Tag: Brussels

Those deeper ways of listening

How humans and animals communicate with each other has more than an edge of mystery to it!

We sleep with our bedroom door open to the main run of the rest of the house. Generally, all six dogs sleep in our bedroom unless it is a very warm night when some of them may choose the cooler tiled surface of the kitchen floor.

Cleo, our female German Shepherd, has a bit of a sensitive stomach and it is not unknown for her to need to be let outside in the middle of the night. Just a couple of nights ago her need for a ‘poo’ break came at 02:40!

But the point of this is that no matter how deeply I am sleeping, all it takes is a short, quiet whimper next to my side of bed and I am instantly awake. I need no time at all to know that Cleo has to be let outside from our bedroom door that opens out onto the deck. A few minutes later I hear her feet padding along the wooden boards of the deck and she is let back in to the bedroom.

Thus this demonstrates how well I understand her and in turn how well she acutely listens to me.

Just look at this photograph.

The connection, the intensity, of her attention towards me. And this was just from me pointing the camera at her and ‘click, clicking’ my tongue.

Moving on!

My introduction today was inspired by an article that I recently read on the Care2 site and that I want to share with you. Here it is.

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Can Humans Understand When Animals Are in Distress?

By: Laura Burge   August 13, 2017

About Laura   Follow Laura at @literarylaura

Have you ever jumped at the sound of birds fighting or a squirrel screaming? Heard an animal make a sound somewhere nearby that made your heart race?

More than one hundred years ago, Darwin suggested that there was a universal understanding of certain animal vocalizations — a way of expressing emotion that went all the way back to the Earth’s earliest animals. Now, researchers are re-examining that theory, and they’re making some interesting headway.

In a study published in the journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,” researchers decided to explore the idea that animal vocalizations, including distress calls, might be recognizable across different species — and even into different animal classes.

Earlier research delved into whether or not humans could detect which emotion, or signal, another mammal was using, but this study is the first to examine other vertebrates as well. Amphibians and reptiles joined the club, and, perhaps surprisingly, humans did pretty well determining what these animals were trying to communicate.

The researchers primarily looked into whether or not people listening to certain animal sounds would be able to detect the level of arousal — high or low — that an animal expressed vocally. High arousal indicates an animal in distress, expressing desperate or negative screams, who might be calling out because of a fight, a predator in the area or another perceived danger. Scientists believe that these sounds are part of an old signaling system.

Researchers asked 75 college-aged individuals to listen to sounds from nine different species. In order to account for language differences, these people included English, German and Mandarin speakers.

Scientists collected 180 recordings of animal vocalizations, reflecting high or low levels of excitement, such as “the sounds of frogs in competition for mates, monkeys reacting to danger or ravens confronted by a dominant bird,” and included humans in that list, instructing actors to react neutrally or with different, heightened emotions while speaking Tamil.

The 75 people were then asked to identify which vocalization out of paired sounds from the same species represented the higher level of arousal.

In this study, the results showed that people identified the correct “emotion,” roughly speaking, better than expected by chance. Here is how the accuracy broke down across species:

  • Humans: 95 percent correct
  • Giant panda: 94 percent correct
  • Hourglass tree frog: 90 percent correct
  • African bush elephant: 88 percent correct
  • American alligator: 87 percent correct
  • Black-capped chickadee: 85 percent correct
  • Pig: 68 percent correct
  • Common raven: 62 percent correct
  • Barbary macaque (monkey): 60 percent correct

It seems strange that people were less able to identify the distress call of a monkey than a frog, but Harold Gouzoules, a bioacoustician and animal behavior expert at Emory University, posits that the monkey calls may have sounded less extreme in intensity than those of the other species, making it harder to tell the difference.

“Our study shows that humans are naturally able to recognize emotional arousal across all classes of vocalizing animals,” said Piera Filippi, who studies the evolution of cognition and communication at the Vrije University Brussels in Belgium.

This doesn’t mean that humans should feel confident in interpreting animal emotions or body language in general, though. Those behaviors can vary greatly, and humans are prone to misinterpretation and anthropomorphism. You wouldn’t, for example, want to assume a wolf baring its teeth is simply smiling at you.

