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Dogs notice when computer animations violate Newton's laws of physics

New Scientist

When 3D animated balls on a computer screen defy certain laws of physics, dogs act in a way that suggests they feel like their eyes are deceiving them. Pet dogs stare for longer and their pupils widen if virtual balls start rolling on their own rather than being set in motion by a collision with another ball. This suggests that the animals are surprised that the balls didn't move the way they had expected them to, says Christoph Völter at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. "This is the starting point for learning," says Völter. "You have expectations about the environment – regularities in your environment that are connected to physics – and then something happens that doesn't fit. And now you pay attention. And now you try to see what's going on."


Wild cockatoos can make utensils out of branches to open fruit stones, study shows

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Cockatoos living in the wild are able to make utensils like a knife and spoon out of tree branches that they can then use to open fruit stones, scientists have found. A few individual Goffin's cockatoos living on Indonesia's Tanimbar Islands were witnessed making use of three different types of tools to get seeds. Goffin's cockatoos are remarkable for their inquisitiveness as well as their sophisticated object manipulation, according to the Austrian researchers. The team from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna found the birds would whittle tree branches into utensils, perfect for digging into the seed-heavy pits and stones of the toxic to humans sea mango fruit. Lead author Mark O'Hara says this is the first time scientists have witnessed wild, non-primate animals making and using tools, especially multiple tools for one task.


Dogs go through a 'stroppy teenage phase'

Daily Mail - Science & tech

We all know how difficult, distracted and stroppy some teenagers can be. Now, new research has shown that dogs go through a similar'teenage' growing-up phase when they hit 8 months. The discovery comes after owners of hundreds of dogs that were tracked as they grew up reported'adolescent' behaviour at eight months. Teenagers can be difficult, distracted and stroppy. The research was aimed at spotting those that would be suitable for training as guide dogs.


Dogs' brains are not hardwired to respond to human faces, study reveals

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Researchers found that our furry friends' brains are not hardwired to focus on human faces, but respond with more excitement when an animal of the same species is in view. Using an MRI machine, the team monitor brain activity in both humans and dogs as they watched two-second videos that displayed dog and human faces and the backs of heads. The results from the animals showed that no part of their brains responded more to faces, but researchers note that the reason dogs pay attention to human faces is because they evolved to depend on their owners. Researchers found that our furry friends' brains are not hardwired to focus on human faces, but respond with more excitement when an animal of the same species is in view. The study was conducted by a team of Hungary- and Mexico-based researchers, who worked together to compare how dog and human brains process visual information.


Experts train border collie to learn the name of 90 different toys and fetch them on request

Daily Mail - Science & tech

The clever canine has learned to differentiate between balls, Frisbees, rings, or ropes -- and can even categorise new toys into these groups. When the researchers first met Whisky, she already knew the name of 59 toys, but her owners say that she has now learnt around 31 more. Whisky may have a little way to go before she breaks the all-time record for the cleverest dog, however. Fellow border collie Chaser, of South Carolina -- who was owned by psychologist John Pilley -- is said to have learnt more than 1,000 words before she died last year. 'At first it was hard for me to believe that a dog learned the name of so many toys, but after several days of rigorous testing, I had to change my mind,' says Claudia Fugazza of the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary.