Short 'n Curlies #39 by Si Spurrier

Short 'n Curlies #39 by Si Spurrier

I Fakt You, Right In The Face:

Amazing and Helpful news from the world of Real Actual Science!

We've all seen crazed labfreaks forcing innocent animals into the twisty tortures of a Maze, right?  We've all seen Octopi splooching through narrow doors and cunning turns to reach Tasty Fishhead Win. We've all seen rats cautiously bimbling along labyrinthine corridors — dimly aware of a nearby cheesy stink but incapable of getting at it — while cackling professors mock the idiocy of rodentkind and pray for the little sods to womble into one of the Cosmic Shredders they've hidden behind Wrong Turnings.  We've all heard about That Cool Experiment — the one our Lord Mighty Moore used as the basis for his run on Swamp Thing, remember? — in which Planarian Worms are conditioned to negotiate a maze, then ground-up and fed to other Planarian Worms, which suddenly and miraculously gained the ability to solve the maze too…

(Sadly, we've also all heard, haven't we, that Said Experiment didn't actually happen like that at all, that the "maze" was in fact a far simpler Pavlovesque association between a bright light and an electric shock, that the "ingested memory" results have never been recreated, that they were almost certainly caused Viewer Bias, and that — despite being predicated on Bad Science through no fault of its own — Swamp Thing remains Utterly Fantastic.)

The fact is, mazes matter.  Right or wrong, we use them as a simple apparatus to measure relative levels of intelligence, memory, problem-solving and Saturday-Night-Quizshow-Fun. On the grounds that a creature solving a maze has automatically demonstrated a level of Smartosity above — say — lumps of rock, crusty week-old jism, droplets of oil, and freelance Astrologers, it's possible to measure all sorts of other stuff through repeated experiments, minor variations, learned/transferred memories, and so on.  Mazes are the sluts of the scientific world: each with a dozen different holes, a hundred different applications, no qualms about multiple-entry-testing, and a relatively low price.

But wait.  Go back a bit.

"On the grounds that a creature solving a maze has automatically demonstrated a level of Smartosity above — say — lumps of rock, crusty week-old jism, droplets of oil, and—"

Uh-oh.

See, those pesky science-botherers kinda shot themselves in the foot with that one.  It was recently demonstrated that a single droplet of oil, when placed at the entrance to a relatively complex maze, serenely and perfectly glided its way through the watery tunnels to reach the dollop of acid-soaked gel at the other end.  Magic!

Well, not magic.  Actually, it's a bit of a cheat when you look closer: the gel creates a sliding spectrum of PH levels through the labyrinth which affect the opposite sides of the oil in different ways, causing it to "slide" along the acidity gradient like a limbless mutant pigfish down a mountainside.

But then, think about it some more…  That's not a million miles away from the rats and octopi and gunge-covered gameshow contestants after all, is it?  Whatever the organism (or otherwise) running the maze, the concept that compels it forwards is the same: the goal, the expectation of a reward, the attraction to a Final Destination.  That's true — as an abstract, I mean — irrespective of whether the directional force that motivates the maze-runner is the Stink Of Gorgonzola, the bloody emanations of a severed basshead, or a variable continuum of corrosive chemicals.

So: how the fuck does all this rather whimsical nonsense turn out to be "amazing and helpful", like I promised up top?  Here is how:

Next time you're feeling crushingly ashamed in the presence of someone clearly and magnificently Cleverer Than You, next time you're reduced to a grunting gitstain of embarrassment and self-loathing by the certainty that These Intellectual Cunts Are Going To Laugh At Me No Matter What I Say, or next time you find yourself pondering your own diseased, faecal attempts to be creative or insightful or original — and are incapacitated with depression at the simple clarity of how Fucking Stupid You Are Compared To Everyone Else — remember this glorious and life-affirming lesson, as presented by the very same Professor who proved that a nugget of oil could solve a maze just as fast as a genius with a brain the size of a planet:

"Whatever intelligence is, it can't be intelligent all the way down. It's just dumb stuff at the bottom."

This brings me great peace.

This Week I Have Been Mostly Hating:

…people who mistakenly believe their dogs can speak English.

I encountered a particularly bollock-rending example of this the other day. While out for a cheery lunchtime stroll — and definitely Not having a crafty cigarette, darling, no no, perish the thought — I found myself sprawled on a parkside-bench just as a muffin-topped lass slouched past, screaming abuse at a scruffy little mongrel nearby: off the leash and loving it.

"Did I tell you to go in the road?" she honked, chest and chins wobbling disconcertingly.  "Don't go in the road, then! Don't go in the road! Are you shtupid?"

The dog, as dogs inevitably will, occasionally glanced-up with a watery eyed expression of profoundly confused enthusiasm, and utterly failed to Get Out Of The Road — contriving to communicate with its eyebrows, ears and waggling tail alone that it would do anything, anything, to please its owner, but didn't have the first cocking clue what the badger-raping fuck she actually wanted.  This, as any dog-owner will know, is a mutt's Default Setting.

I'm utterly bewildered, but I love you — is that okay?

The woman wasn't buying it.  As she passed-by, as if to share the Gift of her disgust, she rolled her eyes at me: what a fucking retard, huh? And in a sudden spasm of uncharacteristic sympathy I found myself feeling duty-bound to somehow protect my fellow mammal (the dog, I mean), from this flaccid reptile masquerading as a woman.  And so politely — with an airy, ho-ho-holet's-not-be-too-serious-because-you-might-have-a-boyfriend-and-he-might-have-a-knife sort of tone — I suggested to her that perhaps, perhaps, the dog didn't understand what she was saying.  To which she scoffed: "No mate, he's just being a dick."

Uh-huh…

"He understands perfectly, the little shit," she said. "You tell him "sit", he sits. You say "lie", he lies down. But some day… days like today… I tellya mate, he just will NOT be told."

Hmm. Well, sucker-for-punishment that I am, I ventured to opine that perhaps when he hears "sit" he's actually associating the word's sound with a Programmed Command, rather than actually understanding, say, the etymology of an Indo-European base-syllable which in modern times — via the Latin sedere and the Old English sittan — communicates a state of buttock-to-hard-surface interaction, and is distinguishable therefore from other, contrary commands like "squat", "stand" or "fellate a billy-goat".

To which she gave me a look like I was undoubtedly thicker than the dog itself, and far less worthy of her attention, and weebled-off into the distance.  Yelling chastisements at the unfortunate pooch, by the way, for its sniffy investigation of a dumped Doner Kebab.

"Not the jalapenos, you idiot!  Hey!  Can't you hear me?  Don't you eat those peppers!  Just the lamb!  Just the lamb!  Oi!"  And so on.

As part of my ongoing attempts to improve the world, irrespective of personal cost, I have resolved to buy that very same woman a pack of flame-furred Hellwolves, so she can test her theory — that in fact they know full well what she means by NO NO PLEASE OHGODJESUSFUCK NO NOT THE FACE OH LORD NO ACK TAKE MY LEGS I DON'T CARE JUST NOT THE FACE NOT MY BEAUTIFUL FAAAAAACE, but are simply choosing to disobey — to her fatty, overworked, ignorant little heart's content.

Some people don't deserve dogs.  That's why god invented cats.

(OOooOOOooo, etc.)

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Twitter: @SiSpurrier

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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