moriya (195881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147717)

"Pinky, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

Re:Narf! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28147829)

I think so, Brain, but me and Pippi Longstocking... I mean, what would the children look like?

Basal Ganglia - SHIT! (4, Funny)

Talisman (39902) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147831)

One of the more interesting aspects of basal ganglia is that it, along with the thalamus, make up the limbic system. Located below the cerebral cortex, this is the area of the brain where base emotions are generated, such as aggression and impulse.

While researching speech in relation to the brain, it was discovered that while regular, everyday speech originated from the pars opercularis and pars triangularis of the inferior frontal gyrus, cursing originated from the basal ganglia.

We know intuitively that cursing 'feels' different than regular speech when you do it, at an emotional level. They have proven that it actually is different, at the biological level.

What's supercool about this experiment, is they increased the mouse's capacity to curse .

What I wouldn't pay for a mouse that could curse. Or good god a monkey. Give me a cursing monkey and I'll tithe you every paycheck 'til I die.

Re:Basal Ganglia - SHIT! (2, Informative)

Knunov (158076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147909)

Hah! And here I am again with no mod points.

Re:Basal Ganglia - SHIT! (5, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148047)

What I wouldn't pay for a mouse that could curse. Or good god a monkey. Give me a cursing monkey and I'll tithe you every paycheck 'til I die.

A marker of language as opposed to verbal signaling is that speech is 'productive'. That is, it evolves. This can be done by compounding -- simplifying multiple elements into a single one. An example of Koko the gorilla doing comes from Penny Patterson's dissertation. Koko took the signs for 'apple' and 'drink' and formed a single compound sign for 'apple juice'. This example has been passed around for years as good evidence Koko was actually using language.

Another example from the same source but not made as public was Koko's compounding 'dirty', 'toilet' and 'stink' into a sign referring to feces. Not terribly surprising in normal use. But she used it in another context. When her intended mate Mike was introduced, Koko didn't care for him at all. One time when Penny was trying to cajole Koko into accepting Mike, she said "Mike is a smart gorilla. I like Mike." Unimpressed, Koko replied "Mike dirty-toilet-stink", ie. 'Mike is shit'.

There's your cursing monkey (actually, ape). You can find it in her dissertation, "Linguistic Capabilities of a Lowland Gorilla", Stanford, 1979. Or you can call Koko's humans at 1-800-ME-GO-APE (634-6273), I dirty-toilet-stink you not. If you're serious about your paycheck to even the slightest degree, feel free to visit koko.org and donate to her Conservation Education Project: Koko is teaching sign language in Cameroon, to deaf children as well as to hearing children interested in becoming sign language interpreters. If anyone still doubts Koko's linguistic abilities in light of this fact, I would doubt their linguistic comprehension more than I would Koko's.

Re:Basal Ganglia - SHIT! (1)

Talisman (39902) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148171)

Well, this isn't exactly what I had in mind. I was envisioning a monkey in a cage in the corner of the living room that screamed obscenities at company.

However, I was aware of Koko, though it has been years since I've read anything about her. I'll read up on what they are doing with her, and if the project seems worthy, I'll donate :)

Re:Basal Ganglia - SHIT! (1)

Briareos (21163) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148139)

So THAT's what really happened to Timmy Two-Teeth [wikia.com] !

Those bastards!

np: Barbara Morgenstern - Nichts Muss (Nichts Muss)

FOXP2 saga (2, Insightful)

Device666 (901563) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147961)

We should beware of popular reports of scientific discoveries: almost all the popular reports of FOXP2 claimed that it was the gene for language or even more ludicrously the gene for grammar - the truth is more complicated and far more interesting than that.

No-one should imagine that the development of language relied exclusively on a single mutation in FOXP2. They are many other changes that enable speech. Not least of these are profound anatomical changes that make the human supralarygeal pathway entirely different from any other mammal. The larynx has descended so that it provides a resonant column for speech (but, as an unfortunate side-effect, predisposes humans to choking on food). Also, the nasal cavity can be closed thus preventing vowels from being nasalised and thus increasing their comprehensibility. These changes cannot have happened over such a short period as 100,000 years. Furthermore the genetic basis for language will be found to involve many more genes that influence both cognitive and motor skills

Human mind needs human cognition and human cognition relies on human speech. Ultimately, we will find great insight from further unravelling the evolutionary roots of human speech.

awesome idea (1)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147963)

All animal activists need to completely stop this line of research, is 1 mouse to 'accidentally' squeak "Please stop"... Great idea to give the mice a possible source of communication before testing other things that won't as easily hamper the whole process..

Heard: (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28147989)

"Okay, who moved my fuckin' cheese! Hey Mr. Labcoat, why don't YOU run this goddam maze; you look like you could lose some weight."

we can't let supermice get out into the wild (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148059)

too many scientists are careless, we can't let supermice get out into the wild, we need goverment oversight -- squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak (all your base are belong to mice)

Good Data Points, Not So Good Connections (4, Informative)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148193)

TF(academic)A is a very well done piece of work. I'm glad to see this, as opposed to the junior high school comprehension level press releases usually presented as science. As such, my criticisms are offered respectfully.

The FOXP2 gene cannot be said to be directly involved in language. The referenced works state that altering it disrupts some aspects of language production. There are many more ways that disruptions can occur through third variables or more general systems. In this case, altering the gene causes alteration in the dopamine system, which feeds the spiny neurons. Dopaminergic activity on spiny neurons causes inhibitory signals in the gamma range (~40 HZ) to be sent to the neurons in Hebbian cellular assemblies (a primary processing unit), synchronizing them and causing them to perform their function. This may well happen in the basal ganglia, but also happens over much of the cortex. This is a general system, responsible for a great deal of brain function. To claim it is part of language is not wrong, but is improper in that it is inaccurate due to over-specificity. As evidence, the well studied dopaminergic disorder Parkinson's does cause language disruption as noted in TFA, but clearly does so only as a specific example of a global phenomenon.

Similarly, specific changes due to specific allele substitutions can only be said to be true if and only if substituting other alleles into the same locations do not cause similar changes. There is no evidence that the example referenced is as specific as is implied by the statement as presented.

The statement that studying mice as 'the only feasible way' to study the relationship between humans and chimps appears so skewed that I wonder if it is a misstatement or misinterpretation. In any case, direct comparison studies have been done with excellent results. My old boss at NIH did volumetric comparisons on chimps brains using MRI, looking for left/right asymmetry in the language areas. In all of a dozen or so cases, he found it, to a degree similar to that in humans. In all but one cases, the left was greater than the right, also as found in humans. The one exception is not a difference, but rather a supporting similarity. The language centers are usually on the left because they are usually contralateral to the dominant hand, usually the right. In a dozen or so humans, chances are one or so will be left handed, with language centers on the right, just as was seen in the chimps. Studying mice is certainly fruitful and the results may well generalize to primate comparison studies. But to say it's the only feasible way to compare primate data is very wrong.

And the first thing the scientists hear is... (1)

sjmacko29 (648740) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148419)

"Here I come to save the day!"

Perfect (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28148531)

I get tired of listing to others peoples pointless conversation I can only imagine how boring listing to a mouse tell me about his weekend is going to be.

Hmmm, fascinating... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28148639)

... I wonder if we can replace some scientist gene, too, so that s/he ends up developing a fscking brain!

What a stupid idea!

I seem to recall a movie with Charlton Heston. 8-/

Reality _is_ harsher than fiction, it turns out...

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