Dirty secret? Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis say they don’t bathe themselves or their kids too much

August 2, 2021

It looks like the celebrity Kutcher-Kunis family is saving money on soap, CTV News reports.

When Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis appeared on an episode of Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast,  the talk turned to bathing. After Shepard told co-host Monica Padman that using soap every day rids the body of natural oils, Kutcher and Kunis agreed, saying they only wash vitals every day.

Padman was stunned to be in the daily full-body wash minority and asked, “Who taught you to not wash?”

“I didn’t have hot water growing up as a child so I didn’t shower very much anyway,” Kunis said.

That has apparently continued with her and Kutcher’s two kids, Wyatt, 6, and Dimitri, 4.

“I wasn’t that parent that bathed my newborns, ever,” Kunis said.

And now that the children are older, Kutcher said they have a system: “If you can see the dirt on them, clean them,” he said. “Otherwise, there’s no point.”

Kutcher said he does wash his “armpits and my crotch daily and nothing else ever,” and has a tendency to “throw some water on my face after a workout to get all the salts out.”

Kunis said she washes her face twice a day.

Research contact: @CTV

Cold snap: Iceland hotel seeks photographer to capture northern lights

July 30, 2021

Calling all adventure seekers! Hotel Rangá in Iceland is looking for a photographer to chase the northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, reports Good Morning America.

Hotel Rangá is located in the Icelandic countryside—far away from most light pollution. Temperatures typically average 40 degrees (C) to 50 degrees during the fall season, when the lights are at their peak in this area of the world.

This dream job consists of three weeks of chasing and capturing the lights from September to October. The photographer chosen for the job will be required to provide high-quality photos and videos, in order to receive all-expense-paid travel to and from Iceland.

According to GMA, the requirements also include giving the hotel “unlimited license to mutually agreed-upon photographs and videos.”

“In exchange for providing content of the northern lights at the hotel, this seasonal employee will receive free room and board along with access to the hotel‘s stargazing observatory and hot tubs, not to mention the opportunity to explore the photogenic land of fire and ice on their days off,” the hotel wrote on its website.

The lights can appear at any time of the night and the hotel even has a so-called “aurora wake-up service” so guests don’t miss the lights.

Interested photographers can apply for this dream job now at hotelranga.is/lights-catchers-wanted.

Research contact: @GMA

No bridezilla here: Woman’s lengthy, considerate wedding party survey gets rave reviews

July 29, 2021

In a world where bridezilla stories dominate headlines, there’s one bride-to-be who has won over TikTok with her considerate wedding planning process. Fox News reports.

Talia Morales, 29, began her wedding planning journey when she got engaged to her fiancé Eulalio Wolfe, 30, in June.

After throwing herself into full planning mode to meet their December 2021 wedding date, Morales went viral on TikTok for the thoughtful bridesmaid questionnaire she sent out to her wedding party through Google Forms—a free online survey platform.

In a four-part series she shared from her handle, @onemorwolf  on June 23, Morales showed her followers that Google Forms can help brides keep track of their bridal party’s comfort levels and preferences in a way that she feels is a more organized communication style than group chats.

For her four bridesmaids and maid of honor, Morales started off her form by greeting her bridal party and sharing details about her wedding theme and colors.

The form then goes on to ask for:

  • Each person’s name,
  • Where each bridesmaid wants to stay the night before the wedding,
  • Whether she wants her hair and makeup professionally done,
  • What she anticipates her bridesmaid dress budget to be, and
  • Her preferred style of dress and shoes.

“I consider myself to be organized and detailed, and I have used Google Forms many times for different tasks in the past,” Morales told Fox News, adding, “Now that I am wedding planning, those skills truly radiate. Planning a wedding is no easy task and the more organized, prepared, and detailed, the better.”

Other notable parts of her survey included inspiration photos and availability requests that can help determine scheduling for group dress shopping and pre-wedding events. 

Morales, who is from Texas, also provided an area where her bridesmaids can share ideas for a bachelorette party destination; and which dates and times would be ideal.

At the end, Morales included an open-ended section where her bridal party can voice questions, comments or concerns.

“I understand that each of my bridesmaids [has] a different budget, style, and schedule,” Morales wrote to Fox News. “They will be standing next to me on one of the most memorable days of my life. The least I can do is be mindful of their spending and their time.” 

From the responses she received, Morales was able to create a subsequent survey, where her bridesmaids could vote on the choices that were narrowed down from the previous Google Form.

