RevolutionX

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    • Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

      6 years ago

      RevolutionX

      I've been on a slight kick of Powell and Pressburger films as of late and am still in a daze at how much film making talent the two of them have. Their films are roughly fifty years old and still hold up in just about every way possible. They're still just as entertaining as the day they were made, which is no small feat. Even more difficult is the exquisite balance of drama and wit they possess. One moment you emotionally moved like you rarely are while watching a film and the next your chuckling at something said or done on screen only to be moved yet again a moment later. Which is to say nothing of their technical merit. Every shot is framed in a way that clearly shows you all the information you need to know from the scene. Not to mention beautifully edited to allow each shot to "breath" and have a life of its own, but that sentiment could be said of a lot of films of the period. (Modern editing equipment seems to have made it extremely easy to over/quick cut a film.) But most stunning of all is their use of Technicolor. I have yet to see another color film of the era look quite like them. They're eye candy minus the CG. Which reminds me of yet another thing that amazes me about their films, the special effects. Although they might be antiquated by modern standards, they still hold up. Yeah, you might able to pick out the effects in the shots that they exist in, but they are never cheesy looking or overly distracting. Which allows you to stay immersed in the story and that is exactly what you want out of your audience. Enjoying your film and not looking at the clock or thinking about what they're going to do later on. Which is exactly what their films do for me. I find myself two hours later feeling like it was just moments earlier that I started the film.

      I miss the pacing and style of older films like these in the modern cinema. It seems like too few of the new wave of younger film makers even pay attention to older films like these and possibly don't even care about what came before them only wanting to become the next big thing. But, I suppose there are always fame and fortune whores in every generation of film makers, past, present and future.

      So in short. I highly recommend seeing as many Powell and Pressburger films as you can.

    • 7 years ago

      RevolutionX
    • 7 years ago

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    • I'm part fish...and still can't swim.

      8 years ago

      RevolutionX

      Anatomical clues to human evolution from fish

      By Dr Michael Mosley

      It may seem strange that humans have evolved from fish, but the evidence can be found not just in fossils but also within our own bodies.

      Your face is your most expressive feature; it tells the world what you are feeling, who you are and where you come from. Although no two faces are exactly the same, they share a number of common characteristics; a couple of eyes, a nose, a mouth and a philtrum.

      The philtrum is the groove on your top lip that lies just beneath your nose. You see it every day in the mirror so you probably never think about it

      It has no obvious function. Instead it is an accident of our origins, a clue to our fishy past and how our faces first formed.

      Your face is formed in the womb in the first couple of months of life, from when you were the size of a grain of rice to when you were the size of a kidney bean.

      The video (above) of a growing human face shows how this process happens. It has been created from high quality scans of human embryos at early stages of development, provided by universities and hospitals.

      This unique time-lapse video shows the face developing from a one-month-old embryo to an age of 10 weeks.

      If you watch it closely, you will see that the human face is actually formed of three main sections which rotate and come together in an unborn foetus.

      The way this happens only really makes sense when you realise that, strange though it may sound, we are actually descended from fish.

      The early human embryo looks very similar to the embryo of any other mammal, bird or amphibian - all of which have evolved from fish.

      Your eyes start out on the sides of your head, but then move to the middle.

      The top lip along with the jaw and palate started life as gill-like structures on your neck. Your nostrils and the middle part of your lip come down from the top of your head.

      There is no trace of a scar; the plates of tissue and muscle fuse seamlessly. But there is, however, a little remnant of all this activity in the middle of your top lip - your philtrum.

      This whole process, the bits coming together of the various elements to produce a recognisable human face, requires great precision.

      To fuse correctly the three sections must grow and meet at precisely the right time in the womb.

      If the timing is out, by as little as an hour, the baby may grow up with a cleft lip or cleft lip and palate, which can be extremely disfiguring. Around the world one in 700 babies are born with clefts.

      Fishy features

      There are other odd things about human anatomy that can only really be explained by our fishy ancestry.

      For example, if you were to cut up a shark you would discover that its gonads are lodged up in its chest, behind its liver.

      Like the shark our gonads also start life high up, near the liver. But unlike the shark they need to descend.

      In a woman they descend and become the ovaries, located conveniently near the uterus and the fallopian tubes

      In men, they become the testes; but to get down and fill the scrotum they have to make a far longer and more tortuous journey south.

