Saturday, December 11, 2004

Math And Science

In his new book, “How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind”, Stanley Coren spends a part of a chapter discussing The Mathematical Mind of Dogs. Dogs, that count, dogs that can distinguish which thing is larger than the other thing, and canine calculus.

That dogs know math comes as no surprise to me. Certainly Sandy is much better at math than I am. We walk parts of the Mission Creek Greenway three or four times a week. It's a public park, crescent-shaped, and it follows the creek. At irregular intervals there are trash cans where dog owners are expected to deposit our little bags full of dog poop.

Dogs easily find the farthest distance between two trashcans
Dogs easily find the farthest distance between two trashcans.

In this crude sketch, the X’s mark the most frequent spots (!!) for dogs to relieve themselves. How do they know it's the farthest point from the can ahead and the can behind? I don't know. But I see a lot of people carrying these little bags, not just me. Yesterday I heard a man call his dog "Hypotenuse."

Dogs know something about science, too. Our dog, while not a scientist, is a willing participant in scientific experiments. Think of her as a technician.

She waits hopefully by the stove and by the kitchen table, ready to alert The Authorities the moment the laws of gravity are repealed. She'll know because food will cease to fall to the floor where she can pick it up "before the germs get to it."

This has never happened, but she remains optimistic.

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