Motivated By Curiosity And A Desire For The Truth – Part Fifteen


One of my principal objections to having pets, over and above the amount of care and attention they require, is what they carry with them, that is fleas. If you accept that fleas go with the territory – cats host ctenocephalides felis whilst dogs harbour ctenocephalides canis – the natural question that occurs to the enquiring mind is which of the two jumps the highest.

Naturally, scientists have devoted some of their time and research budget to push out the boundaries of human knowledge, in this instance Messieurs Cadiergues, Joubert and Franc from the Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, whose findings were faithfully recorded in 2000 in the ever popular Veterinary Pathology. In order to conduct the experiment they used a grey plastic cylinder nine centimetres in diameter and whose height they were able to raise a centimetre at a time, starting at one and finishing at 30, as they do in high jump competitions. Groups of ten fleas from the same species were placed at the base of the cylinder and their jumps were observed and recorded.

The mean jump recorded for the cat fleas was 13.2 centimetres, about 5.2 inches in old money or over 40 times their body length, with the highest jump recorded at 17 cm. The dog fleas on the other hand outperformed their feline based rivals, jumping on average 15.5 centimetres and recording a high of 25 cm.

When the scientists turned to investigating length of jumps it was the same story. C felis came in with an average length of jump of 19.9 centimetres with a deviation of plus or minus 9.1. Their longest leap was 48 cm and the lowest a paltry 2 cm. C canis, on the other hand, would jump on average 30.4 centimetres, plus or minus 9.1, with the longest leap recorded at 50 cm and the shortest at 3. So the dog fleas won hands down.

In case you were wondering, and I hope you are, the human flea, pulex irritans, records similar results for height and distance as c felis.


Aristotle wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics, “we are not conducting this inquiry in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good”. But, if some research conducted by Eric Schwitzgebel of the University of California,, Riverside, and published in the Philosophical Psychology journal is to be believed, those studying ethics at major universities have a long way to go before they achieve the Aristotelian goal of goodness.

Schwitzgebel drew up lists of philosophy books, some of which were specifically about ethics and others which weren’t, and using an on-line search engine checked the status of every copy of each of these books in the libraries of 19 British and 13 American academic libraries. The results were astonishing. The books which were principally about ethics were much more likely to go missing than books which were less heavily ethics orientated. And when it came to weighty pre 1900 tomes on ethics, these were twice more likely to go missing, at least in American academic institutions.

Our gallant researcher entitled his paper, Do ethicists steal more books? Could be or it might just be a case of do as I say, not do as I do. The road to enlightenment and salvation is a long and windy one, after all.

If you enjoyed this why not check out Fifty Curious Questions by Martin Fone. Available now. Just follow any of the links


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