Small Wonders: Oct. 21, 2011

In this long overdue edition: the science of puns, the imaginative capabilities of canines, and vegetarianism as a mental defect.

* Scientists sequence the DNA of a woman who lived to be 115.

* The promise and challenges of sequencing patients’ genomes to search for the cause of disease.

* Pun-lover Virginia Hughes explains why such wordplay is funny.

* Advances in psychoacoustics are helping engineers “make dens and living rooms sound like concert halls and movie theaters.”

* Can dogs pretend?

* Just two chatbots, shooting the breeze–check out their somewhat surreal conversation.

* The EPA approves the first contraceptive for wild animals.

* Why some languages sound faster than others.

* When vegetarianism was a mental disorder.

* Haunting photographs of abandoned state mental institutions.

* The irony of police officers expressing uneasiness about having their DNA collected.

* Lessons in flirting, courtesy of the wild kingdom.

* Official “genius” Jad Abumrad discusses Radiolab.

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