Category: Science

How do the eyes of dogs see?

It is the last day of January and we have a post about dogs today.

I found all the non-doggie articles a bit depressing and this item seemed a delightful alternative. It is from the Curious Kids section of The Conversation but, to my mind, of interest to adults as well.

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Do dogs really see in just black and white? – Oscar V., age 9, Somerville, Massachusetts

Dogs definitely see the world differently than people do, but it’s a myth that their view is just black, white and grim shades of gray

While most people see a full spectrum of colors from red to violet, dogs lack some of the light receptors in their eyes that allow human beings to see certain colors, particularly in the red and green range. But canines can still see yellow and blue.

Different wavelengths of light register as different colors in an animal’s visual system. Top is the human view; bottom is a dog’s eye view. Top: iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images. Bottom: As processed by András Péter’s Dog Vision Image Processing Tool

What you see as red or orange, to a dog may just be another shade of tan. To my dog, Sparky, a bright orange ball lying in the green grass may look like a tan ball in another shade of tan grass. But his bright blue ball will look similar to both of us. An online image processing tool lets you see for yourself what a particular picture looks like to your pet.

Animals can’t use spoken language to describe what they see, but researchers easily trained dogs to touch a lit-up color disc with their nose to get a treat. Then they trained the dogs to touch a disc that was a different color than some others. When the well-trained dogs couldn’t figure out which disc to press, the scientists knew that they couldn’t see the differences in color. These experiments showed that dogs could see only yellow and blue.

In the back of our eyeballs, human beings’ retinas contain three types of special cone-shaped cells that are responsible for all the colors we can see. When scientists used a technique called electroretinography to measure the way dogs’ eyes react to light, they found that canines have fewer kinds of these cone cells. Compared to people’s three kinds, dogs only have two types of cone receptors.

Light travels to the back of the eyeball, where it registers with rod and cone cells that send visual signals on to the brain. iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Not only can dogs see fewer colors than we do, they probably don’t see as clearly as we do either. Tests show that both the structure and function of the dog eye leads them to see things at a distance as more blurry. While we think of perfect vision in humans as being 20/20, typical vision in dogs is probably closer to 20/75. This means that what a person with normal vision could see from 75 feet away, a dog would need to be just 20 feet away to see as clearly. Since dogs don’t read the newspaper, their visual acuity probably doesn’t interfere with their way of life.

There’s likely a lot of difference in visual ability between breeds. Over the years, breeders have selected sight-hunting dogs like greyhounds to have better vision than dogs like bulldogs.

But that’s not the end of the story. While people have a tough time seeing clearly in dim light, scientists believe dogs can probably see as well at dusk or dawn as they can in the bright middle of the day. This is because compared to humans’, dog retinas have a higher percentage and type of another kind of visual receptor. Called rod cells because of their shape, they function better in low light than cone cells do.

Dogs also have a reflective tissue layer at the back of their eyes that helps them see in less light. This mirror-like tapetum lucidum collects and concentrates the available light to help them see when it’s dark. The tapetum lucidum is what gives dogs and other mammals that glowing eye reflection when caught in your headlights at night or when you try to take a flash photo.

Dogs share their type of vision with many other animals, including cats and foxes. Scientists think it’s important for these hunters to be able to detect the motion of their nocturnal prey, and that’s why their vision evolved in this way. As many mammals developed the ability to forage and hunt in twilight or dark conditions, they gave up the ability to see the variety of colors that most birds, reptiles and primates have. People didn’t evolve to be active all night, so we kept the color vision and better visual acuity. 

Before you feel sorry that dogs aren’t able to see all the colors of the rainbow, keep in mind that some of their other senses are much more developed than yours. They can hear higher-pitched sounds from farther away, and their noses are much more powerful.

Even though Sparky might not be able to easily see that orange toy in the grass, he can certainly smell it and find it easily when he wants to. 

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I don’t know about you but I found this most interesting and the last thing I would be described as is a kid!

In terms of our own dogs their ability to forage in the dark is quite amazing and, presumably, our dogs are quite typical of dogs in general.

Adding a dog to your life.

A guest post from Penny offers some advice.

Penny Martin has previously written some guest posts for Learning from Dogs and here she is again with today’s post. The subject is not directly about dogs but trying to turn around one’s life; and that is something that most of us have faced up to at some point in their past.

