A nose for crime: our best scientists are a whisker away 8



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I have been reading about a US outfit called the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organisation which is part of the United States’ Pentagon, the Americans’ vast military outfit that is such a civilising influence throughout the world. So keen are they on their mission that they have been known to have pro-active civilising ventures even if the locals concerned show a lack of appreciation or even resistance.

JIEDDO as it is known – and you would be forgiven for thinking it was a Star Wars character – was set up a few years ago to provide solutions for detecting what the US military calls an “Improvised Explosive Device” (IED) which means a homemade bomb in English.

This was sensibly decided to be of importance due to the marked lack of gratitude from some locals to the US civilising missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Teams of scientists laboured well into the night for six years testing all sorts of counter – IED devices and, after spending a mere US$19 billion, they decided that the best bomb detector was a dog.

Isn’t that amazing? I wouldn’t be surprised if the resident canines at JIEDDO didn’t have a good old laugh among themselves as they watched their scientist masters overlook the blinding bloody obvious for so long.

We are planning on getting a pet and we have decided that a dog is preferable to a scientist.

After all, I don’t think that you can pre-order a scientist who is obedient and house-trained, vaccinated, micro-chipped, Council-registered and a de-sexed bitch. Perhaps, in the dog-eat-dog world of science, there are some who could be described as bitches but I doubt if they would have all of the other requirements.

I was just amazed when I read that scientists have discovered that dogs actually respond to their owners’ voices! The recent finding of a multi-national research team proved this by doing brain-scans of dogs and then playing different noises to them, including their owners’ voices, to test their reactions. “It’s absolutely brilliant ground-breaking research,” said Pascal Belin, a neuroscientist at the University of Glasgow (UK) and a member of this talented team.

Modestly, I now consider myself to have been a remarkably brilliant kiddie as I reached that conclusion circa 1955 when I – in the word much-loved by scientists “inter-reacted” – with our pooch. I thought then I was just playing with her and not inter-reacting so I have learned something in my later years.

The RSPCA recommends reward-based training for dogs which means giving your Fido a treat when he or she does the right thing. I’m not sure if this works for scientists although giving them a grant might work.

And I’m not sure if a scientist would give unconditional love and loyalty even with a grant. Then again, I’m not sure if I would like a resident scientist to greet me upon my return home with eyes brimming with true affection and tongue lolling and body quivering with excitement. Yes, of course it would depend on the scientist, but what would the neighbours think?

While dogs like their creature comforts – a warm dry bed, a bowl of water, regular tucker and the rest – at least you don’t have to set up the spare room as a laboratory and there is a considerable cost saving. The odours that could emanate from a lab could be significantly worse than doggy emissions.

And, unlike scientists, dogs are non-judgemental. Hitler remarked March 1945 when Germany was going down in flames and his cronies were deserting him, Only my bad luck is loyal to me – my bad luck and Blondi”. Blondi, appropriately enough a German Sheppard, was ordered to be killed by Hitler the day before the Fuhrer killed himself and she – as opposed to him – went to her Valhalla without the slightest whimper.

Art imitates life so it was no surprise to me to learn that a recent survey of 1,000 horror films from the 1930s showed that fully one-third revealed that mad scientists or their creations were the villains. We all know about Dr Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Dr Moreau and their dangerous deranged fellow scientists – just as we know about brave, loyal Lassie and Rin Tin Tin not to mention Toto from The Wizard of Oz, Santa’s Little Helper from The Simpsons and Astro from The Jetsons. All were simply adorable.

Audrey, the dog who appeared in Neighbours for 10 years until she died in 2011, was the longest running actor in the show and, unlike so many of the human actors, didn’t ever die on screen either literally or metaphorically. I bet she didn’t throw hissy fits and tantrums, or demand customised on-location caravans and special diets or feel the need to bore the world with stories about her love life or have delusions of grandeur about being worthy of an Oscar.

That’s why we are not considering an actor for a pet, anymore than a scientist.


What are your thoughts on these scientists? Do you love them too? Share with us below.

Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. How sad that some sweet doggy souls suffered a laboratory life so that these idiot scientists could work out that they react to owners voices.

  2. Our molly the mastiff would be brilliant…lol

    1 REPLY
    • Hi Gaynor – It wouldn’t surprise me if your Molly the mastiff was a good deal brighter than the brains trust at JIEDDO!

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