Naturally, much remains to be studied in the effort to understand a wider range of animal emotions. Filippi hopes to repeat the experiment, but with the black-capped chickadees taking the place of the college-aged humans in interpreting the distress calls. It will be interesting to see if this understanding between humans and other animals goes both ways.

Could there be a beneficial reason for animals to understand each other’s distress calls? What do you think?

Photo Credit: Valentino Funghi/Unsplash

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Just so long as too many different animals don’t all sound out distress calls at the same time around here!

 

Solar Impulse

Just enjoy this.

Solar Impulse

From Wired Magazine,

“In a world dependent on fossil energies, Solar Impulse is a paradox, almost a provocation.”

Press release gobbledygook? Absolutely. But you’ve got to give it up for any company with the guts to try designing and building a true solar airplane.

We’ve written about Solar Impulse — it’s a consortium of European financial and technology parters led by the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland. The group is working on a solar-powered plane that can take off under its own power without generating any emissions at all. The general idea is that sunlight would not only power the plane during the day but would also charge its lithium batteries, allowing it to fly around the clock pollution free.

That was written May 12th, 2008.  This is now!  Landing at Brussels International Airport, May 2011.

And here’s the Solar Impulse website.

A questionnaire on the European Union

A guest post from Chris Snuggs, a long-term supporter and author on Learning from Dogs.

Chris Snuggs

EU QUESTIONNAIRE    –    C Snuggs, 26 November, 2010

This questionnaire is designed to test your knowledge and opinions of the EU. Your answers will be collated and go towards the production of a report to present to your MEP (Member of the European Parliament)– if you can find him or her. Please give your opinion by ticking either T (true) or F (false) for each proposition.
a

THE EURO
1    Greece falsified its statistics in order to “qualify” for entry to the euro.
2    EU leaders KNEW this (like almost everyone else), but ignored it.
3    The EU’s OWN economists had told them that Greece and others could not live in the Eurozone alongside Germany.
4    Ergo, the EU elite connived in a LIE about the finances of Greece and the future of the euro..
5    Once Greece was in the Eurozone it spent money wildly and wastefully with many people retiring at 50, a bloated and overpaid civil service, civil servants who often didn’t bother to turn up, pensions bequeathed to relatives and so on.
6    The EU elite knew all this but DID NOTHING EFFECTIVE about it.
7    Now European taxpayers are having to pay BILLIONS to bail out feckless countries that vastly overspent.
8    The EU elite that lied and ignored these deep problems have been utterly incompetent guardians’ of EU taxpayers’ money. More than incompetent, they have been party to DEFRAUDING many millions of taxpayers for their own ambitions and political ends.
9    The VAST payouts of taxpayers’ money to bail out Greece, Ireland and soon Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Italy DO NOTHING TO FIX THE UNDERLYING PROBLEMS as highlighted in 3 above. This policy therefore represents an appalling further waste of money and merely postpones difficult decisions that EU leaders must make, and should in fact have made YEARS ago.
10    According to the EU’s OWN RULES it is ILLEGAL to “bail out” a bankrupt country. Despite this, the EU countries have bailed out Greece and now Ireland. Mr Van Rompuy was charged with finding a way that this could be done legally. Frau Merkel has suggested that the Lisbon Treaty be amended to allow bailouts to be done legally. How she proposes to amend this Treaty without the consent of member countries is a mystery.
11    The EU elite, knowingly having illegally bailed out Greece and now Ireland should be arrested en masse for illegal use of public money. The EU is very strong on law, except apparently for itself when it suits it.

