Later On

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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

What texting does to the spine

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Texting

By all means, read (and heed) the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2014 at 1:43 pm

Got Milk? Might Not Be Doing You Much Good

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Since we started the low-carb, high-fat mode of eating, we have had little dairy. The Wife likes a small bowl of yogurt in the evening, and I like to have sour cream (and heavy cream) on hand for cooking, and butter is still used, but the daily drinking of glasses of milk has vanished altogether.

And now Aaron Carroll notes in the NY Times that we’re not missing much:

Almost no one will dispute that when a baby is born, breast milk is the best nutrition a mother can provide. All mammals nurse their young, and breast milk benefits a newborn infant in ways above and beyond nutrition. In fact, until 1 to 2 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine and more promote breast-feeding as optimal.

Unfortunately, breast-feeding until that age is often difficult, if not impossible, because mothers have to return to work, and children go off to preschool or day care. So we often replace human milk with the milk of cows or other animals. But at a certain point, we have to acknowledge that we are the only mammals on the planet that continue to consume milk after childhood, often in great amounts.

More and more evidence is surfacing, however, that milk consumption may not only be unhelpful, it might also be detrimental. This is in spite of the fact that the United States Department of Agriculture and other organizations advocate that even adults should drink at least three cups a day.

More than 10,000 years ago, when human beings began to domesticate animals, no adults or older children consumed milk. Many people don’t drink it today because they are lactose intolerant. They do just fine.

But if you believe the advertising of the dairy industry, and the recommendations of many scientific bodies, they are missing out on some fantastic benefits to milk consumption: that milk is good for bones, contains calcium and vitamin D, and “does a body good.”

There’s not a lot of evidence for such claims.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2014 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Business, Food, Health, Science

Are psychologists more open to learning that leads to behavioral change? Because they’re looking at their participation in torture.

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Interesting (if belated) step, reported in The Intercept by Cora Currier:

The top professional organization for psychologists is launching an independent investigation over how it may have sanctioned the brutal interrogation methods used against terror suspects by the Bush administration. The American Psychological Association announced this week that it has tapped an unaffiliated lawyer, David Hoffman, to lead the review. [Good: Not self-policing, which never, ever works. - LG]

In 2002, the American Psychological Association (APA) revised its code of ethics to allow practitioners to follow the “governing legal authority” in situations that seemed at odds with their duties as health professionals. Many argue that the revision, as well as a task force report in 2005 that affirmed that the code allowed psychologists to participate in national security interrogations, gave the Bush administration critical legal cover for torture.

The APA has since removed the just-following-orders excuse from their code, disavowed the 2005 report, and gone to lengths to distance themselves from the controversy.

But it reopened last month, when New York Times reporter James Risen’s book “Pay Any Price” revealed e-mails from the files of a deceased CIA contractor, Scott Gerwehr, showing close contact between the intelligence establishment and leadership at the APA. The emails centered particularly on the 2005 report and suggested that members of the Bush Administration were involved in its conception and drafting.

Nathaniel Raymond, a human rights researcher who also had access to Gerwehr’s emails, told The Intercept in October that he had submitted the emails to the FBI as evidence of criminal racketeering. A law enforcement official confirmed to The Intercept that the FBI in Washington had reviewed Raymond’s materials, but “did not find any criminal violations.” Raymond, who previously directed the Campaign Against Torture at Physicians for Human Rights, called the review a “positive first step” and said that he would share his complaint and any other information with Hoffman. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2014 at 2:42 pm

Why the NRA opposes gun research: It undermines some articles of faith

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As with any religion, there are statements that are simply to be accepted, and adherents strongly resist efforts to determine whether such statements are in fact true, or not.

One statement of that faith is that an armed citizenry deters criminals. The thinking is that a person is less likely to be attacked if the attacker fears the person is armed, and a house is less likely to be broken into if the homeowner is likely to be armed. With that article of faith, it makes sense to try to ensure that every citizen is armed—and doubtless dangerous. Indeed, the whole picture makes sense, so we certainly feel sure in our expectations.

