Did you hear about the scientists in Virginia who taught rats to drive cars?
Dr. Kelly Lambert of the University of Richmond reports that her team has been able to inspire rats to learn to drive little cars, navigating them to different locations to obtain treats.
The study points to potential benefits in a number of areas from treating mental health issues to finding uses for leftover plastic ratfood jugs. One of their discoveries is described here:
The study housed some male rats in a complex, enriched environment that had interesting objects for them to interact with. Rats in that interesting environment were able to learn to drive a small car. Rats that were housed in a standard laboratory cage had problems learning the task of driving.
Got that? See, apparently the researchers used only MALE rats. Let’s just rephrase those results. MALE rats who got to live in complex, enriched MALE environments—presumably including beer fridges, 3-inch widescreen TV, and internet porn involving Angelina Ballerina, Minnie, and Miss Bianca—were able to learn to drive little one-seater MALE-ONLY cars over to Cafe FruitLoops, where they did not bring back takeouts for the wife and ratlings. MALE rats in a standard laboratory cage had problems learning the task of driving because really, what’s the point.
What would really have happened if the male rats had their wife and kids along? Well, I’m picturing one of our typical car trips from back in the day (combined with the really fabulous news that a group of rats is called a mischief).
The HubRat: I hope this whole mischief already went potty because I don’t want to find the car covered with little droppings like last time and we’re not stopping until my eyeballs fuse open and this car starts to weave and BarbRat is making little squeaks and chewing nervously on her tail.
Mischief: Are we there yet?
BarbRat: I could do some of the driving so you can rest.
The HubRat: That never works because I have to keep gasping and telling you not to hit every object within our line of sight. It’s worse than driving myself.
Mischief: Are we there yet?
BarbRat: That’s not fair. I was just swerving to avoid that lab tech. And we’d probably be there by now if you hadn’t insisted you knew a better way than our GPS even though it’s been several different mazes since the last recognizable road sign and the GPS shows your little vehicle icon surrounded by a field of black (or even worse, blue) as if you’ve driven off the edge of the known universe.
TheHubRat: I was thrown off by your squeaking every time I speed up to pass another rat or take a maze corner a little quickly.
Mischief: There’s a McRatties! We’re hungry. We need cheese fries. Are we there yet? We have to go potty. And probably throw up.
BarbRat. Squeak. SQUEAK!