Now here’s a sight!

Walking improves vision!

Dogs are the masters of being on four legs. And, presumably, their sight benefits from being so active.

I have been following Tony who writes the blog One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100 for some time. Here is what he says about himself.

I’m Tony
I have been interested in eating healthy for more than 35 years. Unfortunately,  my actions haven’t always matched my aims. As Mae West said, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”

I drifted too, for a long time, but after writing posts for this blog for nearly 10 years, I have gotten good at it. I used the Lose It! App for a while (iPhone, iPad, Touch) a calorie counter that also breaks down nutrients and gives you a daily weight chart to demonstrate your progress. It’s not the only tool like this around, but it’s a good one. I think you are better off using a tool than not using one, especially if you are just embarking on a weight loss program.

Using that tool and practicing some self discipline I now have complete confidence in my ability to maintain a healthy body weight. I still need to work on the lean muscle mass thing, though. I love riding my bicycle and have no problem logging lots of miles and putting calories into the bank to free up my eating. I average around 100 miles a week.  That covers a multitude of sins at the table. Biking is a wonderful cardio workout. Few people realize, however, it is also very stimulating for the brain. It’s a lot more fun than working with weights, but ya gotta do that, too. I write about the benefits of cardio exercise on the brain often in this blog as it is usually misunderstood and/or completely overlooked in most fitness writing. I had an aunt who died of Alzheimer’s, my mother who suffered from dementia in her final years, and my grandfather on my father’s side also had cognitive problems in his later years, so I am dead serious about protecting myself from mental decline. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – and exercise to read more about it.

I retired 19 years ago. I spent 20 years as a Reuters Correspondent and Editor after starting my career in men’s magazines. I taught journalism at Medill for a while and then wrote in the investment department of a major U.S. philanthropy where I spent my last few years managing $900 million in bond investments.

Now that I am retired, I have complete control over what I eat. My heart goes out to you folks who go to work every day. It is much harder to control your caloric intake. There are business lunches and dinners to attend, late days at the office, working through lunch as well as traveling. I think if I were still working I would seriously consider bringing lunch from home a day or two each week to keep a handle on my intake. With a fridge and microwave where you work, you are good to go.

When I started writing for this blog in March of 2010 I weighed 165 pounds, the lowest I had been in 15 years. I thought I had arrived at fitness and health. Now, in 2019, I weigh 155 pounds. That’s right, I have melted off a further 10 pounds from my best weight in years. My resting heart rate is under 50 beats per minute (bpm), a result of my cycling, but significantly under the ‘normal’ of 65 to 90 bpm for a guy in his upper 70’s. I have less than 16 percent body fat and a 31 inch waist (the first time since high school). I have reached this state of fitness and health following the ideas and techniques I write about in this blog. You can, too

When the blog started, I was talking the talk, over nine years later I am walking the walk. You can do the same. I am just a regular guy. If I can do it you can, too. Check out my page  How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off for a start. Lots of excellent, practical principles there that I have learned and now apply to my daily life.

Just over 20 years ago my weight got out of control and I ballooned over 220 pounds. I took off 50 pounds in a year, but that only got me down to the mid-170’s. You can read How I lost 50 pounds in 52 weeks if you want chapter and verse.

When I retired, I started taking courses from The Great Courses. They include “Nutrition Made Clear” by Professor Roberta Anding. She has an MS in Nutrition and is a registered Dietitian and a certified specialist in sports dietetics. Another superb course is “Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at any Age” by Doctor Anthony Goodman. He also teaches “The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness.” By now, in 2019, I have probably taken more than a dozen courses on mental and physical health and wellness as well as  healthy aging.

I have about 40 games of backgammon going on the web. I was born January 26, 1940. I am an Aquarius and a senior citizen. At 79 years of age, I am healthier by far than I was over 20 years ago when I was in the work force and a relatively young man in my 50’s.

As a senior who presently is winning the war of the waistline,  I am also grappling with the experience of aging. As part of this blog’s focus on good health I look seriously into aging and what can be done about it. I know there is no fountain of youth, but there are techniques for aging gracefully and, more importantly, retaining one’s mental powers. I promise to share with you everything I can find out about it.

The masthead photo is a shot of me taken 40 years ago by a girlfriend when we were bike riding by the lakefront in Chicago. I had a lot more hair then.

Tony

Now Tony recently published a post that I found so interesting.

It’s all about improving one’s vision.

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Walking improves vision – Study.

By Tony, November 25th, 2019

As a big fan of walking I was thrilled to learn of this further benefit to the Cinderella of the exercise world. Walking leads to an increase of peripheral visual input, according to a study from the University of Wurzburg.

How do we perceive our environment? What is the influence of sensory stimuli on the peripheral nervous system and what on the brain? Science has an interest in this question for many reasons. In the long term, insights from this research could contribute to a better understanding of diseases such as ADHD and Parkinson’s disease.

The topography of the EEG response (l) and its localization in the brain (r) show visual sensory processing during the walking conditions slow and normal – green and red, and standing – black. The image is credited to Barbara Händel.

Perception and the underlying neuronal activities are usually measured while subjects are sitting or lying, for example while doing magnetic resonance imaging. As a rule, the head is fixed and people are encouraged not to blink. The measurements therefore take place under well-controlled but rather unnatural conditions.

Shift of visual preference

When processing visual stimuli, however, it makes a difference whether the person is sitting or moving: When walking around, the peripheral part of the visual field shows enhanced processing compared to the central part. This can be proven both by the behaviorally measured perception of the test persons and by their brain response.

