24 December 2010
16 December 2010
"The free will that humans enjoy is similar to that exercised by animals as simple as flies, a scientist has said."
…read it all at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11998687
29 November 2010
People seem always to have understood that humans are just another kind of animal and not necessarily better than the rest.
Read it all: http://human-nonhuman.blogspot.com/2010/11/start-with-god.html
21 October 2010
|An engineered Escherichia coli strain (yellow) attaches to solid iron oxide (black). Scientists at the Molecular Foundry took the first step toward electronically interfacing microbes with inorganic materials, without disrupting cell viability. Credit: Image courtesy of Heather Jensen|
The Terminator. The Borg. The Six Million Dollar Man. Science fiction is ripe with biological beings armed with artificial capabilities. In reality, however, the clunky connections between living and non-living worlds often lack a clear channel for communication. Now, scientists with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have designed an electrical link to living cells engineered to shuttle electrons across a cell's membrane to an external acceptor along a well-defined path. This direct channel could yield cells that can read and respond to electronic signals, electronics capable of self-replication and repair, or efficiently transfer sunlight into electricity.
…"This recent breakthrough is part of a larger Department of Energy project on domesticating life at the cellular and molecular level. By directly interfacing synthetic devices with living organisms, we can harness the vast capabilities of life in photo- and chemical energy conversion, chemical synthesis, and self-assembly and repair," said Jay Groves, a faculty scientist at Berkeley Labs and professor of chemistry at University of California, Berkeley.
The researchers plan to implement this genetic cassette in photosynthetic bacteria, as cellular electrons from these bacteria can be produced from sunlight—providing cheap, self-replicating solar batteries. These metal-reducing bacteria could also assist in producing pharmaceutical drugs, Ajo-Franklin adds, as the fermentation step in drug manufacturing requires energy-intensive pumping of oxygen. In contrast, these engineered bacteria breathe using rust, rather than oxygen, saving energy.
20 October 2010
19 October 2010
The closer you look, the more there is to see: Bacteria are talking to each other and they may be thinking, too. Inside our bodies.
|Some 100,000 Myxococcus xanthus cells amassed into a fruiting body with spores, above. Experimental competitions showed that some strains of this social bacterium exploited others|
Read the whole article:
18 October 2010
"The monkeys, aged seven months and three months, were dressed in blue uniforms made from traditional local fabrics complete with mini hats before being formally appointed station masters and “special city residents” by the local mayor. The pair will now go on duty at the station located on the Hojo-cho line, which currently operates Japan’s first biodiesel fuel train. The monkeys belong to a local resident who proposed the unusual arrangement in order to help revive the fortunes of the financially troubled railway line, according to the Mainichi newspaper.
14 October 2010
"Hungover Owls" tells us all we need to know about the human tendency to anthropomorphize nonhumans, don't you think?
More where that came from:
12 October 2010
The anthill: model for utopia or dystopia?
E.O. Wilson, who knows as much about ants as anybody, thinks we ought to worry, based on the way he sees ants dealing with resource shortages.
Or maybe we ought not to worry about whether or not we act like ants and instead focus on our behavior. What do you think?
From a recent article about Wilson:
…He has joked that Karl Marx had it right about socialism, he just got the wrong species. In his writings he is wont to emphasise the beneficence of ants, how an ant with a full stomach will regurgitate liquid food for those without, and how the old will venture into battle so that the young can survive. That may confirm some of the findings of “Mutual Aid”, the pioneering 1902 study of altruism in animals by the Russian anarchist Prince Pyotr Kropotkin. But is this really socialism? To the casual observer the ant colony looks more like a Nazi ideal, where the weak are shed and fed upon, and those who have the slightest scent of another colony are sprayed with a chemical marking them out for death. It makes one glad to be human.