(I think the references to Learning from Dogs are not needed but I’m not Penny!)

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Six Simple Self-Improvement Strategies for Your Health and Career

By Penny Martin,

Published 24th January, 2023.

Are you trying to turn your life around? Focusing on improving your self-care habits, your relationships, and your career prospects can yield change your life for the better. Furthermore, Learning From Dogs can introduce you to all of the benefits of becoming a dog owner! Here’s how to invest in your education, upgrade your resume, explore business ownership, and adopt healthy routines.

Advance Your Education

If you’re looking to move up in your career, you may want to head back to school to earn another degree. It’s okay if you’re not able to commit to attending courses at a physical campus – instead, consider studying through an online degree program. This will allow you to simultaneously work and care for your family. Double-check that any online programs you’re considering are accredited and that you can easily afford the tuition. You can choose a major like marketing, education, information technology, business, healthcare administration, and more.

Update Your Resume

Perhaps you’re hunting for a new job. Make sure to revise and update your resume prior to sending out applications! To make the process easier, just pick out a free resume template from an online library – this free resume may help. Then, you’ll input your work history. Finally, you can spruce up this document with a photo or a color scheme.

Consider Entrepreneurship

What if you’re frustrated with your boss, and you feel like working at a traditional 9-to-5 job is holding you back? If you’ve got a business idea, you can always register for LLC status for limited liability and tax breaks. Remember, if you form an LLC, you’ll have to choose a registered agent who can handle communications regarding your formation documents with law firms, tax agencies, and the government. You can hire a registered agent or service for help in this area.

Health and Fitness

Even as you prioritize your career, it’s still important to take care of your physical and emotional well-being. As you plan out meals each week, The Every Girl recommends cooking with lots of leafy greens and incorporating plant-based protein into your diet. Furthermore, try to block off a few workout sessions per week in your schedule. You might want to sign up for a gym membership.

Pick Up a Good Book

Reading is a great use of your downtime, especially if you’re on a self-improvement journey! Healthline states that reading can reduce your stress levels, prevent cognitive decline, and even alleviate symptoms of depression. Plus, you’ll be able to learn more about topics that you’re interested in! You might want to choose books that cover subjects related to self-help, like nutrition, fitness, meditation, or time management.

If you feel like you don’t have time to read, consider how you could cut down on screen time. Alternatively, you could listen to audiobooks while you commute to work or do chores around the house.

Get a Dog

If you could use another companion, consider getting a dog! Owning a dog can significantly improve your mental health. Canadian Living states that having a dog around actually decreases your blood pressure, boosts your levels of mood-enhancing hormones, and even helps you make friends in your neighborhood – taking your dog for walks helps you connect with other local dog owners!

Self-improvement is a lifelong process. When you take small steps in the right direction, you’ll be able to look back in a year and feel proud of how far you’ve come. With these tips, you can earn another degree, put together an impressive resume, become a pet owner, open your own business, and more!

Are you thinking about getting a dog? Read all about the benefits on Learning from Dogs! Visit the blog today to find out why getting a dog might be right for you.

Photo via Pexels

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Thank you, Penny.

Let me publish again the opening remarks that are on the home page of this blog:

Dogs live in the present – they just are!  Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value.  Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years.  That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!

Learning from Dogs

I cannot put it better than that!

Putting aside the pills!

A fascinating article presents an alternative.

There was a recent item on The Conversation that is being shared with you all today. It is about the role of meditation and mindfulness is keeping one healthy, and I sense this will be a popular article!

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Meditation and mindfulness offer an abundance of health benefits and may be as effective as medication for treating certain conditions

By Hilary A. Marusak

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University

Published January 12th, 2023

Many people look to diet trends or new exercise regimens – often with questionable benefit – to get a healthier start on the new year. But there is one strategy that’s been shown time and again to boost both mood and health: meditation.

In late 2022, a high-profile study made a splash when it claimed that meditation may work as well as a common drug named Lexapro for the treatment of anxiety. Over the past couple of decades, similar evidence has emerged about mindfulness and meditation’s broad array of health benefits, for purposes ranging from stress and pain reduction to depression treatments to boosting brain health and helping to manage excessive inflammation and long COVID-19

Despite the mounting body of evidence showing the health benefits of meditation, it can be hard to weigh the science and to know how robust it is.

