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Collected Wisdom's Philip Jackman (Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail)
Collected Wisdom's Philip Jackman (Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail)

COLLECTED WISDOM

How to make a monkey take a pill Add to ...

This week, Collected Wisdom is in the recording studio pursuing a revolutionary new artistic direction – music for animals. Our first release will be Songs for Swinging Simians.

THE QUESTION

“Is there any evidence that animals can appreciate music?” asks Micki Honkanen of Toronto.

THE ANSWER

CW went combing through a stack of learned journals and came upon a study catchily titled Affective Responses in Tamarins Elicited by Species-Specific Music.

In this study, published in 2009 in the online journal Biology Letters, U.S. researchers Charles Snowdon and David Teie observed that cotton-top tamarin monkeys generally preferred silence to any type of human music. However, researchers then found that tamarins developed quite an ear for a tune if it was createdespecially for them.

Mr. Teie, a professional cellist, composed music containing some structural features of tamarin calls. He then played these pieces to the monkeys. The tunes inspired by contented tamarin vocalizations made the monkeys calmer, while musical pieces evoking calls of alarm or aggression made the tamarins anxious.

The researchers concluded that reactions to music are species-specific. Humans who listened to tamarin tunes found them a bit grating on the ear. However, the researchers did tell Science News that the monkeys unexpectedly reacted to one piece of human music – a song by the heavy-metal band Metallica. Oddly, it made them calmer.

So much for empirical evidence, though. Here's an anecdotal item from Patrick Ryan of St. Catharines, Ont.

“I had a cat named Ody, a desk … and a tape deck,” he writes. “On days when I set up to play a tape in the evening and put on the earphones, Ody would jump on to the desk … facing where I sat, and rest until the music was finished, at which point he went back to his normal activities.”

Later, “when the tape deck had been moved to a table at the end of a chesterfield and I was listening lying down, Ody would lie beside me for the duration of the ‘concert.' You can draw your own conclusions.”

THE QUESTION

A while back, Jerry Jensen of Calgary asked what happens to those bits of paper we sign when we make a credit-card purchase?

THE ANSWER

Erin Sufrin of corporate and public affairs at Visa Canada in Toronto assumes that by “bits of paper” Mr. Jensen is referring to the merchant copy of the draft (a.k.a. the receipt containing the customer's signature).

“There are several reasons merchants retain copies,” she says, “one of which is to reconcile transactions for bookkeeping or accounting purposes.” Another is to keep a copy of the cardholder's signature, which proves the cardholder authorized the purchase and was present for it.

The merchant must also retain transaction receipts, she writes, in case a “request for copy” is initiated by the cardholder's bank. In that scenario, the merchant would provide a copy of the signed draft to his or her bank, which would then pass it on to the customer's bank.

HELP WANTED

  • From an evolutionary standpoint, why have human females shed most facial hair while males have retained it? Izzy Livne-Bar of Toronto wants to know.
  • Bryce Kendrick of Sidney, B.C., would like to know what the extreme ranges of human blood pressure can be – from when a person is sleeping to weightlifting to running the 100-metre dash.
  • Eric Morris of Montreal asks: Do pets prefer water that's cold or at room temperature?

Let's hear from you: If you can answer one of these questions (or have a query of your own), contact us at wisdom@globeandmail.com. Please include your location and a daytime phone number.

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