When it comes down to how her bridal party felt about her inclusive questionnaires, Morales said, “Honestly, I could not have chosen a better group of girls. They are supportive and dependable, and I am truly blessed to have their friendship.”

In total, Morales’ videos have garnered more than 298,350 views and has inspired thousands of commenters.

“Thank you for doing this!! Your bridesmaids are so lucky,” one TikTok user commented.

Another user wrote, “This is exactly what every bride should do. This is really considerate of your [bridesmaids’] budget, time, & schedule.”

Research contact: @FoxNews

Why beekeeping is booming in New York: ‘A hive is a box of calm’

July 28, 2021

In April 2020, during the height of the pandemic in New York City, a delicate rescue mission took place.

Andrew Coté and three colleagues, wearing heavy-duty masks and gloves, rode an elevator, climbed two sets of stairs and struggled up a 20-feet vertical metal ladder to the roof of an empty building in Midtown Manhattan. There, they retrieved four 150-pound boxes full of hundreds of thousands of agitated bees; transported them to the street; and loaded them onto a pickup truck with others from neighboring rooftops.

The bees were then spirited away to their new home in the borough of Queens, The New York Times reports.

Indeed, although she is no longer the First Lady, Melania Trump might be proud: New Yorkers have gotten hooked on beekeeping—and their goal is to “Bee Best.”

The apiary at the Queens County Farm Museum is now a who’s who of Manhattan rescue bees. They hail from the rooftops of the InterContinental New York Barclay hotel, the Brooks Brothers flagship and the New York Institute of Technology, among other places. The apiary officially opened early last summer, which was perfect timin—since a good portion of New York’s honeybees (many of whom live atop office buildings and hotels across the city) found themselves untended and in limbo during the shutdown.

SgriAccording to the Times, since New York City legalized beekeeping in 2010, it has grown in popularity. It is a small-space activity; a hive is roughly the size of a two-drawer filing cabinet. There are now bee-focused nonprofits, public parks with pollinator gardens and jars of hyperlocal honey in abundance at green markets. The new apiary in Queens, which has basically handled overflow during the pandemic, shows how bee-crazy New Yorkers have become.

But there is also a growing concern among some scientists that honeybees, most of them imported to the city to feed this beekeeping frenzy, are a threat to New York’s native pollinators, whose dwindling populations could affect local flora and the environment at large.

When the virus slowed our lives down, encouraging us to stay in our homes, enjoy the outdoors, and focus on activities in the natural world (such as bird-watching or gardening), the zeal for urban beekeeping intensified, too. Sean Flynn, a beekeeper for over five years, took the opportunity to share his passion with his youngest daughter, Alaura, 18.

“I’ve always had this fascination with the hive mentality — it’s about the collective and the greater good,” Flynn recently told The New York Times. He put a hive in his middle daughter’s bedroom when she went off to college six years ago. He kept the windows open in his sixth-story apartment so the bees could come and go as they pleased. The neighbors never noticed.

Flynn now inspects and monitors 12 different hives in various community gardens across the city. Recently, he captured a swarm outside the Javits Center. Although he is allergic to bee stings, Mr. Flynn temporarily housed the Javits bees in his own bedroom until he could relocate them — something he has done several times before to his own detriment.

There are anywhere from 115,000 to 125,000 beekeepers nationwide, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees city beekeeping, recorded 326 registered hives in 2020. While beekeepers are required to register their hives, they often don’t. Coté, the president of the New York City Beekeepers Association and a fourth-generation beekeeper, believes there are more than 600 active hives in the city.

Several establishments, like the Bushwick bakery L’imprimerie, and the New York Hilton Midtown, now have their own hives so they can make dishes and cocktails with homegrown honey, said Dan Winter, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation and president of the Empire State Honey Producers Association. “People want to know where their honey comes from, and they like it local.”

“As far as important species go, bees are top of the list. They pollinate more than one-third of the crops that feed 90% of the world,” Winter told the Times. “Honeybees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops.”

Jennifer Walden Weprin, the executive director of the Queens County Farm Museum, has seen renewed interest in the farm’s beekeeping courses, which started up again in the spring. The apiary’s 40 colonies, with over 2 million bees, rival the human population of the borough. The rescue bees will most likely become permanent residents now that they’re settled, but the owners of several of their former homes have expressed interest in creating new rooftop colonies.

