Mission Duration: At least one Mars year (about 687 Earth days)
Main Job: The Perseverance rover will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.
As someone who watched the television non-stop in 1969 to see man’s remarkable achievement, NASA has been an organisation of considerable interest all my life.
At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.“
But on the 15th February Tony came up with a brilliant idea; read it for yourself:
Dogs’ highly evolved noses can rapidly detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus
For some 15,000 years, dogs have been our hunting partners, workmates, helpers and companions. Could they also be our next allies in the fight against COVID-19? As a dog owner with a small poodle who could sniff out a chicken bone in the middle of a football field I was not surprised to learn this.
According to UC Santa Barbara professor emeritus Tommy Dickey and his collaborator, BioScent researcher Heather Junqueira, they can. And with a review paper published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine they have added to a small but growing consensus that trained medical scent dogs can effectively be used for screening individuals who may be infected with the COVID-19 virus.
This follows a comprehensive survey of research devoted to the use of trained scent dogs for detecting COVID. “The most striking result is that studies have already demonstrated that dogs can identify people who are COVID-19 positive,” Dickey said of their findings. “Not only that,” he added, “they can do it non-intrusively, more rapidly and with comparable or possibly better accuracy than our conventional detection tests.”
Not surprisingly, the magic lies in canine sense of smell, which gives dogs the ability to detect molecules in tiny concentrations — “one part in a quadrillion compared with one part in one billion for humans,” according to the paper. Add to that other optimizations for smell, such as a large nasal area and the structure of their noses, which allows inflow through the nostrils and outflow through nasal folds. Further, with 125-300 million olfactory cells and a third of their brains devoted to interpreting odors, dogs are well equipped with the ability to sniff out the volatile organic compounds that indicate the presence of COVID.
I must gently disagree with Tony’s opening statement. Dogs evolved from the grey wolf something like 23,000 years ago.
But what a great article and will we see the authorities take him up on the idea? I certainly hope so.
Their main job is to guard livestock, but wildlife benefits too.
A new litter of livestock dogs was just delivered by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Argentina. Currently cuddly and very cute, the puppies will be specially trained to protect goats and sheep from predators. Not only will this help save the livestock, but these dogs will help limit conflicts between herders and the pumas and other native carnivores living around them in the Patagonian Desert.
The puppies are a mix of Great Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd — large, working breeds trained to guard livestock. In the early weeks of the project, the puppies bond with the livestock to form protective relationships. WCS representatives work closely with herders to provide care and training for the puppies and the livestock during what’s known as this key “imprinting” period.
“During the first eight weeks of life, puppies will create a very strong bond, first with their mother and then with their social group. During the first 40 days, puppies remain with their mother, but livestock is kept in the same pen or corral with the dogs so they can smell them, see them, and progressively make physical contact with livestock,” Martín Funes, project manager of WCS Argentina, tells Treehugger.
“Progressively, during three months the bond between puppies and livestock will get stronger, and dogs will start to show a protective behavior. After this period they will recognize a certain species (we work with sheep and goats) as their social group, and that will remain for the rest of its life.”
For many years, WCS Argentina has been working with area herders to come up with new ways to stop conflicts with area predators. In the past, herders have resorted to shooting, poisoning, or trapping wildlife that have threatened their flocks.
WCS Argentina places the puppies with herders based on their location, the amount of conflict they’re having with carnivores, and their willingness to participate in the program, which includes proper care of the dogs through adulthood.
The dogs become a very powerful tool, says Funes.
“Livestock guarding dogs (LGD) stay with livestock 24/7, which is impossible for the other methods [of predator control]. They behave as part of the flock, and they will protect it against any threat,” he says.
“They tend to be very protective but they don’t have the hunting instinct of wolves or some other dog breeds (i.e., greyhounds or lebrels). However we should always consider a basic principle for reducing livestock losses by carnivores: The more methods you use, the safer your livestock will be. Combining different strategies is always an efficient approach to reduce attacks by carnivores.”
In the Patagonian Desert, also known as the Patagonia Steppe, livestock face threats from several wild cats including pumas, Geoffroy’s cat, pampas cat, and the threatened Andean cats. Other predators include Patagonian foxes and Andean condors.
“Even though we have been hunting, trapping, and killing carnivores, it has never been effective in reducing our losses,” said Flavio Castillo, a herder participating in the program, in a statement. “It is our hope that [the dogs] will be a very useful tool to stop predation. With the dogs, we can co-exist with carnivores and protect our production. Wildlife belongs here and we have to protect and co-exist with it.”
In addition to saving the lives of the flocks and their predators, the presence of the guardian dogs also can have a positive impact on habitat restoration.
