What the Hell is Going on in the World? LINKS 02/06/18



Is the magpie the world’s smartest bird?

Many sources that study animal intelligence scientifically (in contrast to just writing cheap, non-researched blog posts about it), will tell you that not only is the magpie the most intelligent bird known to them in all of the world, but also one of the 10 most intelligent living creatures on the planet.

The reason this is so is due to something called the “self-recognition test” — an examination that assesses an animal’s ability to recognize itself in the mirror. The test examines whether an animal in a species can detect colored dots on its own body while looking at itself in the mirror. Of all species know that can pass the test, the magpie is the only bird, and in fact, the only non-mammal. A Eurasian magpie was first observed cracking the test in 2008, making magpies the only organism that can accomplish this without having a neo-cortex as part of their brain.



New research on the scent of death:

If we could train blowflies to find lost bodies, there would never be another missing person, but they are surprisingly stubborn with the whole leash training thing. Instead, we have cadaver dogs. Hounds and retrievers have been used to search for human remains for centuries, but little science or specific training was applied. Often they were hunting dogs repurposed for search and rescue. Cadaver-sniffing dogs that are specially trained just to find bodies are relatively new; with the earliest schools going back to the 70s. While anecdotal evidence shows dogs finding bodies buried under meters of soil, concrete, and even under water, there is still the problem of false positives. Sometimes dogs indicate the scent of human remains when none are there, or they send the search party off track due to the scent of a dead rabbit in the woods. False positives have the potential to lead investigations astray or incriminate an innocent person. Drug or explosive-detecting dogs are trained to key in on a certain combination of volatile compounds that are relatively consistent and not usually found in nature.

New sensing equipment is being developed to detect human remains buried in soil by testing for ninhydrin-reactive nitrogen which accumulates in the headspace of grave soil. It is not detectable by humans, and it’s unclear if dogs can smell it in small doses. It is not impossible that within a few generations of this new device, research may have advanced to the point that equipment may be able to detect early chemical signals of human decomposition from the air, like the blowfly does, and be used in the field.



The dogs of Chernobyl:

After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Pripyat and the surrounding villages were abandoned, and residents were not allowed to take their pets to safety. Chernobyl Prayer, a devastating oral history of the period, tells of “dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages.” Heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors: “Don’t kill our Zhulka. She’s a good dog.” There was no mercy. Squads were sent in to shoot the animals. But some survived and it is mainly their descendants that populate the zone.



George Gallatin on why open borders are a bad idea:

Many elite Westerners have a passionate belief in diversity because they have lived it. Not always in their neighborhoods, but quite often at university. What they fail to realize is that a top-flight university offers a very narrow type of diversity. For example, in my university class we had over 50 nationalities. It was a wonderful experience, and I formed abiding friendships with people from all over the world. What I later realized, is that the social cohesion of my class was greatly assisted by the fact that the admissions office was a border. They had heavily screened the incoming class for intelligence, socialization, and personality characteristics. The relevant distinction wasn’t between the Tamil Brahmins and Tatar Russians, but between students and non-students. We were all members of a university created community, enjoying carefully curated luxury diversity.

Of the top ten most diverse countries in the world, every single one has suffered major, lethal political violence since 2001. Diversity is not some holy sacrament, it is a deadly serious socio-political challenge that needs to be prudently managed. It is a mistake to believe that unregulated mass migration will bring about redemption for guilty Westerners. For whatever economic benefits it may bring, it will also bring tribalism, disunity, and violence. And for those of you who think this isn’t a major issue or that the worst has passed, please note we are just in the opening act of this drama.



Jordan Greenhall on making sense of the world at this moment in time:

Power in the 20th Century was largely a balance between Energy and Innovation — this balance showed up in the form of Industrial might. Already in this Century, Innovation has begun to consume Energy and will continue to do so. Innovation will consume Energy, Military and Media — all of the foundations of 20th Century power. Even Food and Water will get swept up in the wave of accelerating change. Optimizing for Innovation is the crux of power in the 21st Century.

We live in a non-linear world. Stop thinking linearly.

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