There is a small movement afoot: Bee houses are being installed across the city. The Bee Conservancy, based in New York, created its Sponsor-a-Hive program last year in collaboration with Brooklyn Woods, a nonprofit that trains unemployed and low-income adults in woodworking and fabrication. The pine bee houses are designed with a mixture of nesting tubes for native bees to ensure a diversity of species.

“If you want local food, you really need local bees,” said Guillermo Fernandez, the founder and executive director of the Bee Conservancy. “For many bees, an area of a couple hundred feet might be their entire world, so small things can add up to a lot,” said Mr. Fernandez, who finds the chaos of the hive relaxing. “A hive is a box of calm in a frantic city,” he said. “The buzz and gentleness is quite soothing.”

Since February, Brooklyn Woods graduates have created over 350 bee houses. Christine Baerga, 31, who lives in Jamaica, Queens, has had some part in crafting most of them so far. Baerga’s life changed for the better during the pandemic, when she moved out of a homeless shelter and became a celebrated bee house artisan.

“Bees are master craftsmen and builders,” Baerga said. “They’re one of the more important creatures in the world. Without them, there is no us.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Eyes wide shut: Mammals dream about the world they’re entering before birth

July 27, 2021

Whether it’s a human, a dog, or a rat, newborn mammals have the incredible capacity to understand and make “visual sense” of the world upon opening their eyes for the very first time. How, though, is this possible if they’ve never actually seen anything up until that moment?

Researchers from Yale University are offering up an explanation: Before birth, they say, mammals dream about the world they’ll eventually enter.

According to a report by Study Finds, the Yale scientists conceived the fascinating and thought-provoking theory after observing waves of activity within the neonatal retinas of a group of mice who hadn’t opened their eyes for the first time yet. Upon birth, this activity ceases quickly and a more mature network of visual stimuli begins transmitting to the brain, where mammals further encode and store the information.

“At eye opening, mammals are capable of pretty sophisticated behavior,” says senior study author Michael Crair, the William Ziegler III Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, in a university release. “But how do the circuits form that allow us to perceive motion and navigate the world? It turns out we are born capable of many of these behaviors, at least in rudimentary form.”

To investigate the origins of these pre-birth waves of activity, study authors scanned the brains of mice right after birth but before their eyes opened for the first time. Incredibly, this led to the discovery that the retinal waves flow in a pattern that essentially mimics the activity that an animal would see if they were really moving forward through a physical environment.

“This early dream-like activity makes evolutionary sense because it allows a mouse to anticipate what it will experience after opening its eyes, and be prepared to respond immediately to environmental threats,” Crair notes.

Next, researchers analyzed more closely the cells and circuits responsible for the production of the retinal waves observed in neonatal mice. When they blocked the function of starburst amacrine cells, which are retina cells responsible for the release of neurotransmitters, the retinal waves could not flow in a way that recreated forward motion. Consequently, those mice weren’t as adept at responding to visual motion after birth.

Even among adult mice, those same cells play a big role in retina function and environmental cue responses.

There are, of course, many differences between mice and humans. Mice are much better at responding to visual cues immediately after birth, but human babies are still quite capable of identifying objects and detecting movement.

“These brain circuits are self-organized at birth and some of the early teaching is already done,” Crair concludes. “It’s like dreaming about what you are going to see before you even open your eyes.”

The study appears in the journal Science.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

‘Bite me’: Deadly spider venom can help heart attack survivors recover

July 26, 2021

Fear of spiders, or arachnophobia, is one of the most common phobias. According to a new study, however, at least one of our eight-legged friends may turn out to be a life saver, Study Finds reports.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia report that venom from one particular type of spider—the Fraser Island (K’gari) funnel web spider, considered to be among the world’s most deadlyis the integral ingredient in a new life-saving treatment for heart attack victims.

Ironically, a molecule extracted from this spider’s venom is being used to produce a new drug candidate capable of both preventing heart attack damage and extending the life of donor hearts used for organ transplants.

Study authors explain that the new drug actually blocks a “death signal” sent from the heart during a heart attack.

“After a heart attack, blood flow to the heart is reduced, resulting in a lack of oxygen to heart muscle,” study co-author Dr. Nathan Palpant, UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), says in a university release. “The lack of oxygen causes the cell environment to become acidic, which combine to send a message for heart cells to die. Despite decades of research, no one has been able to develop a drug that stops this death signal in heart cells, which is one of the reasons why heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the world.”