I am a neuroscientist studying the effects of stress and trauma on brain development in children and adolescents. I also study how mindfulness, meditation and exercise can positively affect brain development and mental health in youth.

I am very excited about how meditation can be used as a tool to provide powerful new insights into the ways the mind and brain work, and to fundamentally change a person’s outlook on life. And as a mental health researcher, I see the promise of meditation as a low- or no-cost, evidence-based tool to improve health that can be relatively easily integrated into daily life. 

Meditation requires some training, discipline and practice – which are not always easy to come by. But with some specific tools and strategies, it can be accessible to everyone.

What are mindfulness and meditation?

There are many different types of meditation, and mindfulness is one of the most common. Fundamentally, mindfulness is a mental state that, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn a renowned expert in mindfulness-based practices, involves “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” 

This means not ruminating about something that happened in the past or worrying about that to-do list. Being focused on the present, or living in the moment, has been shown to have a broad array of benefits, including elevating mood, reducing anxietylessening pain and potentially improving cognitive performance

Mindfulness is a skill that can be practiced and cultivated over time. The goal is that, with repetition, the benefits of practicing mindfulness carry over into everyday life – when you aren’t actively meditating. For example, if you learn that you aren’t defined by an emotion that arises transiently, like anger, then it may be harder to stay angry for long. 

The health benefits of meditation and other strategies aimed at stress reduction are thought to stem from increasing levels of overall mindfulness through practice. Elements of mindfulness are also present in practices like yoga, martial arts and dance that require focusing attention and discipline.

The vast body of evidence supporting the health benefits of meditation is too expansive to cover exhaustively. But the studies I reference below represent some of the top tier, or the highest-quality and most rigorous summaries of scientific data on the topic to date. Many of these include systematic reviews and meta-analyses, which synthesize many studies on a given topic. 

Stress and mental health

Mindfulness-based programs have been shown to significantly reduce stress in a variety of populations, ranging from caregivers of people living with dementia to children during the COVID-19 pandemic

Meta-analyses published during the pandemic show that mindfulness programs are effective for reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorderobsessive-compulsive disorderattention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression – including the particularly vulnerable time during pregnancy and the postnatal period.

Mindfulness-based programs also show promise as a treatment option for anxiety disorders, which are the most common mental disorders, affecting an estimated 301 million people globally. While effective treatments for anxiety exist, many patients do not have access to them because they lack insurance coverage or transportation to providers, for instance, or they may experience only limited relief.

It’s important to note, however, that for those affected by mental or substance use disorders, mindfulness-based approaches should not replace first-line treatments like medicine and psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Mindfulness strategies should be seen as a supplement to these evidence-based treatments and a complement to healthy lifestyle interventions like physical activity and healthy eating. 

How does meditation work? A look into the brain

Studies show that regular meditators experience better attention control and improved control of heart rate, breathing and autonomic nervous system functioning, which regulates involuntary responses in the body, such as blood pressure. Research also shows that people who meditate have lower levels of cortisol – a hormone involved in the stress response – than those who don’t. 

A recent systematic review of neuroimaging studies showed that focused attention meditation is associated with functional changes in several brain regions involved in cognitive control and emotion-related processing. The review also found that more experienced meditators had stronger activation of the brain regions involved in those cognitive and emotional processes, suggesting that the brain benefits improve with more practice. 

A regular meditation practice may also stave off age-related thinning of the cerebral cortex, which may help to protect against age-related disease and cognitive impairment. 

Limitations of meditation research

This research does have limits. These include a lack of a consistent definition for the types of programs used, and a lack of rigorously controlled studies. In gold-standard randomized controlled trials with medications, study participants don’t know whether they are getting the active drug or a placebo. 

In contrast, in trials of mindfulness-based interventions, participants know what condition they are assigned to and are not “blinded,” so they may expect that some of the health benefits may happen to them. This creates a sense of expectancy, which can be a confounding variable in studies. Many meditation studies also don’t frequently include a control group, which is needed to assess how it compares with other treatments.