I have, however, learned how frequently expectations are contradicted by experience, and how, despite making sense, some expectations turn out to be flat wrong when we actually try it. (Shaving analogies abound.)

And is that above—an armed citizenry is a safe citiznry—in fact true, when we look at experience rather than the argument? Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

“More guns, less crime” – surely you’ve heard this mantra before? There’s even an entire book devoted to it. As Emily Badger noted awhile back, it has become a staple of our national gun control debate: “The idea that more guns lead to less crime appears on gun policy ‘fact sheets,’ as evidence debunking gun control ‘myths,’ in congressional committee reports.”

The notion stems from a paper published in 1997 by economists John Lott and David Mustard, who looked at county-level crime data from 1977 to 1992 and concluded that “allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths.” Of course, the study of gun crime has advanced significantly since then (no thanks to Congress). Some researchers have gone so far as to call Lott and Mustard’s original study “completely discredited.

One of the major critiques of the study came from the National Research Council, which in 2004 extended the data through the year 2000 and ultimately concluded that “with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates.” Or in other words, “More guns, less crime?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

Now, Stanford law professor John Donohue and his colleagues have added another full decade to the analysis, extending it through 2010, and have concluded that the opposite of Lott and Mustard’s original conclusion is true: more guns equal more crime.

“The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates” of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder, Donohue said in an interview with the Stanford Report. The evidence suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with an 8 percent increase in the incidence of aggravated assault, according to Donohue. He says this number is likely a floor, and that some statistical methods show an increase of 33 percent in aggravated assaults involving a firearm after the passage of right-to-carry laws.

These findings build on and strengthen the conclusions of Donohue’s earlier research, which only used data through 2006. In addition to having nearly two decades’ worth of additional data to work with, Donohue’s findings also improve upon Lott and Mustard’s research by using a variety of different statistical models, as well as controlling for a number of confounding factors, like the crack epidemic of the early 1990s.

These new findings are strong. But there’s rarely such a thing as a slam-dunk in social science research. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2014 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Guns, Science

The Dunning-Kruger Effect explored: 7 Lessons About Human Ignorance From David Dunning’s Reddit AMA

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The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a type of self-deception that particularly seems to afflict well-educated and successful people, who imagine that their mastery of one facet of human activity and knowledge extends to pretty much everything they examine. They casually make confident judgments in areas in which they are ignorant, and their confidence stems from the fact that they are so ignorant that they cannot even grasp how ignorant and ill-informed they are. If they are surrounded by their peers—people who work in the same field of knowledge as they, and who thus respect their ideas (in the field)—then their pronouncements are often accorded attention and respect, even though they may resemble in essence the ramblings of the village idiot, similarly uninformed and confident, but less likely to be believed.

Oddly enough, in the specific area of a person’s knowledge, expertise, and experience, they are often much less confident, because in those areas they are painfully aware of how much they do not know, of problems still unsolved, and the like. (And unfortunately, we tend to value the opinion of the confident though ignorant witness over the unconfident expert—a point well made in Winning Decisions, by Russo & Schoemaker. We trust confidence, but confidence along warrants no trust.)

The phenomenon of self-deception is fascinating and has attracted scientific study, and in many cases the deception’s purpose is self-protection, by avoiding (conscious) knowledge of painful truths. I highly (and repeatedly) recommend Daniel Goleman’s excellent (and interesting) book Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception. (At the link, secondhand copies for $1.)

Dunning had a Reddit Ask Me Anything that was quite successful, and Pacific Standard extracted from it 7 key facts, beginning with “By definition, you can’t know when you’re a victim of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.” Well worth reading (and pondering).

I fell into the Dunning-Kruger effect recently, though not so spectacularly as Tim Jenison and Penn Gillette did. They made a documentary of Tim’s “discovery” of how Vermeer painted his photo-realistic paintings—”Girl with a Pearl Earring,” for example, or more famously, “The Music Lesson,” the painting replicated in the documentary. But Tim Jenison, an inventor, has no knowledge at all in art (he said it took him 30 minutes to learn how best to use the brush), and Penn Gillette’s expertise is in prestidigitation, not art. And my own background includes no real education or experience in the making of art.