      One consequence of this journey is the creation of a weakening in the abdominal wall. And as a result, men are far more prone than women to what are known as inguinal hernias.

      An inguinal hernia can appear as a lump in the groin area and may be painful; the lump normally disappears if you lie down.

      The lump is actually the contents of your gut protruding through that weakness in the muscle wall left behind by the descent of the testes.

      Inguinal hernias often require surgery, and if you are unfortunate enough to get one, blame it on fish

      Hiccups

      An American called Charles Osborne has the dubious honour of holding a record for the longest recorded bout of hiccups - 68 years worth, from 1922 to 1990. It seems that again it is our fishy ancestors who are partly to blame.

      A hiccup is caused by a spasm of the diaphragm, a big muscle in the chest, followed by an involuntary gulp. Both these actions have watery roots.

      In fish the nerves that activate breathing take a short journey from an ancient part of the brain, the brain stem, to the throat and gills. In us, it is more complicated.

      To breathe properly, our brain stem has to send messages not just to the throat, but down to the chest and diaphragm. This complex arrangement means that the nerves are prone to spasm, which can initiate hiccups.

      Once a hiccup has started, it is kept going by a simple motor reflex that we seem to have inherited from an amphibian ancestor.

      For the ancient tadpole, the nerve controlling this reflex served a useful purpose, allowing the entrance to the lung to remain open when breathing air but closing it off when gulping water - which would then be directed only to the gills.

      For humans and other mammals who hiccup, it has no value but does provide another bit of evidence of our common ancestry.

      Dr Michael Mosley presents Inside the Human Body, Thursdays, 9pm, from 5 May on BBC 1.


      For original article from BBC with links and pictures and video. Go there, if for anything, the clip of a face developing in a womb.

    • The Perils of Metaphorical Thinking

      8 years ago

      RevolutionX

      April 06, 2011
      by Julia Galef

      For an organ that evolved for practical tasks like avoiding predators, finding food, and navigating social hierarchies, the human brain has turned out to be surprisingly good at abstract reasoning. Who among our Pleistocene ancestors could have dreamed that we would one day be using our brains not to get an apple to fall from a tree, but to figure out what makes the apple fall?

      In part, that’s thanks to our capacity for metaphorical thinking. We instinctively graft abstract concepts like “time,” “theories,” and “humor” onto more concrete concepts that are easier to visualize. For example, we talk about time as if it were a physical space we’re traveling through (“We’re approaching the end of the year”), a moving entity (“Time flies”) or as a quantity of some physical good (“We’re running out of time”). Theories get visualized as structures — we talk about building a case, about supporting evidence, and about the foundations of a theory. And one of my favorite metaphors is the one that conceives of humor in terms of physical violence. A funny person “kills” us or “slays” us, witty humor is “sharp,” and what’s the name for the last line of a joke? The “punch” line.

      Interestingly, a lot of recent research suggests that these metaphors operate below the level of conscious thought. In one study, participants who were asked to recall a past event leaned slightly backwards, while participants who were asked to anticipate a future event leaned slightly forwards. Other studies have shown that our metaphorical use of temperature to describe people’s demeanor (as in, “He greeted me warmly,” or “He gave me the cold shoulder”) is so deep-seated, we actually conflate the two. When people are asked to recall a time when they were rejected by their peers, and then asked to estimate the temperature of the room they’re sitting in, their average estimate is several degrees colder than that of people who were asked to recall being welcomed by their peers. And in one study that asked participants to read the dossier of an imaginary job applicant and then rate his or her personality, participants who had just been holding a hot object rated the imaginary applicant as being friendlier, compared to participants who had just been holding a cold object.

      Another classic example is the “morality is cleanliness” metaphor. We talk about people having a clean record or a tarnished one, about dirty dealings and coming clean. And of course, religions are infused with this metaphor — think of baptism, the washing away of sin. One clever study published in Science in 2006 showed how deep-seated this metaphor is by dividing participants into two groups: those in the first group were asked to reflect on something virtuous they’d done in the past, and those in the second group were asked to reflect on a past moral transgression. Afterwards, each participant was offered a token gift of either a pencil or a package of antiseptic wipes. The result? Those who had been dwelling on their past wrongdoing were twice as likely to ask for the antiseptic wipes.

