There is no reciprocityMen love women, women love children, children love hamsters.

ALICE THOMAS ELLIS

Hamsters

In 2012 a hamster named Smurf stored a magnet in his cheek and was later found stuck to the bars of his cage.

Hamsters and Jetlag


In 2007, Argentinian scientists using hamsters to research jetlag found that they recovered 50% faster when given Viagra - but only when travelling eastwards (i.e. when their body clocks moved forwards). They didn’t actually put the hamsters on jets, just manipulated their circadian rhythms by switching the lights on and off at different times and then monitored their running wheel activity to assess their adjustment to the new rhythm. Further research (and a bigger running wheel, perhaps) will be needed to establish whether this works for humans. Manufacturers Pfizer responded cautiously, saying that Viagra ‘should only be used in accordance with the approved labeling’.

Jetlag is worse if you’re travelling eastwards; many studies have confirmed that this is so, but not why. Here’s one hypothesis: humans develop circadian rhythms even if they're isolated in a cave, and these cycles are slightly longer than 24 hours, so perhaps it’s easier for the body to adapt to a longer day (such as the extra four hours gained on a trip from New York to Los Angeles), than to a shorter day when travelling eastwards. When you fly west, you're lengthening the day and going in the natural direction the internal clock wants to go. Further, the fact that the Viagra only worked on eastbound hamsters implies that the body clock uses different mechanisms to slow down and speed up.

Of course jetlag is a modern phenomenon, a function of the speed of air travel, but here’s a QI snippet: it was possible for a Londoner to go to France and back for lunch in the 17th century: on 17th July 1621, Bernard Calvert left Shoreditch at 3am, rode to Dover, took ship to Calais and back, and returned to Shoreditch at 8pm that evening, having ridden 142 miles, and sailed 44. 
 
Other jetlag cures that have been put forward in recent years include not eating any food, taking melatonin tablets and shining a torch on the back of your knees.  None, to our knowledge, works particularly well.

Know Your Hamster


Virtually all pet hamsters are the descendants of a single brother/sister mating in a lab on Euston Road, London, in 1930.  These are ‘Syrian hamsters’ but there are actually many species of hamster that you would never see in a cage. Siberian hamsters are a browny colour but turn white in cold weather while Roborovski hamsters, sometimes known as the hummingbird of the species, are notable for being tiny, only 1.5 to two inches long. 

The largest species of hamster is the Black-bellied hamster; it has cheek pouches which can hold up to 30 grams of food, and which, when inflated with air, act as flotation tanks when the animal is swimming. 

The ‘new man’ of the hamster world is the Djungarian hamster; male Djungarians help with nearly all aspects of the birthing process. They lick off amniotic fluid, help pull the pup out, lick its nostrils to help it to breathe, clear away the membrane, eat the placenta, tidy up the nest and care for the babies. Female Golden Hamsters, on the other hand, have been known to eat their own young if they think they are in danger.  

In 2008, pet hamsters were banned in Vietnam.

The Great Hamster of Alsace, is the only wild European hamster. There are only a few hundred left.

Sleepy Hamsters


Laboratory hamsters are nocturnal, and have very consistent circadian rhythms so are the rodent of choice for jetlag research. However, wild hamsters have been little studied but now appear to be diurnal or, at least, ‘crepuscular’ - most active at dawn and dusk and hardly emerging from their burrows at all at night. In the desert, this rhythm allows them to use the light whilst avoiding the heat. It was thought that the nocturnal pattern might be a genetic abnormality, but it has now been established that wild specimens brought into captivity also become nocturnal within four weeks.

Two books of photos of Hamuketsu (hamster bottoms) have sold more than 40 000 copies in Japan.

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY  GRAIL

I don't wanna talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! You mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

ROBIN WILLIAMS (1951-2014)

I love running cross country . . . On a track, I feel like a hamster.