However, Jenison and Gillette are well-recognized for their knowledge and expertise in other fields, and they are confident, knowledgeable people—the very people most prone to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and they fall headlong into it with their documentary, Tim’s Vermeer.

Here’s a viewer’s review from the one-star reviews on Amazon:

The most accurate and important review of this movie was made by the Academy Award committee who decided it was not worthy of Academy Award , much less even for a final nomination.

Tim did not solve any mysteries regarding how Vermeer painted. It has been known for centuries that Vermeer did use lenses and optics, and it is not cheating to use those tools. Without a doubt, Vermeer did not paint with anything even resembling Tim’s gizmo.

VERMEER DID NOT USE TIM’ S DEVICE TO PAINT

Here is the proof.

1. On Google ( images) type in ‘ Monet’s Haystack Paintings’. This series of Monet paintings show how living light changes minute by minute, not to mention hourly and seasonally. Monet changed his canvas every half hour to hour, as the lights, the colors, the values and chroma would change -as the sun rose and set. No one, not even MONET and certainly not TIM with his gizmo, can paint fast enough to record living changing light. If you disagree with this, then you may as well not read the other reasons I will list. I shake my head at even thinking of Tim in the French countryside, painting the haystacks with his ” mirror on a stick, comparator device”. Those who believe he could do it … have been fooled.

2. Vermeer did not faithfully copy living changing light. Not in his interior scenes and not in his outdoor scenes. The magic you see in his paintings is a ‘ creative construct’, like all the masterpieces of all the great Masters. Personal choices in colors, values, composition and paint application, carefully, lovingly, thoughtfully decided, painted, then changed, rethought and repainted again and again and again, until it was exactly ” right” – as his mind wanted it to be.

3. Vermeer painted exactly as Rembrandt painted, beginning with a brown or muted underpainting color ( called the dead color) to establish the composition. On this structure, he applied glazes for transparency, scumbles for translucent optical grays, and impasto for opacity. Every great Master of his era used this method, based on over 200 years of tradition. This method gives their paintings the magic of color and light we see in their paintings, and respond to aesthetically.

4. X-rays by the National Gallery, of ” The Girl with the Pearl Earring” prove his use of a flat dark brown under painting. This proves Tim’s device was not used.

5. David Hockney, in the year 2000, 13 years before this movie, published his book, Secret knowledge’. It proves without any doubt that many of the a Great Old Masters, 250 years before Vermeer was born, perfected the use of mirrors and optical lenses to paint photographic looking paintings. Professor Philip Steadman, published his landmark book in 2000, proving without a shadow of a doubt, that Vermeer used the Camara Obscura.

6. Vermeer used the Camara Obscura like others of his era. With this crude camera, he was able to trace and copy the verisimilitude of nature of an optical projection – exactly like a camera. It would be foolish to outline this verisimilitude, but he could easily paint it with a brown monotone. He painted a monotone because no one can paint accurate colors in the dark. Once his monotone (dead color) was completed, he then painted with colors in studio lighting.

7. There is no question, Vermeer completed his final coloring from both, direct observation of the model and from copying values and colors from a 2 mirror set up. A mirror flattens the colors and values nature’s colors and values.

8. Vermeer had a traditional ‘ light meter’ to gauge variations in values and colors. This dry ” value scale” of ten to 12 values or more, was used by placing it next to the image reflected in the 2nd mirror.

9. Vermeer had access to a ‘ wet controlled palette’, a premixed wet color palette in separate value scales of his primary colors as well as black to white. Many artists today, painting in a realism style still use that ancient method.

10. Vermeer and all the Masters applied an “oil out” as they painted. This kept the colors saturated so new color values could be accurately judged. It is impossible to gauge color values without an “oil out”. Some artists call it a ‘ retouch”. When the Old masters’ painting was finished, it was glossy and had lustrous color depth, and no need for varnish. Both Penn and Tim described their finished painting as chalky and matte. To saturate the colors, Tim varnished it. The Old Masters did not varnish their paintings until the paint cured sufficiently, normally 6 to 12 months later, and it was strictly for protection of the paint, not for saturation of color.