      Associating the future with the forward direction and the past with the backwards direction seems pretty harmless. But cases like “morality equals cleanliness” start to suggest how dangerous metaphorical thinking can be. If people conflate dirtiness with immorality, then the feeling of “Ugh, that’s disgusting” becomes synonymous with the judgment, “That’s immoral.” Which is likely a reason why so many people insist that homosexuality is wrong, even though they can’t come up with any explanation of why it’s harmful — any non-contrived explanation, at least. As the research of cognitive psychologist Jonathan Haidt has shown, people asked to defend their purity-based moral judgments reach for logical explanations, but if they’re forced to admit that their explanation has holes, they’ll grope for an alternative one, rather than retracting their initial moral judgment. Logic is merely a fig leaf; disgust is doing all the work.

      Although I haven’t seen any studies on it yet, I’m willing to wager that researchers could demonstrate repercussions of another common metaphor: the “argument is war” metaphor, which manifests in the way we talk about “attacking” an idea, “shooting down” arguments, and “defending” a position. Thinking of arguments as battles comes with all sorts of unhelpful baggage. It’s zero-sum, meaning that one person’s gain is necessarily the other’s loss. That precludes any view of the argument as a collaborative effort to find the truth. The war-metaphor also primes us emotionally, stimulating pride, aggression, and the desire to dominate — none of which are conducive to rational discussion.

      So far I’ve been discussing implicit metaphors, but explicit metaphors can also lead us astray without us realizing it. We use one thing to metaphorically stand in for another because they share some important property, but then we assume that additional properties of the first thing must also be shared by the second thing. For example, here’s a scientist explaining why complex organisms were traditionally assumed to be more vulnerable to genetic mutations, compared to simpler organisms: “Think of a hammer and a microscope… One is complex, one is simple. If you change the length of an arbitrary component of the system by an inch, for example, you're more likely to break the microscope than the hammer.”


      The rest of the article is in the comments and here is the link to the original place I saw it.

    • Are you smarter than a middle schooler?

      8 years ago

      RevolutionX

      New site tracks science misconceptions
      By Katherine Harmon | Apr 8, 2011

      Pop quiz: True or false?

      • The different cell types found in a given individual's body contain different DNA.

      • Mountains form by the piling up of pieces of rock.

      • Some living parts of organisms are not made of cells.

      More than half of the thousands of middle and high school students tested in nationwide examinations think the above statements are true (58 percent, 52 percent and 75 percent, respectively). They are not. Also false: Earth's plates are under the surface and are not visible (49 percent of students think is true); and air is carried through the body in "air tubes" (43 percent).

      Expelling these common misconceptions is key to improving overall scientific literacy. But trying to root out just where misconceptions lie can be a tricky part of the job for already busy teachers. "It becomes more difficult to teach students without actually addressing the misconception," Anu Malipatil, a charter school administrator in New York and Connecticut, said in a prepared statement.

      A new Web site is taking aim at this challenge, providing educators with quick lists of scientific statements broken down by subject matter, highlighting concepts that tend to be misunderstood by students. "This is extremely valuable information for teachers and curriculum developers to have because it shows them where instruction needs to be targeted," George DeBoer, deputy director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061 (an imitative to improve science, math and technology literacy), which created the site, said in a prepared statement.

      The site (which is accessible after free registration) also provides teachers with some 600 multiple choice questions for tests that could help pinpoint conceptual sticking points. Multiple-choice tests have drawn criticism for being too reductive, and DeBoer acknowledges that "too often test questions are not linked explicitly to the ideas and skills that the students are expected to learn."

      So to figure out just what kids know—or think they know—researchers involved in the seven-year-long project tested more than 150,000 students in some 1,000 classrooms and conducted interviews with many of them to try to figure out how well the questions were getting at the underlying understandings.

      Here is one multiple choice question developed by the team:

      • What is true about cats and worms?
      A. There are both similarities and differences between cats and worms.
      B. There are similarities but no differences between cats and worms.
      C. There are differences but no similarities between cats and worms.
      D. There is no way to tell if cats and worms have similarities or differences.
      (Answer and student statistics below)

      As policymakers discuss nationwide science standards, curriculum designers say that the opportunity to drill down on misconceptions would be a huge bonus. "No one releases any information about misconceptions," Deagan Andrews, a curriculum specialist in Greeley Colorado, said in a prepared statement. "They are interested in whether students got it right or wrong," rather than why students hold a particular understanding. And figuring out the nuances of student knowledge could help teachers, in turn, "think about their instruction and what they may be doing that may be perpetuating misconceptions," he said.

