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.

The Science of Sticking to New Year Resolutions

By Anupum Pant

Wait a minute. Have you started listing your New Year resolutions four days before the New Year starts? If you are planning on sticking to New Year resolutions this year, simple science says, you probably shouldn’t be making lists now.

Let’s admit it, many among us have made the same resolution for the last 5 years. We are not alone. More than 90% of the people do not succeed in achieving their New year resolutions. But, does that mean there is no point in pledging for something good?
No! of course not. If it is good, it is always good to go ahead. Paying attention to simple science can help you this year.

Hyperbolic Discounting

The first thing to know before applying science to help you stick with your resolutions is the term Hyperbolic Discounting. It states that we show a preference for something that arrives sooner than later. To give you an example, think of these 2 separate choices:

1. You are trying to eat better to lose weight. Salad is good for you but you don’t like it.
Now, I offer you only one of these two things to eat – a box of fries or a bowl of healthy green salad. The catch is that you know that you have to decide now, but you will have to actually eat it on the same day, next month. In this case most people choose, healthy green salad for next month.

2. In a second test, can you guess what happens if I offer you the same choice again and you have to eat it right after you choose and not the next month? You are more likely to say french fries.

Hyperbolic Discounting: We show a preference for something that arrives sooner rather than later. In the second choice, the satisfaction from eating french fries comes instantly. While the good results of a healthy diet is a culmination of your efforts over several months. So, you tend to choose the food item that gives you quick satisfaction. In other words, we need instant gratification.

The best way to illustrate this would be this TED talk where Silvia Barcellos talks about The Marshmallow Test and why we want instant gratification.

Real world example: If you are trying to quit smoking, you must have decided to add it to your list of resolutions for the next year. Later, when your friends ask you out for a New Year’s party, there is a great chance that you’ve already entered 2014 and are still smoking away packs. Technically, you have missed on the first day.
You chose instant satisfaction – partying – over your long-term goal of quitting cigarettes.

To avoid this

To avoid this, it is suggested that you either make lists just before you are going to start doing it. In this case, do it [making list] on Jan 31, 2359 hours. But you’ll be partying at that time. So, you could make lists now and start doing it right away.

In short, do not procrastinate. Things that are far, look smaller from where you stand. Bring your goals nearer to see how big they actually are.

Read more at [You are Not So Smart]

Some other common advice to keep in mind

  • Have just one or two very specific resolutions.
  • Pledge to include tiny habits in your everyday lives. Don’t have huge goals.
  • Use triggers.
  • Communicate your end goals to the greatest number of people you can in your social circle.
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