The drug candidate, a protein called Hi1a, was tested by exposing beating human heart cells to heart attack stressors. Then, the drug was added to the mix to see if it improved outcomes.

 “The Hi1a protein from spider venom blocks acid-sensing ion channels in the heart, so the death message is blocked, cell death is reduced, and we see improved heart cell survival,” Dr. Palpant told Study Finds.

What’s more, “This will not only help the hundreds of thousands of people who have a heart attack every year around the world, it could also increase the number and quality of donor hearts, which will give hope to those waiting on the transplant list,” notes Professor Peter Macdonald from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. “The survival of heart cells is vital in heart transplants — treating hearts with Hi1a and reducing cell death will increase how far the heart can be transported and improve the likelihood of a successful transplant.

“Usually, if the donor heart has stopped beating for more than 30 minutes before retrieval, the heart can’t be used – even if we can buy an extra ten minutes, that could make the difference between someone having a heart and someone missing out. For people who are literally [at] death’s door, this could be life-changing,” he adds.

These findings build off of earlier work by another of the study’s co-authors, Professor Glenn King, who had previously discovered a small protein in the venom of the Fraser Island (K’gari) funnel-web spider capable of improving recovery in stroke survivors.

“We discovered this small protein, Hi1a, amazingly reduces damage to the brain even when it is given up to eight hours after stroke onset,” King says. “It made sense to also test Hi1a on heart cells, because like the brain, the heart is one of the most sensitive organs in the body to the loss of blood flow and lack of oxygen.”

“For heart attack victims, our vision for the future is that Hi1a could be administered by first responders in the ambulance, which would really change the health outcomes of heart disease,” he continues. “This is particularly important in rural and remote parts of Australia where patients and treating hospitals can be long distances apart—and when every second counts.”

These findings can also help in the transfer of donor hearts for cardiac transplantation. The drug/protein looks to be able to facilitate the transport of donor hearts over longer distances, thus increasing the network of both available donors and recipients.

Moving forward, researchers are hoping to begin human clinical trials for both stroke and heart disease in about two to three years.

The study is published in Circulation.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

‘I’m enlightened and you’re not’: Study finds spirtual guidance is linked to narcissism, feelings of superiority

July 22, 2021

new study has found that some popular forms of spiritual guidance—such as instruction in energy healing; aura reading; and, to a lesser degree, mindfulness and meditation —correlate with both narcissism and “spiritual superiority,” Psych News Daily reports.

An implicit feature of spiritual training is that it encourages self-compassion and nonjudgmental self-acceptance—enabling followers to distance themselves from their egos and, thereby, from the need for social approval or success.

But as the new paper explains, spiritual training may have the opposite effect. In fact, such guidance may enhance followers’ need to feel “more successful, more respected or more loved,” as the authors Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser, respectively, of Radboud University in The Netherlands and the Behavior Change Group, also in the Netherlands, write. Their paper, “An Exploration of Spiritual Superiority: The Paradox of Self‐Enhancement,” has been published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

The authors developed a new measure that they refer to as “spiritual superiority.” It measures whether people feel superior to those “who lack the spiritual wisdom they ascribe to themselves.”

The researchers’ questionnaires ask respondents to react to a number of statements—among them, “I am more in touch with my senses than most others,” “I am more aware of what is between heaven and earth than most people,” and “The world would be a better place if others too had the insights that I have now.”

The authors also created three scales that they hypothesized would correlate with spiritual superiority.

The first scale, “spiritual guidance,” relates to how much people try to help others acquire the same wisdom they have acquired. It includes statements such as “I help others whenever possible on their path to greater wisdom and insight,” “I gladly help others to acquire my insights too,” and “I am patient with others, because I understand it takes time to gain the insights that I gained in my life and my education.”

The second scale is “supernatural overconfidence,” and it encompasses self-ascribed abilities in the paranormal domain. Example statements include “I can send positive energy to others from a distance,” “I can get in touch with people who are deceased,” and “I can influence the world around me with my thoughts.”

The third scale, “spiritual contingency of self-worth,” measures how much a person derives their self-esteem from their spirituality. Sample statements include “My faith in myself increases when I acquire more spiritual wisdom” and “When I gain new spiritual insights, this increases my self-worth.”

In three separate studies described in their research article, Vonk and Visser established their scale of spiritual superiority as a valid instrument. Moreover, it correlates significantly with the other three scales. It also correlates significantly with narcissism, self‐esteem, and other psychological variables. Finally, it also correlates, to varying degrees, with diverse forms of spiritual training.