This shift in visual preference makes sense. “It is above all the peripheral visual input that provides information about the direction and speed of our movement and thus plays an important role for navigation,” says Dr. Barbara Händel. The neuroscientist from Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, and her colleague Dr. Liyu Cao have published their findings in PLOS Biology

“It was known from animals that increased body movements lead to an increased firing rate in visual areas of the brain,” says Dr. Händel. So far, there are only a few behavioural experiments available for humans that investigate the influence of movement on sensory brain areas. However, there is evidence that cognitive processes are linked to the behavioural state. “For example, some studies show that people learn better when they move,” says the JMU researcher. However, the underlying neuronal mechanisms have not yet been tested in detail.

Mobile EEG, sensors and video glasses

It is precisely such gaps in knowledge that Barbara Händel wants to close with her work. In order to explore the link between movement and perception, sophisticated technical equipment is necessary. While the test subjects walk around, they wear electrode caps and a small amplifier that records their brain waves. The EEG data are sent wirelessly to a laptop, which the subjects carry in a backpack. Motion sensors, video glasses, and a mobile device for recording eye movements complete the setting.

Quite an effort. “But we have to take this step if we want to understand human perceptual strategies during natural behavior,” says Dr. Händel. Research into perception during movement is still in its infancy. It is now up to science to ask clever questions and find out which of them can be answered with mobile technical equipment.

Many exciting research questions

Next, the JMU scientist wants to further investigate the effect of altered perception during movement. Does it only occur for visual input or possibly also in other sensory areas? Does it, in addition to navigation, perhaps also play a role in other cognitive processes such as memory and creativity?

All this is possible: experiments with rats have shown that these animals learn better, when they are in motion. And the idea that walking increases creativity has existed since ancient times. “For example, the Peripatetics, a philosophical school around Aristotle, usually were discussing while walking, from which their name derives,” says Barbara Händel.

There is also a connection between creativity and eye movements: “It is known that people blink more often the more creatively they solve a task. And we found that people also blink more often when they walk around compared to being at rest.” Obviously, there are many connections between the movements of the body, the eyes and the mental performance. Their research could reveal many more interesting aspects.

To read further on the benefits of walking, check out my Page – Why you should walk more.

Tony

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I find this a very valuable article.

It shows that the benefits of walking are much more than the pure exercise.

I wonder if it applies to bike riding?

Finally, here’s wishing every one of you a Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving Day!

 

 

Snow, snow, thick thick snow!

Winter has arrived.

Here’s the forecast from NBC.

As I write this post, yesterday afternoon, it has been snowing for some hours at Hugo Road (ZIP 97532). In the anticipation that we might be snowed in at 8am we drove the short distance to our local Dollar General store to stock up on dog food and other bits and pieces.

So this story from the Daily Dodo seems really apt. I hope you enjoy it.

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Stray Dog Found Curled Up In Snow Keeping Orphaned Kittens Warm

Photo Credit: Pet and Wildlife Rescue

Last weekend, while driving on a freezing cold night in Ontario, Canada, a Good Samaritan spotted something that made her stop.

There, curled up on a snowy roadside, was a shivering stray dog.

But she wasn’t alone.

Though the dog could have found a safer place to pass the night, she wasn’t just thinking of herself.

Photo Credit: Pet and Wildlife Rescue

A closer look revealed the kind pup had wrapped herself around five orphaned kittens, whom she was cuddling to keep warm in the biting temperatures.

The Good Samaritan, in turn, saved them all from the freezing night by taking them to the Pet and Wildlife Rescue shelter. But by then, an incredible bond between the dog and kittens had already been formed.

For rescue staff, learning the circumstances of this case made one thing clear: the pup had saved the kittens’ lives.

“It’s truly heartwarming!” a shelter spokesperson told The Dodo. “It had been a very cold night so these kittens would have had a very hard time surviving.”

Photo Credit: Pet and Wildlife Rescue

The kittens are now safe, but require treatment for flea and worm infestations. Meanwhile, the sweet stray dog who saved them insists on overseeing their progress with regular visits — much like a proud mother.

It’s still unclear where the dog or kittens came from originally, or if they knew each other prior to that night. Pet and Wildlife Rescue is hoping an owner will come forward to claim them, but if not they’ll be put up for adoption.

Thanks to that brave pup, however, a sad ending for the kittens was transformed into a happy one.

“Our staff sees many difficult situations on a daily basis and stories like this one make every heartache worth it,” the shelter said.

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There may be someone who wants to follow this up by supporting the Pet and Wildlife Rescue in Ontario. So here is the website.

Note that this is the global website, the regional website for the Ontario Wildlife Rescue is here.

More calculating your dog’s age.

Another trip round the buoy!

When I first published the post How old is your dog? I found it a little confusing plus the Input-Output section was screwed up.

So I was pleased when the Smithsonian Smart News published a different version of what is the same news.

Here it is:

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Calculate Your Dog’s Age With This New, Improved Formula

A study of the epigenetic clock in Labradors shows calculating a dog’s age is much more complicated than just multiplying by seven.

The study involved 104 Labrador retrievers between four weeks and 16 years old. (Herwig Kavallar via Wikimedia Commons under Public Domain)

By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com
November 19, 2019

One dog year is not equivalent to seven human years, despite widespread use of the ratio for calculating the age of canine companions. Presumably, the ratio is based on the average lifespan of dogs being 10 years and humans being 70 years, it’s not quite so simple. The formula is not based on any real science and it was debunked by veterinarians years ago.

