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What’s Up With That: Why Does Your Dog Seem to Know What Time It Is?
By Adam Mann 07.29.14
It’s five o’clock, and your dog is excitedly wagging her tail and nuzzling against you. Your furry friend is hungry and seems to know that this is the hour you usually feed her. But was this performance a simple reaction to a rumbling in Ginger’s tummy or are canines actually able to somehow read the clock?
Anecdotally, many dog owners will tell you that their dogs seem to anticipate dinnertime or the hour when they regularly go on a walk. Some owners claim their dogs know these important times to within minutes, notifying them at precisely at 5 p.m. that a meal should be served, or maybe 4:49 or 5:01, occasionally 5:03, but virtually never more than 5 minutes earlier or later. It’s like the dog is reading a signal, maybe from the amount of daylight or perhaps some other sense, that tells him the time. But time is a human invention, at least in the way we normally think about it in terms of seconds, minutes, and hours. Can dogs, or other animals, actually understand time in the same way that we do?
“This is actually a very hotly debated question in animal research,” said cognitive scientist Locky Stewart, director of research at Dognition, a company that analyzes canine intelligence.
Cognitive scientists are interested in the ways animals form memory, mostly because it helps us understand the way our own brains work. Researchers often break down our long-term memory into two categories. There’s implicit memory, an unconscious muscle memory that we use to perform tasks we have learned and repeated many times in the past, like tying a shoelace or riding a bike. And there’s declarative memory, where we store the personal experiences and factual information that make up the story of our lives.
Pavlov taught us that dogs and other animals have implicit memories, which are used for trial-and-error learning or conditioned responses. But there’s still some uncertainty regarding whether or not non-human animals have declarative memory. Researchers are particularly interested to figure out if animals have what’s known as episodic memory, or the ability to recall contextual information about past events, such as what was happening, or where and when it occurred. Stewart described this ability to think about and re-experience the past as a type of mental time travel.
Scientists have studied episodic memories in apes, monkeys, rats, bees, and some birds, including crows. Many experiments have tried to determine if these species have a “www” memory or the ability to recall the basic facts about an event: what, where, and when. The outline of the test for each animal is fairly simple.
Let’s say you give a chimpanzee two sealed opaque jars, each containing a treat. One jar has a non-perishing snack, something like a grape. But the other contains a treat that needs to be enjoyed within a certain time limit, like a frozen cube of juice that’s going to melt. After five minutes, the chimp is given the chance to open one jar. After an hour, it can open the other.
Once the test has been given several times, most creatures will crack open the jar containing the disappearing treat first. They have learned by experience if they wait too long, this one won’t be around anymore. They have demonstrated the three w’s. What: a tasty treat. Where: inside this jar. When: within five minutes or it won’t be around anymore.
Bonobos, chimps, and orangutans pass this test with flying colors; they seem to have this sort of episodic memory. There is also good evidence that crows and rats can create www-type memories. Rhesus monkeys, so far, have been shown to remember the what and where, but have some trouble with the when. And even bees seem to possess some type of episodic memory tied to their circadian rhythm.
While there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that dogs remember people (like their owner) and events (like going to the park), it’s still an open question whether or not they can travel back in time in their minds. That’s because man’s best friend has sadly been neglected when it comes to lab experiments. For a long time, scientists thought that because dogs are domesticated, they couldn’t prove anything about how natural species behaved. It is really only within the last 15 years that extensive examination of the doggie mind has begun.
But for www memories, “there is very little if not no research when it comes to dogs,” said Stewart.
So can dogs tell time? Maybe, but we really don’t know. But there are some interesting ideas out there about how they may do it if they can. While making it clear that these aren’t yet backed up by scientific evidence, Stewart suggested some hypotheses to explain your pet’s behavior at feeding time.
Dogs, like most mammals, have a circadian rhythm, an internal sense that tells them when to sleep or when to be active. Perhaps it’s their bodies, though not their minds, that can detect roughly what time it is. So if in the mid-afternoon your dog is used to getting her food, her body gets hungry around this time, and she starts getting excitedly all up in your business, demanding a bowl.
Another explanation could come from the fact that some animals can read environmental cues. Perhaps dogs use the length of shadows to know the time of day.
Some researchers have suggested that dogs are using their advanced sense of smell to sniff out how long it has been since some event happened. After you leave the house, your scent lingers, decaying slowly over the day. If you have a fairly regular schedule, it’s possible your dog has figured out that at the point when your smell has decreased by a specific amount, you’re going to unlock that front door (and he needs to get ready to come charging up to greet you).
In the video above, you can see an experiment where researchers fooled a dog by spreading his owners scent around the house, leaving the canine puzzled when the owner came home at his usual hour. While it doesn’t prove that dogs can smell time, it’s an intriguing idea.
Though there isn’t a good answer yet as to whether or not your dog knows what time it is, there could be one within the next few years. Dogs are receiving more and more attention from scientists, and it’s almost certainly only a matter of time before they are tested for www memories. Cognitive scientists in particular are interested to find the roots of our own episodic memory abilities.