Benefits and wider applications

Compared with medications, mindfulness-based programs may be more easily accessible and have fewer negative side effects. However, medication and psychotherapy – particularly cognitive behavioral therapy – work well for many, and a combination approach may be best. Mindfulness-based interventions are also cost-effective and have better health outcomes than usual care, particularly among high-risk patient populations – so there are economic benefits as well.

Researchers are studying ways to deliver mindfulness tools on a computer or smartphone app, or with virtual reality, which may be more effective than conventional in-person meditation training. 

Importantly, mindfulness is not just for those with physical or mental health diagnoses. Anyone can use these strategies to reduce the risk of disease and to take advantage of the health benefits in everyday life, such as improved sleep and cognitive performance, elevated mood and lowered stress and anxiety. 

Where to get started?

Many recreation centers, fitness studios and even universities offer in-person meditation classes. For those looking to see if meditation can help with the treatment of a physical or mental condition, there are over 600 clinical trialscurrently recruiting participants for various conditions, such as pain, cancer and depression. 

If you want to try meditation from the comfort of your home, there are many free online videos on how to practice, including meditations for sleep, stress reduction, mindful eating and more. Several apps, such as Headspace, appear promising, with randomized controlled trials showing benefits for users

The hardest part is, of course, getting started. However, if you set an alarm to practice every day, it will become a habit and may even translate into everyday life – which is the ultimate goal. For some, this may take some time and practice, and for others, this may start to happen pretty quickly. Even a single five-minute session can have positive health effects.

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This is a comprehensive article on a most important topic.

For whatever is happening in our world it is getting busier especially for those that are a great deal younger than me.

New Years’ Resolutions

Finding one that really works.

Whatever age we are and in many different cultures the New Year holds out so much hope. It seems an opportunity to start anew, to put the habits of last year behind us, to embrace a new start. Yet all the evidence is that a New Year’s Resolution will not make it through to February.

That is why I picked up on a recent article in The Conversation, that they kindly allow to be republished.

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Why you should give the gift of mindfulness this New Year

By Jeremy David Engels

Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Penn State. Published: January 3, 2023.

The late Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh leading a meditation walk. Steve Cray/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

The start of another year can feel magical to many of us. Even though the days remain short and dark, the flip of the calendar can make it seem new beginnings with new resolutions are possible. 

Mindfulness scholars and teachers like me call resolutions “habit breakers,” as they can overcome patterns that no longer serve individuals. However, research suggests that many resolutions fail by the end of January. 

But a key to ensuring that resolutions stick is to choose one that will make a meaningful difference in your life. Seeing a real, tangible benefit can provide inspiration to keep going when all of life is telling us to let things go back to how they were before. 

Living more mindfully is a common New Year’s resolution. This year, try gifting it to others.

The meaning of mindfulness

Mindfulness has been shown to have a number of meaningful health benefits – it can help reduce anxiety and promote healing in those suffering from long-term chronic illness. 

The practice is based on an insight first described by ancient Buddhist texts that human beings have the capacity to observe experience without being caught up in it. This means, simply and wonderfully, that it is possible to observe ourselves having a craving, or a happy thought, or even a scary emotion, without reacting in the moment in a way that amplifies the feeling or sends the mind spiraling off into thinking about old memories or anticipating events.

This practice can help calm the mind and the body as we learn not to react to experience with likes and dislikes or judgments of good and bad. It does not make us cold or apathetic but more fully present

Mindfulness in a distracted world

One of the challenges of practicing mindfulness in our contemporary world is that there has been a profound transformation in human attention. The artist Jenny Odell argues that in our “attention economy” human attention has been transformed into a commodity that big corporations buy and sell. This economy rests on a technological revolution of mobile phones and social media that makes it possible for corporations to reach us with content that can capture and monetize our focus, at every moment, every day, and no matter where we may be.

The constant need to be checking our phones keeps us from being fully present. Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The needy little devices most people carry in their pockets and wear on their wrists, incessantly beeping and buzzing and chirping, are a perpetual diversion from the present moment. The result is that it can feel as though our ability to focus, and be fully present, has been stolen

But mindfulness can help us resist the attention economy and savor the things that make life special, like being together with those we love. 

The gift of mindfulness

While most mindfulness research focuses on the individual benefits of the practice, scholars like me argue that we not only practice mindfulness for ourselves but that we can also practice it for others. It can help us build stronger, healthier relationships. 

