Scientists can’t get sloth to move

I actually spit coffee laughing when I read this. Apparently some scientists at the University of Jena in Germany spent three years trying to get a sloth to climb up and down a pole as part of “an experiment in animal movement,” as the Associated Press reports. The problem is the sloth — named “Mats” — was so totally lazy they couldn’t get it to budge. So after three years, they just gave up and sent the sloth back to the zoo. As the story notes:

Neither pounds of cucumbers nor plates of homemade spaghetti were appetizing enough to make Mats move.

“Mats obviously wanted absolutely nothing to do with furthering science,” said Axel Burchardt, a university spokesman.

Whaddya gonna do? It’s a sloth’s world; we just live in it.

I particularly loved the title to the Associated Press story, which I cribbed above — “Scientists can’t get sloth to move” — because it seemed like something plucked straight from The Onion. Indeed, it was almost suspiciously so. Given that The Onion’s tinder-dry prose style was crafted in emulation of the nearly-Asbergian bathos of real-life newspaper stories, and given that The Onion has become such a thoroughly mainstreamed cultural reference point, I half wonder whether the worm has eaten its tail — and bored-gormless GenX news copywriters now craft headlines in emulation of The Onion.

(Thanks to Fark for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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