Catching up with Carl Zimmer, or, Are your pets really friends?

February 22, 2012
By

From Promotions Director Levi Stahl:

We don’t have a staff member whose sole job is to keep up with what scientist, journalist, blogger, radio personality, and Press author Carl Zimmer is up to, but I’m beginning to suspect we should. This week, Carl’s been all over the place: first, on The Loom, his Discover magazine blog, he announced the launch of Download the Universe, a new collaborative venture from fifteen scientists and writers to cover science e-books. Carl explains:

We are fifteen writers and scientists who want to explore this new form. On a regular basis, we’ll be delivering new reviews of ebooks about technology, medicine, natural history, neuroscience, astronomy, and anything else that fits under the comfortably large rubric of science. We also define ebooks generously—everything from a plain-vanilla pdf on an author’s web site to a Kindle Single to an elaborate iPad app.

And since that apparently wasn’t enough to keep Carl busy, he also had the cover story in this week’s issue of Time: The Surprising Science of Animal Friendships.
jacket imageWhich is all the excuse we need to post cute photos of our cats!
So are these cats, all snuggled up together, really friends? To find out, you’ll need to be a Time subscriber so you can read the article, But here’s a preview: Zimmer does say that

what may look like friendship may just be anthropomorphic projection. In the article, I explain that a lot of cross-species “friendships” may be nothing like the kind seen in, say, chimpanzees.

(So, no, the cats and the sock monkey most likely aren’t friends.)
jacket imageIn the course of the article, Zimmer cites a number of Press authors, all of whom can shed light on new and different aspects of the eternally fascinating question of just how much we can know of animal minds.
First up, there’s Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth, who have spent a career studying baboons. In Baboon Metaphysics they address the question of what sort of intelligence underlies the complex social organizations of baboons. In the field of primates, Zimmer also draws on the work of John Mitani, whose book The Evolution of Primate Societies we’ll be publishing this fall.
jacket imageWe’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce’s groundbreaking Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, which makes a strong case for the existence of a true sense of morality and ethics in animals.
jacket imageAll of which should provide you and your pets with plenty of reading. Once they finish reading and marking up Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, that is.

jacket image
And now you’ll have to excuse us, as we have an appointment with Cute Overload.

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