"Not Quite 'Planet of the Apes'": The New York Times has this piece on bonobo research by writer James Gordon and filmmaker David Frank.
A study indicates that chimpanzees like cooked food, and might even prefer it. What's more surprising (actually that first part isn't surprising at all, but this is) is that chimpanzees "could" cook, if they wanted to. That's right: if they wanted to.
The experiment used a fake pot with a false bottom (literally a magic oven) to let the chimps swap uncooked potatoes for cooked ones. The conclusion drawn by many news organizations was that the only thing holding these furry relatives back from careers at McDonalds or Buddokan was laziness or a reluctance to work for tips. This is not entirely supported by the study, though it does not rule it out. It also does not delve into the chimp attitude to sandwiches, ice cream in cones vs. bowls, or toasting raisin bread.
It is a small stretch to go from saying they prefer cooked potatoes to declaring they could totally cook if we gave them a fire or a microwave. (It is not necessarily a huge stretch. A huge stretch would be suggesting they like lobster bibs.) I know many humans who love french fries and will drive twenty minutes to a McDonalds but would not dream of cooking their own fries even if they could do it without setting their furry arms on fire. I know a smaller number of humans who would starve rather than get up from the couch for more ketchup to make their fries edible. For all we know the chimps might really like ketchup and not so much the hot potato. More study is needed.
This, of course, ties in neatly with another new study that finds chimpanzees will get drunk if they drink alcohol. From which we can leap to the conclusion that a new study will find that chimps like Wing Night at Applebee's.
One of these two men know the difference between a science fiction story and a science fiction story masquerading at real life. You will have two hours to figure out which fiction writer believes which.
Part I available Tuesday, April 14, 2015.