But geneticists digging into the mysteries of ageing have developed a new calculation to understand how our canine companions’ ages correspond to our own.

(You will probably have to go across to the original article for this to work. PH)

To understand how dogs age, the team looked at a phenomenon called DNA methylation. As mammals get older, their DNA picks up methyl groups that “stick” to their DNA. While these groups don’t change the DNA itself, they attach to the genetic molecule and can turn certain genes on or off, which is an important part of epigenetics, or the way environmental factors cause certain genes to express themselves.

Methlyation occurs at a relatively steady rate as humans age, which allows researchers to estimate a person’s age, a process they’ve dubbed the “epigenetic clock.”

In the new paper on dog years, which has yet to be peer reviewed and is currently posted on the preprint server bioRxiv, a team led by Tina Wang of the University of California, San Diego, compared the epigenetic clocks in people to canines to better understand the genes associated with aging. They picked dogs because most live in the same environments as humans and also receive some degree of medical care, like humans do.

The team looked at methylation rates in 104 Labrador retrievers between the ages of four weeks and 16 years old, reports Michelle Starr at Science Alert. They then compared them to published methylation profiles of 320 humans from age one to 103. (They also compared both to 133 mice methylation profiles.)

It turns out some parts of a dog’s life follows the same pattern as humans, though other longevity milestones don’t link up quite as nicely. For instance, the methylation rate showed a seven-week-old pup corresponds to a 9-month-old human baby, and both species begin to get their first teeth at this time.

But the comparison breaks down after early puppyhood. The dog clock ticks much faster with pups speeding through puberty and reaching sexual maturity within their first year. Then, the dog’s epigenetic clock slows down as the dog ages, and begins to match up with humans again in its later years.

Overall, the average 12-year lifespan of a Labrador lined up with the average worldwide lifespan of humans, which is about 70 years.

While the study complicates the concept of “dog years,” it does show that the animals experience similar methylation processes as humans.

“We already knew that dogs get the same diseases and functional declines of aging that humans do, and this work provides evidence that similar molecular changes are also occurring during aging,” Matt Kaeberlein, a biogerontologist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study, tells Virginia Morell at Science. “It’s a beautiful demonstration of the conserved features of the epigenetic age clocks shared by dogs and humans.”

The new formula for a dog’s ages based on the study requires a little more math than multiplying by seven. You multiply the natural logarithm of a dog’s age by 16, then add 31 [human_age = 16ln(dog_age) + 31].

According to the formula, a 2-year-old dog is the equivalent of a 42-year-old human, but things slow down after that. A 5-year-old dog is the equivalent of a 56.75 year old human, and a 10-year-old dog is the equivalent of 67.8-year-old person.

Evolutionary biologist Steve Austad of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, who was not involved in the study, tells Morell that he’s not too surprised that the epigenetic clock applies to dogs, too. He says that by studying different dog breeds with different lifespans the researchers may find some interesting results.

This formula is not the last word on dog years, however, especially since it only looked at one breed. Erika Mansourian, writing for the American Kennel Club, reports that the American Veterinary Medical Association says the accurate way to calculate dog years for a medium-sized dog is to assume the first year is equivalent to 15 years and age two adds another nine years. After that, each year of a dog’s life is equivalent to five human years. It doesn’t perfectly line up with the new formula, but both acknowledge that dogs age rapidly in their first years of life.

Whatever the case, dogs’ lives are all too short. That may be why people are excited about a project by the Dog Aging Project, which is currently recruiting 10,000 pets and their owners to participate in a new study that will look at the dogs’ health, gut microbes, diet and exercise to understand aging. And 500 lucky dogs will test out a new drug that may help slow the aging process, which could help us someday, too.

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I hope you found it worthwhile to publish what is, in essence, a duplication of the same story!

FindShadow to the rescue!

There’s nothing so bad as losing one’s dog.

I was recently contacted by John Brooks. He writes of himself:

John Brooks loves animals from the core of his heart. Whenever he gets time, he tries to write regarding animal health & condition so that all pet lovers like you don’t fall in any hazardous situation.

He went on to explain that:

One day, Findshadow helped me to find my lost dog. So that I wrote about Findshadow.

So with no further ado, here is John’s post.

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What Is Findshadow How It Can Help You Find Your Missing Dog

Dog owners share a lot of the same grievances, annoyances, and frustrations. From getting up to your pet barking in the wee hours of the night to cleaning up after your dog’s mess during walks around the neighborhood, raising and taking care of a pet comes with a host of responsibilities. And with those responsibilities come work, and with work comes grievance, annoyance, and frustration.

However, one of the worst, most gut-wrenching feelings that dog owners can relate to is the moment you realize your dog is missing. After searching every room, backtracking to the park you were at with your dog in the morning, asking your neighbors if they have seen them and posting flyers on every telephone you can find, the hopelessness begins to set in.

Luckily for you, Findshadow, a free app that helps dog owners locate their missing companions, is harnessing the power of community and technology to reunite you with your lost pets. And it is doing a pretty darn good job.

So, what is Findshadow? It is is a free smartphone app that walks owners who have lost their pets step-by-step through the process of finding their dogs.

The app offers a wide array of services and tips for their users, all for free. First, you post your lost or found dog to the community. Then, the app gives you a completely personalized, step-by-step plan on how to use the app and other resources to locate your dog. While you may think of some of these steps yourself, you’ll be surprised how thorough the process can be.

