Whodunit? We can tell
"Angry dismissals of abstract art are commonly framed by the assertion, 'A (blank) could have done that.' The key word in the clichéd complaint is often 'child,' 'monkey' or 'elephant,' " Miller-mccune.com says. "But Jumbo, you're no Rothko. Newly published research finds that, in spite of our protestations, non-experts can tell the difference among acclaimed abstract paintings, colourful canvases created by nursery-school students or residents of the zoo. 'People untrained in visual art see more than they realize when looking at abstract expressionist paintings,' Boston College psychologists Angelina Hawley-Dolan and Ellen Winner report in the journal Psychological Science. Non-aficionados might not like a particular artwork, but in a direct-comparison test, they can usually identify it as the product of human creativity."
"Elephants recently aced a test of their intelligence and ability to co-operate, with two of them even figuring out ways that the researchers hadn't previously considered to obtain food rewards," Discovery News reports. "The study, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlights not only the intelligence of individual elephants, but also the ability of these animals to co-operate and understand the value of teamwork. Scientists now believe elephants are in a league with chimpanzees and dolphins as being among the world's most cognitively advanced animals."
Chickens have hearts
"Domestic chickens display signs of empathy, the ability to 'feel another's pain' that is at the heart of compassion, a study has found," The Daily Telegraph reports. "Empathy, long thought to be a defining human trait, causes one individual to be affected by the emotional state of another. Feelings are 'mirrored' in the observer, leading to a shared experience of being happy, sad or distressed. The research demonstrated that hens possess a fundamental capacity to empathize, at least with their own chicks." The findings were published online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
How to tail a rhino
"The secret to sneaking up on a 3,000-pound black rhino, should you ever need to know, is to walk in its footsteps. Literally," The San Francisco Chronicle says. "Rhinos, it turns out, have incredibly sharp hearing - and the best way to avoid any crackling or crunching during your approach is to step inside your hefty target's tracks, where the twigs and leaves are already as flattened as they're going to get."
A weeping good time
"Why do some of us love listening to sad music, while others loathe it?" asks San Francisco Classical Voice. "David Huron has a theory. People who enjoy sorrowful music are experiencing the consoling effects of prolactin, a hormone that is usually associated with pregnancy and lactation but that the body also releases when we're sad or weeping. People who can't bear listening to sad music, Huron conjectures, don't get that prolactin rush. … They just feel blue." Prof. Huron, a professor at Ohio State University's School of Music and Center for Cognitive Science, is an expert in music cognition widely known for his research on music and emotion.
Drowned in corn
Grain bin accidents, a little-known peril of the workplace in farming country, have risen in the United States, the Chicago Tribune reports. "Last year, 51 men and boys were engulfed by grains stored in towering metal structures that dot rural landscapes, and 26 died - the highest number on record, according to a report issued last month by Purdue University. … In less than 10 seconds, a man who steps into flowing corn can sink up to his chest, becoming immobilized, said Robert Aherin, agricultural safety leader in the department of agricultural engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Within another 10 seconds, he'll be completely submerged and unable to breathe, essentially drowned in corn. Accidents can occur when someone enters a bin to break up clumps that form when grains are moist and have started decomposing. The 2009 corn crop was a particularly wet one, leading to more stuck-together grain than usual. In turn, that caused more workers to go into grain bins in 2010 as the crop was removed."
Thought du jour
"The inner voice is at once our greatest danger and an indispensable help."
- Carl Jung (1875-1961), Swiss psychiatrist