Deep Intellect: Inside the mind of the octopus

Deep Intellect: Inside the mind of the octopus

Occasionally an octopus takes a dislike to someone. One of Athena's predecessors at the aquarium, Truman, felt this way about a female volunteer. Using his funnel, the siphon near the side of the head used to jet through the sea, Truman would shoot a soaking stream of salt water at this young woman whenever he got a chance. Later, she quit her volunteer position for college. But when she returned to visit several months later, Truman, who hadn't squirted anyone in the meanwhile, took one look at her and instantly soaked her again. [...]

The octopus mind and the human mind probably evolved for different reasons. Humans -- like other vertebrates whose intelligence we recognize (parrots, elephants, and whales) -- are long-lived, social beings. Most scientists agree that an important event that drove the flowering of our intelligence was when our ancestors began to live in social groups. Decoding and developing the many subtle relationships among our fellows, and keeping track of these changing relationships over the course of the many decades of a typical human lifespan, was surely a major force shaping our minds.

But octopuses are neither long-lived nor social. So why is the octopus so intelligent? What is its mind for? Mather thinks she has the answer. She believes the event driving the octopus toward intelligence was the loss of the ancestral shell. Losing the shell freed the octopus for mobility. Now they didn't need to wait for food to find them; they could hunt like tigers. And while most octopuses love crab best, they hunt and eat dozens of other species -- each of which demands a different hunting strategy. Each animal you hunt may demand a different skill set: Will you camouflage yourself for a stalk-and-ambush attack? Shoot through the sea for a fast chase? Or crawl out of the water to capture escaping prey?

Such intelligence is not always evident in the laboratory. "In the lab, you give the animals this situation, and they react," points out Mather. But in the wild, "the octopus is actively discovering his environment, not waiting for it to hit him. The animal makes the decision to go out and get information, figures out how to get the information, gathers it, uses it, stores it. This has a great deal to do with consciousness."



The Interwebs are leaking


Previously, previously.

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Current Music: Client -- Ghosts ♬

"We therefore unequivocally retract and withdraw our incorrect allegation."

The year in media errors and corrections:

Some of these might fall into the category of, "We don't really think we made a mistake, but we'll correct it anyway."


On July 12, 2011, in an article titled "Detective to Sue News of the World Publisher," we reported that Jonathan Rees murdered his former business partner, Daniel Morgan.

This statement is not true, and was published by us notwithstanding that it is wholly incorrect. We did not contact Mr Rees before the article was published to check the allegation. The charges against Mr Rees were in fact abandoned on March 11, 2011, following a lengthy abuse of process argument. We therefore unequivocally retract and withdraw our incorrect allegation. We sincerely apologise to Mr Rees for our error.

Mirror (U.K.):

ON August 3 this year the Daily Mirror published an article regarding the death of Miss Catherine Zaks, aged 21, in Krakow, Poland. The article contained claims that Miss Zaks, from Robertsbridge, East Sussex, abused drugs and had engaged in casual sex following the break-up of a long-term relationship.

Miss Zaks' parents have pointed out that these claims are entirely false and that their daughter was much loved, and of good character.

We are happy to set the record straight and apologise for any distress caused.

Toronto Sun:

In articles we wrote and published in the Toronto Sun and its website on Dec. 18, 2010 and Jan. 2, 2011, entitled "TTC Union Needs to be Curbed" and "Rob Ford's big fight: Levy," we stated that Bob Kinnear, the President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113, is a union mob boss.

We acknowledge this statement is untrue and we retract it without reservation. We regret this error and apologize to Mr. Kinnear. The Sun did not intend to imply that Mr. Kinnear is in any way, shape or form associated with organized crime.

The Australian:

An item published in The Australian on November 15 (Strewth, "Losing the threads", page 13) referred to a report in The Zimbabwe Guardian that Jacqueline Zwambila, the Zimbabwean ambassador to Australia, stripped to her underwear in front of three male embassy officials. Ms. Zwambila denies the allegations, and a governmental investigation in Zimbabwe has cleared her of any misconduct charges. The Australian apologises to Ms Zwambila.