After going through these first introductory steps, you can use Findshadow to print or download personalized street flyers. Although posting your pup to the community in-app will definitely increase visibility far more than strictly putting up posters, having physical images of your dog around the neighborhood will still help you get in front of a demographic that doesn’t have Findshadow downloaded.

You can share your post on social media to easily reach friends and family. With just the three aforementioned features, Findshadow has already allowed you to reach three different populations: Findshadow users, people in your neighborhood and your connections on social media.

Getting your dog’s photo in front of as many people as possible is the recipe to success for finding your dog as quickly as possible. The more people who see it, regardless if they use Findshadow or not, the more people who will be able to identify your pet if they see it.

Findshadow also has a nifty feature that makes it easier to contact nearby shelters to ask if they have seen your dog. Even if you don’t directly contact shelters yourself, Findshadow volunteers can help snap pictures of dogs in shelters and send them to you in-app to see if they match.

The sense of community behind Findshadow is powerful. Past users of Findshadow who have successfully been reunited with their dog because of the app give back to the community by becoming active volunteers. This creates a culture where owners are helping each other out. Every dog is considered important.

The interface of the app is easy-to-use and allows users to quickly switch between different features and services. You can browse through found dog listings to double-check posts to see if someone on Findshadow has already found your dog.

The amount of positive reviews and testimonials from dog owners who gush over the app is well-justified. The app has reunited countless owners with their dogs, oftentimes within the same day they went missing.

Even if you haven’t lost your dog, it is a great app to have downloaded just in case something does come up.

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This is the essence of blogging and sharing.

I hadn’t heard of Findshadow before now but will surely put the app on my phone.

Here’s the link to the FindShadow website.

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Fifteen.

Another copy of an earlier Picture Parade.

I don’t know. What with wood splitting ahead of the rain and snow, and working hard at editing the completed book, I didn’t seem to have the creative urge to publish a new Picture Parade.

So I’m once again republishing one that was first published on July 17th, 2016.

Enjoy!

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Incredible, prize-winning, images of dogs.

The following was read over on Mother Nature News on June 30th. The item, and especially the photographs, just had to be shared with you.

However, to ensure the integrity of republication and the identity of the photographers, I’m going to include the photographs and the words of the original MNN piece, and split it across today and next Sunday.

Trust me you will adore these photographs.

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These prize-winning images of dogs will steal your heart.

10th annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition drew entries from photographers in 90 countries.

Jaymi Heimbuch June 30, 2016.

Winner of the Man’s Best Friend category (Photo: Fiona Sami/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Man’s Best Friend category (Photo: Fiona Sami/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

The love of a dog is a universal joy, as the latest photography competition from The Kennel Club illustrates. The 10th annual competition drew over 13,000 entries from photographers in 90 countries. The photographs show the beauty, loyalty, companionship, dignity and, of course, the adorableness of dogs around the world.

The competition features eight categories, including Puppies, Oldies, Dogs at Work, Dogs at Play, Man’s Best Friend (winner pictured above), Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities, Dog Portraits and I Love Dogs Because.

Winner of the Dogs At Work category as well as overall winner of the competition (Photo: Anastasia Vetkovskaya/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Dogs At Work category as well as overall winner of the competition (Photo: Anastasia Vetkovskaya/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This image of Sheldon the English springer spaniel enjoying a mist-shrouded pond early one morning is the work of Anastasia Vetkovskaya from Russia. Not only did it win for the Dogs At Work category, but it also placed as the overall winner of the competition.

Vetkovskaya states, “I have loved animals from an early age, which is why I went to Moscow Veterinary Academy and became a veterinary surgeon in 2007. Around this period of time, my husband gave me my first SLR camera, and since then I have devoted all of my free time to photography. My specialty is pets, and I am inspired most by horses and dogs.”

Winner of the Dogs at Play category (Photo: Tom Lowe/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Dogs at Play category (Photo: Tom Lowe/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

Baxter the Westie inspired his photography-loving human, Tom Lowe, to snap this image of Baxter playing in the water of Loch Lomond in Scotland.

Winner of the Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities category (Photo: Michael Higginson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition
Winner of the Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities category (Photo: Michael Higginson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This poignant image was taken by Michael Higginson, and features his brother Dale with Esta the dog. The win not only benefits the photographer but also a charity of his choice. The Kennel Club is making a donation to Higginson’s favorite charity, Dogs for Good.

Higginson states, “Winning the Assistance Dog category has made it even more special. It’s an honor to be able to show the world what a difference a dog can make to someone else’s life.”

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Aren’t they breath-takingly beautiful!

The rest of these fabulous photographs in a week’s time.

How old is your dog?

Dan sends me a more accurate calculation.

Dear Dan and I recently had an email ‘conversation’ about the conversion of dog years to human years. Then, yesterday,  as in Thursday, he sent me the following article from ZME Science.

Enjoy!

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Here’s a better way to calculate dog years – backed by science.

Lets’s face it, 1 for 7 years is not accurate.

November 21, 2019

By Mihai Andrei

The formula is about mid-way through the article, and it includes a simple calculator.

We learn, as kids, to approximate dog age thusly: one dog year for seven human years. That’s a decent approximation in some cases, but the more you think about it, the more it starts to fall apart.

All dog breeds tend to follow a similar pattern: they reach puberty at 10 months old. Right off the bat, it’s clear that the approximation doesn’t work here, as humans don’t really reach puberty at 6 years. Dogs can also reach 20 years or even more, and 140 years has never been recorded for a human. All in all, while it can give a ballpark estimate, the 7-for-1 approach falls short in many regards.