Hacker and UFO hunter Gary McKinnon launches SEO business
by Warwick Ashford Tuesday 29 July 2014
UK hacker Gary McKinnon is offering his services as an online search expert after winning a 10-year battle against extradition to the US for breaking into military computers to look for evidence of UFOs.
Finally able to make a new life for himself, Glasgow-born McKinnon has set up a business offering services to manipulate aspects of a website to improve its ranking by online search engines.
The practice, known as search engine optimisation (SEO) is used widely by businesses aiming to make their websites appear as prominently as possible in search engine results.
McKinnon, who had his extradition to the US blocked in October 2012 by home secretary Theresa May, says he has more than 20 years’ experience in IT services on his site Small SEO.
According to the site, clients include London law firm Kaim Todner, tutoring service GMAT Tutor London, Oxfordshire hair salon The Hair Safari, and child safety door stop maker Jamm Products.
Theresa May said McKinnon should be permitted to stay in the UK on human rights grounds after medical reports said he was very likely to try to kill himself if extradited.
Previously, UK courts had repeatedly thrown out McKinnon's pleas for the extradition process to strike a merciful balance between his minor hacking crimes and the vulnerable psychology caused by his having Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.
In November 2012, McKinnon learned he would not face any charges in the UK and that a ban on accessing computers would be lifted.
But an extradition warrant for McKinnon is still outstanding, preventing his travel outside the UK, according to the BBC.
McKinnon was arrested in 2002 and in 2005 before a warrant for his extradition was issued in July 2006 under the 2003 Extradition Act.
US authorities wanted to extradite McKinnon to face charges of causing $900,000 worth of damage to military computer systems.
He would have faced up to 60 years in prison if convicted, but McKinnon maintains he was merely looking for evidence of extra-terrestrial life and technologies, and did not cause any damage.
Ukraine official says pro-Russian separatists planted mines near MH17 crash site
July 30, 2014 - 10:39PM
Donetsk: International observers were turned back on Wednesday after making another attempt to reach the site where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 went down in eastern Ukraine, and a government official said the area near the zone had been mined by pro-Russian separatists who control it.
Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe set out in two vehicles — without frustrated crash investigators from the Netherlands who have been trying to reach the site for four days.
The OSCE observers headed back to the city of Donetsk after discussions with rebels on the city's outskirts not long after starting what would have been a two-hour journey to the site.
That means that almost two weeks after the July 17 disaster, safety concerns and hindrance from the separatists who control the area are still obstructing access to the site. Foreign governments whose citizens died have complained the site is still not secured and some human remains have not been recovered. International observers say wreckage has been cut, moved or otherwise tampered with.
Government security spokesman Andriy Lysenko added to those concerns on Wednesday by saying separatists "have mined the approaches to this area. This makes the work of the international experts impossible."
Lysenko was asked at a briefing about concerns that Ukrainian efforts to win back territory were increasing fighting in the area and slowing access. He said that Ukrainian troops weren't conducting operations against separatists near the site, but were trying to cut off their supply lines to force them to leave the area.
OSCE observers did not immediately tell journalists accompanying them what specific issue made them turned back.
The US and Ukrainian governments say the Boeing 777 was shot down by a missile fired from areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists who have been fighting the Ukrainian government. The separatists deny shooting down the plane; Russia denies providing the Buk missile launcher and says the Ukrainian military may have shot the plane down.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian forces took control of the town of Avdeevka, just to the north of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. The town is near the airport, which has been fought over for weeks by rebels and government forces. Local officials said fighting over the past 24 hours killed 19 people in the region.
Ukrainian forces continue to encircle Horlivka, another key town northeast of Donetsk. The city of Donetsk is one of the main strongholds for the insurrection in the east and taking Horlivka would open the way to move against Donetsk, the Ukrainian military has said.
The Micro Tactical Ground Robot, built by Roboteam, is the latest tool to be fielded by Israel Defense Force units targeting Gaza's elaborate and often explosives-rigged network of tunnels. (Roboteam)
TEL AVIV — Israel debuted a locally developed micro robot in its ongoing onslaught against the labyrinth of tunnels and concealed shafts supporting subterranean arms depots, command posts and cross-border attacks from Gaza.
Built by Roboteam, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) is the latest tool to be fielded under fire by infantry and special units targeting Gaza’s elaborate and often explosives-rigged network of tunnels.
The Tel Aviv-based startup, a newcomer to the global robotic market, beat US and Israeli bidders in a rush tender for up to 110 shoulder-carried robots, defense and industry sources said.
Several systems are already operating with combat engineering units and specialized infantry against the dozens of tunnels and multiple access points concealed in homes and civilian structures throughout the Gaza Strip, sources here said.
Measuring 60 centimeters across, MTGR is similar to the width of soldiers tasked for the high-risk surveillance, mapping and explosive-ordnance-disposal missions.