The sad truth is that living in the attention economy, most of us have become bad listeners. However, just as it is possible to watch ourselves having an experience without reacting, it’s possible to watch another person have an experience without getting tied up in reactivity and judgment. It’s possible simply to be present. 

The gift of mindfulness is a practice of listening with compassion to another person describe their experiences. To give this gift means putting away your phone, turning off social media, and setting aside other common distractions. It means practicing being fully present in another person’s presence and listening to them with complete attention, without reacting with judgment, while resisting the urge to make the interaction about you. 

If we judge the value of gifts based on how much they cost, this gift may seem worthless. But in a distracted world, I argue, it is a precious one

It is not a gift that you will wrap, or put inside a card; it’s not one you will have to name as a gift or draw attention to. It’s something you can do right now.

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Professor David Engels is spot on. The number of people who are wedded to their cell phone, especially the younger ones of us, is frightening. Many years ago I was fortunate to have a counsellor who was into mindfulness and some of the good practices have stayed with me.

So, please, if you are thinking that your use of a cell phone is intrusive, even slightly, then let this New Year present a new you!

P.S.

Belinda sent in the following attached to one of her comments. It’s perfect! Thank you, Belinda!

And while we are on the subject of New Year’s Resolutions try this one. It is not a long video but it is extremely important; it concerns our diet and our health!

The James Webb Space Telescope

Talk about looking up at the starry night!

I am sure that many of you have seen the latest images but still for those that have not…

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First the BBC presented a report on the 25th December, 2022. This is part of what they described:

James Webb telescope: Amazing images show the Universe as never before

The Tarantula Nebula: Only 161,000 light years from Earth, this is a place where thousands of stars were born

By Jonathan Amos, BBC Science Correspondent

It was the $10bn gift to the world. A machine that would show us our place in the Universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched exactly a year ago, on Christmas Day. It had taken three decades to plan, design and build.

Many wondered whether this successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope could actually live up to expectations. 

We had to wait a few months while its epic 6.5m primary mirror was unpacked and focused, and its other systems tested and calibrated.

The first thing you have to remember about James Webb is that it is an infrared telescope. It sees the sky at wavelengths of light that are beyond what our eyes are able to discern. 

Astronomers use its different cameras to explore regions of the cosmos, such as these great towers of gas and dust. The Pillars were a favourite target of Hubble. It would take you several years travelling at the speed of light to traverse this entire scene.

Now we go to the NASA site for more of the JWST:

First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope

The dawn of a new era in astronomy has begun as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data were released during a televised broadcast at 10:30 a.m. EDT (14:30 UTC) on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. These listed targets below represent the first wave of full-color scientific images and spectra the observatory has gathered, and the official beginning of Webb’s general science operations. They were selected by an international committee of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is overflowing with detail.

Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.

Called the Cosmic Cliffs, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional picture looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening. In reality, it is the edge of the giant, gaseous cavity within NGC 3324, and the tallest “peaks” in this image are about 7 light-years high. The cavernous area has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located in the center of the bubble, above the area shown in this image.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

With its powerful, infrared vision and extremely high spatial resolution, Webb shows never-before-seen details in this galaxy group. Sparkling clusters of millions of young stars and starburst regions of fresh star birth grace the image. Sweeping tails of gas, dust and stars are being pulled from several of the galaxies due to gravitational interactions. Most dramatically, Webb captures huge shock waves as one of the galaxies, NGC 7318B, smashes through the cluster.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Some stars save the best for last.

The dimmer star at the center of this scene has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions, and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed for the first time that this star is cloaked in dust.

Two cameras aboard Webb captured the latest image of this planetary nebula, cataloged as NGC 3132, and known informally as the Southern Ring Nebula. It is approximately 2,500 light-years away.

Webb will allow astronomers to dig into many more specifics about planetary nebulae like this one – clouds of gas and dust expelled by dying stars. Understanding which molecules are present, and where they lie throughout the shells of gas and dust will help researchers refine their knowledge of these objects.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star.

The observation, which reveals the presence of specific gas molecules based on tiny decreases in the brightness of precise colors of light, is the most detailed of its kind to date, demonstrating Webb’s unprecedented ability to analyze atmospheres hundreds of light-years away.