But now, researchers have come up with a much more accurate formula to assess dog age in human years. This one, at least, is backed by science.

It started as a way to detect factors associated with dog aging, and it focused on a relatively new concept: DNA methylation. The idea is that as we age, our DNA undergoes chemical modifications which can be used as a sort of genetic clock. It’s a way of looking at our body’s wear and tear, as the influence of diseases and unhealthy lifestyle can also be observed (to an extent) with this approach.

It’s not just humans that have epigenetic clocks. Other species have them too — including dogs. Geneticist Trey Ideker of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues, analyzed the DNA methylation patterns in the genomes of 104 dogs (all golden retrievers), ranging from 4 weeks to 16 years of age. Although just golden retrievers were analyzed, the patterns are very similar for all breeds.

There were remarkable similarities between the DNA methylation of dogs and humans. Although the two species diverged a very long time ago, dogs live in similar environments to humans, and they even have access to similar healthcare.

Simply put, the patterns of DNA methylation in young dogs tended to be similar to those in young humans — the same goes for older dogs and older humans.

Finally, the study also demonstrates that these patterns can be used to translate the age-related physiology of one organism (in this case, dogs) to another organism (humans).

The formula is not linear, and is not exactly simple, but here it is:

Human Years = 16 ln(Dog Years) + 31,

where ln is the natural logarithm.

Inputs

Dog_years:

Outputs

Human_years:

-∞

Powered by JSCalc.io

 

Logarithmic function for epigenetic translation from dog age (x-axis) to human age (y-axis). Tom Hanks for scale. Image credits: Wang et al

The natural logarithm is used because dogs and humans don’t age similarly. Dogs seem to age very quickly in the first part of their life (which is why the age of young pups seem very weird translated into human years), but their ageing process slows down massively compared to that of humans. So the translation dog to human years cannot be linear — it is logarithmic. When your dog is 1 year old, he’s approximately 30 in human years. When he’s 2 years old, he’s 42. He’s around 60 human years by the time he’s 6, but only 70 by the time he’s 12.

It’s a weird thing to wrap your mind around and it is definitely not a perfect translation from dog years to human years, but it works much better than all existing alternatives. It also works to explain why some dogs reach sexual adolescence as early as 6 months old — the onset for that is around 10-14 years for humans. Dogs are adolescent until about 2 years, which in humans lasts until 25 years old. Then, maturity for dogs is around 2-7 years, and for humans around 25-50 years. Similar calculations (but with a slightly different formula) can be carried out for other animals, including cats and mice, researchers conclude.

The study can be read in its entirety for free on biorXiv.

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M’mmm, I think I need a little more time to absorb that!

Vibrations!

The mind-body debate!

This is a republication of a recent article that appeared on The Conversation site. In a sense, it has nothing to do with dogs. Yet in another sense, it does!

You be the judge.

Meanwhile, I have finished the draft of my book, have printed it out and now have the gargantuan task of reading and editing it before it goes to an independent proof reader. All 56,657 words.

Oh well, if you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t have joined!

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Could consciousness all come down to the way things vibrate?

November 9th, 2019

By

Affiliate Guest in Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara

Why is my awareness here, while yours is over there? Why is the universe split in two for each of us, into a subject and an infinity of objects? How is each of us our own center of experience, receiving information about the rest of the world out there? Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A gnat? A bacterium?

These questions are all aspects of the ancient “mind-body problem,” which asks, essentially: What is the relationship between mind and matter? It’s resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years.

The mind-body problem enjoyed a major rebranding over the last two decades. Now it’s generally known as the “hard problem” of consciousness, after philosopher David Chalmers coined this term in a now classic paper and further explored it in his 1996 book, “The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory.”

Chalmers thought the mind-body problem should be called “hard” in comparison to what, with tongue in cheek, he called the “easy” problems of neuroscience: How do neurons and the brain work at the physical level? Of course they’re not actually easy at all. But his point was that they’re relatively easy compared to the truly difficult problem of explaining how consciousness relates to matter.

Over the last decade, my colleague, University of California, Santa Barbara psychology professor Jonathan Schooler and I have developed what we call a “resonance theory of consciousness.” We suggest that resonance – another word for synchronized vibrations – is at the heart of not only human consciousness but also animal consciousness and of physical reality more generally. It sounds like something the hippies might have dreamed up – it’s all vibrations, man! – but stick with me.

How do things in nature – like flashing fireflies – spontaneously synchronize? Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.com

All about the vibrations

All things in our universe are constantly in motion, vibrating. Even objects that appear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating, resonating, at various frequencies. Resonance is a type of motion, characterized by oscillation between two states. And ultimately all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields. As such, at every scale, all of nature vibrates.

Something interesting things happen when different vibrating things come together: They will often start, after a little while, to vibrate together at the same frequency. They “sync up,” sometimes in ways that can seem mysterious. This is described as the phenomenon of spontaneous self-organization.

Mathematician Steven Strogatz provides various examples from physics, biology, chemistry and neuroscience to illustrate “sync” – his term for resonance – in his 2003 book “Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life,” including:

  • When fireflies of certain species come together in large gatherings, they start flashing in sync, in ways that can still seem a little mystifying.
  • Lasers are produced when photons of the same power and frequency sync up.
  • The moon’s rotation is exactly synced with its orbit around the Earth such that we always see the same face.

Examining resonance leads to potentially deep insights about the nature of consciousness and about the universe more generally.