“As attacks from carnivores diminish, producers tend to stop trapping, hunting and poisoning of wild animals, which is an outstanding benefit for the entire ecosystem,” says Funes.
“A secondary benefit, as producers perceive a reduction in annual livestock losses, is that herders might adjust livestock stocking rates density and improve soil and vegetation conditions and its performance, reducing overgrazing and desertification, a major and widespread environmental problem in arid Patagonia for the last two centuries.”
This is a powerful story of the many ways that dogs may be used to help humans.
Dogs are by far the longest domesticated animal that has bonded to humans and I’m trying to receive permission to republish a wonderful article that John Zande sent me to read. It is about the Neanderthals and homo sapiens and the relationship with dogs.
But to get you in the mood, I am going to start with this video about small dog breeds for young persons.
Right, now to the essence of today’s post.
My son, Alex, recently sent me details of a new teaching programme introduced by his partner, Lisa. It is called Learning with Lisa.
It consists of 32 videos each one being published at 0700 British time (presently GMT). In other words one new video each working day; i.e. Monday to Friday.
Here is the background to this new service.
Learning with Lisa.
I am a qualified primary school teacher of 26 years now teaching a series of early phase phonics lessons designed for children in the Early Years Foundation Stage (pre-school and reception).
The first series – “Preparing for reading and writing in the Early Years” aims to give children, aged 3 to 4, the best possible start with early literacy skills by providing fun yet challenging activities 5 days a week. Some of the later sections are also suitable for children aged 4 to 5.
These videos are suitable for parents, carers and their children, trainee teachers and other early-years practitioners.
Preparing for reading and writing in the Early years.
The video gives an outline of the lessons included in the series and discusses the teacher’s philosophy. The video is aimed at parents, carers and early-years practitioners and gives an understanding of the processes involved in early phonics, reading and writing.
It will help viewers to navigate their way through the series so their child can participate in a fun and challenging experience. The series aims to give pre-school children the best possible start to early literacy.
Below, this is the first teaching video in the series.
If there are any readers willing to share and subscribe to Lisa’s channel please do.
Especially those that have 3-4 year old children and/or grandchildren, that would be great.
Have a think as to your friends who have young children and send them this link: Please!
Now this has nothing to do with dogs. Well not directly but the longer we humans live the longer we can have dogs as pets.
I was having an email ‘conversation’ with Jon over in England and he pointed me to Professor Tim Spector. Prof. Spector writes on his website that he:
Tim Spector is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the TwinsUK Registry at Kings College, London and has recently been elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He trained originally in rheumatology and epidemiology.
In 1992 he moved into genetic epidemiology and founded the UK Twins Registry, of 13,000 twins, which is the richest collection of genotypic and phenotypic information worldwide. He is past President of the International Society of Twin Studies, directs the European Twin Registry Consortium (Discotwin) and collaborates with over 120 centres worldwide.
He has demonstrated the genetic basis of a wide range of common complex traits, many previously thought to be mainly due to ageing and environment. Through genetic association studies (GWAS), his group have found over 500 novel gene loci in over 50 disease areas. He has published over 800 research articles and is ranked as being in the top 1% of the world’s most cited scientists by Thomson-Reuters.
He held a prestigious European Research Council senior investigator award in epigenetics and is a NIHR Senior Investigator. His current work focuses on omics and the microbiome and directs the crowdfunded British Gut microbiome project.
Together with an international team of leading scientists including researchers from King’s College London, Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts University, Stanford University and nutritional science company ZOE he is conducting the largest scientific nutrition research project, showing that individual responses to the same foods are unique, even between identical twins.
You can find more on https://joinzoe.com/ He is a prolific writer with several popular science books and a regular blog, focusing on genetics, epigenetics and most recently microbiome and diet (The Diet Myth). He is in demand as a public speaker and features regularly in the media.
That is quite a CV!
Then I came across an essay on The Conversation website about being healthier in one’s old age.
Keen to be healthier in old age? Tend your inner garden
Professor of Genetic Epidemiology, King’s College London
January 29, 2016
The world’s oldest man, Yasutaro Koide recently died at the age of 112. Commentators as usual, focused on his reported “secret to longevity”: not smoking, drinking or overdoing it. No surprises there. But speculation on the basis of one individual is not necessarily the most helpful way of addressing this human quest for the Philosopher’s Stone.
The “very old” do spark our interest – but is our search for a secret to longevity actually misguided? Wouldn’t you rather live healthier than live longer in poor health? Surely, what we really want to know is how do we live well in old age.