      Not all of the misunderstanding, of course, comes from the classroom. "Students create strange conceptions about the world from their experiences," Malipatil said. And it's not just students who come up short on basic science. An American Academy of Arts and Sciences report published in February found that 15 percent of U.S. adults did not think that both plants and animals have DNA. And that's not to say anything of acceptance of evolution, which still hovers around 40 percent among U.S. adults.

      So how did you do on the multiple choice question? If you answered A ("There are both similarities and differences between cats and worms"), you were correct, joining just 37 percent of 6th-8th graders and 48 percent of high schoolers—and only 30 percent of students who speak English as a second language. More students overall chose C ("There are differences but no similarities between cats and worms"), flagging it as a common misconception that a teacher could target.

      See how you measure up to U.S. middle and high school students in more areas of science on AAAS's Science Assessment site.


      The link to the original article with pictures and links.

    • Origins of life....

      8 years ago

      RevolutionX

      Scientists finish a 53-year-old classic experiment on the origins of life

      March 21st, 2011 by Ed Yong

      In 1958, a young scientist called Stanley Miller electrified a mixture of simple gases, designed to mimic the atmosphere of our primordial lifeless planet. It was a sequel to one of the most evocative experiments in history, one that Miller himself had carried five years earlier. But for some reason, he never finished his follow-up. He dutifully collected his samples and stored them in vials but, whether for ill health or dissatisfaction, he never analyzed them.

      The vials languished in obscurity, sitting unopened in a cardboard box in Miller’s office. But possessed by the meticulousness of a scientist, he never threw them away. In 1999, the vials changed owners. Miller had suffered a stroke and bequeathed his old equipment, archives and notebooks to Jeffrey Bada, one of his former students. Bada only twigged to the historical treasures that he had inherited in 2007. “Inside, were all these tiny glass vials carefully labeled, with page numbers referring Stanley’s laboratory notes. I was dumbstruck. We were looking at history,” he said in a New York Times interview.

      By then, Miller was completely incapacitated. He died of heart failure shortly after, but his legacy continues. Bada’s own student Eric Parker has finally analyzed Miller’s samples using modern technology and published the results, completing an experiment that began 53 years earlier.

      Miller conducted his original 1953 experiment as a graduate student, working with his mentor Harold Urey. It was one of the first to tackle the seemingly insurmountable question of how life began. In their laboratory, the pair tried to recreate the conditions on early lifeless Earth, with an atmosphere full of simple gases and laced with lightning storms. They filled a flask with water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen and sent sparks of electricity through them.

      The result, both literally and figuratively, was lightning in a bottle. When Miller looked at the samples from the flask, he found five different amino acids – the building blocks of proteins and essential components of life.

      The relevance of these results to the origins of life is debatable, but there’s no denying their influence. They kicked off an entire field of research, graced the cover of Time magazine and made a celebrity of Miller. Nick Lane beautifully describes the reaction to the experiment in his book, Life Ascending: “Miller electrified a simple mixture of gases, and the basic building blocks of life all congealed out of the mix. It was as if they were waiting to be bidden into existence. Suddenly the origin of life looked easy.”

      Over the next decade, Miller repeated his original experiment with several twists. He injected hot steam into the electrified chamber to simulate an erupting volcano, another mainstay of our primordial planet. The samples from this experiment were among the unexamined vials that Bada inherited. In 2008, Bada’s student Adam Johnson showed that the vials contained a wider range of amino acids than Miller had originally reported in 1953.

      Miller also tweaked the gases in his electrified flasks. He tried the experiment again with two newcomers – hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide – joining ammonia and methane. It would be all too easy to repeat the same experiment now. But Parker and Bada wanted to look at the original samples that Miller had himself collected, if only for their “considerable historical interest”.

      Using modern techniques, around a billion times more sensitive than those Miller would have used, Parker identified 23 different amino acids in the vials, far more than the five that Miller had originally described. Seven of these contained sulphur, which is either a first for science or old news, depending on how you look at it. Other scientists have since produced sulphurous amino acids in similar experiments, including Carl Sagan. But unbeknownst to all of them, Miller had beaten them to it by several years. He had even scooped himself – it took him till 1972 to publish results where he produced sulphur amino acids!

