The FREAKest Links: The Furry Reaper Edition

Via CNN.com: In the current New England Journal of Medicine, Brown University assistant medical professor David Dosa profiles Oscar, a cat in a Rhode Island nursing home who has demonstrated an ability to predict when patients will die. His means of communicating an approaching demise is uniquely feline: he curls up and naps next to those close to death. (Hat tip to Greg Preston, who pointed out the tragic possibility that Dosa might be getting it backwards, and the cat could in fact be causing deaths.)

ScienceDaily reports on a study by Stanford medical school researcher David Spiegel showing that, contrary to the results of his previous study, participating in group therapy does not lengthen the lives of women with breast cancer — though it does improve their quality of life. On the downside, spending all that time together may wind up making everyone in the group fat.

Slate introduces its aggregate guide to the political markets, with the goal described as follows: “If a single prediction market is wiser than the pundits and the polls, imagine how wise all the prediction markets are together.”


walkingguide

The cat story is intriguing because there really can be phenomena surrounding death that attracts the cat. But it may also be selective attention to the cat's behavior or cuing the cat by the staff.

As I read one commentator, you really need to do a detailed log of the cat's behavior over several days, noting where it goes and how long it stays and then correlating that with deaths.

It may be that the cat snuggles just as often with people who don't die as with those who do, but they only pay attention to and remember the cases where the patient was dying.

It may be that the staff are unconsciously signalling the cat that the death is near and doing things that are attractive to the cat to linger, or unconsciously shooing it away from patients that they don't think are dying. Both of those unconscious behaviors can change the cat's behavior and result in more positive "hits."

kahomono

If a cat will curl up next to you and nap, it does not mean you are about to die. Or win the Lotto, or get a phone call from the President, or have lunch.

As anyone who has ever lived with cats knows...

If a cat will curl up next to you and nap, it means you exist.

discordian

Cats are inherently evil.
So I blame the cat.

clsand99

Not trying to defend the cat. But curious to know if anyone has a theory on how a cat could kill someone with snuggling. Could that even be possible?

Martin

Melissa - When are you going to get rid of that aprange (or orple) and let us see your face with every post? We have to look at the Steves - your pic would greatly enhance the appearance of the blog.

oddTodd

@2: How about this?

Or there's a mercy-killing nurse using the cat as an excuse.

yoshi

If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.

Personally I find that more plausible then being able to "detect death". But unless someone documents this is kind of a pointless discussion right?

funkygawy

The aggregation of political futures should enable some quicker arbitrage opportunities and yield converged and better prices, right? Right now there's a $2.50 spread between Clinton futures on Intrade and News Futures. While there's no inter-market liquidity (and I suppose the contract could be different) - and you can't sell short on some of these markets, there are strategies that could take advantage of the pricing differences.

In turn this ought to converge those prices to a better prediction. Now if I can just figure out how to take advantage of that :)

snubgodtoh

In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" it was a hyena, death , that is.

"Love is a dunghill," said Harry. "And I'm the cock that gets on it to crow."

pat balle

I think the cat may just be the modern day incarnation of "the incredible Hans." (I think that was the horse...) and walkinguide may be on target with a possible reason...
I am really wondering more about the data on the "Fat Friends" study. The absence of parents strikes me as unusual... not sure why... except that they would seem to be important in shaping the image of an acceptable body type...

I am curious what would happen if they removed an obesity scale and just worked with net weight change... Friends and spouses share lots of things including a life style that might make them gain or lose weight as they got older.. (I personally have never trusted Joggers)...

but if it is true, look on the bright side, all those Stars in Hollywood who have been starving themselves have had less influence on our children than we gave them credit for...

ajbeebster

It may not be that the cat is causing the patients to die, but rather the patients may feel consoled and more readily prepared to die after the cat's company. I think there is much more to this than a cat being able to predict death. If I were a family member of a patient, I might be inclined to keep the cat away from my loved one.

Kent

I like cats.

iratecat

Huh. Compared to Oscar, I guess my cat's ability to figure out the exact place where I wish to sit down, and getting there five seconds before I do, isn't much.

macshaned

Maybe the cat is sleeping on the beds of the dying patients because they are the patients who are too weak and incapacitated to actually shoo the cat off their bed.

roxane murray

ajbeebster's comment makes sense to me. Also, cats tend to be creatures of habit. One of our cats ONLY sits on my husband's lap after dinner, and ONLY sits on mine while I'm on the computer. The other ONLY snuggles up to anyone while they're reading in bed, and ONLY gets on your lap if you happen to be under her favorite afghan. Maybe Oscar just has a preference for people who are lying very, very still and aren't likely to roll over on him.

Actually this isn't the first time I've heard of this phenomenon. Years and years ago, there was a TV segment on another nursing home cat that did the same thing.

rvman

My experience is that cats love laps. They especially love the laps of people who aren't kicking them off to go places (dinner, bathroom, do something more interesting than sit and watch a cat nap). Like, say, the sick and the dying.

walkingguide

The cat story is intriguing because there really can be phenomena surrounding death that attracts the cat. But it may also be selective attention to the cat's behavior or cuing the cat by the staff.

As I read one commentator, you really need to do a detailed log of the cat's behavior over several days, noting where it goes and how long it stays and then correlating that with deaths.

It may be that the cat snuggles just as often with people who don't die as with those who do, but they only pay attention to and remember the cases where the patient was dying.

It may be that the staff are unconsciously signalling the cat that the death is near and doing things that are attractive to the cat to linger, or unconsciously shooing it away from patients that they don't think are dying. Both of those unconscious behaviors can change the cat's behavior and result in more positive "hits."

kahomono

If a cat will curl up next to you and nap, it does not mean you are about to die. Or win the Lotto, or get a phone call from the President, or have lunch.

As anyone who has ever lived with cats knows...

If a cat will curl up next to you and nap, it means you exist.

discordian

Cats are inherently evil.
So I blame the cat.

clsand99

Not trying to defend the cat. But curious to know if anyone has a theory on how a cat could kill someone with snuggling. Could that even be possible?