Clearly as scientists we try to illuminate these questions using populations of people not just odd individuals. Many previous attempts have approached this question by looking for differences between young and old people, but this approach is often biased by the many social and cultural developments that happen between generations, including diet changes. Time itself should not be the focus – at least, in part, because time is one thing we are unlikely to be able to stop.
The real question behind our interest in people who survive into old age is how some manage to stay robust and fit while others become debilitated and dependent. To this end, recent scientific interest has turned to investigating the predictors of frailty within populations of roughly the same age. Frailty is a measure of how physically and mentally healthy an individual is. Studies show frailer older adults have an increased levels of low grade inflammation – so-called “inflammaging”.
New research published in Genome Medicine by Matt Jackson, from our group at King’s College London, investigated this question in an unlikely place – poo. Recent evidence indicates that our immune and inflammatory systems are trained and educated in our gut, through key interactionswith gut bacteria. So we asked if changes in our gut bacteria could be part of the process of inflammation driving frailty.
Our recent work found that the frailer an individual, the lower the diversity of gut bacteria they have. We looked at stool samples from more than 700 healthy British twins and found that a group of bacteria belonging to the species with a tricky and slightly unpleasant name, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, were found in higher amounts in the healthier twins. This is a particularly interesting microbe as it has been linked with good health in many other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and is believed to reduce inflammation of the gut. Could this bug help protect against frailty?
There were other microbes seen in increased amounts within the frailer twins. One was Eubacterium dolichum, which has been seen to increase in unhealthy Western diets. We found the same picture when comparing frailer, more elderly, individuals from the ELDERMET study, by the University of Cork. This suggests that dietary changes might be an easy way to encourage healthy ageing.
Our study does not yet clarify whether the changes to the gut bacteria are a cause of poor ageing itself or are just a consequence of frailty – longitudinal studies that follow people over several years will be needed to sort this out. But these results are exciting for researchers in the ageing field and suggest that if you want to age well you should perhaps do fewer crosswords and spend more time looking after your microbial garden, for example by eating plenty of plant fibre, for example in a Mediterranean-type diet.
Well this essay was published nearly 5 years ago and one wonders if more information has come to light.
Certainly Jeannie and me are heavily into a plant-based diet with a small selection of fish from time to time.
I will do more research and see if there are any updates that may be published.
In the meantime stay as healthy and as happy as you can be!
I had a particularly uncomfortable 24 hours Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning.
I went to upload an update to my iMac early on Monday afternoon but for some reason it all went wrong. As in the iMac became unresponsive and continuously showed the Apple icon for about 10 minutes and then went blank for another 10 minutes, and went on repeating itself.
On Tuesday morning I spent several hours on the phone to Apple support and finally the third adviser told me to turn everything off and do a cold reset. That fixed it and I didn’t have to go down to Medford and leave the machine with Connecting Point Computers. Plus I saved $99!
So I am very grateful to be able to share this post with you all! It’s an article on Treehugger, Why Are Dogs So Loyal?
Why Are Dogs So Loyal?
There’s a scientific explanation to what makes them “man’s best friend”
Any dog owner will tell you that there’s something indescribable and unique about their loyal companions. Dogs wait for their humans patiently by the door when they leave, act like they’ve been given the world when their dinner bowls are filled, and express a sense of devotion that is rare in many other pets. Where does this trait, the trait that makes dogs “man’s best friend,” come from? Why are dogs so innately loyal? The obvious explanation would be that their owners provide them with food and shelter, but the deeper answer actually comes down to science.
It’s no secret that domesticated dogs are descendants of wolves. Even today, modern dogs continue to share similar genes to wolves that live in the wild. The idea of “the loyal dog” is both a cultural and biological construct, as humans have created the dog over years of selective breeding and domestication to be this way. Essentially, humans picked and chose the wolf characteristics that would best serve their own benefit, transforming a wolf’s hierarchical structure and social bond to their packs into obedience and loyalty to humans.
Throughout history, long-term domestication has resulted in hundreds of different dog breeds designed to fulfil specialized functions in society, many with significant behavioral differences. Early humans likely participated in selective breeding without even knowing they were doing so, by killing off the dogs who attacked or bit a member of their family or community. Additionally, dogs who were naturally gifted as loyal hunters would have been better cared for, upping the chances of successful and repeated reproduction. Dogs that contributed to society were kept for longer, while aggressive or unskilled dogs weren’t. And, as humans promoted dogs with tame or friendly characteristics, physical attributes began to change as well.
The early domesticated dogs intelligent enough to associate their owners with things like food and shelter in exchange for obedience (think: “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”) were more likely to survive longer. In a reliance comparison between dogs and cats, for example, studies show that dogs attempt tasks before looking at their owners while cats do not.