      The amino acids in Miller’s vials all come in an equal mix of two forms, each the mirror image of the other. You only see that in laboratory reactions – in nature, amino acids come almost entirely in one version. As such, Parker, like Miller before him, was sure that the amino acids hadn’t come from a contaminating source, like a stray bacterium that had crept into the vials.


      Rest of the article in comments...or click the link to the original post.

    • Tortoise and Hare, in a Laboratory Flask

      8 years ago

      RevolutionX

      By Carl Zimmer
      Published: March 21, 2011

      Ever since Darwin, biologists have recognized that life evolves. But in the past 25 years, some researchers have argued that certain organisms are better at evolving than others. Their genomes have a flexibility that lets them adapt effectively. The less evolvable species, by contrast, are too rigid to take advantage of new mutations or to find new solutions for survival.

      Many biologists agree that evolvability makes sense in theory. But finding evidence of it in the natural world has proved difficult. Part of the problem is that natural selection can take a long time to act on a species. It is also difficult for researchers to identify the mutations underlying evolution. But in the latest issue of Science, a team of researchers reports a detailed example of evolvability in action, one that took place before their own eyes in a laboratory.

      “I think it’s a brilliant piece of work,” said Massimo Pigliucci, a leading researcher on evolvability who teaches at Lehman College in the Bronx.

      The new study emerged from the longest continuous experiment on evolution, which began in 1988 when Richard E. Lenski, now at Michigan State University, seeded 12 flasks with genetically identical copies of E. coli. He and his colleagues have reared the bacteria on a meager diet of glucose ever since.

      Over the course of 52,000 generations, the bacteria have adapted to their peculiar environment. Every 500 generations, Dr. Lenski and his colleagues freeze some of the bacteria, which they can thaw years later to compare with their evolved descendants.

      Dr. Lenski and his colleagues picked out one of the 12 lines for especially close study. “We wanted to trace the order in which mutations appeared and make sense of all that,” he said.

      The scientists observed that after 500 generations, two types of E. coli were dominant in the flask, each with a distinctive set of mutations. After 1,000 generations, however, only one type was left. Dr. Lenski and his colleagues dubbed them the “eventual winners.”

      They wanted to chart the course of that victory over the eventual losers. They thawed both types from the 500th generation and had them compete against each other. They expected the result to be a foregone conclusion: the eventual winners would already be showing their superiority. But they ran the experiment anyway, for the sake of thoroughness.

      “We said, ‘Let’s dot our i’s and cross our t’s,’ ” Dr. Lenski said.

      To their surprise, they were wrong. At the 500th generation, the eventual losers were far superior, growing 6.5 percent faster than the eventual winners. At that rate, they should have driven the eventual winners to extinction in 350 generations.

      The scientists saw two possible explanations for the turnaround. One was that the eventual winners were more evolvable: they had more potential to increase their growth rate, allowing them to come from behind and win the evolutionary race.

      The other possibility was that the eventual winners were just lucky, that at some point after the 500th generation they developed beneficial mutations that let them pull ahead.

      “A weaker player in a game of cards may beat a better player once in a while just because they got dealt a royal flush,” Dr. Lenski said.

      He and his colleagues set up a new experiment to choose between the two possibilities. They thawed some of the eventual winners from the 500th generation and used them to start 20 new lines of bacteria. Likewise, they started 20 other lines with the eventual losers. Then the scientists allowed all the thawed bacteria to reproduce for 883 generations.

      The eventual winners still consistently beat out the eventual losers, the researchers found. On average, they ended up growing 2.1 percent faster than their rivals. Their success, in other words, was not the result of good fortune. They were better prepared to make the most of beneficial mutations.

      The experiments have allowed the scientists to reconstruct the evolutionary race. The eventual losers initially pulled into the lead with mutations that gave them a short-term increase in their growth rate. But those mutations set them up for long-term defeat because when the additional beneficial mutations appeared, the losers enjoyed only a small increase in their growth rates.

      The eventual winners, on the other hand, got a big benefit from later mutations, allowing them to pull ahead and take over the flask.