When Wilson unveiled sociobiology in 1975, it met with an angry response. Feminists, Marxists and Christians were opposed; so was Stephen Jay Gould, another Harvard biologist. But Wilson’s belief in sociobiology has not wavered. He leans forward and folds his hands together. “History is almost certainly colony against individual and colony against colony. If group selection is correct, what you would expect to find is an intense human desire to form groups that attack other groups; bands of brothers, teams.” Then comes the rider. “As shortages in oil and other energy sources increase, we will see insect traits. Group conflict is so deeply endemic that we will never diminish it until we confront it.”…
…We were not driven from Eden. Instead, we destroyed most of it.
ANTS AND US
From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Autumn 2010
More Intelligent Life (http://moreintelligentlife.com)
06 October 2010
Robin song is suited to cooler air, to mornings and evenings in spring and summer and the shorter day length later. It has a sharp-edged clarity, with liquid runs and etched phrases enhanced by the sounding woods. Here there is some leaf cover surrounding still, open, well-lit spaces which act as studios for the singing birds. Robins have a reputation for ferocity with each other and a lack of fear with us. They also have a sweetness of song which reaches points where joy and melancholy merge. This is where the mood is shaped which, with the fragrance of leaf-rot and rain, fruits and earth, create what we feel as autumn.
14 August 2010
30 March 2010
Dogs can talk! "When I picked up my dog Ruby in Long Island nearly seven years ago, I was surprised to discover that she talks like a human."
28 March 2010
Research indicates that great apes show a capability that in humans makes possible true wisdom: they know they could be wrong
Great apes know they could be wrong
Study suggests non-human animals also have metacognitive abilities -- they know about what they have seen
In a series of three experiments, seven gorillas, eight chimpanzees, four bonobos and seven orangutans, from the Wolfgang Köhler Research Center at the Leipzig Zoo in Germany, were presented with two hollow tubes, one baited with a food reward, the other not. The apes were then observed as they tried to find the reward.
In the first experiment, the apes were prevented from watching the baiting but the tubes were shaken to give them auditory information about the reward's location instead. Dr. Call wanted to see if when the apes were prevented from acquiring visual information, but offered auditory cues instead, they would be able to use the auditory information to reduce their reliance on visual searching.
In the second experiment, the apes were shown the location where the food was hidden and then at variable time delays encouraged to retrieve it. The purpose of this experiment was to see if forgetting the location would lead to the apes looking harder for it.
In the last experiment, the researcher compared the apes' response between visible and hidden baiting conditions, when the quality of the food reward varied. The author hypothesized that the apes would check more often when a high quality reward was at stake, irrespective of whether or not they had seen where it was placed.
Although the apes retrieved the reward very accurately when they had watched the baiting, Dr. Call found that they were more likely to check inside the tube before choosing when high stakes were involved, or after a longer period of time had elapsed between the baiting and the retrieval of the reward. In contrast, when the apes were provided with auditory information about the food's location, they reduced the amount of checking before choosing. According to Dr. Call, taken together, these findings show that the apes were aware that they could be wrong when choosing.
Dr. Call concludes: "The current results indicate that the looking response appears to be a function of at least three factors: the cost of looking inside the tube, the value of the reward and the state of the information. The combination of these three factors creates an information processing system that possesses complexity, flexibility and control, three of the features of metacognition*. These findings suggest that nonhuman animals may possess some metacognitive abilities, too."
1. Call J (2010). Do apes know that they could be wrong? Animal Cognition DOI 10.1007/s10071-010-0317-x
02 March 2010
"Can animals talk to other animals?" Asks Maggie Koerth-Baker on BoingBoing.net. "This question—from an Anon's 6-year-old cousin—is familiar to anyone who's ever been caught up in the poignant friendship of a cartoon fox and a cartoon hound. Obviously, their real-life equivalents aren't sitting down to chat, vocally, about Yeats over a nice cup of tea. But if you drop the human pretension, and start thinking of communication as a simple exchange of information, you'll see cross-species conversations happening, experts say.…We humans tend to think of communication as solely about formal language—preferably spoken. Instead, animals use things like movement, posture and even pee—as well as sounds—to share concepts like, "I want to play," or messages like, "There's food over here." As long it makes sense, communication has happened."