They note that spiritual narcissism has been defined, for example, as “the misuse of spiritual practices, energies, or experiences to bolster self-centered ways of being.”

Other studies define spiritual narcissism as a situation “in which the individual believes he or she has become somehow enlightened in a way that others have not, and operates from a disconnecting stance of spiritual superiority.”

Yet another researcher simply calls it “an ‘I’m enlightened and you’re not’ syndrome, Psych News Daily reports.

The authors argue that the lack of objectivity in the spiritual domain plays a role here. “Like religiosity, spirituality is a domain that seems like a safe and secure investment for self-worth,” they write. “One’s spiritual attainments allow lots of room for wishful thinking, thus easily lending themselves to the grip of the self-enhancement motive.”

And because spiritual matters are generally “elusive to external objective standards,” that makes them a “suitable domain for illusory beliefs about one’s superiority.”

On the other hand, spiritual training may attract people who already feel superior. And the “extensive exploration of one’s personal thoughts and feelings” that spiritual training encourages “may be particularly appealing” to narcissists, the authors write.

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily

Missing the Great White North, eh? On August 9, Canada’s border will open to vaccinated Americans

July 21, 2021

Save the date. Canadian officials announced on July 19 that the nation’s border with the United States will begin reopening next month to fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents, more than 16 months after closing to non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The US Express News reports.

“As a first step, starting August 9, 2021, Canada plans to begin allowing entry to American citizens and permanent residents, who are currently residing in the United States, and have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to entering Canada for non-essential travel,” according to a statement. “This preliminary step allows for the Government of Canada to fully operationalize the adjusted border measures ahead of September 7, [when the borders will open for international travel] and recognizes the many close ties between Canadians and Americans.”

To enter Canada, travelers must use the government’s ArriveCAN “vaccine passport” app, which allows travelers to upload passport information as well as COVID-19 vaccination records and PCR test results. Fully vaccinated residents of other countries will be able to enter Canada beginning September 7, “provided that Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable.”

It is unclear when the United States will allow Canadians to enter across the land border for nonessential travel. It is also not clear when unvaccinated and partially vaccinated U.S. residents will be able to visit Canada.

Americans who hae received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine must upload a photo of their vaccination record or enter the information manually. They will also be required to upload a negative result from a PCR Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of flight departure or arrival at a land crossing.

ArriveCAN is free and available for iPhone and Android. Creating an account begins with entering an email address and a password. The app uses a smartphone camera to scan documents, but does not retain those images. Users can revoke permission for the app to use their camera at any time.

Travelers who prefer not to use their smartphone camera can enter the relevant information manually. Travelers who don’t have a smartphone can enter their information directly on the ArriveCAN website.

Once a traveler has completed entering his or her information, the ArriveCAN app provides a receipt with a digital code that must be shown at the Canadian border. Those using the website should print or take a screen shot of their receipt and bring it to the border. 

All non-essential travelers to Canada, including fully vaccinated individuals, will be tested again at the border or airport upon arrival into the country.

The 5,525-mile border between the U.S. and Canada has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020. The closure has been extended on a month-by-month basis, and the current restrictions were officially due to expire on July 21.

Research contact: @theusxpressnews

Editor’s note: According to a July 21 report in The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration is extending non-essential travel restrictions for the US northern and southernborders until August 21.

Peppa Pig, a pandemic favorite, has American children acting British

July 20, 2021

California kindergartner Dani stunned her parents in May when she addressed her mom, who said she was going to the eye doctor, in a polished British accent: “Mummy, are you going to the optician?”

“And we were like, ‘the what?’ ” says Dani’s father, Matias Cavallin. “That’s like a college-level word,” he says. “At least, I wasn’t using it.”

The culprit? A wildly popular English cartoon about a preschooler pig named Peppa, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Like five-year-old Dani, children nationwide have binge-watched “Peppa Pig” over the past year. They are emerging from the pandemic with an unusual vocabulary and a British accent just like the show’s namesake character.

The Peppa Effect, as some parents call it, already had some children snorting like pigs and using cheeky Britishisms before the pandemic. Then lockdowns sent screen-time limits out the door, and children gorged on the cartoon in a silo away from their usual social interactions—amplifying the effect.