While the Hubble Space Telescope has analyzed numerous exoplanet atmospheres over the past two decades, as in capturing the first clear detection of water in 2013, Webb’s immediate and more detailed observation marks a giant leap forward in the quest to characterize potentially habitable planets beyond Earth.

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Just a few of the very special photographs. They are remarkable!

December’s issue of the Science magazine had an article in which there was a paragraph that described:

The first data and images beamed back to Earth by JWST suggest it was all worthwhile. They are “beautiful” and ‘mind-blowing,” according to astronomers who have spoken with Science. It was like putting on infrared glasses, one said, and seeing the universe anew.

The GOLDEN EYE, by Daniel Clery

Imagine that just, say, 25 years ago these images and this mission would have been science fiction and now it is a reality.

I will leave you with a quotation from that SCIENCE magazine (16th December): “Politicians and pundits often make up whatever suits their political goals about science, but scientists recognize how little we understand about the Universe. As Kennedy said, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.“”

Christmas food for your pets

They can be toxic!

This is a timely warning that feeding our dogs and cats nibbles from the plate or worse can be life-threatening.

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Holiday foods can be toxic to pets – a veterinarian explains which, and what to do if Rover or Kitty eats them

Treat Kitty to a new box or pet-safe treat, but not scraps from holiday meals. Cyndi Monaghan/Moment via Getty Images

Leticia Fanucchi, Oklahoma State University

During the holidays, it’s typical for people to indulge in special foods. Being a pet owner myself, I know that many pet parents want to give their fur babies special treats as well.

As a veterinarian and clinical veterinary researcher, however, I also know that some very common foods – including many popular holiday staples – are dangerous to pets.

Here are some of the most common food-related crises we veterinarians encounter in the animal ER during the holidays, and what to do if they happen.

Fatty food risks

Turkey with gravy is probably among the most popular holiday meals. And most dogs or cats would certainly agree with their humans that roast turkey is delicious.

However, the fat contained in turkey skin – and the excess of fatty, greasy foods that can accompany it, such as gravy, butter and bacon – don’t go down well with cats and dogs. Pets that ingest an overload of fats may develop pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that helps break down fat, protein and carbs.

Pancreatitis causes the pancreas to leak digestive enzymes and ultimately “digest” itself. If untreated, pancreatitis can affect other organ systems such as the kidneys and the liver and even cause blood clotting.

The most common symptoms of pancreatitis include vomiting and diarrhea. Pets that may have pancreatitis should be rushed to the closest veterinary hospital or ER. The vet will perform diagnostic blood tests, including a specific test for pancreatic enzymes called pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity or cPLI/fPLI.

Treatment for pancreatitis mostly involves dealing with its symptoms. The pet receives IV fluids to help establish electrolytes balance, with added anti-nausea and pain medications to stop the vomiting. Antibiotics may be necessary, as well as liver protectants and probiotics, and a special diet.

Onion offenses and bread badness

If only turkey were the sole problem! Many other common holiday ingredients can also harm pets.

Several allium species common to holiday cooking, such as leeks, garlic, onions, chives and shallots, can be healthy for people. For dogs and cats, though, alliums are toxic. If ingested, they can cause hemolytic anemia – a decreased number of red blood cells.

The signs of hemolytic anemia, which normally appear a few days after ingestion, include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and jaundice.

To treat hemolytic anemia in pets, veterinarians do blood tests to determine whether a transfusion is necessary. They address the symptoms of allium intoxication with IV fluids, antioxidants and anti-nausea drugs.

Yeast-risen foods like rolls and breads are also holiday dinner staples that people should keep away from their pets. The yeast in these foods can ferment in a pet’s warm stomach and produce toxic levels of ethanol. In pets, ethanol toxicity may lead to metabolic acidosis, which can cause sudden drop in blood glucose, respiratory depression, seizures and cardiac arrest.

Normally, pet owners do not suspect metabolic acidosis until it is almost too late, because it has few outward symptoms. So if there’s a possibility that a pet has swallowed any type of cooked or raw yeast dough, get it to a veterinary ER right away.

By the way, pets can also experience ethanol toxicity by lapping up cocktails or beer, so keep alcoholic drinks out of their reach as well.

No chocolate for pets

Now, what about a favorite holiday treat – chocolate?