      Dr. Pigliucci said that evolvability could explain a number of important patterns in nature, like why some animals come in many different forms while their close relatives have not changed much in hundreds of millions of years. That would mean that evolvability would need to be present in the generation-by-generation struggle for survival. And Dr. Lenski’s experiment documents that it can indeed make a difference for real organisms.

      “That right there is a big deal,” he said.


      Original link

    • It started with a shrew...

      8 years ago

      RevolutionX

      study maps the primate family tree

      By Steve Connor
      Friday, 18 March 2011

      They range in size from the tiny Madame Berthe's mouse lemur, weighing little more than an ounce, to the 440lb mountain gorilla.

      And the primate species, of course, incorporates humans, once famously described as the "third chimpanzee" because of the close genetic similarity with the two living species of chimp, the common chimp and the bonobo.

      Even without the human component, the primates would include some of the most intelligent life forms on the planet and their extraordinary success is largely down to their relatively large brains, binocular vision and ability to grasp and manipulate objects between their four digits and opposable thumb.

      Now for the first time scientists have drawn a comprehensive family tree of all living species of primates based on a systematic analysis of scores of key genes embedded within their DNA. It shows that Homo sapiens is just one of dozens of primate species that share a common ancestor, probably a small, shrew-like creature that lived during the age of the dinosaurs some 85 million years ago.

      The complete phylogenetic tree of primates, published in the online journal PLoS Genetics, is based on a comparative analysis of some 54 separate gene regions within the genomes of 186 species of living primates covering the entire family tree, from the smallest lemur to the largest great ape. Scientists believe the study can, for the first time, accurately place Man within the much bigger and more complex tree of relationships that define primates. It should, they insist, provide invaluable insights into early human origins, as well as the diseases we share with our closest relatives.

      "What is new from what we knew before is that we have a a high level of resolution for all branches within this tree. Simply put, a comprehensive primate phylogeny is resolved," said Jill Pecon-Slattery of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland.

      "It is a remarkably robust phylogeny, unusually so in the field of comparative genomics. Nearly every node and branch is unambiguously defined by genetic data, allowing a high level of confidence in reconstructing the primate evolutionary tree," Dr Pecon-Slattery said. Humans belong to the group of Old World primates, which are unusual for how slow they appear to be evolving compared to the fast-evolving New World monkeys of South America and certain branches of the lorises of south-east Asia.

      "One of the most interesting findings is that humans are not evolving faster than other primate lineages, but in fact are among the slowest. This is not a new idea, as it is called the 'hominoid slow-down', but what is new is that it is not unique to humans," Dr Pecon-Slattery said.

      "One of the more important applications of the new phylogeny is in human biomedicine. The resolution of the tree provides a foundation and guidepost for subsequent studies on the genetics of human health," she said.

      "Only by comparing genomes across all of primates can we distinguish those traits that are uniquely human and what specific mutations are linked with disease, disease resistance, selection or adaptation.

      "Now that we know how all primates are related, we can properly interpret the origin and function of mutations observed within genes targeted in human diseases," she added.


      Original article link.

    • Elephants...

      8 years ago

      RevolutionX

      give each other a helping trunk

      March 8th, 2011 by Ed Yong

      In Lampang, Thailand, two elephants have a problem. They’ve walked into adjacent paddocks separated by a fence. In front of them is a sliding table with two food bowls, but it’s out of reach and the way is barred by a stiff net. A rope has been looped around the table and one end snakes into each of the paddocks. If either jumbo tugs on the rope individually, the entire length will simply whip round into its paddock, depriving both of them of food. This job requires teamwork.

      And the elephants know it. Joshua Plotnik from Emory University has shown that when confronted by this challenge, elephants learn to coordinate with their partners. They eventually pull on the rope ends together to drag the table towards them. They even knew to wait for their partner if they were a little late. It’s yet more evidence that these giant animals have keen intellects that rival those of chimps and other mental heavyweights.

      There are, of course, many reasons to think that elephants are highly intelligent. They have large brains and they live in complex social groups. They can recognize themselves in mirrors, manipulate objects with their trunks, and smell the differences between human ethnic groups. They’re interested in their dying and dead, they help stuck or distressed individuals, and they babysit each others’ calves.