11. If I have not yet convinced you, then imagine this. Imagine TIM overlooking the City of Delft, with his gizmo in place. Imagine him trying to copy the living changing lights and colors of the buildings as the North Sea dark clouds overhead steam by. Buildings are cast into deep shadows while those next to them are in brilliant lighting, only to change in a light flash. See the sparkling reflections of the water, reflecting onto the ships, twinkling and flashing changes of sparkling lights. The thought of any mechanical ” color swatch match” device being able to do this is laughable. BUT , VERMEER did it …. But not with a gizmo comparator device.

CONCLUSION : If I have not fully convinced you, then see a REAL documentary on how Vermeer actually painted, it is the 2009 film, ” Vermeer: Master of Light” by the National Gallery of Art. (It is free on YOUTUBE). It is not as ” entertaining” as Tim’s, Teller’s and Penn’s Hollywood movie, with his daughter in an armature evoking viewer sentimental reaction ( Vermeer used mannequins) . Nor does it have silly comments such as , ” some say he is the greatest artist that ever lived.”.

The National Gallery Documentary, is a well made and accurate scholarly research study.

PART TWO. The first part of my review (above) was written after I saw the film at the theater in January. In June, bought the DVD download version when released . By viewing the movie on an IPAD, one can stop the film to examine it. These are the key points proving Vermeer did not use Tim’s gadget to paint with.

1. Tim and Penn state that Vermeer drew no lines and that x-rays prove no lines are under the oil paint. Scientific x-rays confirm this. YET…stopping the film with an IPAD, lets us see the extensive outline drawing on the Masonite wood panel before Tim begins to paint. This very careful outline drawing shows the architecture of the room, the mirror and painting on the back wall, windows and their glass design, the virginal, floor tiles, furniture, rug, plus many other things, ALL IN OUTLINE DETAIL. Like a paint by number oil painting set for kids. At no time in the film, is there an explanation WHY the under drawing was put there, nor does the film show HOW the drawing was done. It appears to be a tracing from a color reproduction of a color photograph. We simply do not know! But we do know Vermeer did NOT draw any lines…..SO….why and how …did Tim?

2. The Van Eycks were born 200 years before Vermeer, and their paintings are even more photo realistic than those of Vermeer. In 2001, David Hockney’s book ” secret knowledge” eloquently proved they did this by using simple “projection ” optical lenses and mirrors 200 years before Vermeer was born. . Vermeer did not discover this knowledge..he learned it from the long tradition of their use . It is NOT Cheating to use these projection tools to trace reality and it’s verisimilitude. There is NO Vermeer secret, except that he was a genius who expressed his own aesthetic.

3. Tim and his gadget could never paint a view of Delft with his gadget. But, we know Vermeer did it. Imagine Tim overlooking the city of Delft with his Texas high tech studio in place. His trusty gadget in his hand. Hockney and Steadman are by his side. Now Tim begins to paint……with his gadget.

Overhead the North Sea winds blow dark clouds over the city of Delft! The church steeple INSTANTLY turns dark black , covered with shadows..but seconds later it is gleaming, bathed by brilliant light shafts……The people on the shore are walking to and fro, busy with their lives. Just as we see in Vermeer’s masterpiece.!!!

Suddenly, the ships hoist their anchors, the sails billow out with air, and the ships float away!!!!What will Tim do? Will he have everything stand still for five months? His gadget gizmo is a failure because it cannot copy the rapidly changing profound colors and lights and movements of living nature! Mother Nature stands still for no man…and not for Tim’s gadget! This is the absolute proof Vermeer did NOT use any mechanical gadget, gizmo, comparator device, to paint with

In the movie, Tim nailed the coffin on his gizmo when he stood in front of Vermeer’s ” View of Delft” painting in the Mauritshuis museum. Tim said, it looked like a Kodachrome slide. Kodachrome is a 20th century intense color, photographic medium. NOTHING in nature…and certainly not a view of Delft, is ever seen live with Kodachrome colors, appearing like a Kodachrome slide or photograph. This questions Tim’s claim…that Vermeer may have used a comparator device to EXACTLY COPY the colors of nature…Kodachrome colors that do not exist in nature!