01 March 2010
BBC - Earth News - Killer whales: What to do with captive orcas?
26 February 2010
They're not just growling, these nonhumans are talking with each other, comparing notes: communicating intelligently.
…New experimental work on domestic dogs, just published online by the journal Animal Behaviour, reports “the first evidence of context specificity of agonistic vocalizations in the dog.” Scientist Tamas Farago and his colleagues discovered, in other words, that when dogs growl, they communicate specific information—not just arousal—to other dogs.
This group of researchers recorded growls of 20 adult dogs in versions of the three contexts noted above: when the dogs were mildly threatened by a person who slowly approached and stared at them (called the TS context), when engaged in tug-of-war play with a person (PL), and when guarding a large meaty bone from another dog (FG). The TS and FG contexts are termed “agonistic” because they involve behaviors related to aggression. The PL context is considered non-agonistic because it is playful.
The most exciting data in the paper come from playback experiments made with 41 dogs (not the growl-recorded dogs). Playback is a technique that, when rigorously initiated in the 1970s, cracked wide open the study of animal communication. In this procedure, vocalizations of animals are recorded as some event (natural or experimental) unfolds and are then played back to different animals in the same species, in order to note their reaction.…
24 February 2010
23 February 2010
"Animals are constantly asking us in their own ways to treat them better or leave them alone." (Marc Bekoff)
…Animals are constantly asking us in their own ways to treat them better or leave them alone. What might their manifesto look like? Basically, animals want to be treated better or left alone, and they`re fully justified in making this request. We must stop ignoring their gaze and closing our hearts to their pleas. We can easily do what they ask -- to stop causing them unnecessary pain, suffering, loneliness, sadness, and death, even extinction. It`s a matter of making different choices: about how we conduct research, about how we entertain ourselves, about what we buy, where we live, who we eat, who we wear, and even family planning.…
Here are six reasons for expanding our compassion footprint:
All animals share the earth and we must coexsist
Animals think and feel
Animals have and deserve compassion
Connection breeds caring, alienation breeds disrespect
Our world is not compassionate to animals
Acting compassionately helps all beings and our world
…Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU, Boulder, and scholar-in-residence at the University of Denver`s Institute for Human-Animal Connection. He will be speaking at the Boulder Bookstore about his new book, "The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint," today at 7:30 p.m.
Chimpanzees are intelligent enough to appreciate how big a pint of liquid is, or the volume of any other measure (BBC)
Details of the discovery are published in the journal Animal Cognition.
22 February 2010
Researchers at San Diego Zoo have been studying what has been described as the "secret language" of elephants
….They have been monitoring communications between animals that cannot be heard by human ears. The elephant's trumpeting call will be familiar to most people, but the animals also emit growls. Their growls, however, are only partly audible; two-thirds of the call is at frequencies that are too low to be picked up by our hearing.…
"We've seen that after their long gestation of over two years, in the last 12 days we see a manipulation of the low part of the growl, the low part that we can't hear. "This we believe is to announce to the rest of the herd that the baby is imminent," said Dr Anderson. The researchers believe that this also warns the elephants to look out for predators. "You may think that a baby calf of about 300 pounds would not be as open to predation as other species," he says. "But packs of hyenas are a big threat in the wild."…
20 February 2010
19 February 2010
"when we really look at the data, it’s not nature red in tooth and claw; there’s really a lot of empathy and compassion both within and between species"
In my new book that will be out in February called The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint I follow the lead of University of California, Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, who wrote a really good book that’s very popular called Born to be Good. The argument is not only are human animals born to be good, but other animals are also, and when we view the literature, it turns out that for all the studies that have been done across primates and other animals, more than 90 percent of their behavior is what we call “prosocial” or positive. What I like to argue, and what others like Frans de Waal are arguing, is that of course animals compete with one another, and of course they can do nasty things, but when we really look at the data, it’s not nature red in tooth and claw; there’s really a lot of empathy and compassion both within and between species.
