Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sepia Saturday 270: Getting by with Smaller Brains



Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week comes from the collection of the Preus Museum which is the National Museum of Photography in Norway. It is a photograph by Elisabeth Meyer entitled "Stewardess Hugging A Puppy" and forms part of the Preus Museum stream on Flickr Commons (you will recall that we are working the way through some of the Flickr Commons participating archives at the moment).  It appears that the photograph was taken in Alaska and it dates from sometime in the 1950s. All sort of themes come to mind - dogs, cute animals, air crew, hugs: as usual it is up to you to interpret the theme in any way you want to. Simply post a post on or around Saturday 14th March 2015 and add a link to the list below.

I searched the old family pictures and have little that fits the bill as closely as this over-used shot of myself (with Barbara Streisand hair-do) plus koala bear in Sydney, circa 1984. The koala has a similar expression on his face to the puppy in the prompt photo -half asleep. He is almost in the correct position, in my arms, although not quite cheek-to-cheek. Would a cheek-to-cheek hug be a good idea with a koala? I think not, having read about their sharp teeth and sharp claws. 



Koalas have smaller brains than other marsupials and some experts opine that its brain-to-body ratio over time (evolutionary time) has followed a deteriorating path due to poor diet which consists of eucalyptus, eucalyptus and more eucalyptus. Some refer to its brain, kindly, as "svelte" and energy conserving. Our brains are getting "svelte" too. 



A caution to everybody
by Ogden Nash

Consider the auk; 
Becoming extinct because he forgot how to fly, and could only walk. 
Consider man, who may well become extinct 
Because he forgot how to walk and learned how to fly before he thinked. 

You might not consider this one of Ogden's best, but you have to give him huge credit for the two principal rhymes: auk and walk;
extinct and thinked. And he couldn't google "rhyming words" and get every conceivable combination in less than a minute. He had to use his nicely sized brain for everything - even the scut work of finding the rhymes. 

There is evidence that our brains are starting to shrink along with our size. Are we going to exacerbate the shrinkage by using technology? Here's an excerpt from a Scientific American interview with Christopher Bryce, a paleoanthropologist and research leader on human origins at the Natural History Museum in London:

"Another likely reason for this decline is that brains are energetically expensive and will not be maintained at larger sizes unless it is necessary. The fact that we increasingly store and process information externally—in books, computers and online—means that many of us can probably get by with smaller brains. Some anthropologists have also proposed that larger brains may be less efficient at certain tasks, such as rapid computation, because of longer connection pathways.
The way we live may have affected brain size. For instance, domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild counterparts probably because they do not require the extra brainpower that could help them evade predators or hunt for food. Similarly, humans have become more domesticated. But as long as we keep our brains fit for our particular lifestyles, there should be no reason to fear for the collective intelligence of our species.
You can read the whole interview Here.

And finally a couple of brainy and cute animals. 

Cashew, presently 11 months old, in a favorite spot - the sink.


The long departed Lulu and Squeaky, half asleep in a planter.
Read more stewardess/pet/cuteness stories at Sepia Saturday.








18 comments:

  1. I love your Barbra Streisand hair. That's a great photo.
    Nancy

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  2. Great post, now where did my brain go? I'm thrilled to see your felines, who look very well loved.

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    1. Ou Somali cats are very affectionate and they follow us around like dogs. They are very good pets...well behaved and well suited for co-habitation with humans. But then I'm so prejudiced.

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  3. I think koalas make up for their small brains in cuddliness, and must be one of the mist photographed animals with tourists ever! It's great when you manage to spot then in the wild, although sadly several hundreds have recently had to be culled in an area not far from Melbourne, because there were just too many and they had eaten all the available natural food, ie. leaves on the trees they favoured and were in very poor condition, with many being diseased as well. You would think the wildlife authorities could have found another way to deal with the problem, but apparently not.

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    1. Yes, you would think there would be other means like moving them to another area. I always thought they were endangered.

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  4. I love the name Cashew for a cat & can't help but wonder how that came about? We had a cat who loved water - especially warm water - & in the morning when my daughters were trying to get ready for school, would jump up on the bathroom counter, wade into the sink filled with water, and lie down. Drove the girls crazy. They also had to be careful when they were taking a bath because Emily would jump right in without realizing it was a little too deep for her. Strangely, she did not like the shower, however.

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    1. Emily and Cashew would get along. We named Cashew in a nutty moment.

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  5. Love Ogden Nash -- always profound in his silliness. Right now I'm trying not to dwell on the shrinking brain theory.

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    1. Decades from now, scientists will discover that gluten-free diets contributed to brain shrinkage:) Or something like that - something we least expect and that nobody could forecast.

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  6. Is there any hope for the future? Shrinking brains and brain cells dying from the moment we are born. How depressing. That photo of you is spot on with the hugging pose, and I enjoyed the Ogden Nash piece too - I really must seek out my muse.

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  7. THE hairdo stands out in this post, or for this shrinking brain it does !!

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  8. Hurrah for Ogden Nash, but especially for the koala. To find a match each week for Sepia Saturday shows your brain is functioning OK>

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  9. A great match for the prompt. I remember that hairstyle well, though in my case it meant putting my fine straight hair through the torture of a perm!

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  10. Oh, old hairstyles do remind me of torturing mine to get it just right for the style of the moment. I've been scanning some college photos of my grandfather's from the 20s, those ladies had it right...put a really cute hat on it! Love your kitties, too, any inappropriate container can be a cat bed!

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  11. That era was actually a glory time for me with naturally frizzy hair. Yes, hats were a great solution - only the "sticking out" hair had to look good.

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  12. Beautiful hair! Love the kitty in a bowl too, such a kitty-cat expression, yes, do you want something! Great fun.

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  13. Wouldn't I love to hold a koala bear! How exciting -- and to have such a great photograph to remember the experience. I hadn't actually thought about smaller brains but it has occurred to me that schools seem to be "dumbing down" curriculum. Just look at a teacher's exam from a hundred years ago. I doubt many people could answer the questions those prospective teachers had to answer before being able to teach.

    Thanks for a fun and interesting post, Helen.

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  14. I've had the same concern about how technology - computers, smart phones, etc. are changing our brains for future generations. Maybe cats will someday surpass human intellect and we will be the ones asking them to how to operate a can opener!

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