External electrodes can record a brain’s activity. vasara/Shutterstock.com

Sync inside your skull

Neuroscientists have identified sync in their research, too. Large-scale neuron firing occurs in human brains at measurable frequencies, with mammalian consciousness thought to be commonly associated with various kinds of neuronal sync.

For example, German neurophysiologist Pascal Fries has explored the ways in which various electrical patterns sync in the brain to produce different types of human consciousness.

Fries focuses on gamma, beta and theta waves. These labels refer to the speed of electrical oscillations in the brain, measured by electrodes placed on the outside of the skull. Groups of neurons produce these oscillations as they use electrochemical impulses to communicate with each other. It’s the speed and voltage of these signals that, when averaged, produce EEG waves that can be measured at signature cycles per second.

Each type of synchronized activity is associated with certain types of brain function. artellia/Shutterstock.com

Gamma waves are associated with large-scale coordinated activities like perception, meditation or focused consciousness; beta with maximum brain activity or arousal; and theta with relaxation or daydreaming. These three wave types work together to produce, or at least facilitate, various types of human consciousness, according to Fries. But the exact relationship between electrical brain waves and consciousness is still very much up for debate.

Fries calls his concept “communication through coherence.” For him, it’s all about neuronal synchronization. Synchronization, in terms of shared electrical oscillation rates, allows for smooth communication between neurons and groups of neurons. Without this kind of synchronized coherence, inputs arrive at random phases of the neuron excitability cycle and are ineffective, or at least much less effective, in communication.

A resonance theory of consciousness

Our resonance theory builds upon the work of Fries and many others, with a broader approach that can help to explain not only human and mammalian consciousness, but also consciousness more broadly.

Based on the observed behavior of the entities that surround us, from electrons to atoms to molecules, to bacteria to mice, bats, rats, and on, we suggest that all things may be viewed as at least a little conscious. This sounds strange at first blush, but “panpsychism” – the view that all matter has some associated consciousness – is an increasingly accepted position with respect to the nature of consciousness.

The panpsychist argues that consciousness did not emerge at some point during evolution. Rather, it’s always associated with matter and vice versa – they’re two sides of the same coin. But the large majority of the mind associated with the various types of matter in our universe is extremely rudimentary. An electron or an atom, for example, enjoys just a tiny amount of consciousness. But as matter becomes more interconnected and rich, so does the mind, and vice versa, according to this way of thinking.

Biological organisms can quickly exchange information through various biophysical pathways, both electrical and electrochemical. Non-biological structures can only exchange information internally using heat/thermal pathways – much slower and far less rich in information in comparison. Living things leverage their speedier information flows into larger-scale consciousness than what would occur in similar-size things like boulders or piles of sand, for example. There’s much greater internal connection and thus far more “going on” in biological structures than in a boulder or a pile of sand.

Under our approach, boulders and piles of sand are “mere aggregates,” just collections of highly rudimentary conscious entities at the atomic or molecular level only. That’s in contrast to what happens in biological life forms where the combinations of these micro-conscious entities together create a higher level macro-conscious entity. For us, this combination process is the hallmark of biological life.

The central thesis of our approach is this: the particular linkages that allow for large-scale consciousness – like those humans and other mammals enjoy – result from a shared resonance among many smaller constituents. The speed of the resonant waves that are present is the limiting factor that determines the size of each conscious entity in each moment.

As a particular shared resonance expands to more and more constituents, the new conscious entity that results from this resonance and combination grows larger and more complex. So the shared resonance in a human brain that achieves gamma synchrony, for example, includes a far larger number of neurons and neuronal connections than is the case for beta or theta rhythms alone.

What about larger inter-organism resonance like the cloud of fireflies with their little lights flashing in sync? Researchers think their bioluminescent resonance arises due to internal biological oscillators that automatically result in each firefly syncing up with its neighbors.

Is this group of fireflies enjoying a higher level of group consciousness? Probably not, since we can explain the phenomenon without recourse to any intelligence or consciousness. But in biological structures with the right kind of information pathways and processing power, these tendencies toward self-organization can and often do produce larger-scale conscious entities.

Our resonance theory of consciousness attempts to provide a unified framework that includes neuroscience, as well as more fundamental questions of neurobiology and biophysics, and also the philosophy of mind. It gets to the heart of the differences that matter when it comes to consciousness and the evolution of physical systems.

It is all about vibrations, but it’s also about the type of vibrations and, most importantly, about shared vibrations.

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This may require more than one read. Because, if you are interested in the subject I’m sure you will wish to read it again.

But the underlying premise is that, as was said earlier,: “all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields.

Beautiful!

 

Now a cat recall!

This is self-explanatory!

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Dear Fellow Dog Lover,

I’m pleased to report there have been no recalls since September 26.
However, for the many dog owners who also own a cat…

Go Raw is recalling one lot of its “Quest Beef Cat Food”… because it may be contaminated with Salmonella.
Missed any of the 11 other recalls we’ve sent since early July? Be sure to visit our Dog Food Recalls page for full details.
6 Best Dog Food Lists Updated
The Dog Food Advisor has recently updated the following best dog food pages:

  • Best Dry Dog Foods
  • Best Puppy Foods
  • Best Dog Food for Allergies
  • Best Grain-Free Dog Foods
  • Best Senior Dog Foods
  • Best Dog Food for Weight Loss

Click here to see our Best Dog Foods for November 2019

Please be sure to share this news with other pet owners.

Mike Sagman, Editor
The Dog Food Advisor
Saving Good Dogs From Bad Dog Food
P.S. Not yet on our recall notification list? Click here to get FREE lifesaving recall alerts by email. No spam. Cancel anytime.

