Monday, February 18, 2013

Unexplained Powers of Animals

Happy Family Day, Ontarioans!  Today is a statutory holiday in my home province of Ontario.  I am celebrating Family Day by avoiding all contact with my family.  Just kidding.  Mostly.

Thanks to all of you who left messages of sympathy and good will in response to my pathetic illness posts.  If you have been praying for me and/or sending healthy thoughts my way, it's definitely helping.  That, and the pretty, pink antibiotic pills that I finally started taking on Friday.

I can tell exactly how the antibiotic functions.  It's a marvel of simplicity.  It's actually just a high-powered sedative for all living things.  It has made everything in my body, including the virus, so tired that all we (the virus and I) want to do is lie around and vegetate.  I did manage to rouse myself for some board games with friends this weekend (we all felt that I must be past the infectious stage by now) but I played rather badly.  This time I blame it on the antibiotic.  (I'll have to come up with a new excuse for next time.)

In my more alert moments, I've been keeping myself busy reading a book by Rupert Sheldrake; Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home: and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals.  It was published in 1999, so I thought it might be a bit out of date, but apparently scientists still can't explain in detail the mechanisms of bird migration and/or animal homing instincts, so the book basically still stands.

I was alternately impressed and saddened by reading about experiments testing the abilities of homing pigeons.

"The theory... that the birds remember the twists and turns of the outward journey has been refuted by taking pigeons to an unfamiliar point of release in dark vans, within rotating containers, by devious routes.  When they are released, they fly straight home

"The theory that they rely on familiar landmarks has also been ruled out. ...  [I]n experiments carried out in the 1970's, pigeons were even temporarily blinded by being fitted with frosted glass contact lenses.  They still found their way home over great distances, although they tended to crash into trees or wires very near their loft.  They had to be able to see in order to land properly."

(Poor pigeons!) :-(

"The theory that pigeons smell their home from hundreds of miles away, even when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, seems extremely implausible.  Nevertheless, it has been tested in a variety of ways.  In most of these experiments, the pigeons could still find their way home even if their nostrils were blocked up with wax, their olfactory nerves severed, or their olfactory mucosa anesthetized."

I would like to take a moment to remember the brave suffering of all the innocent homing pigeons who were trapped for lengthy drives in rotating drums, blinded with contact lenses, and had their sense of smell removed in the name of science.  They got home anyway!  Go pigeons go!

Alright.  Back to vegetating.


Jenski said...

I have to say that thinking of pigeons hitting trees when they try to land hit me kinda funny. As long as they were just temporarily stunned...

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Impressive birds... I can imagine me in a past life as a homing pigeon except that the scientists would try to explain why that one pigeon would keep finding bacon no matter where it was released... hmmm....

DarcKnyt said...

Despite the comedic factor, I am against the harming of pigeons for scientific experimentation.

And, squab disgusts me too, so there are no good reasons for harming pigeons unless they've done the dirty rat-bird thing to your car.

Then it's okay to run 'em down if you get the chance.

My ex-wife's late father used to raise racing pigeons before I met her. They're really fascinating!

Glad you're on the upswing, Spark.

Lynn said...

I heard from another Canadian friend this morning about Family Day. Y'all have so many holidays there, I'm ready to move.

Pigeons are fascinating. :)

Granny Annie said...

It is amazing what animals can sense. Homing Pigeon have always been a desired passion of mine. I intend to learn enough to raise a few someday. I would also like to be a bee keeper. Glad you are on the mend.

Jameil said...

Poor pigeons. Even though I hate pigeons. Filthy animals.

But I really got stuck on Family Day. I don't understand it at all and wikipedia wasn't helpful. It seemed like the reason for family day is achieved on Thanksgiving & Christmas and Easter for some people. Please do a post about it.

Sparkling Red said...

Jenski: I also hope that no pigeons were permanently injured or psychologically traumatized as a result of these experiments.

Ron: You could always hope to be reincarnated as a bacon-homing pigeon.

DarcKnyt: I would love to have a pet pigeon. They seem to be quite gentle, good-natured birds, despite all the pooping.

Lynn: You're welcome to move on up here anytime! I'll teach you the words to the national anthem in both official languages.

Granny Annie: Hmm, I think if it came down to a choice between keeping homing pigeons or keeping bees, bees would probably win, on account of honey is so tasty.

Jameil: My understanding of Family Day is that the governmental powers that be decided that we could all use an extra statutory holiday in between New Year's Day and Easter and so they cooked up the idea of Family Day because they thought it sounded like good branding. Also, we already have a stat holiday in August that is lamely named "Civic Holiday". I suppose the other options were things like "Random Day Off", "Extra Sleep-in Day", or "Provincial Day of Mid-Winter Laziness".

DarcsFalcon said...

I had no idea so many pigeons had been tortured for science. That's kind of sad, even though I'm not a pigeon fan.

I hope you're fully recovered now!

Tracy Moore said...

We humans are amazingly cruel in our quest to understand why! Poor pigeons. That's sad.

Just reading about you being sick. Sorry I missed the original posts or I would have wished you well much sooner. Hope that you're all recovered Spark. <3