Dogs can tell time, even though they have no hands with which to read a clock. They don’t need hands to tell time either. Researchers at Kyoto University discovered that dogs can tell time by looking for shadows.
Humans have a kind of internal clock that ticks about once every second. If we want to know the time, it’s easy enough to look at a clock or check our phones. But what if you didn’t have those? A dog’s internal clock is different from ours, and its tick rate is slower- about once every two seconds. So it would seem that dogs wouldn’t be able to tell time as well as humans, but it turns out they can use their sense of smell to get around this problem.
Scientists had already discovered that dogs are sensitive to minute changes in the Earth’s magnetic field and can determine which direction is north, even when they’re in artificial and unpredictable environments like cities. Dogs also appear to be able to detect minute changes in the amount of light outside, even through closed windows and doors. The Japanese researchers wondered whether these senses could also be used to tell time; if so, it would mean that dogs could infer the time of day based on sensory inputs alone. So they set up an experiment.
The ancient Greeks used to say that “the gods giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.” Modern science tells us we should not put much faith in this statement. It is too optimistic, it has little to do with what actually happens and it is based on a biased sample.
How do I know that it is biased? Because of the dogs. Dogs can tell time. We know this because they go crazy at 7:00 am. You see, if you are a dog, the most important meal of the day is breakfast. If you miss breakfast, your life is ruined for the rest of the day; if you don’t get fed before 10:00 am, your entire existence becomes pointless. So there are dogs whose job it is to wake up their owners at 7:00 am so they can get fed and start their lives again. And these dogs are very good at telling time. There are even dog-clocks that will bark when it is time for Fido to be fed.
So why does the ancient Greek saying make us skeptical about how much credit or blame we should assign to Zeus? Well, here’s the thing: dogs didn’t exist until maybe 30,000 years ago; clocks didn’t exist until maybe 8
Time is the thing that makes change possible. If you have one minute and you spend it, you still have one minute. But if you spend two minutes, then even if nothing else happens, you now have less than a minute. Time passes and things change.
Not all animals can tell time in the same way we do; some animals don’t care about time at all, and others couldn’t care less about time. But many, including dogs, cats and birds can tell time in some sense beyond their everyday needs. They know how much time has passed since something happened or will happen. Animals such as dogs can even tell whether or not their owner will be home soon — a kind of ability that might seem magical to someone who doesn’t know how to tell time.
If your dog seems restless whenever you leave the house, he probably knows what time it is better than you do.
Telling time is not a complex, human skill. It’s a simple, dog-level skill. And yet our supposedly brilliant species has not been able to figure it out. How to explain this?
It’s not really that hard to tell time. We can do it easily if we are given a few clues—a watch, the sun, or even just the position of the stars. Dogs have been doing it since before we were human. So what is the mystery?
The answer is that time is such a fundamental part of so many other things that we have made it our business to understand, like astronomy and physics and engineering and chemistry, that when we look back on those fields from the vantage point of physics today, their original solutions appear obvious.
So how should we explain how baffling it was for us? Well, computers are starting to get pretty good at playing chess. When I was growing up in the 1970s, computers were terrible at chess. Now they can beat me easily. But suppose I had grown up in Russia a hundred years ago, before there was even electricity or radio. Suppose that all I knew about modern civilization was that they had computers that could play chess better than anyone else in the world. Computers wouldn’t seem like
In the late 1990s, Lisa Gherard and her colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, were studying how dogs pay attention to people. They were trying to replicate a classic experiment in which a dog watches its owner leave the room and then waits expectantly for his return. The researchers wanted to see whether dogs could remember how long their owners had been gone.
The classic experiment required that the owner not return on time for practical reasons: he had to walk down the hall and turn out the lights. And that turned out to be a big problem for the dogs. They couldn’t count elapsed time accurately—as it turned out, most of them thought their owners had been gone for much longer than they actually had.
That result was unexpected but not especially surprising. After all, we know that dogs aren’t very good at telling time. But then Gherard made a leap in reasoning that no one had ever made before. She realized that if she put video cameras around her lab and slowed down the films, she could show that some of the dogs really did understand how long their owners had been gone—they just couldn’t tell anyone about it because their ability to read human gestures was too limited.
For example, ever wondered how your dog knows when it’s time for dinner?
Dogs are able to know if it is morning, afternoon or evening by looking at the sun and tracking its motion across the sky.
They are able to tell what time it is even if they are in a room with no windows, as long as there is some light coming through a door.
Biologists have long thought that animals like dogs and horses could sense time by keeping track of the cycles of light and dark. But new research has discovered that dogs can actually see time
Using the same method as the one used by doctors to map the human retina, researchers from Oxford University measured electrical activity in a part of a dog’s brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which controls their circadian rhythms.
The results showed that dogs could tell if it was day or night without relying on outside cues such as daylight or smells from other animals.
Scientists say this shows dogs have a ‘photographic memory’ for images that has never previously been shown in any other animal.”
Science and art have much in common. Both employ observation, imagination, experimentation and experience in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Both are creative processes that involve making something new and unseen from something seen, heard or done before.
But there are also some important differences between science and art.
Science is about knowledge and art about expression.
Art is an experience for the senses; science is a process of discovery.
Science explains; art delights.
The goal of science is to expand the sum total of human knowledge; the goal of art is to express the inner workings of its creator’s imagination in a unique way.
Transforming ideas into reality is how both science and art advance their agendas. But as in other areas, like business or politics, this sometimes leads to competing claims about who really originated a particular idea or product first.*