06 February 2010
today's saddest headline: "A lone whale with a voice unlike any other has been wandering the Pacific for the past 12 years"
05 February 2010
Birds may use their feathers for touch, using them to feel their surroundings just as cats use their whiskers, sez BBC
02 February 2010
Researchers say US prairie dogs exhibit natural language ability as complex as their social society housed in a highly engineered and complex burrow system
"Prairie dogs have the most complex natural language that has been decoded so far. They have words for different predators, they have descriptive words for describing the individual features of different predators, so it's a pretty complex language that has a lot of elements," says Prof Slobodchikoff.
16 January 2010
14 January 2010
Bill Maher is urging NASA to leave monkeys out of the space race.
The space agency recently approved a proposal to conduct radiation studies on live squirrel monkeys in an attempt to understand the effects of interplanetary travel. The space agency has not used monkeys for radiobiology research in decades.
“I’m writing to ask you to rethink NASA’s recently announced plan to spend $1.75 million on an experiment that will blast live squirrel monkeys with dangerous levels of radiation.” writes Mr. Maher in a letter dated Jan. 13 to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. “It’s been decades since NASA last funded a study that involved irradiating nonhuman primates. Don’t turn back the clock — cancel this cruel exercise in futility.”
In the planned experiment, researcher Jack Bergman will irradiate squirrel monkeys in an attempt to understand what might happen to humans on long-term space flights, such as a trip to Mars. Bergman has used squirrel monkeys for 15 years in addiction experiments that have involved applying electric shocks, withholding food, and completely immobilizing the animals in restraint chairs for extended periods. Ongoing studies, including those funded by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, already use non-animal methods to determine the effects of low-dose radiation on human tissues.
"…when we really look at the data, it’s not nature red in tooth and claw; there’s really a lot of empathy and compassion both within and between species."
12 January 2010
The Art of Falconry : News (KGBT 4)
"RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS -- The art of falconry dates back more than 4,000 years, but as Paul Juergens readies his peregrine for flight, he adds a touch of modernity in the from of a satellite tracking device."
Sonar wars in the night skies (NewsObserver.com)
"Conner began to study bats and moths together and learned that just like military aircraft, at least one species of tiger moth can jam enemy sonar by producing a sound at the right frequency. Moths, of course, found it first. Jamming sonar means the moths interfere with their enemies' fine-tuned way of bouncing sound off objects to navigate. However, the b. trigona moth seems to thwart its enemy, the bat, every time, and the military still can't claim that rate for foiling anti-aircraft missiles. Conner has only studied the one type of moth but has never seen a moth get eaten after producing the high frequency racket. So, can the military learn a thing or two from a moth?"
Birdland is an immersive sound work. Set in a 3D game construction space, visuals are minimalised and sound is maximalised in order to experiment with sensations, perceptions and flows of listening. Within the space, the user glides freely around sculptural, architectural and topological formations. The project aims to develop new techniques for composing sound and new ideas about the significance of listening, through a reading of Deleuzian and Lacaning texts in conjunction with playful and intuitive exploration. An iteration of the work presented for the Time Transcendence Performance conference is an early prototype created for the Design Research Institute’s Virtual Reality Centre.
11 January 2010
07 January 2010
….I talk to animals all the time. Once upon a time I was out in the pre-dawn darkness wiping dew off my car window so I could drive to work "... when I felt a bump on my right ankle. I looked down to see a big, fat striped skunk sniffing my leg. "Hey, Stinky, please don't do that," I said softly. The skunk looked up, turned around and waddled off into the darkness.
