Birds Do It, Bees Do It, even Educated Priests Do It

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
It? Quantum physics and art mavens that is. Hmmm, maybe they can even do Information Technology.

... But according to an increasingly popular theory, birds and other animals use a radical pair-based compass to "see" the Earth's magnetic field, allowing them to undertake great migrations and daring rescues without getting lost. It's still unproven, but Kattnig and his colleagues just verified a key component: In a study in the New Journal of Physics on Thursday, they report that the timing of these subatomic interactions makes them a good candidate to explain avian navigation.

From the parent link:

... According to Martinho and Kacelnik, previous studies have found that other animals, such as primates and crows, can understand these concepts. But they have to be taught.

“To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a non-human organism learning to discriminate between abstract relational concepts without any reinforcement training,” Kacelnik said in a statement.

[Why don't birds get lost? They may have mastered quantum mechanics.]

It's an impressive ability, Martinho added, but it also makes biological sense that ducklings would have it.

"Ducks walk, swim and fly and are constantly changing their exact shape and appearance as they extend their wings or become partially submerged. … If the ducklings just had a visual 'snapshot' of their mother, they would lose her," he said. "They need to be able to flexibly and reliably identify her, and a library of concepts and characteristics describing her is a much more efficient way to do so, compared with a visual memory of every possible configuration of the mother and her environment."

Wasserman has said abstract thinking is far more widespread in the animal kingdom than we give other creatures credit for. He has done research with rats showing they're capable of learning to understand sameness and difference and with crows suggesting they can be taught to match stimuli by color, shape and number of objects. Other examples are mounting: In one study, honeybees were taught to distinguish between paintings by Monet and Picasso.

“Our research and others suggest abstract concepts, as tools for thought, are not a luxury,” Martinho told PBS. “A lot of vertebrates are going to need them if they’re going to have a flexible, robust understanding of the world around them.”
From the famous Kongos song:

Birds do it, bees do it
Gotta a feeling even priests do it