      But very few people have ever tested their intelligence in experiments, in the ways that primates, crows and dolphins have. Why? As Plotnik puts it, “This void in knowledge is mainly due to the danger and difficulty of submitting the largest land animal to behavioral experiments.” In short, working with a 4-tonne lump of muscle, tusk and trunk poses challenges that scientists don’t face when they work with a 70-kilogram chimp.

      At the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Plotnik saw a way around these problems. Each of the Center’s Asian elephants forms a bond with a “mahout” – a human who cares for their needs. With their help, Plotnik put six pairs of elephants through the rope-pulling task, a classic experiment that had been devised for chimpanzees in the 1930s.

      When the mahouts released the elephant pairs at the same time, they eventually pulled the rope together. Even when one individual was released first, they soon learned that tugging on the rope themselves was futile. By the second day of training, they almost always waited for their partner to arrive before pulling, even if they had to wait for 45 seconds.

      In a final experiment, Plotnik coiled one of the rope ends at the base of the table, so only one of the elephants could reach their end. There was no way they could pull the table forwards, and four out of five elephants realized this. When their partner couldn’t grab their end of the rope, they were far less likely to bother. Often, they just turned around and went back to their house.

      This experiment shows that the elephants weren’t obeying a simple rule like “pull on the rope when my partner arrives” or “pull when I feel tension”. They didn’t necessarily understand the mechanics of the rope and table, but they certainly knew that if their partner had walked away, there was no point in doing anything themselves.

      Capuchin monkeys, hyenas and rooks (a type of crow) have all managed to learn to pull on the rope with a partner. But it’s not clear whether any of these animals understood their partner’s contribution to the task. “The rooks pulled together, but never waited for their partners,” says Plotnik. “This of course doesn’t mean corvids [crows and their kin – Ed] don’t cooperate. Personally, I think one big difference between corvids and elephants is patience. Corvids are flighty, and waiting patiently for a partner’s arrival and inhibiting rope pulling until then may be very difficult for them. Elephants, on the other hand, are natural waiters. In the wild, elephants will often wait for other family members to “catch up” before moving on to other areas.”

      The case for chimps is far stronger. In previous experiments, chimps have solved the task, even when they had to first let their partner into the room with the ropes. If the rope ends were close enough that a single chimp could pull the table in on its own, it never let its partner in. “It showed quite compelling evidence that the chimpanzees knew they needed a partner and that their partner needed to help,” says Plotnik.

      The elephants’ success is equally compelling, even though their task was simpler. They clearly knew enough to wait for their partner and to abandon their end of the rope when their partner couldn’t reach theirs. “These results put elephants, at least in terms of how quickly they learn the critical contingencies of cooperation, on a par with apes,” says Plotnik.

      There is a final twist to this tale. The numbers and graphs in Plotnik’s experiment only related to the elephants that solved the task as he intended. But two of them came up with their own solutions. One youngster called NU always stood on her end of the rope so that it didn’t yank away when her partner pulled on the other end. It was an altogether lazier strategy – NU got her food bowl while her partner did all the work!


      For the full article

      Also Happy Saint Patrick's Day. I know I'm a bit late for that. So here is a belated Saint Patrick's Day video for you. A biologist's Saint Patrick's Day song

  • Comments (826)

    • film_geek

      7 years ago

      My cinema had the world premiere of the directors cut of Mimic, and he did a q an A before the screening. got to hang out and talk with him a bit after. Really amazingly nice guy.

      that's the story.

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      oh i have already heard of this game :]

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      lol you're welcome to add me on fb, im allowed to have friends still

    • Nicolai

      8 years ago

      do you know how to play shogi and have a board?

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      wellllll this weekendd!! due to labor day :D we're doing some sales i guess so If you want Sat or Sun

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      oo fancy awesome!! i can come give u my demo and pick it up sometime!

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      yeah i like nightmare b4 christmas :D

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      haha itd be funny to see a giant person pooping on the schools! hahaha lol heeheh

      well... best thing i can say for it is that its my last year! hopefully haha

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      its goood matt is staying at my house for like a week and we have other things planned before school starts again..
      poo on that. lol

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      haha sounds good!

      i spent my dad drawing tattoos for ppl I know in the area lol

      i'll post a journal so you can see

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      hahaha mayybee it is!! lol

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      does a penny, rope, and leather work for you??? :D

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      lol the jobs going pretty good. i have fun with it, setting up appts is hard bc i only have so many ppl to call kinda deall hahaha u wanna hear a demo sometime?! :D i get paid even if you don't buyyy

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      lol i havnt had really many problems, but ive heard a lot of fun times lol

      family and friends n what not.

      wooott.
      when you comin back into gb

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      ooooo musta been cool to see!! sucks you had some issues with timing though. I'd hate that... especially if i was traveling alone lol. Boringgg....

