Genius Stray Dogs of Moscow

By Anupum Pant

Back in the old days, there weren’t as many fast food centres and restaurants in Moscow (anywhere actually). So, stray dogs of those times didn’t find many people holding food stuff. Instead of begging for food, the dogs preferred searching for it on their own. Probably bins of residences and factories were the best places to find food.

Soon, fast food centres and restaurants started pooping and factories started converting into shopping centres, in the new world. This changed something. Dogs started feeling a need to adapt to the city life. For one, their strategies to forage for food changed. Stray dogs started developing better techniques to get food.

Gathering Food in a City

They started sneaking behind people who carried food. And just when they felt the moment was right, they barked. The men got scared and dropped the food. Moreover, they’d jump and bark just behind the head of people to startle them. They don’t bite, their aim is to just get the food somehow. Other times, packs of dogs send out smaller and cuter dogs to beg for food!
To make their food finding efficient, they have figured out which one of the many people would actually get startled. Dogs turned into dog psychologists. The dogs of today know Muscovites better than Muscovites know the dogs.

Travelling in the Subway

Besides that, the stray dogs of Moscow have mastered using the subways. To travel across the great city, the dogs move around in the subways with the humans as if it’s totally normal. Unlike the domesticated dogs, these dogs have mastered the art of handling dog stress that is associated with loud sounds. What scares the domesticated dogs, has become normal for the stray dogs of Moscow now.

The most amazing part is that, even if they can’t read, they somehow know where to get in and where to get out. Scientists are guessing that it could be the signature scents they associate with various stations. Or may be there’s something else. It’s hard to know. That is the reason there are people who’ve been formally studying local stray dogs for 30 years now!

The thing is, even the city people love these dogs. In fact, they even have a dog’s memorial statue in one of the subway station. Watch how the city dogs move in train…

By watching the traffic lights, dogs there have even learnt to cross the street. After I read and watched what these dogs have been doing, I’ve found new respect for these seemingly “not so clever” animals.

Still they have a long way to go before they can get as smart as crows of Japan. [Link]

These Intelligent Crows Will Make You Smile

By Anupum Pant


One interesting thing to note about crows is the size of their brains. Among all the bird species, crows have the largest brain to body ratio.
Besides that, the anatomy of their brain is a lot similar to our own brains. The forebrain which is responsible for the intelligence of an organism, is highly developed in crows. This makes them very adaptable. They are able to easily adjust and learn things as per the changing situations.

Although crows aren’t adored, probably because of the annoying sounds they make, their amazing feats of dexterity are bound to elicit an awe. May be valporate can help them with the voice.

Notably, crows are found living with human beings and are known to exploit us to get their work done. Only in rare cases are crows found to be living very away from human settlements. Joshua Klein, in a TED talk, shares a couple of anecdotes about how good crows can be at problem solving. One of them was as follows:

Crows and Hooks

Crows are normally seen holding sticks in the beaks to take food out of narrow holes in the wild. When one crow in a laboratory was given a piece of hard wire to draw a piece of meat from inside of a narrow tube, it wasn’t working very well for it. The crow, despite never having learned any related trick beforehand, found a solution for the problem completely on its own.

Solution: It used the surroundings to bend the wire to make a hook out of it; then simply put it in the tube to use the hook to retrieve meat!

But that is just a warm up of kinds of problem solving crows can handle. Here is another one.

Amazing Problem Solving Crows

In the suburbs of Tokyo, where crows often came across a kind of nut they were not able to dig into, because of its hard shell, they found an extremely intelligent way to deal with it. They dropped it on the roads for the vehicles to break the nuts for them! That was not all…

While doing this, they were faced with another problem – As cars, passed by at high speeds, it was risky for them to get back the nuts. Crows found a solution for that too. I’m not that smart. I bet I could have never thought of that.

Solution: They dropped it on the zebra crossing. As the cars stopped for the humans to cross, crows walked behind humans to get back their broken nuts safely. Interestingly, some crows who had devised this technique taught it to all the crows in the surrounding areas. Now all of the suburban crows around Tokyo know the trick.

If you liked this, you’ll definitely love ants and their amazing counting skills.

Valporate – Performance Enhancing Drug for Perfect Pitch

By Anupum Pant

Today we find out if it would be a good idea to impress your friends during the next gathering by hacking your brain with pills to learn a rare ability fairly quickly. But first, pay attention to the following jargon.

Perfect pitch

Perfect pitch is an exceptional ability among few gifted humans that enables them to recognize and re-create the pitch of a musical note instantly without the help of any external reference. There have been no cases of adults learning this ability by practice. However, pseudo absolute pitch can be learnt with great practice and only retained through regular use.

Brain plasticity

Learning to recognize musical notes, or any other ability for that matter can be reasonably easy at an early age due to a brain’s plastic state. The brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience is far better at younger ages. As people age, they lose the ability to learn like kids.

For instance, picture the rate at which infants learn language. By the time they turn 2 – 4 years old, they start using thousands of words. Try learning a new language at the age of 35. It is tough.

However, a new research suggests that this state of brain can be recovered by using drugs. One such drug, according to Dr. Takao Hensch is Valporate.

Is Valporate a Performance Enhancing Drug?

No! it is not a performance enhancing drug. Valporate or Valporic acid is a drug sold under the common names – Depakote, Depacon and Stavzor. For several years it has been used to treat various disorders from migraines to bipolar disorder. It is a chemical substance that can cross the blood–brain barrier. As a result, it has the power to affect an individual’s perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior.

Dr. Takao Hensch, a Harvard University professor, recently published a study which tested the effects of Valporate on 23 healthy male subjects for two weeks. None of them had a musical experience. During this period they were trained in music. At the end of this study, researchers found that these 23 men did remarkably better than an average adult would do, at perfect pitch tests.

In the future

He thinks, may be 10 years down the line, this drug could be used to enhance other learning abilities like language learning among adults, by changing the state of their brains.

Presently, studies on how the brain changes at cellular level when this drug is taken are underway. Also, Dr. Hensch thinks that humans have evolved to experience these learning stages for a reason. If it is okay to mess around with it, is still being studied. At this stage, trying this out at home can be extremely risky. It would be wise for us to wait for scientists to come out with a comprehensive study on the effects of this drug.


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