While it may have started with a simple exchange of food and shelter for animal-assisted guarding or hunting, humans eventually began to favor dogs that were more docile and sociable. As humans evolved to hunt less and moved on to more secure lifestyles, the domestication process eventually began to encourage companionship.
Dogs, like their wolf ancestors, are pack animals at their core. In order to survive in the wild, members of a pack have to be trusting and cooperative. A wolf leader, or alpha, is in charge until it becomes too sick or old to perform at its highest abilities and is eventually challenged by a stronger wolf for the betterment of the entire pack. This suggests that wolves are motivated by the good of the group rather than pure loyalty to its leader. This is exactly what a 2014 study in Vienna found when researchers examined lab-raised dog and wolf packs, concluding that the relationship between dogs and humans is hierarchical (with their owner at the top) rather than cooperative. As wolves were slowly domesticated into modern dogs, the study suggests, they were bred for their loyalty, dependance on human masters, and ability to follow orders.
Oxytocin, the peptide hormone released when people hug, snuggle, or bond socially, also has a part to play. Gaze-mediated bonding, as well as petting and talking, increases oxytocin levels in both humans and dogs. This is a human-like mode of communication, since wolves rarely make eye contact with their handlers, meaning that the fact that you and your dog like to lock eyes is a trait likely picked up during the domestication process. Oxytocin is linked to feelings of attachment and confidence, which in turn facilitate the establishment of loyalty and love in emotional relationships. The fact that oxytocin increases in both humans and dogs — but not wolves — while engaging in eye contact and communicating social attachments may have supported the evolution of human-dog bonding.
Are Some Breeds More Loyal Than Others?
The domestic dog, or Canis lupus familiaris, is the first and only large carnivore ever to have been domesticated by humans. Mostly within the last 200 years or so, dogs have undergone a rapid change characterized by maintaining breeds through selective breeding imposed by humans. Compared to other wild and domestic species, modern dogs display incomparable genetic diversity between breeds, from a 1-pound poodle to a 200-pound mastiff.
We’ve all heard stories of individual dogs known for fierce loyalty, like Hachiko, the Japanese Akita who waited for his master every day by the Shibuya Station in Tokyo even after he passed away at work. A 2018 study on the genomic make-up of the Czechoslovakian wolfdog found that a common German shepherd crossed with a wild wolf has the same tameness and loyalty to its master as a fully domesticated dog.
There isn’t much scientific evidence of certain breeds being more loyal than others, though one could certainly argue that dogs bred for specific jobs like hunting and herding would have a higher chance of staying loyal to their owners. Breeds that are known for specific tasks may not check all the boxes depending on qualities preferred by the owner. The dependency on human guidance desired in companion dogs may get in the way of a rescue dog’s ability to function successfully in situations when its handler isn’t around, for example. There is a “nature vs. nurture” aspect to consider as well. It isn’t all about genes, though they do play a critical role, but a dog’s individual environment and history can also greatly affect its lifetime behavior.
There, the science behind a dog’s loyalty.
Despite having spent a number of years writing and learning about dogs there were still a few points mentioned in this essay that were news to me.
I was prompted to write about this aspect of our modern lives by coming across a UK resource called BogusBuster. But these days we live in such a wired-up international world that BogusBuster has a much wider appeal that just the United Kingdom. This is what their home page says:
Not sure if an item you have found is fake? Think a site is dodgy? Submit a URL and we will use our fake-detecting software to establish if it is real or safe
Just off the top of my head I would say that at least 25% of the incoming calls we receive on our home telephone number are from scammers. I am also getting the odd call from a scammer on my mobile phone.
A lot of the calls are from women who purport to want to advise me about my investments. They appear to be out of the country. Tempted as I am to engage in the call in an attempt to find out more about them I resist and promptly put the telephone firmly down.
Anyway, a little more about BogusBuster from their About page.
BogusBuster is an independent resource that will guide you through everything scam related. Whether it’s tips to spot fake products on the internet or reporting a dangerous product being sold online, consider us your one-stop resource to being a smart shopper.
BogusBuster is co-funded by Innovate UK which launched a business competition in May 2020 to seek solutions to problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As the virus spread, and communities ‘locked down,’ the spike in online shopping was significant. With this came a rise in those being scammed, so there’s never been a more important time to stay safe online. BogusBuster was created to keep consumers informed, ensuring they get exactly what they paid for.