4. At the beginning of the movie, the video camera zooms in within an inch of Vermeer’s original paintings. We see the great Master’s beautiful and sophisticated application of the oil paint. Vermeer’s paintings are truly stunning! It leaves us breathless and spellbound! For good reason his paintings are prized and are in the world’s great art museums. At the end of the movie, the film makers DO NOT DARE zoom in closely on the surface of Tim’s finished painting. They SHOULD have – and COULD have – placed magnified zoom details of both paintings side by side so we could COMPARE the Vermeer masterpiece with the “Tim-piece”. For good reasons, the public was never allowed to see it up close to examine it and compare it to the Vermeer.

5. Computer digital Video graphic artists do not use paint colors….they use colored light. Modern video graphics have an unending number of colors. Tim’s “compare” device can match colors that DO NOT MOVE, but it cannot match the living, moving profound changes of natures colors and daylight due to daylight changes of the day and season.
Vermeer and the Old Masters had very few colored paints, but by a sophisticated method of applying the paint, they painted highly realistic and photographic-like images. Vermeer …used an ancient artist’s VALUE FINDER to ” compare” the gradations of values and colors. It is simple to make. You draw ten squares in a line. Place pure black paint in one square and at the other end you put pure white paint.Then you carefully mix each square so it shows the subtle gradations of the grays ( values). Every Old Master knew how to use it. It is as effective as a modern light meter.

SUMMARY
Tim did NOT discover Vermeer’s secret because there is NO secret on how Vermeer painted his pictures. Vermeer’s paintings are the result of hard work combined with his genius. OF COURSE Vermeer used optical tools to help him with TRACING space, and perspective and verisimilitude….but he changed the colors and he changed the lights, and restructured the size and shape of objects in the composition. Yes, Vermeer created photographic looking paintings. BUT, Vermeer did not COPY an exact scene of what his optical tools projected. If it were possible to take a modern photo of Vermeer’s subject and then compare it with his final painting, the TWO would NOT look the same. A photo is a frozen moment of time…Vermeer’s paintings are a created construct by an artistic genius.

If you Google ( images) of “Monet’s Haystacks”, series, you will see the profound nuances of nature’s living changing colors and light. Beginning at sunrise Monet painted the same haystack throughout one day. Each hour he changed the canvas. Note how the colors, lighting, and the shadows change. Daybreak colors are muted and cool, early morning they become brighter and warm, at noon the colors are stark bright with dark contrasts, early afternoon colors become romantic, late afternoon they become bluish. Mother Nature holds still for no man ….and for no “comparator” gadget.

To see how Vermeer really painted , see the Youtube film TITLED: The madness of Vermeer: Secret lives of the artists. This 4 part series on Youtube is a scholarly documentary by the BBC. The information in this documentary PROVES Vermeer did not use a ” comparator mirror” device to ” color swatch match” the constantly changing and profound colors and lights of Mother Nature. Tim’s movie reinforces that proof.

- Cordially, Louis R. Velasquez; Professional artist, age 70 , retired art teacher, publisher of books and DVDS on the methods and materials of the Old Masters.
PS: Several readers have encouraged the writing of my comments. I hope my comments are of help to others. I wish Tim, Penn, and Teller and their families the very best in life.

Thanks to reader Arne from Wisconsin for pointing out this splendid example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action: both the creators of the documentary and the enthusiastic watchers of the documentary are prime examples.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2014 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Movies, Science

The Art of Breeding ‘Super Bastard’ Chickens

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They are not so much “bastard” chickens—chickens don’t tend to marry, with the result that extra-marital eggs are the only eggs laid—but rather the opposite of “purebred”: instead of coming from a narrow gene pool, the chickens are deliberately bred from as broad an ancestry of modern chickens as possible: chickens from across the globe brought into the flock, as it were.

