The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Part A

Future Nature

— Prologue —

Life is circular. There is always a start — Birth, and there is always an end — Death. In between there are other circular activities, such as breathing for example, which is common to all life forms, from bacteria to palm trees, and from tiny worms to human beings. Finally, there is sleep, which is unique to a certain group of multicellular eukaryotic organisms — i.e. Animals.

Sleep is a recurring activity, usually occurring within a circadian (“of 24 hours”) rhythm. As humans, we know we get tired at night, lie down, close our eyes, stop moving, relax… and sleep. When asleep, we all enter alternating states of consciousness. We lose track of time and become rather indifferent to outer stimuli. Dreams may appear and go. And we may or may not remember them in the morning. Whatever the experience is for each individual, each night, our brain is a primary player in this phenomenon. By altering its own electrical patterns — what is known as Brain Waves — it controls behavior, alertness, and memory.

Transcranial Magnetic StimulationSimple observations tell us that animals sleep as well. We see our dogs and cats lie down, stationary, while their shut eyelids are rapidly twitching from side to side as they dream (about us perhaps). However, scientific research provides the evidence that simpler forms of animals, such as flies and worms, sleep as well — even if “sleep” is manifested differently with these species.

As technology advances more and more, we now have methods of controlling human brain waves, as a way to induce hypnosis-like states in patients or to facilitate concentration in people suffering from ADD. These machines work primarily via sound and light, although future versions could operate on the premise of magnetic waves. There is already an experimental method used in psychiatric hospitals, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which remotely affects a person’s brain patterns.

On the exciting applications of TMS (and other futuristic methods of brain-wave manipulation) on animals, come back for next week’s issue of… Future Nature.

TMS Picture by Revolution Health

Komodo Dragon Attacks European Divers

Komodo DragonFive divers in Indonesia got carried away and ended up staying a couple of nights at Mantaolan, on the island of Rinca off the Komodo National Park. The group went missing last Thursday and were found Saturday. During their brief stay at the home of the Large Komodo Dragon, Rinca island, they were apparently “checked out” by one of the local inhabitants. Which makes sense but never the less must have been a little nerve racking.

Frenchman Laurent Pinel, 31, said the group had to fight off one dragon with rocks and scavenged for shellfish as they waited to be rescued, Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.
“On the beach a Komodo dragon came amongst us [Friday] afternoon,” Pinel said, describing how the group had to pelt the dangerous reptile with rocks to scare it away.
“We had nothing to eat. We ate some kind of mussels scraped from the rocks,” Pinel told the newspaper.

Here’s hoping the Komodo Dragon is okay..

Environmental Promises – Kiki’s Turn

We at Natural Buy have decided to sponsor our very own candidate for presidency. His name is Kiki, and he’s very environmentally-aware. The picture below was taken during a photo op, in which Kiki restated his commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 60% before 2015!

Kiki 2008

Another major theme in Kiki’s political platform is his firm stance on the promotion of organic lifestyle throughout America. Kiki makes sure to set a personal example, consuming only naturally-grown Bananas, and using no plastic bags at all. He is an avid user of perishable clothes, and aims to legalize the consumption of hemp — believing it would foster World Peace.

I urge you to vote Kiki this November. Together we can make a change. Yes, we can change!

Dr. Dolittle’s Science

We are not alone in the universe. And no, I’m not talking X-Files.

Future Nature

Mankind always had to share this Earth with countless species of animals. From cockroaches to dogs and giant squids, we had to learn how to get along with, and how to use them for our own needs. For many millennia, humans raised cattle, domesticated cats, and mounted horses with saddles. We were godlike, and they were our servants, expandable and brainless. Then, one day a man named Darwin got up and claimed that humans are but animals themselves!

By now, we all know that animals have intelligence; animals feel pain and joy; animals have social structures and personal identities; and animals even communicate with each other via complex linguistic methods. Animals such as ants communicate via their sense of smell, while squids change their skin color to communicate with their fellow molluscs. But the most fascinating research, in my opinion, is the one focusing on the auditory patterns of such species as whales and elephants.

Both marine mammals and elephants are highly social creatures. Elephants bury and mourn their dead, while dolphins procreate for the sake of pure enjoyment. Communication-wise, elephants can broadcast low-frequency vibrations to a great distance, while whales and dolphins use sonar waves to broadcast unique whistles beneath the water. For many years, science has been trying to decipher their languages.

Can Monkeys Use Language

However, we have been able to communicate directly with certain primates. Chimpanzees in captivity were taught the American Sign Language, and were even able to exchange this knowledge with their offsprings. These delicate and furry creatures proved themselves to be intelligent sentient beings.

As scientific research marches forward, and technological breakthroughs are a common sight, it wouldn’t be long before we could ask our dog “where it hurts”. In fact, many animal psychologists claim to do this sort of thing on a daily basis — Although I’m talking about something much more fundamental here. Imagine having a Canine Dictionary, or a miniature device that translates a cat’s meows into meaningful units of information.

These developments, yet to come, would raise serious ethical issues. Will we see the day when a dog is given legal representation, or circus gorillas form a labour union?