Before a green-rumped parrotlet is even able to chirp and squawk, mom and dad teach it a distinct series of sounds used by parrots to recognize a specific individual. In short, they give their nestling a name.


Among other animals known to imitate the sounds of others and give each other unique names are dolphins and humans (and, possibly, whales.) Like humans and dolphins, parrots are highly social. Using names makes it easier to keep track of relationships and individuals.

European robins may maintain quantum entanglement in their eyes a full 20 microseconds longer than the best laboratory systems, say physicists investigating how birds may use quantum effects to “see” Earth’s magnetic field.


Even in laboratory systems, atoms are cooled to near–absolute-zero temperatures to maintain entanglement for more than a few thousandths of a second. Biological systems would seem too warm and too wet to hold quantum states for long, yet that’s exactly what they appear to do.

The problem of isolation goes beyond ordinary loneliness, however. Consider what we’ve learned from hostages who have been held in solitary confinement—from the journalist Terry Anderson, for example, whose extraordinary memoir, “Den of Lions,” recounts his seven years as a hostage of Hezbollah in Lebanon.


He missed people terribly, especially his fiancée and his family. He was despondent and depressed. Then, with time, he began to feel something more. He felt himself disintegrating. It was as if his brain were grinding down. A month into his confinement, he recalled in his memoir, “The mind is a blank. Jesus, I always thought I was smart. Where are all the things I learned, the books I read, the poems I memorized? There’s nothing there, just a formless, gray-black misery. My mind’s gone dead. God, help me.”

One thing that is certain is that the compass of birds is located in their eyes. In fact, the tight connection between vision and magnetoreception suggests that birds can literally see magnetic fields.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Både kråkfåglar och människoapor betraktas som intelligenta. Men hur går egentligen tänkandet till? Idag handlar Vetandets värld om ett nytt forskningsprojekt som vill jämföra hur olika djur tänker. I programmet möter vi kognitionsforskaren Mathias Osvath och råkan Pluto.

Often, chimps acquire new talents by trial and error. For example, when trying to crack nuts, they might strike one stone onto an anvil stone and miss the nuts all together. Or they might use their hands to strike the nut, which is ineffective. But the Bossou chips couldn't have learned how to deactivate the snares this way, as one mistake could be fatal.

"The observations indicate that chimpanzees can learn some manners without trial and error," says Mr Ohashi.

The researchers speculate that the chimps may have learnt how the snares work by observing them over time, and this information has been passed down generations.

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world, but few use it to maximal advantage. Get optimally wired with these tips.

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

For those who find it tough to juggle more than a couple things at once, don't despair. The brain is set up to manage two tasks, but not more, a new study suggests.

That's because, when faced with two tasks, a part of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex (MFC) divides so that half of the region focuses on one task and the other half on the other task. This division of labor allows a person to keep track of two tasks pretty readily, but if you throw in a third, things get a bit muddled.

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