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This is a brilliant service!

Part Two of that post about Pharaoh!

A wonderful dog!

I have re-read this post and have choked up. For Pharaoh was the supreme dog for me to have as a companion during this stage in my life. I suspect you will read that clearly in the post that follows.

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The concluding part-two of meeting Pharaoh 

Pharaoh, as of yesterday afternoon!
Pharaoh, as of yesterday afternoon!

In yesterday’s first part of my recollection of having Pharaoh in my life for over ten years, I focussed on the early days.  Today, I want to take a more philosophical view of the relationship, right up to the present day.

The biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend goes back a few years.  Back to my Devon days and the time when Jon Lavin and I used to spend hours talking together.  Pharaoh always contentedly asleep in the same room as the two of us. It was Jon who introduced me to Dr. David Hawkins and his Map of Consciousness. It was Jon one day who looking down at the sleeping Pharaoh pointed out that Dr. Hawkins offered evidence that dogs are integrous creatures with a ‘score’ on that Map of between 205 and 210. (Background story is here.)

So this blog, Learning from Dogs, and my attempt to write a book of the same name flow from that awareness of what dogs mean to human consciousness and what Pharaoh means to me.  No, more than that!  From that mix of Jon, Dr. David Hawkins, experiencing the power of unconditional love from an animal living with me day-in, day-out, came a journey into my self.  Came the self-awareness that allowed me to like who I was, be openly loved by this dog of mine, and be able to love in return.  As is said: “You cannot love another until you love yourself.

Moving on.

Trying to pick out a single example of the bond that he and I have is practically impossible.  I have to rely on photographs to remind me of the thousands of times that a simple look or touch between Pharaoh and me ‘speaks’ to me in ways that words fail. Here’s an extract from my celebration of Pharaoh’s tenth birthday  last June 3rd; written the following day. It comes pretty close to illustrating the friendship bond.

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For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon.  The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151.  (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogs back in August 2009.)

Piper Cub R151
Piper Cub R151

Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit.  So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in.  Absolutely no problem with that!

Come on Dad, let's get this thing off the ground!
Come on Dad, let’s get this thing off the ground!

My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft.  First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted.  He was perfectly behaved.

Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight.  In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh.  So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight.  The chances are that it would have been fine.  But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.

So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval.  The date was July 2006.

That was fun!
That was fun!

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Moving on again.  This time to another flying experience.  To the day when Pharaoh and I flew out of London bound for Los Angeles and a new life with Jeannie and all her dogs (16 at that time) down in San Carlos, Sonora County, Mexico.  The date: September 15th, 2008.  Just ten months after I had met Jean in Mexico and realised that this was the woman that I was destined to love! (Now you will understand why I described earlier the Jon Lavin, Dr. Hawkins, Pharaoh mix as the biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend!)

There followed wonderful happy days for me and Pharaoh.  Gorgeous to see how Pharaoh became so much more a dog, if that makes sense, from having his own mini-pack around him.  Those happy days taking us all forwards to Payson, AZ, where Jean and I were married, and then on to Merlin, Oregon arriving here in October, 2012.

Fr. Dan Tantimonaco with the newly weds!
Fr. Dan Tantimonaco with the newly weds!

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Pharaoh 'married' to his dearest friends. December, 2013.
Pharaoh ‘married’ to his dearest friends. December, 2013.

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Perfect closeness. Pharaoh and Cleo with Hazel in the middle. Taken yesterday.
Smelling the flowers! Pharaoh and Cleo with Hazel in the middle. Taken yesterday.

I could go on!  Hopefully, you get a sense, a very strong sense, of the magical journey that both Pharaoh and I have experienced since I first clasped him in my arms back in September, 2003.

Both Pharaoh and I are in the Autumn of our lives, he is 11 in June; I am 70 in November, and we both creak a little. But so what! Pharaoh has been my greatest inspiration of the power of unconditional love; of the need to smell the flowers in this short life of ours.

One very great animal! (March 25th, 2014)
One very great animal! (March 25th, 2014)

Thank you, my dear, dear friend!

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Yes, thank you, and thanks to all the dogs that love us and to whom we offer love in return.

Today, as in the 20th November, 2019, just happens to be our anniversary, nine years ago we were married. We met just before Christmas, 2007.

A reposting of a Meet the Dogs!

This came up in my research!

I am at the stage in my book where I am having to check certain dates. Luckily I was already writing Learning from Dogs and could use the blog to check dates.

In so doing I came across an earlier post about Pharaoh and thought that was so, so good that it just has to be republished. Part One today and Part Two tomorrow.

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‘Meeting’ this dog deserves two posts!

Almost two months ago, January 30th to be exact, the first of this ‘Meet the dogs‘ series was published.  It came out of an idea from Jean and that January 30th post introduced Paloma to you, dear reader.  Since then we have told you about Lilly, Dhalia, Ruby, Casey, Hazel, Sweeny, and Cleo.

So today’s post is the last of the Meet the dogs stories; it is about Pharaoh.  I’m going to indulge myself and tell you the story of this most wonderful of dogs over today and tomorrow.

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Pharaoh

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Photograph taken on the 12th August, 2003, the first day I saw Pharaoh.

This is Sandra Tucker, owner of Jutone Kennels in Devon, England, where Pharaoh was born on June 3rd, 2003.  Here’s something written elsewhere that conveys my feelings that first day that I met this puppy.