The Independent (U.K.):

Two articles published on the 7th and 9th April 2010 concerned the discovery at Liverpool John Lennon Airport that Willi Jarant, aged 91, had died prior to check-in for a flight to Germany and the subsequent arrest of his widow, Gitta Jarant and step-daughter, Anke Anusic. The first article was headed "Women attempt to get on plane with a corpse," the second was headed "Airport wheelchair man died 12 hours earlier." We are told that Mr Jarant's home carer is satisfied that he was alive at the time he boarded a taxi to the airport. It has been pointed out that a Home Office Pathologist, disagreeing with the doctor who pronounced him dead at the airport, concluded that this was consistent with Mr Jarant's probable time of death and that Mrs Jarant and Mrs Anusic were informed in September 2010 that no charges would be brought.

We therefore accept that any suggestion that Mrs Jarant and Mrs Anusic may have deliberately attempted to smuggle their dead relative onto a flight was untrue and apologise for the distress caused to them by the articles.

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Current Music: Ume -- Shake Down ♬

In Re Bikes

The other night I got into a taxi at the Caltrain station, and as every Westbound taxi departing that taxi stand does, the driver began his journey by making an illegal u-turn across four lanes of traffic. As the cab arrived in the opposite curb-side lane, a bicyclist carefully moved from the bike lane into the traffic lane to get around a car illegally parked in the bike lane. My cab driver didn't have to slow down for this, but had to delay his acceleration by perhaps eight seconds.

"Fucking bikes!", he exclaimed. "I hate them!"

You have a nice day too, Sir.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

(But it's ok, I'm sure that a bicyclist mildly inconvenienced you while you were driving a car once. Be sure to tell us all about that in the comments.)

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Apple-opaque sticker printing: unpossible!

I talked before about my complete failure to find a sticker vendor who was capable of printing glow-in-the-dark stickers that were DNA-green instead of glowstick-yellow.

Well, I had a second idea for a sticker, which was one that would, when placed on an Apple laptop, cause the light-up bit to glow a DNA Lounge logo instead of an Apple logo. The trick being to make the opaque part of the sticker be opaque enough that the Apple doesn't shine through the background anyway. After going round and round with several sticker vendors and getting no guidance on whether it would work, I reached the conclusion that nobody had ever tried this before.

But, we had a batch printed up anyway just to see, and, yup, it doesn't work. These are printed on fairly thick white vinyl, and you have to stack three stickers on a Mac to cover up the Apple glow in direct sunlight. In the dark, you can still see it, and three stickers are already way too thick.

You can't see it in this photo, but the light shows through the black parts too. Possibly it would have worked if we had printed a solid layer of black on white vinyl and then printed the green and black on top of that, or even multiple hits of background black, but no one we talked to was willing to consider doing anything even remotely complicated or creative.

Possibly it would have worked with die-cut black vinyl instead of white, but I kind of doubt it. I suspect the only way to make it work would be die-cut aluminum with glue on the back, but who wants to pay $20 for a sticker?


Oh, and speaking of those glow-in-the-dark stickers... We tried a dry run experiment by having our business cards printed with glowing green. The cards themselves were printed with a digital CMYK process, and then a second pass of transparent glow ink was screen printed on top of that (making them thick and sandpapery). These were very expensive business cards... and they don't glow. If you charge them up and cup your hands over them, you can kinda-sorta see the glow, but turn off all the lights and you can't see any glow when they're 6" from your face.

Even if it did work, the guy who was willing to go to the extra effort to print these cards doesn't do stickers at all. If it had worked we might have tried harder to talk him into it, but it didn't.

And... fail.

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VideoDanza Partida

It's a JK Potter photo come to life!

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For Christmas, Your Government Will Explain Why It's Legal to Kill You

Ha! Just kidding! It won't tell you that. That's classified!

Lowering the Bar dissects a FOIA response:

  • The government dropped a bomb on a U.S. citizen,
  • who, though a total dick and probably a criminal, may have been engaged only in propaganda,
  • which, though despicable, is generally protected by the First Amendment;
  • it did so without a trial or even an indictment (that we know of),
  • based at least in part on evidence it says it has but won't show anyone,
  • and on a legal argument it has apparently made but won't show anyone,
  • and the very existence of which it will not confirm or deny;
  • although don't worry, because the C.I.A. would never kill an American without having somebody do a memo first;
  • and this is the "most transparent administration ever";
  • currently run by a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Merry Christmas!

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Jennie 2.5

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The Naked and Famous


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Today's episode of "What's On My Bloody Mary?"

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