Substances that may actually attract humans to chocolate – methylxanthines like theobromine and caffeine – are toxic to both dogs and cats. When vets provide emergency treatment for chocolate ingestion, we typically hear that children shared their candy with their beloved pet.

A boy holding a puppy sits with his family during the lighting of candles on a hanukkiah menorah.
Chocolate contains substances that are poisonous to pets, even though they are safe for people. Nathan Bilow/Photodisc via Getty Images

Pets that ingest chocolate can develop “chocolate intoxication,” a condition in which methylxanthines accumulate in the body and make them sick. Signs of chocolate intoxication in pets include tremors, increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness and even seizures.

Chocolate intoxication in pets is a medical emergency. The pet needs to have its stomach emptied and receive support therapy with IV fluids and activated charcoal. The vet will probably want to know the type and how much chocolate the pet ate, because some kinds of chocolate, such as baking chocolate, can have worse toxic effects.

Chocolate also has a lot of fat, so the cat or dog’s pancreas will not enjoy it either.

Grapes and dogs don’t mix

How about fruits? Well, there is a fruit very toxic to dogs that often shows up at holiday gatherings: grapes, both fresh and dehydrated into raisins.

If eaten, the tartaric acid in grapes or raisins may cause acute kidney disease. Common signs of acute kidney disease in dogs are vomiting, intermittent diarrhea and increased intake of water.

Acute kidney disease in dogs is a medical emergency. If it is suspected, the pet should be rushed to a veterinary hospital or ER right away. Treatment is typically limited to stabilizing the pet with IV fluids.

Sweet for people, poison to pets

While xylitol toxicity is one of the more common emergencies we veterinarians see these days, it’s still largely unknown among pet owners.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener often used in sugar-free products. While safe for humans, for cats and dogs it’s a fast-acting and potentially deadly poison.

Ingesting even the smallest amount of xylitol can cause a pet’s liver to rapidly release insulin, causing hypoglycemia – unusually low blood glucose levels. Within 30 minutes, the pet will experience symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy and seizures and lose coordination of its limbs – called ataxia.

Emergency treatment for a pet with xylitol toxicity involves giving the animal IV fluids containing dextrose to raise its blood glucose level and carefully monitoring its progress.

The bottom line? Several delicious foods that are safe for humans can be very dangerous for pets in general – not just cats and dogs, but also birds, reptiles and pocket pets like mice, hamsters and gerbils. So make the holidays special for furry or feathery babies by giving them treats from the pet food store or veterinarian’s office, and keep them away from the kitchen counter and trash can.

Leticia Fanucchi, Clinical Assistant Professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Oklahoma State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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That’s a very important point about Xylitol. So please take notice and have a wonderful holiday for you and for your pets.

Please take care!

A very small step.

But an important one!

From the 21st November until the 23rd Sunshine Solar installed a solar panel system. But we were then told to wait until Pacific Power had come to the house to put in a new electricity meter. Last Thursday, 1st December, Brent from Pacific Power called by and replaced our electricity meter. He replaced it with a bi-directional meter that when we were producing more power than we are consuming then the surplus would be ‘banked’ to be used at times when we required the surplus.

This was the result of us investing in a ground-mounted solar system.

We purchased the system from Solar Sunshine after doing a great deal of research. Indeed Brent said that they were a great company.

The other thing that we had no choice over was to install a ground-mounted system some 120 feet from the house. Because neither the house nor the roof face East and therefore are no use for solar. But as Brent pointed out last Thursday the ground-mounted system, despite being more expensive, was a good alternative to the roof system because new roof tiles were irrelevant.

The system consists of 30 individual panels capable of producing a maximum output of 65 amps at 240 volts; in other words 15,600 watts!

Yesterday, Cory and Brandon (sp?) came out to the system and checked that it was alright. Plus they gave us an digital application so we could see how much power we were generating, plus more, and they also took some photographs, that I offer you now.

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This last photograph was one taken by yours truly with Cory on the left and Brandon on the right with Jeannie in the middle.

Finally, the ‘app’ is going to be very useful.

Already it shows that last Saturday the array produced 29 kilowatts and then yesterday, the 4th December, the array produced 22.9 kilowatts and these were by no means sunlit days all the time. That brings the total for all 5 days in December, in other words since the system went live, to 91.1 kilowatts as of 15:27 PT on the 5th.