It weighs less than 20 pounds, carries its weight in payload and is built to clear obstacles, climb 8-inch stairs and maneuver in tight, dangerous terrain.
Its five onboard cameras, internal microphone and infrared laser points generate intelligence and targeting data 360 degrees around the vehicle, while an encrypted radio streams secure voice and video to tactical operators and commanders.
The system is soldier-carried, travels at 2 miles per hour and has a line-of-sight operating range of some 1,600 feet.
Roboteam was informed of its winning bid during the second week of Operation Protective Edge, now in its 21st day, an Army procurement officer said on July 28.
Israel’s Ministry of Defense declined comment on the unannounced down-select, and Roboteam executives referred questions to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
In an interview last October, Yosi Wolf, Roboteam co-founder and co-chief executive, highlighted smuggling tunnels and other underground threats as ideal missions for MTGR and another smaller, 2.5-pound system developed by the company.
Wolf cited Roboteam’s selection, less than four years after it launched operations, as priority provider to the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), the authority managing interagency programs for special operations and low-intensity conflict.
According to the CTTSO’s website, 100 MTGRs have been earmarked for “priority fielding” to special forces and explosive-ordnance-disposal units, while another 35 were destined for the US Homeland Security Department and other domestic users.
Since its 2009 founding by Wolf and Elad Levy, former junior commanders of an Israel Air Force special unit, Roboteam and a US subsidiary based in Bethesda, Maryland, operate parallel production lines supported by some 100 subcontractors in both countries.
In the previous interview, Wolf said the firm operated like an elite technology force, “with access to the IDF as our backyard for testing” and organized for rapid-response design and production tailored to customer needs.
“Our added value is the speed at which we can develop software and integrate technologies into ruggedized, reliable and very low-cost robots,” he said at the time.
When contacted July 27, he declined comment on Roboteam’s operational or contractual activities pertaining to the ongoing Gaza campaign.
Crop circles in Germany were discovered by a balloonist last week and the news has quickly spread online. Christoph Huttner, who owns the field, insists he didn’t create the circles himself. The Bavarian farm renews a new mystery as thousands travel to the field to explore the ornate design.
Huttner believes students on summer break may have created the 246-foot image in his field by flattening the wheat crop. However, that didn’t stop thousands of visitors to come sing, dance and even swing pendulums in the giant image. Huttner says he’s not yet sure whether he will leave the circles in his field.
While crop circles in Germany have been part of supernatural lore since the 1970s, scientists say they are often made by man. UFO enthusiasts say that the extraterrestrials have arrived by giving signs in the field. Some of them believe there’s no way humans could have created the work of art.
“This is a technology which we haven’t mastered yet,” one visitor told The Local. “They want to show us – we are here, we love you.”
On July 14, a 400-foot crop circle appeared overnight in Dorset, England. A Russian sunflower field was the next site of crop circle, which appeared on July 17. Theories about the origins of crop circles have ranged from aliens, hedgehogs, unusual wind patterns, and invisible energy fields since they first appeared in England in the 1970s. Most people believe they are just a hoax.
Crop circles are also referred to as crop formations because they are not always circular in shape. The documented cases have substantially increased over time, and many self-styled experts alleged an alien origin. However, in 1991, two hoaxers, Bower and Chorley, claimed authorship of many circles throughout England, after one of their circles was certified as impossible to be made by a man by a notable circle investigator in front of journalists.
Circles in Europe are not spread randomly across the landscape, but they appear near roads, areas of medium to dense population, and cultural heritage monuments, such as Stonehenge or Avebury, and always in areas of easy access. Archeological remains can cause cropmarks in the fields in the shapes of circles and squares, but they do not appear overnight, and they are always in the same places every year. The scientific consensus is that most or all crop circles are man-made, with a few possible exceptions due to meteorological or other natural phenomena.
These crop circles in Germany are well-formed, but with a common pattern that’s been seen in previous years. There’s no way to prove who made them, but the alien message isn’t quite clear. If aliens made these circles to communicate, they probably are smart enough to write our language.
Mysterious Russian holes: Is Earth becoming perforated?
A third gigantic hole has appeared in northern Russia, baffling scientists.
By Eva Botkin-Kowacki Staff writer July 30, 2014
Siberian reindeer herders literally stumbled upon a scientific mystery when they found a deep, gaping hole in the Earth.
While walking along their pasturing route, the herders nearly plummeted into a rabbit hole about about 13 feet wide and an estimated 200 to 330 feet deep.
But this crater was probably not formed by a rabbit. In fact, it is the third of similarly mysterious holes found in the past month in northern Russia.
This new hole, found in the Taymyr Peninsula, may help scientists uncover the cause of these bizarre openings in the Earth. Researchers and bystanders have proposed many conflicting theories as to the cause of the first two holes, which were made known earlier this month, in the Yamal peninsula. Some suggest the holes may be the result of missile testing, while others insist a fiery ball crashed into the Earth from outer space.