      Sucks even more when you have a second flight and you end up missing that flight, even though the airports usually reschedule and what not, lol still annoying though.

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      its going pretty well, minus a few things.
      where you at now?
      :] when u get back intown?

    • MissJackie

      8 years ago

      wooo id even be able to hand deliver it kinda!

    • Sam567

      9 years ago

      That's fine!

    • Sam567

      9 years ago

      I'm not doing too much this weekend. Just watching DVDs mostly.

    • Sam567

      9 years ago

      I was going to school for Print Technology. Which means my hopefully future job will involve printing stuff.

      Shutter Island was a lot better then what I expected. Definitely worth checking out.

      Been thinking of putting Coupling in my Netflix queue for a while.

      You really need to see the rest of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia! Awesome stuff!

      Post edited 5/26/10 5:20PM

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      smiley1.gifsmiley1.gif u tooooooooo

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      fancy. lol.
      well trips are fun
      i hope i dont kill my hand again haha

      i have to go to school

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      hey heyyy lol.. cant wait for school to be donee.. and I'm going to arizona on the 24th and i cant waiiit..
      merr.. aajg;lajwe;

      how bout u?

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      ive been kinda playing games a little.. trying anyway lol
      working on some logos and what not.

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      yea.. cant do much with the hand.. ://

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      my 2 1/2 year relationship.. is basically .. done..

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      horrrriblayy..

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      im an electronics person! lol i enjoy computers and consoles.
      i was a hardcore pc counter strike source player!! haahah god. it was funny
      i raped.

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      well thats why u get an xbox .. and own it for the xbox. :D i have it!!! WOOOOOOO!!

      thats lame that ur card didnt work. id be pissed.

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      lol it was good. no homework for the week. just brainstorming stuff..

      how about yourself?

    • film_geek

      9 years ago

      The colours trilogy is next on my list, really want to see that.

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      lol its all good.. tuesday is even better. class.. work.. class.. lol

      gnite!

      my bed is whining at me also.. lol smiley1.gif

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      hahaha what ever gives u that idea?!!

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      thats unfortunate.
      im friends with a lot of guys that are anti social nerdy.. afraid of girls lol. but they're cool around me cuz im awesome stuff.

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      lol well. u ever bored any time. im free sometimes lol

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      lol you a rapist?! cuz that wouldnt be fun.. and i could see why then! haha

      ive never drawn a nude person ever. so i really wouldnt know haha

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      lol well its a graphic design class... typography design... kinda lame if u ask me.. we had to look through a newspaper and find ones that were poorly designed.. re design one.. but bring in 3 examples.

      thing i wonder is.. lol why we never hang out or anything
      just a thought.

      i do have a drawing class on tuesdays however that we are drawing people stuff. eyes lips.. ears. etc. lol maybe u can hop in that one!!!
      haha

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      yeah, Mondays. I have work and then class after. long day.

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      watching Red Rose, working on a comic. Tired from a crazy day at work. How about yourself?

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      smiley2.gif

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      actually.... shes' 3 hours away right now :[

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      lol wellu know.. we're both enjoying green bay.. and we used to talk a lot. idk lol lettn u know were still awesome

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      haha, yup. thats how i rollsss

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      :] heyylo!

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      :] games are always a good thing!!!

    • MissJackie

      9 years ago

      hey buddy! havnt spoken in a while :]
      how was your new years?

    • film_geek

      9 years ago

      Yeah, I've fallen in love with blu ray. it's just.. so pretty. some films look absolutely gorgeous.

    • Sam567

      9 years ago

      I shall check Black Books out!

    • Brakus

      9 years ago

      Couldn't agree more with you on the comment you left about the swine flu article, very very true.

    • Brakus

      9 years ago

      Oh, and no, didn't get a type writer yet, but there still is one sitting in the garage, ,I just have to see what sort of restoration it needs and what sort of ink ribbon.

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