Whilst most breeders are trying to selectively breed chickens with a limited gene pool, Vanmechelen is doing the opposite. Starting with the cross-breeding of two purebred chickens (Mechelse Koekoek and Bresse), subsequent generations have been further bred with chickens sourced from across the globe—they contain “cosmopolitan genetic material.” The resulting chickens with an abnormally wide gene pool are “super bastards.” These are the opposite of pedigrees and they are sweeping the board with their genetic advantages.

He explains to me how he has proved, by DNA sequencing the 18th generation, that increased genetic diversity of the chickens has led to “an increased fertility and immunity three times greater than commonly bred chickens.” It is an important find, when the selective breeding and domestication of chickens has left them vulnerable to diseases that could wipe out whole populations. Vanmechelen is in consultation with chicken breeders around the world proposing alternatives. “Every organism is looking for another organism to survive, and the same applies to man and chicken,” he says.

The entire Motherboard article by Katharine Lewis is worth reading. It begins:

“This is not a chicken, it is absolutely a piece of art.” This is the announcement with which Koen Vanmechelen, conceptual artist and chicken breeder, begins a TEDx talk. He repeats it to me word for word in the chambers of the Crypt Gallery, deep beneath London’s St Pancras Church, where we stand before a giant photographic print of a chicken.

“What makes this art?” I ask him. He points to the metal ring around the bird’s leg. “That,” he explains. “Man’s intervention.” The chicken before me is not just any chicken; it is a 17th generation, “cosmopolitan” chicken, one of the hundreds Vanmechelen has been breeding over the last 20 years in The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. It contains a combination of DNA from chickens across the globe; it is unique, and of current scientific interest.

The exhibition Darwin’s Dream, running at the Crypt Gallery till mid December, is the latest instalment of his lifelong project. Koen has brought life, art, and science together within the caverns: work includes a living jungle, giant prints, abstract sculptures, and ranks and ranks of taxidermy. It is an artistic documentation of a scientific process. . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2014 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Health, Science

The Mathematics of Herding Sheep

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From an article in Motherboard by Michael Byrne, a comparison of actual sheep-herding behavior (the data model on the left) and a computer algorithm developed to do herding:

The article begins:

Sheepdogs think algorithmically. Using just two fundamental rules, the dogs analyze the state of a given herd and determine the best action to take among a limited set of possibilities.

The resulting effectiveness is so astounding that a description of these dog algorithms could have profound uses in not just herding and livestock management, but in controlling crowds and even cleaning up the environment.

This is according to a new study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface describing a general algorithm derived from sheepdog/herd behaviors by which a single individual can influence the group behavior of a massive and unwilling crowd.

“Some of the most striking examples of this collective [swarm-like] behaviour occur in the presence of threat; when flocks, shoals and herds aggregate and evade their predators,” the authors, led by evolutionary biologist Andrew King, note.

This behavior is thought to be governed by a powerful theory called the “selfish herd.” First described in 1971 by the evolutionary biologist WD Hamilton, this theory explains the “gregarious” behavior of individuals in a herd under threat.

Simply, when a herd member perceives themselves to be in danger, they tend to seek cover, pushing as deeply into the herd as possible. As a whole, this tendancy acts as a centripetal force, pulling the herd inward on itself into a vortex of increasingly dense states. This persists until the threat is gone.

Sheepdogs know all about selfish herds and they utilize this knowledge to accomplish herding tasks beyond the capabilities of human shepherds. “But herding of larger groups (more than 40 individuals) typically requires multiple shepherds,” the authors write. “However, single sheep dogs can successfully herd flocks of 80 or more sheep both in their everyday work and in competitive herding trials.”

They do this via the aforementioned two simple rules. When sheep become dispersed beyond a certain point, dogs put their effort into rounding them up, reintroducing predatory pressure into the herd, which responds according to selfish herd principles, bunching tightly into a more cohesive unit.

With that accomplished, moving the herd from place to place once again becomes efficient. Simply, if all of the sheep (“flocking agents”) are within a certain radius of the herd’s center, the sheepdog aims in the driving direction; if this is not the case, the sheepdog aims for the sheep that’s the furthest away from this center. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2014 at 10:01 am

Posted in Science

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