Of Particular Significance

Dog Brains and Fishing Line: 2 Fun Articles

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 02/21/2014

Nothing about quantum physics today, but … wait, everything is made using quantum physics…

Could you imagine getting a dog to sit absolutely still, while fully awake and listening to voices, for as much as 8 minutes? Researchers trained dogs to do it, then put them in an MRI [Magnetic Resonance Imaging] machine to obtain remarkable studies of how dogs’ brains react to human voices and other emotional forms of human expression. [MRI is all about magnetic fields, protons, spin, and resonance; particle physics!! more on that another time, perhaps.]   The authors claim this is the first study of its type to compare human brains to those of a non-primate species. Here’s something from the scientific article’s abstract:

We presented dogs and humans with the same set of vocal and non-vocal stimuli to search for functionally analogous voice-sensitive cortical regions. We demonstrate that voice areas exist in dogs and that they show a similar pattern to anterior temporal voice areas in humans. Our findings also reveal that sensitivity to vocal emotional valence cues engages similarly located non-primary auditory regions in dogs and humans… 

So it seems, as dog owners have long suspected, that we’re not just imagining that our best friends are aware of our moods; they really are similar to us in some important ways.

Here’s a BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26276660

Once you’re done with that, would you like to build up your muscles?  No exercise needed, just call the University of Texas at Dallas.  They’ve found that “ordinary fishing line and sewing thread can be cheaply converted to powerful artificial muscles.  The new muscles can lift 100 times more weight and generate 100 times higher mechanical power than a human muscle of the same length and weight… The muscles are powered thermally by temperature changes, which can be produced electrically, by the absorption of light or by the chemical reaction of fuels.”  [Quantum Physics = cool!!] The quotation above is from an interesting press release from the university, reporting the research which was just published in the journal Science.  I recommend the press release because it mentions several interesting possible applications, including robotics technology  and clothing that adjusts to temperature.  Here’s also a nice article by Anna Kuchment (who’s on Twitter here):


Though evolution left us with many wonderful abilities, it does seem that, year by year, humans are becoming less and less practically useful.   But at least our dogs will comfort us in our obsolescence.


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12 Responses

    1. Learning by heart and obey what people with money is “now a days” is more practical for survival. The cats are more clever in this. What about Rats and cockroaches. They are more old and something to tell about dinosaurs ?

    1. This is “dog bites man” news. If they hadn’t found it, that would be news. The process they describe, up quark + down anti-quark –> top quark + bottom anti-quark, involves a combination of two processes that we already know occur: the interaction of up and down quarks with the W field on the one hand, and the interaction of top and bottom quarks with the W field on the other hand. So 1+1=2 — it’s a nice measurement, but it’s exactly as expected.

  1. /Though evolution left us with many wonderful abilities, it does seem that, year by year, humans are becoming less and less practically useful./– well said Professor.
    Nature is intuitive. If we accept the non-intuitive of mathematical axioms, the human will become, tool of the machine.
    The strength of gravity, if it were any stronger, stellar matter would bind more strongly and stars would use their nuclear fuel much faster, thus negating the possibility of the evolution of life.
    Due to cumulative nature, the shielding effect of electromagnetic force in spacetime and the gravitational effect on the scale of individual particles, is negligible. This is important in defining the deep understanding of what kind of property mass really is ?

    The wave has to have the right Amplitude to represent exactly one particle. The momentum at cosmic level appears constant – but not on the quantum level. Massless particle means, the quantization of gauge invariance is arbitrary with the “momentum” proportional to the energy. ?
    So cope this with cosmological level (also in between ball and the spring) need mathematical aggregation – which define the rest mass – also an arbitrary. ?

  2. “Though evolution left us with many wonderful abilities, it does seem that, year by year, humans are becoming less and less practically useful. But at least our dogs will comfort us in our obsolescence.”

    So true. Humans are so proud of their achievements but as we become more and more dependent on technology we are actually taking the dead end siding on evolution’s rail network. Some future catastrophe will probably render all accumulated knowledge useless and the total loss of instinct and ability to survive will ensure the demise of humankind. Pretty comforting thought acutally for the planet and all ecosystems that are not yet destroyed by then.

    1. We have always been dependent on technology. It’s our primary survival strategy. Notice that we don’t have fangs or claws or run super fast, etc. The reason we are such a tremendously successful species is that toolmaking has turned out to be a very good survival strategy indeed. (Also, you say humans are proud of their achievements, but I see no evidence of this. Comments like yours are actually the only ones I ever see or hear on the subject.)

      I can’t imagine why you think technology is a “dead end”. Especially since it is the only thing nature has come up with so far that has the potential to spread life beyond this one tiny dust speck into the inconceivably vast space around us. If anything, it is biological evolution that is turning out to be a dead end, as the other life forms on Earth, unable to change fast enough to keep pace with our ultra-rapid innovation, are unfortunately being so drastically out-competed by humans that they are actually becoming extinct! That is what a dead end looks like. If our way of life really were a dead end, there would be no need for environmentalism. That’s why I think views like yours are dangerous.

      “Some future catastrophe will probably render all accumulated knowledge useless…”
      Why do you think that? And can you think of any possible example of such a catastrophe, but that wouldn’t also eliminate the accumulated knowledge represented by our DNA? Are you sure you’re not just parroting what you’ve seen in science fiction stories?

      “…the total loss of instinct…”
      What total loss of instinct would that be? You think the instincts encoded in human DNA have changed somehow due to technology? That doesn’t make any physical sense.

      “…and ability to survive…”
      Actually, humans are the most adaptive species on Earth. We are the one species with the greatest chance of surviving any random unknown catastrophe, because thanks to our toolmaking, we can respond to changing circumstances much more quickly than other species can.

      The now-universal anti-human ideology of the developed world is becoming so extreme that it is starting to look like a parody of itself. Seriously, somebody needs to put the brakes on this nonsense.

  3. I will just note that robotic dogs are a thing.

    There will be no comfort for us, only the cold, hard metal shoulder of our techno-companions.

  4. I’ll go for quantumphysics anyday.
    Makes more sense to me than grumpy, depressed dogs.

    Michel Beekveld

  5. I’ve always been fascinated at how dogs have co-evolved with us. Dogs also look at a human face the same way as a human does. They are also the only other animal that understands pointing.

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