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First Publication of “Circadian Rhythms in the Common Angelfish”


Leonard Bernstein 1955

Leonard Bernstein 1965…  I was in a creative writing class with his daughter in 1970-71.  Pretty sure I didn’t take this picture as I didn’t know him then; but I found it somewhere on the web and as I can’t find it again, I’m going to hope that this constitutes fair use.


Conrad  Theodore Seitz MD 1982-3, when I was about Leonard’s age;  taken from a tripod in my  living room one winter’s evening.  With a set  top antenna, only one snowy channel came through from Rapid Ciry.  There was a  twenty five foot tall wooden post behind the house that held an antenna, which picked up all three channels plus PBS, but I  didn’t bother with it.

author as a young man

Conrad Theodore Seitz, aged fourteen, taken by my mother in the summer of 1969 outside her house in Larkspur CA (Marin Country)

Anonymous ambrotype A Veteran with his Wife\

Anonymous couple, circa civil war; pretty sure this one’s copyright has lapsed.  Note the medal the man is wearing on his coat.

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Additional remarks on the Retraction Watch website:

…is being done for legal reasons based on the advice of counsel” may mean “We forgot to read the small print in the contract with our funding source saying they could veto what we published and they didn’t like what we found”

And that looks like a clever way to publish something despite the sponsor of the research not wanting it published, it the retraction gets you out of the legal trap, that is.

My original comment post follows (augmented afterwards by repeated proofreading):
I agree with both these reasons and they are good reasons, which means that I think people should implement them, as long as they can get back door approval of the publish//retract strategy from their funding sources… and even if they can’t, because devious funders may send you mixed mss then stab you in the back when you try to follow through. And if that happens, you didn’t want any more funding from them anyway. Which will get you published in retraction watch at least.

The only difference is you may lose your career a la the Whittemore affair, but if the lab closes down maybe it’s worth it.

This will have advantages for the individual student and researcher as well.  In fact, I think that this would be ideal for an individual or retired researcher who just wants to file such items as case reports and actual studies.

For example,  I had my own hearing tested recently and this is what I came up with: my hearing is nearly perfect for my age.  A person hears in different ways.  When one is not expecting to hear anything, the ear will be sensitive to random sounds, the deflection of the width of a  hydrogen atom being enough to create  a signal.   A t these times, one hears what I will call “secondary” sounds… dampened things down so that one hears the secondary late echoes bouncing off of      objects in the room or transmitted through hollow objects.    Under these conditions, sounds come through only as single clicks regardless of their actual frequency.  The timing of the echo will produce the effect of a sound frequency, and then the actual frequency will be inferred at higher level of processing in the brain.  The result is truly random sounds, which are extremely relaxing if interpreted correctly.  If misinterpreted they can  lead to the sensation that one is hearing noises or  even voices in  one’s own head.

I had the misfortune to examine a man once who was considered a paranoid schizophrenic.  He was having a driver’s physical, but I had plenty of time to talk to him and I wondered why he was being given an extremely low dose of an antipsychotic drug.   It turned out that  he heard voices in  his head, but he was otherwise normal. He could be described as a little paranoid, but then most undereducated men are and he was functioning normally.  I just renewed his driver’s certificate.

By the way, I did my first research study, “Finding circadian rhythms in Pterophyllum eimeki (the common angelfish)” in my parent’s kitchen, with my father’s fish and equipment he brought home from his psychology laboratory at MacMurray College in Jacksonville Illinois, when I was eleven years old in 1964. and I got to go to the State Science Fair in Champaign-Urbana, where my stepmother was studying for her PhD in statistics. The study used fish in a tank, two tanks, one with one fish and the other with three, both with light cells and light sources (like those that used to open bank doors for the customer), hooked up to an “event recorder” which produced  a line on a 4″ wide inked tape. The study was supposed to last twenty days but it ended after eighteen because algae grew over the aquarium walls and obscured the light source. I was still able to get a significant circadian activity signal by cutting the data into two periods of ten days each with two days overlap. I found that the three fish tank woke up a half an hour before it was to get light in the morning, which woke up the one fish in the tank next to it. Angelfish turned out to be perfect for the experiment because they produced one short signal when crossing the beam sideways, and one long signal when passing through the beam long ways (they are a very flat, pancake-shaped fish.)

I now realize that the fish were responding to those infrasounds created when  my parents got up and used the bathroom first thing in the morning–two rooms away in a solid steel reinforced concrete  building three  stories tall.  Fish are anchored  to the building by the water in their tanks resting on the counter.  Thus they can feel the vibrations that start early in the morning and appear to anticipate everyone else’s waking  up.  What they are really doing is resetting their circadian clocks each morning, while in isolation the clock would run a little slow.

I spent long hours on the living room floor manually counting up the signals on the paper tape, and then had my stepmother help me to analyze the data statistically. My father suggested the experiment, I looked it up and found that no-one had yet studied circadian rhythms in angelfish. My father supplied all the reseach materials and the fish. The fish consented to be studied by eagerly gathering at the surface to be fed, and especially by not dying during the experiment. They remained in perfect health for some time after that, back in the big group fish tank.

This is the first time this study has ever been published anywhere, and I am grateful to Retraction Watch for allowing me the space to contribute this advancement of scientific knowledge. I acknowledge no conflict of interest except that I liked fish and my father was pushing me into an experimental career.

I am now retired, but I still have the orignal paper tapes (the data) in my garage. No autopsies were done on the fish, who died of natural causes (they were eaten by my cat.) (Correction: I made up the part about the cat.)

This study will be cross published in Retraction Watch so even if it disappears from here it will be available there.

Correction: the original paper tapes have long since been lost, and the fish have died  due to asphyxiation after their big fifty gallon tank mysteriously burst   late one evening.

Depression is not a side effect of cancer; it is a  side effect of dying.

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