EU FINANCE, SPENDING & REMUNERATION
12    The EU has failed to get its accounts signed off for the nth year in succession; NO PRIVATE CONCERN COULD GET AWAY WITH THIS.
13    At this time of economic crisis the EU wants to spend SIX BILLION EUROS on a new diplomatic service, including the placing of FORTY-SIX “diplomats” on Barbados and over FIFTY on Madagascar.
14    The number of EU citizens demanding this vast expenditure must be microscopic; though nobody knows for sure since the EU would never dream of asking its paymasters their opinion.
15    Europe is going through the worst period of financial chaos since WWII. Jobs are being lost almost everywhere; many EU countries are technically bankrupt; people’s living standards and public services are being drastically cut, except it seems in the EU in Brussels.
16    The EU has just won a court case against the people that finance it, the national governments. As a consequence, EU workers will receive a payrise backdated to last year with interest of 3.7% at a time of desperate economic hardship for many millions of EU citizens.
17    The head of the vast new “diplomatic” organisation is a Brit who has NEVER BEEN ELECTED to any post of significance and earns more than TWICE as much as ANY European leader, plus very considerable expenses. She is far from unique in the EU circle of the elite.
18    EU workers receive extraordinary perks (benefits) and also pay around 8% income tax. Very few of their electors (who pay their wages) benefit from anything like this sort of remuneration.
19    Peter Mandelson RESIGNED from his post as Commissioner to become an English Lord. Since his ludicrous remuneration for this was LOWER than his EU income the EU is paying him around £62,000 of taxpayers’ money for FOUR years to make up the difference, EVEN THOUGH HE RESIGNED.
20    The above-mentioned practice amounts to institutionalised THEFT of taxpayers’ money.
21    The EU has just created an English-language website to inform us of how wonderful they are. In other words, WE are paying to have EU PROPAGANDA shoved down our throats.
22    The EU paying some 300,000€ for a dogs’ home in Poland at a time when millions of people in Europe are suffering real economic hardship is just one example of frivelous use of taxpayers’ money.

THE RATIONALE OF THE EU
23    Mr van Rompuy, unelected “President” from a failing and disintegrating state (is this the reason for his obsession?), has said that “The nation states are dead.” He and the EU elite seek the creation of a European “superstate” controlled from Brussels.
24    Mr Van Rompuy has presumably informed President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel and other EU leaders personally that their states “are dead”. Their reactions have not been published so far.
25    This agenda was denied by the EU elite for many decades, which of course represents yet another LIE.
26    This unelected “President” earns more than any national leader in the EU. This is to give the impression that he is more important, since clearly the more money you are paid the more important you must be.

MEPs & DEMOCRACY
27    MEPs have just demanded a near 6% increase in the EU budget.
28    In this they are certainly not reflecting the wishes of the majority of their electors.
29    Many turn up in Brussels, sign on to qualify for their attendance allowance and then go away.
30    I do not know of any other profession where you get paid a vast salary and expenses and then EXTRA MONEY just for attending a meeting.
31    Most people haven’t got the foggiest idea who is supposed to be “representing” them in Brussels.
32    The EU as it stands is a top-down decision-making organisation whose leaders have a degree of self-righteousness (“Only we know what is good for you.”) that has to be suffered to be believed.
33    MEPs do not take their electors wishes into account.
34    The EU hates referendums since they give an opportunity to the people to express their opinion and actually make a decision. Naturally they can’t be trusted with decisions.
35    When a referendum goes against the EU the usual reaction is to oblige the country involved to do it again and again till the “right” answer is produced. In this the EU is a laughing stock, but the elite do not care as long as they get their way
36    MEPs periodically flog up and down from Brussels to Strasbourg. Sitting in Strasbourg is supposed to be some sort of symbol, but I don’t know of any voters who were asked if they wanted to pay through the nose for a symbol at vast expense, not least in carbon emissions.

CONCLUSIONS
37    The modern world is characterized by greed, arrogance and incompetence. These are qualities that the EU elite has demonstrated in abundance.
38    The EU elite has totally and utterly FAILED the people of Europe and is not fit for purpose.
39    Most people believe in cooperation within Europe, but not in a European superstate ruled from Brussels, a country both disintegrating and vastly endebted.
40    The EU elite has completely destroyed the faith that many ordinary people had in the EU as primarily a “common market”.

My overall reaction to the EU elite and its management of the EU is as follows. (Please tick ONE box.)
A) In general I am very pleased with the EU leadership.
B) I am quite pleased, even if some things could be improved.
C) I don’t care much either way. They can get on with it as far as I’m concerned.
D) I am not very pleased with the way the EU is run.
E) I am very dissatisfied indeed about the way that my money is being spent.
F) It is such a corrupt, wasteful and undemocratic shambles that we have to abolish it up and start again. My country is certainly better off outside the EU AS IT IS CURRENTLY RUN. I am profoundly disappointed.
F) I am disgusted at the EU elite’s arrogance, incompetence, dishonesty and venality.

[NB.  If after reading the above, you really would like to submit your answers to the above questions to your local MP or MEP, then Chris has a form you may use that may be downloaded from here. Ed]

By Chris Snuggs