We are most pleased with the company and the installation.

The wonderful history of dogs and humans!

A wonderful account!

A friend of the blog recently sent me the following; I quote:

How dogs became our best friend

There are plenty of reasons why we love our dogs – and now science has turned its eye on our furry companions to better understand why we can’t live without them. Animal expert Jules Howard joins host Krys Boyd to discuss advancements in dog research, what we know about dog cognition and emotion, and the decades of study that brought us to where we are today. His book is called “Wonderdog: The Science of Dogs and Their Unique Friendship with Humans.

Jules Howard

The friend included a link to the radio broadcast in which Jules Howard talked on Jefferson Public Radio and you can go there by clicking here and scrolling down the list of podcasts. It is just over 34 minutes long and you can find it from both the title and the date: NOVEMBER 23, 2022.

However, there is a longer video from Jules Howard on YouTube. It is 53 minutes long but, boy oh boy, Jules provides so much evidence that dogs are in tune with us in ways that one can hardly believe. Yes, he is sort of promoting his book Wonderdog but so what! So sit oneself down in an easy chair in front of your large screen and watch the following:

So let me close this post by repeating the introduction that I posted on November 4th that included the photograph of Oliver.

I love all our three dogs but Oliver, below, is so in tune with me that I swear he practically understands what I say!

What a beautiful gaze and something that Jules speaks of in his video

Parkinson’s Disease

It affects so many but it is also a cruel disease.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is unique to each individual as it is a disease of the brain. Yet there are aspects of the disease that affect most and especially the people who are close to the PD sufferer.

From the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke comes a small extract:

Following Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States. Most people diagnosed with PD are age 60 years or older, however, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50. Approximately 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD, but given that many individuals go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed the actual number is likely much higher. Some experts estimate that as many as 1 million Americans have PD. Of course, given the progressive nature of the disabilities associated with PD, the disease affects thousands more wives, husbands, children, and other caregivers.

NINDS website

Jean was diagnosed in December, 2015 at the same time as my best friend in England, Richard Maugham.

More than 10 million people worldwide are living with PD!

Here is a video put out by Parkinson’s UK that is introduced as follows:

In this honest and often funny live talk Colin describes his experience with Parkinson’s and his hopes for the future.

So a wish on behalf of those countless other people: May there be a cure soon!

The incredible story of Diablo

Just watch this after the introduction.

Countless numbers of people have dreamt that they can communicate with animals and I would imagine an enormous percentage of those would have dreamt that they can communicate with dogs.

Certainly of the three dogs we have alive still here at home (we had in the past some fifteen dogs) Oliver below appears to understand much of what is said to him by me and Jean

If one goes to the YouTube website then one is introduced to Anna Breytenbach who has made it her life’s passion to better communicate with animals. Here’s a small piece from the extensive WikiPedia entry:

In her twenties she decided to pursue her passion for wildlife (big cats in particular) by becoming a cheetah handler at a conservation education project. On moving to America, she explored wolf and other predator conservation. She has also served on committees for wolf, snow leopard, cheetah and mountain lion conservation.

Anna Breytenbach and friend

So now we come to this video of Anna and Diablo, more properly called Spirit, (and the video will make that clear).

Arjan Postma explains the background to the film:

I just want to share this message as much as possible without any commercial intent, personal benefit or whatsoever. All used materials and therefore copyrights do not belong to me. I hope you enjoy discovering and watching this story and skill as much as I did: What if you could talk to animals and have them talk back to you? Anna Breytenbach has dedicated her life to what she calls interspecies communication. She sends detailed messages to animals through pictures and thoughts. She then receives messages of remarkable clarity back from the animals. In this section, Anna transforms a deadly snarling leopard into a relaxed content cat. The amazing story of how leopard Diabolo became Spirit… I found the source of this amazing documentary here: http://www.cultureunplugged.com/docum… This is the first full length documentary film on the art of animal communication. Nominated for Best Long Documentary, Best Director of “Jade Kunlun” Awards of 2012 World Mountain Documentary Festival of Qinghai China. Director: Craig Foster | Producer: Vyv Simson | Narrator: Swati Thiyagarajan Genre: Documentary | Produced In: 2012.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!