–Gary Bogue, Contra Costa Times
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientists who compare insect chirps with ape calls may look like they are mixing aphids and orangutans, but researchers have found common denominators in the calls of hundreds of species of insects, birds, fish, frogs, lizards and mammals that can be predicted with simple mathematical models.
Compiling data from nearly 500 species, scientists with the University of Florida and Oklahoma State University have found the calls of crickets, whales and a host of other creatures are ultimately controlled by their metabolic rates — in other words, their uptake and use of energy.
The finding, reported in today's Proceedings of the Royal Society B, will help scientists understand how acoustic communication evolved across species, uniting a field of study that has long focused on the calls of particular groups of animals, such as birds.
The results also provide insights regarding common energetic and neuromuscular constraints on sound production, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of producing these sounds.
"Acoustic signals are used to transfer information among species that is required for survival, growth and reproduction," Gillooly said. "This work suggests that this information exchange is ultimately governed by the rate at which an animal takes up and uses energy."
Animal communication is a long-studied area of biology, going back at least to the days of Aristotle. But generally the studies were species-specific, made in the context of courting calls or parental care of a certain type of animal — nothing to relate an animal call across a variety of species.
"From my perspective this is one of the first true attempts to provide a general theoretical framework for acoustic communication," said Alexander G. Ophir, Ph.D., an assistant professor of zoology at Oklahoma State, who began the painstaking process of compiling data on animal calls in hundreds of different species while a postdoctoral student at UF. "This seems to provide unifying principles for acoustic communication that can be applied to virtually all species. In terms of producing sounds, we use vocal cords, but other mechanisms of sound production exist, such as insects that rub their legs together. Until now, these sounds have been treated differently. But by providing a general mathematical framework — a baseline — we have a reference point to compare those differences.
"So if we say one animal's call is loud, we can provide a predictive reference point to say whether it is truly loud when compared with other animal sounds," he said.
That common reference point can even predict what animals long extinct — think of Tyrannosaurus rex of "Jurassic Park" fame — may have truly sounded like.
"These findings say if you give me information about an animal of a certain body size and the mechanisms it uses to make sounds, I can give you a rough idea of what it sounds like," said Jeffrey Podos, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who did not participate in the study. "It allows us to imagine where the evolution of acoustic signals might go, and where it might have come from. Further study will probably put these principles in a more explicit evolutionary framework, but this is an interesting idea and presented with such a broad view. I can't think of anyone in at least 30 years who has tied together data from such a diversity of species. These authors are really trying to see the forest instead of the trees."
"Bob Simon has reported for CBS News on everything from the Vietnam War to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait to the Israel-Palestine conflict. This past Sunday on 60 Minutes, Mr. Simon returned to an even heavier subject-elephants. 'Elephants communicate in a complicated, sophisticated language that scientists are trying to decipher and compile into the world's first elephant dictionary,' reported Ms. Simon."
05 January 2010
"…Nick Gales from the Australian Antarctic Division, who is leading the expedition, believes it will show that Japan's arguments for whale hunting are misguided. 'Anyone can always come up with a project that you have to kill an animal to measure something,' he said. 'But the important question is whether or not you need that information - and our view very strongly is that all of that type of information that is relevant to the conservation and management of whales can be gathered using new and very powerful non-lethal tools.'"…
04 January 2010
The researchers therefore conclude that the nose touching between dogs not only is a way of saying "Hello" but also helps to answer the question "Have you encountered any snacks or other food around here?"
02 January 2010
Spiders Decorate Webs with Ornaments
Ribbons, shimmery fluff, silk tufts and hints of red and green might sound like Christmas tree ornaments, but these decorative touches have all been spotted in the webs of orb-weaving spiders, according to a new study.
However, the festive scene takes on sinister new meaning. Researchers have just discovered that, similar to how human eyes are drawn to holiday ornaments, spider prey are drawn to their death by colorful, shimmering decorations.