BogusBuster is powered by SnapDragon, an award-winning brand protection company that’s been helping businesses across the world to fight fakes for over five years. SnapDragon founder’s experienced, first-hand, the damage caused by fake products when her own product was counterfeited. Fighting back, she founded SnapDragon to help protect and safeguard businesses, and consumers, from counterfeit crime. As the ‘Head Dragon’, she has built an expert and passionate team dedicated to identifying and removing fakes from sale, all over the world.
With scammers becoming more sophisticated, consumer safety is at the top of our agenda at BogusBuster; our regular updates, news, tips and advice will help to keep you safe and secure.
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, scammers may try to take advantage of you through misinformation and scare tactics. They might get in touch by phone, email, postal mail, text, or social media. Protect your money and your identity by not sharing personal information like your bank account number, Social Security number, or date of birth. Learn more about these scams and how to report them.
Doodle is a super happy, loving tripod dog who is absolutely obsessed with food. Her family has to keep an eye on her when she’s around food, because she’s always on a mission to try and steal it.
One day, Doodle’s mom was doing laundry when she suddenly realized that she had no idea where Doodle was.
“I first noticed she was missing after I didn’t see her next to me which she’s normally pretty close to me when I’m home,” Brandy Stenzel, Doodle’s mom, told The Dodo.
For the next half hour, Stenzel searched everywhere for Doodle. She ran all around the house, searching from top to bottom, and even checked outside to see if she’d somehow escaped. She was at a loss and starting to panic — when suddenly, she heard a crunching sound.
“I knew that crunching sound was her but I didn’t know where it was initially coming from,” Stenzel said.
Finally, the crunching sound led her to the food bin, and there was Doodle. She had somehow squeezed herself inside and was very happily eating to her heart’s content.
The lid had shut behind her, and while Doodle could have easily pushed it off and hopped out again, she was enjoying herself way too much. If her mom hadn’t found her, she may have never stopped eating.
“The food bin was hinged on one side so she easily could have hopped right out if she wanted to, but she’s a pork chop so she didn’t want to,” Stenzel said.
As soon as Doodle saw her mom, she knew she was in trouble, but of course, it was still worth it.
“She knew she got caught so when that happens she puts her ears back and it makes her look like Dobby the house elf of ‘Harry Potter,’” Stenzel said.
To avoid losing Doodle in the food bin again, her family got one that locks, much to her dismay. Whenever someone forgets to lock it, she’ll try to hop in and repeat her great food bin feast, but her mom is now always close by to stop her.
Doodle loves food, and she’ll never stop trying to steal it, no matter what.
Yes, that’s a duplication of our Sheena.
Here’s a photograph of Sheena looking very serene and relaxed.
Sheena is the most friendly of dogs and while we are uncertain of her age that is of no consequence.
Back when I started this blog, back in July, 2009, I had no idea that there were so many stories about dogs. I mean many stories each day! I called the blog Learning from Dogs simply because when I first met Jean in 2007 she had upwards of 16 dogs. When I went out to be with her in 2008, together with my Pharaoh from England, I very quickly saw there was a huge potential in writing about them.
Early Saturday morning, Marty Carriere was getting ready for a busy day at Happy Tails Pet Resort and Spa when he saw someone at the door. He wasn’t expecting anyone quite so early, so he waited — then a wet nose pushed through the gates.
“It was 6:30ish when I saw her nose poking through the gate there,” Carriere told The Dodo. “Normally, I wait for the owners to come in with the dogs and see what happens but she was just poking around out there.”
When Carriere didn’t see any cars or people outside, he wandered over to the door to check things out and found Jem, a 5-year-old shepherd mix, waiting outside. Jem used to visit the day care three to four times a week before quarantine and was clearly eager to see her friends.
“I was pretty shocked when I opened the door and there was a dog there — and one of our regulars, too. So I was like, ‘Come on in, Jem. Let’s play,’” Carriere said. “I opened up the door and she ran right in — tail wagging and she was ready to go.”
Carriere called Jem’s parents, who rushed over to pick her up. It seems the independent pup had broken out of her yard when guests from the night before didn’t close the gate properly.
Jem’s parents brought her home and gave her breakfast, then drove her right back to day care since that was clearly how she wanted to spend the rest of her day. “She was definitely pretty anxious to get here,” Carriere said.
According to Carriere, Jem is a big goofball at day care and loves playing with all the other dogs.
“She comes in and does this little howling thing that not a lot of the other dogs do. She gets in and starts howling right away, she’s just so excited to be here,” he said. “I guess that morning she just couldn’t wait for Mom and Dad to get up, so she came here herself.”
In the three years that Carriere has worked for Happy Tails, he’s never experienced or heard of something like this happening before. But then again, Jem is one of a kind.
Jem is special. But so are many, many other dogs.
But that doesn’t stop us in the slightest enjoying this story.