Why animals hurt the same way we do

Animals are often surprisingly like us.

Johnny Cash’s incredibly powerful song Hurt narrates a person’s self-destruction in the depths of sorrow.

You’d think depression and self-mutilation are uniquely human things, but they’re not.

Caged birds that are not allowed to get out and indulge their instincts sometimes obsessively pluck their own feathers out, in an echo of human self-mutilation.


Picture by Kathy Milani of the Humane Society

Most parrots sold in the U.S. are bred in captivity in inhumane conditions. The Humane Society reports:

These highly social creatures are usually kept alone and rarely allowed to fly—many parrots’ wings are clipped. Often their relatively small cages have little in the way of stimulation and “enrichment,” or toys. For an animal that’s as emotionally complex as a chimpanzee or dolphin, it amounts to an unimaginably bleak existence.

It’s surprising how much animals can have in common with us. In the excellent 2012 book Zoobiquity, cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz explores the intersection of human and animal medicine:

Dinosaurs suffered from brain cancer. Koalas catch chlamydia. Reindeer seek out narcotic escape in hallucinogenic mushrooms. Stallions self-mutilate. Gorillas experience clinical depression.

All living things are different branches of the same tree, so there are bound to be similarities.


Barbara Natterson-Horowitz’s point is that, given these similarities, doctors and veterinarians can learn from each other:

“Animals suffer from almost all of the diseases that human beings do, but veterinarians and physicians never talk about this,” she said. “Physicians have not typically, traditionally, seen veterinarians as their clinical peers and that’s unfortunate.”


,This is what Sunday’s eclipse looked like from space.


The University of Wisconsin put together and animated satellite photos of the Moon’s shadow crossing the Earth on Sunday. The animation lasts only three seconds, but the actual eclipse lasted about five hours. (link via Bad Astronomy)

Seeing the eclipse from space makes me feel different about eclipses. I saw a total solar eclipse when I was little, and it was so weird that night seemed to come in the middle of the day. But here you can see it’s just a shadow briefly passing over your relatively tiny part of the planet.

People have always associated solar eclipses with doom. In ancient times, whole societies panicked during eclipses, and even today they sometimes still do. But eclipses aren’t rare: Every year sees two eclipses that are at least partial.

You’ll see more doomsday predictions in 2015. People will be saying that a solar eclipse over the Atlantic ocean that happens on March 20 (that year’s Jewish new year) has to mean doomsday is near. (They already are.)


Here’s what the 2015 eclipse will look like. That fleeting black dot is the only part that will see a full eclipse.
Not pictured: Doom.