Thursday, September 6, 2007

446 Chapter 2 447 Frogs in Hot Water: A Myth?

Message no. 446[Branch from no. 407] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 3:01pm Subject: Re: Chapter 2 -Varshawn

Thanks for jumping in and explaining in such great and clear detail Pat! That's teamwork!! And Varshawn, please never worry about asking questions -- all questions are good and legitimate, and as you can see, if I am unable to get on line to answer, we have such great crewmates like Pat who are ready to help. Working this way, with such a supportive environment to influence the psychology of our behavior, we should all catch up just fine!

I agree with Pat -- working in Microsoft Word is much safer, then cut and paste into the discussion. Now if only I could follow my own advice!!! :)

Message no. 447[Branch from no. 399] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 3:24pm Subject: Re: relational summary 3

Great job, Michelle! You are not only now seeing how this field of study is helpful and relates to you, but you are doing a great job of summarizing those insights! I was particularly taken by your description of how the cone disturbed your kitten's cognitive map! What does this tell us about how the cat build's its environmental images? Could the cone disturb peripheral vision and does this tell us that this is one of the key providers of environmental cues? Or could the cone interfere with smell, or hearing? How would we figure this out?

Once, when I was in Guatemala, I visited a friend who had a young Jaguar that he had rescued when its mother had been killed by a poacher. By the time I visited the jaguar was the size of a dalmatian dog, and just getting to the age where it could begin to get dangerous. It had been raised by my friend, so was very loving, but it was strong enough to knock me down, which it loved to do. Fortunately for me, but not for the jaguar, it had acquired a skin disease and so it had a cone around its neck to prevent scratching. This also made it unable to bite (the cone would get in the way!). I don't know if it would have bitten me, but it was getting so big, really too big to be a "house cat", that I was glad that when we played it couldn't accidentally tear my throat out. I don't know if the cone interfered with its sense of direction or not, but you've made me wonder.

Shortly after I left, the jaguar was released back into the jungle since it was getting to big to be safe. Unfortunately it was later shot because it had no fear of people. Ah, the dilemmas of human encroachment on the wilderness! What shall we do?

Sometimes I think the only answer is to domesticate EVERYTHING. Notice that we allow huge formerly ferocious animals to roam our bedrooms (cats and dogs), and in many parts of the world people live in close contact with horses, goats, cows, sheep and even elephants. This is because they have been domesticated. They may not be the "proud" wild and free animals that we like to envision as symbols of freedom and independence, but at least they are in no danger or extinction. Maybe the trade off for survival is that all the "wild animals" need to be integrated into our human environment, even if it means that only the "gentler" and more "dependent" versions of the population will be allowed to live.

For more on this, see the book, The Covenant of the Wild: Why Animals Chose Domestication by Stephen Budiansky (you can read the review here:

Michelle, I also liked your comments on habituation. Have you heard of the metaphor that the reason that people aren't responding to global warming is because it isn't heating up fast enough, as though we were frogs in a pot of water being raised one degree every 10 minutes? They say that a frog's nervous system is too primitive to notice slow changes and that it will boil to death if you raise the water temperature one degree every ten minutes because it never notices a large enough change to make it jump out.

I sincerely doubt this is a true story, because I have never heard of anybody actually conducting the experiment. I tend to think there is a critical switch point at which neurons fire because cells cannot tolerate certain temperature extremes. I think that regardless of how slowly you raise the temperature, when it gets to be around 40 degrees celsius the animal will react because of the physics and chemistry of the water inside the cells.

Similarly, there are threshholds over which I think we will all notice change, no matter how habituated we are or how incremental the change is after that. But determining those thresholds is a matter for experimentation!

Thanks for writing with such enthusiasm and interest!

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