Matias Cavallin, a public-relations manager in El Cerrito, California, stumbled upon the cartoon at the start of the pandemic. He concluded that it was a sweet family show that would keep Dani busy as his wife went to the office and he juggled working from home.

“It was almost like a happy accident at a time when I was trying to find a pseudo babysitter during Zoom meetings,” he says. “It was either Peppa Pig or no work.”

As a result, Cavallin says, he went from papa to “Daddy,” said in the British way. His daughter calls the gas station the “petrol station” and cookies “biscuits,” and when he’s holding a cup of coffee, Dani asks him, “Are you having tea now?”

He says that Dani’s grandparents—immigrants from Argentina who mostly speak Spanish—quip, “We don’t understand her to begin with, and now she’s speaking British?”

Parrot Analytics, an entertainment consulting firm that tracks demand for TV shows based on factors such as how frequently they are streamed and discussed online, said “Peppa Pig” retained its spot as the world’s second-most in-demand children’s cartoon for the 12 months ending February, after “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Overall, it jumped to the world’s 50th most in-demand show of any kind, from the 103rd the previous year. The show was first released in 2004.

“Young Peppa fans see her as a friend…and, as we do with friends that we admire, pick up some of their characteristics,” Peppa Pig owner Entertainment One said in a written statement. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” it added.

Some parents say the show made their children more accepting of younger brothers, because Peppa has one, too. Many used the show’s differences as teaching points.

In December, six-year-old Aurelia insisted on the British holiday traditions of wearing a crown and baking mince pies for “Father Christmas,” says her mother, Lauren Ouellette, in North Scituate, Rhode Island. “It gave us room to explore something new. Is Father Christmas the same guy as Santa? And why is he called that?” she says.

Aurelia throws around phrases like, “Can we turn the telly on?” A reference to the water closet instead of the bathroom initially threw off Ms. Ouellette. “I was like, ‘Where did she learn that from? Was she on the Titanic in a past life?’ ” she told The Wall Street Journal.

All became clear when they watched the show together a week later.

Research contact: @WSJ

Bow-WOW: Talent seems to be just as much a gift in dogs as it is in people

July 19, 2021

Whether it’s seeing a child take only a few seconds to learn Mary had a Little Lamb on the piano, experiencing getting wiped out by a much better player in a pickup basketball game, or witnessing someone’s encyclopedic memory while they rattle off statistics about geography, humans see natural talent every day.

Now, a study seeking the origin of “natural talent” in dogs has been published in Nature. What it found: Just as in humans, some particular pooches display more innate talent than others do.

According to The Good News Network, this story has a lot to do with border collies—a dog species that the authors of the study note has been bred for herding sheep and, therefore, has had to be extra-cognizant of owners’ calls, instructions, and whistles.

The American Kennel Club reported last year on a border collie named Chaser, who had 1,022 toys and knew the individual names of every on; while Science reported on one named Rico who knew the names of 200 toys and could very quickly retrieve those for which he had no name by using exclusion learning and inference at about the level of a three-year-old child.

Locating 34 dog owners across the globe using social media, researcher  Claudia Fugazza of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest decided to test whether the pooches could attach specific names to all the toys they played with, and be able to recognize and respond to those names immediately.

Of those 34 dogs, only one border collie succeeded—a young female named Olivia, who sadly died of health complications before the trial could be finished.

But the work continues: “[W]e decided to set up a study in which both puppies and adult naïve dogs are systematically and intensively trained for learning at least two object names over a three-month period, and we used a strictly controlled testing method to assess the dogs’ learning outcome every month from the start of the training,” wrote Fugazza in her paper.

In this study, each month, a scientist visits a dog’s house and tests to see if he or she can retrieve an object based on it name. As each dog succeeds, another word is added.

Perhaps the surprising thing is that of the 34 dogs, 19 were border collies, and 18 of them failed to learn a single name. Also interesting was that, outside of the study, their same research method found that six border collies that could already learn names could continue to learn more.

The hypothesis was that some dogs with certain neurological plasticity owing to either early-life training or breed-activity would have better abilities.

However, the dogs learned the names of toys “irrespectively of the age of the subjects and despite intensive training,” the researchers wrote, concluding by saying that “while a few rare individuals can rapidly master multiple object names, we suggest that the capacity to learn object-names in dogs shows analogies with exceptional performance (talent) in humans.”

It seems that it’s just as hard to find out why Mozart was Mozart as it is to find out why Chaser the border collie was Chaser the border collie.

Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork