Quick Hit: Damn, Dirty (Smart) Apes

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/afrikaforce/5187373683/">Afrika Expeditionary Force</a>/Flickr

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I’ve been strangely entranced/repulsed by the trailers for The Rise of Planet of the Apes, the Planet of the Apes prequel which explains how those damn, dirty apes got so smart in the first place. (Hint: it involves James Franco and DNA). This movie has everything I could want: San Francisco-centric plot, science experiments gone horribly wrong, people of color speaking with British accents, and did I mention James Franco?

It got me thinking: how smart are chimps anyway? Well, pretty smart. When raised by a human, chimp babies outperform human babies of the same age in IQ tests. As adults, chimps make and use spears to hunt. They are better than humans at some memory tasks and form complex social hierarchies. A new study this week showed that not only are they smart, they stay that way throughout their lives: humans, on the other hand, suffer brain shrinkage and dementia in old age. “Understanding differences in aging between humans and other primates may help scientists figure out why human brains are susceptible to age-related dementias,” said one writer of the study.

Wait a second. If chimpanzees don’t get Alzheimer’s and their brains don’t age, why is James Franco experimenting on them in Rise of Planet of the Apes? Studying their brains makes sense, but testing would be better done on an animal that actually develops Alzheimer’s like mice, wouldn’t you think? At any rate, chimpanzees have recently been trumped by orangutangs as the most intelligent non-human animals. Unlike chimps, orangutangs make little hats out of leaves to wear when it rains. They’re almost entirely vegetarian and are pretty peaceful, in contrast to chimps who go on the occasional murder-spree. I guess chimps are a better fit for The Rise of Planet of the Apes, since our new orangutang overlords would probably just amp up habitat conservation and institute a fruit-based currency system. That sounds about as terrifying as a manatee-led revolution. That is to say, slow and gentle and not really fit for the silver screen.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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