Fact or Fiction - Devouring knowledge

I came across an anecdote about planarian worms, and googling for info led me to this post on a website:

Is any of this true or is it urban legend?

I’m pretty sure that this stuff has been debunked over the years, and hypotheses about RNA encoding memory are in desrepute. I’ll look up some cites tomorrow (although probably somebody will beat me to it).

Somebody’s been reading SWAMP THING!

Hijack: How does this relate, if at all, to “genetic memory” as evidenced in elephants, birds, etc.?

Psych 312 at Ohio State
Similar experiments were tried with IIRC, Bees in the early 80’s, also with statistically insignificant results.
If the results of the memory transfer experiments had held up, they would be a very big deal in the neurosciences. They’re not.

The methodology used was later found to be severely flawed and no other team has been able to replicate the result.

Perhaps we ought to infer instead that cannibalism enhances problem-solving skills… :smiley:

There’s a relatively detailed discussion of the controversy at a popular level in one of the chapters of The Golem: What You Should Know about Science (Cambridge, 1993) by Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch. Basically what seems like an almost trivial idea to test - and repeating this sort of stuff was very popular for projects amongst schoolkids and students at the time - has endless pitfalls when you actually try the experiment. The idea never gained much support at all and the controversy completely petered out in the 70s when its two most vocal proponents - McConnell and Ungar - either gave up or died.

The popularity of these experiments spawned a scientific humor journal called The Worm Runners Digest.

Alas, with the dying off of worm runners, it became (or was replaced by) The Journal of Irreproducible Results, which became Annals of Improbable Research, which died and…

But at least somewhere in all these incarnations we got the Ig® Nobel Prize Awards as a lasting gesture.

Neither had the foresight or commitment to science to arrange for their brains to be eaten after death?

SDSTAFF Doug on If Flatworm A eats Flatworm B, will it absorb Flatworm B’s knowledge?

The AIR is still very much alive and holds the regular ignobel awards ceremony at MIT.

In a thread on devouring knowledge, a post by Bibliophage.

I love the SDMB!

Thanks Bibliophage! I did a search for “planarian” (kudos Chairman Pow) but not for flatworm. Good to know the SD has already tackled this topic.

Now how can I get my hands on some “active learning chemicals”? :wink:

The webpage of the Annals of Improbable Research can be found here: