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Friday, November 30, 2007

Dogs Can Too! (LOL)

Famous Internet Dog cartoon
...but for how much longer? ;)

A pretty famous cartoon above. And it came to mind after I read this at Fox News.

Dogs Taught to Use Computers in Austrian Study
In order to test whether dogs can visually categorize pictures, and transfer their knowledge to new situations, four dogs were shown landscape and dog photographs, and expected to make a selection on a computer touch-screen.
. . . Doggie not used in the study . . . (Doggie not used in the study, but I thought he is cute!)
In this test, the dogs had to choose between a dog-on-landscape image and a landscape-only photo. Good doggies: They aced the test, selecting the images that included dogs.

The results indicate, according to the authors, the dogs were able to form a concept of a "dog." Whether the dogs recognized the pup pictures as actual dogs, however, is an unknown.
The scenarios that come to mind when I think of the Internet Dog cartoon above being used in this test just crack me up. :)

Of course, with dogs recognizing other dogs on the computer, Mr Cartoon Dog might not be so right after all. . . LOL ;) :D

Okay, a more serious perspective. I think that our dogs are a lot more aware and perceptive of things than we are prepared to recognize sometimes. They do amazing things in search and rescue and in more everyday facets of life. It's just that it is us humans are sometimes unwilling or unable to take notice. Or if we do, other people think we are nuts.

I think I'm in good company. Heehee.

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Semavi Lady woofed at @ 11/30/2007 01:45:00 AM | Permanent link | (0) Comments  

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Manna From Hell - The Scientist Daily

WOW, this is a fascinating piece by Julia C. Mead at The Scientist Daily. It is a very interesting and well written piece. A mystery about deaths that have swept selectively through certain regions of the Balkans; missing some people and villages while taking many others; people who tried to escape the black houses could be overtaken eventually. The folk explanation of it and the treatments which still do not result in a cure now have another layer of clues... molecular biology has added important elements to resolving the mystery. Fascinating!

Articles tend to go to pay per view or cache sometimes, so you have to move quickly on this if you want to read it. Like the mysterious illness in the novel The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, this article about a real and deadly disease captured my imagination about its ongoing tragedy.

You can catch the article now at this link.

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Semavi Lady woofed at @ 11/27/2007 12:24:00 PM | Permanent link | (1) Comments  

Anonymous sent us a woof // November 28, 2007

Fascinating article! Thanks for posting it. A modern model of a similar endemic in the Middle Ages, Ergot in the grain.

Just goes to show, everything "natural" isn't necessarily good for you!

Catherine   

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mad Mad World of Scientists

One more post for today!

I wanted to blog this one a couple days ago, but today is a catchup day for some of this stuff so here we go.

From The Scientist, this article will probably tickle everyone. I do not know if/when the article might go offline but here is the link to the original, and the text for it is pasted below! I encourage you to visit the original article. There are often thought provoking comments at the end. ;)
Did they really do that?

Four decades ago, a group of scientists actually thought it was a good idea to give an elephant LSD
[Published 7th September 2007 02:22 PM GMT]

In a cartoon by former NASA roboticist Randall Munroe, a man reaches out and pulls a lever. Immediately a bolt of lightning strikes him from the sky. When the man is a "normal" person, he sensibly thinks, "I guess I shouldn't do that." When he is a scientist, however, he scratches his head and asks, "I wonder if that happens every time," and reaches again for the lever.

Curiosity is what makes scientists tick. This curiosity can lead to great discoveries, but it can also inspire bizarre experiments that appear highly peculiar to the rest of society. Such experiments come in a number of different varieties.

At one end of the spectrum are the experiments that, in the words of Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, "first make you laugh, and then make you think." The research is serious, but the subject matter contains hints of the absurd.

For example, a 2006 study at the University of Western Ontario sought to find out if the average dog would seek help in an emergency. Cooperative dog owners pretended to have a heart attack while walking their pet. At a pre-determined spot, they clutched their chest, cried out dramatically, then collapsed to the ground and feigned lifelessness. The dogs were not impressed. Most of them sniffed their owner a few times before wandering around aimlessly -- except for one toy poodle. This bold pooch rushed over to the nearest person, jumped up on her lap, and offered his belly to be petted. The researchers concluded that most dog owners should not expect their pet to turn into Lassie during an emergency.

Then there are the bizarre experiments that make you cringe, not laugh. The classic example is the 1962 elephant-on-acid experiment. A trio of Oklahoma City researchers became curious about what would happen if they gave an elephant LSD. There was just one problem. They had no clue how much LSD to give it.

Elephants are really big creatures, so the researchers figured their subject would need a really big dose. They settled on 297 milligrams, about 3000 times the level of a normal human dose. They shot the drug into the elephant's rump. It trumpeted angrily, woozily rocked back and forth, then keeled over. Soon, tragically, it was dead. In the article that appeared in Science a few months later, the researchers euphemistically noted, "It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD." The lesson is that having three researchers work on a problem does not make it three times more likely someone will display common sense.

And then there are the experiments that simply make you shake your head in disbelief and exclaim, "Someone really did that?" Stubbins Ffirth was a doctor-in-training who lived in early nineteenth-century Philadelphia. To gain his medical degree, he undertook to determine whether yellow fever is contagious. He used himself as the test subject, exposing himself to the disease in every way he could imagine. He smeared himself with the blood, urine, sweat, and black vomit of yellow-fever patients. He dribbled the vomit into his eyes. He even drank undiluted vomit fresh from the mouth of a patient.

Miraculously, Ffirth didn't get sick, prompting him to declare yellow fever non-contagious. Of course, he was wrong. It hadn't occurred to him to test for transmission by mosquito bite. Ffirth's experiment demonstrates the difficulty of identifying all the possible variables in a real-world situation.

The history of science is full of bizarre experiments. Many of them, for all their weirdness, display a touch of genius. In 1978, Russell Clark published results of an experiment in which students from his psychology class sexually propositioned strangers in public places to find out if men and women responded differently. No surprise, almost all men accepted the invitation, and all women rejected it. Initially ridiculed by the scientific community (journals refused to publish it for years), the study now earns widespread praise for demonstrating the importance of gender differences in sexual attitudes, something to which psychologists had previously paid little attention.

Unfortunately, if you're designing an experiment that makes your colleagues raise their eyebrows in surprise, it can be very difficult to know if you're heading down the path of genius or madness. The difference usually only becomes apparent in hindsight.

Alex Boese's book about bizarre experiments, Elephants on Acid from Harcourt, goes on sale November 5, 2007. He is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes, and lives near San Diego.

Alex Boese

Links within this article:
L. Walsh, "D'ya hear about the moon bison?" The Scientist, March 2, 2007.
http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/52922/

Annals of Improbable Research
http://www.improb.com/

K. Macpherson and WA Roberts, "Do dogs (Canis familiaris) seek help in an emergency?" Journal of Comparative Psychology, May 2006.
http://content.apa.org/journals/com/120/2/113

RD Clark, "Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers," Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, August 1989.
http://tinyurl.com/2a39uo

A. Boese, Elephants on Acid
http://tinyurl.com/2lhwhl

Museum of Hoaxes
http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/

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Semavi Lady woofed at @ 9/11/2007 05:19:00 PM | Permanent link | (0) Comments