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In no time at all I was turning into the farm driveway, noticing the painted sign for Jutone & Felsental German Shepherds alongside the open, wooden gate.

I turned off the engine and was about to swing my legs out of the open driver’s door when I saw a woman coming towards me.

“Hi, you must be Paul, I’m Sandra. Did you have any trouble finding us?”

I shook hands with her.

“Not at all. I did as you recommended when we spoke on the phone and went in to the local store and got final directions.”

Sandra smiled, her glasses almost slipping off the end of her nose.

“Dear Beth. She’s been running that local store since God was a boy.”

She continued with a chortle in her voice, “Some say that Beth was at the store before our local pub, The Palk Arms, opened for business. And the pub’s been in the village for well over four-hundred years.” Sandra’s laugh was infectious and I caught myself already taking a liking to her. The sense of a strong, confident person struck me immediately. Indeed, a working woman evidenced by her brown slacks, revealing plenty of dog hairs, topped off with a blue T-shirt under an unbuttoned cotton blouse.

“Anyway, enough of me, Paul, you’ve come to get yourself a German Shepherd puppy.”

She turned towards a collection of grey, galvanised-sheeted barns and continued chatting as I fell into step alongside her.

“After we discussed your circumstances over the phone; where you live down there in Harberton, why you specifically wanted a German Shepherd dog, I thought about the last set of puppies that were born, just a few weeks ago.”

Sandra paused and turned towards me.

“While, of course, you can select whatever puppy you feel drawn to, my advice is to go for a male. Listening to your experiences of befriending a male German Shepherd when you were a young boy, I have no doubt that a male dog would result in you and the dog building a very strong bond. Indeed, I have a young male puppy that I want to bring out to you. Is that OK?”

Sandra turned and walked out of sight around the corner of the first barn leaving me standing there, my response presumably being taken for granted.

Something in her words struck me in a manner that I hadn’t anticipated; not in the slightest. That was her use of the word bond. I was suddenly aware of the tiniest emotional wobble inside me from Sandra’s use of that word. Somewhere deep inside me was the hint that my decision to have a dog in my life was being driven by deeper and more ancient feelings.

My introspection came to an immediate halt as Sandra re-appeared. She came up to me, a beige-black puppy cradled under her left arm, her left hand holding the pup across its mid-riff behind his front legs, her right arm across her waist supporting the rear of the tiny animal.

I stood very still, just aware of feelings that I couldn’t voice, could hardly even sense, as I looked down at this tiny black, furry face, outsized beige ears flopping down either side of his small head.

It was unusually warm this August day and I had previously unbuttoned my cuffs and folded the shirt sleeves of my blue-white, checked cotton shirt back above both elbows leaving my forearms bare.

Sandra offered me the young, fragile creature. As tenderly as I could, I took the pup into my arms and cradled the gorgeous animal against my chest. The pup’s warm body seemed to glow through its soft fur and as my bare arms embraced the flanks of this quiet, little dog I realised the magic, the pure magic, of the moment. Something was registering in me in ways utterly beyond words but, nonetheless, as real as a rainbow might be across the green, Devon hills.

“How old is he, Sandra?”

“This little lad was born on June 3rd. So what are we today? August 12th. So he is ten weeks old as of today.”

June 3rd, 2003. I knew that this date had now entered my life in just the same way as had the birth-dates of my son and daughter; Alex and Maija.

The power of this first meeting was beyond anything I had expected, or even imagined. I thought that it was going to be a fairly pleasant but, nonetheless, unsurprising process of choosing a puppy. How wrong could I have been! What was captivating me was the pure and simple bodily contact between this young dog and me. No more than that. I was sensing in some unspoken manner that this was equally as captivating for this precious puppy-dog. For even at the tender age of ten weeks, the tiny dog appeared to understand that me holding him so longingly was bridging a divide of many, many years.

Sandra motioned with her arm, pointing out a bench-seat a few yards away alongside a green, well-manicured, lawn.

I very carefully sat down on the wooden-slatted bench and rested the beautiful animal in my lap. The puppy was adorable. Those large, over-sized ears flopping across the top of his golden black-brown furry head. His golden-brown fur morphing into black fur across his shoulders and then on down to the predominantly beige-cream colour of his soft, gangling, front legs. That creamy fur continuing along the little creature’s underbelly.

The puppy seemed almost to purr with contentment, its deep brown eyes gazing so very intently into mine. I was entranced. I was spellbound.

Never before had I felt so close to an animal. In a life-time of nearly sixty years including having cats at home when I was a young boy growing up in North-West London, and much later the family owning a pet cat when Alex and Maija were youngsters, I had never, ever sensed the stirrings of such a loving bond as I was sensing now. As this young puppy was clearly sensing as well. This was to be my dog. Of that I was in no doubt.

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Early days at home in South Devon.

 

Let me leave you with a couple of other photographs taken from his early days.

Pharaoh, nine months old.
Pharaoh, nine months old, taken in my Devon home in 2004.

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One year old: June 3rd 2004.
First birthday: June 3rd 2004.  Again, picture taken in Devon.

 

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that in the year 2014, I would be writing about Pharaoh from a home-office desk in Southern Oregon sharing a happy life with a wonderful London lady, Jean, and more gorgeous animals than one could throw a stick at.

More on that shared journey with Pharaoh tomorrow!

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Back to today.

Isn’t that a perfect memory of an outstanding dog. Indeed, more than that. An outstanding memory of a grand, magnificent, intelligent dog who was with me during the worst and best of my life!