Brainless Slime Molds Learn & Teach!

tanyalattyDr Tanya Latty, PhD, insect ecology at the University of Calgary said: “I think we’re beginning to realize that brains are not prerequisites for complex and interesting behavior. The majority of life-forms on Earth are brainless, but we know very little about how this brainless majority are able to adapt their behavior in changing environments.

This discovery comes in a study published last week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Scientists at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France taught some 2,000 slime molds to avoid nasty-tasting substances (nasty to slime molds) while searching for food — and found that the molds could then transmit this behavior to their compatriots simply by fusing with them. In essence, when the slime mold learned to cross a bridge to a petri dish full of food it liked they then put repellant chemicals on the bridge and the slime_mold_on_deadwood-google-reuse-permitslime mold learned  to ignore these repellents to seek food.  It did so by carefully testing the bridge with a fine tentacle of slime as a scouting party.  When the tentacle could cross, eat and return,  the whole blob knew it was safe to do the same and did so.  It did so faster and faster as it established the safety of the crossing.  Even more astounding was that the learned slime mold was able to teach this to new slime molds in came in physical contact with.

In my story character,  Janr Ssor’s,  sci-fi adventures, he discovers that his experience of the universe does not often depend upon the physical structures we commonly associate with our world.  He frequently discovers communications we do not experience but more and more are learning to recognize as in this article on slime molds or my essay, “Is Intelligence In Your Brain? Or Are Scientists Stupid?”, which finds this behaviour in almost equally brainless tiny insects.

Science is fascinating in its ongoing  attempts to discover new concepts of truth and reality. The longer I live the more convinced I am that there is less and less difference between scientific proof and theory.  This is not to say that we can not “prove” a theory by methods. smartphone-image-truth It is just puzzling what we are proving? Is it all of reality or just a convenient fragment that suits our needs much as the slime molds discover did its?  Sometimes I wonder, are we the image outside or inside the cell phone? Can we really know?

It would be illogical to deny the success of science when you see a spaceship, whose design is based on millions of years or learning scientific “proven rules”  successfully launch a satellite into orbit. On the other hand, it is one thing to have ultimate knowledge and another to grasp just enough to get through the day.  I believe we are at the latter point in our evolution but often sensing the light of a bigger tomorrow through the one thing science truly tries to teach well, “keep the window to learning open and know that we have no ultimate truths.”  Enjoy the trip, the destination is not our purpose.

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Is intelligence In Your Brain? Or Are Scientists Stupid?

Is there evidence that we inhabit our brains?

How smart and really like us are animals? Every wonder? About 13 years ago we went to a friends house and he insisted on having his neighbor bring over a small poodle that the neighbor did not want. My wife and I had two dogs and did not want a third yet, my friend insisted we see the dog.

My wife picked up the small white toy poodle, named Missy, and put it on her lap. It was very sad looking and it was shaking with fear. She began to pet it gently to calm it and at that point the owner laughed. I asked what was funny and he said, “no one has ever picked up that animal before, it is funny to see someone holding it.’

It turned out that his x-wife left him with the, dog, house and kids 6 months earlier. He hated the dog and kicked it to get it into its cage. He told us how he had another animal, a Myna bird, or should I say “had.” His kids were supposed to care for it and the dog. One morning his kids had come running to him saying the bird was lying dead in the cage. He said, “I let that teach them a lesson. Since they had not fed the bird it starved to death.”

I looked at him and said, “Don’t you know that it is a horrible painful way to die to starve to death? It is what the Nazis did to the 12,000,000 Jews and Christians they killed in Germany?”

He laughed again, and said, “Give me a break, they are just animals! They are mechanical and have no feelings.” At that point I knew he was a psychopath and the dog deserved a better chance in life.

Needless to say we took the dog home. In two weeks it gained 7 pounds and went from a trembling 7 pounds to a happy 14 pound puppy. However, if anyone puts a hand near the dog other then ‘trusted friends’ that Missy knows, she will nip their fingers to scare them away. We have tried dog psychologists and several trainers but she is forever fearful of being hurt by people like that psychopath who owned her. Even now, 12 years later.

Now that Missy is older and has cataracts, she has developed a fear of climbing our wooden steps since she slipped on them one night. For the last year she does not climb stairs.

A few months ago we went on a trip for 4 days and, as usual, arranged for the doggy sitter to come and visit with Missy 4 times a day. My wife did this a month in advance. We left on Wednesday and when we returned on Sunday the usual long note logging the sitters visits was very short and our check for her work was on the table. The note said that the sitter had her worst nightmare come true. She had forgotten about Missy! On Saturday, reading her email from my wife (to remind her), she discovered her mistake. She rushed to our house and found Missy starving and without water but still alive!

Missy seemed fine when we saw her but certainly very, very happy to see us. There was however a new unusual behavior. She follows us everywhere and has rushes for the door to try to follow us out, even when we tell her we will be back shortly, which she always did fine with before. In other words, Missy has fear of abandonment. In fact she is so fearful that she goes up and down the slippery wooden steps even in the dark!

Missy is very smart dog. She has strong feelings and a great memory. The first time she met my brother, Steve, she loved him and allowed him to pet her. It was the same with my cleaning lady, Deborah. Others who she does not trust, she remembers as well. She has only seen my daughter who lives on the other side of the Earth in Vienna a few times and years ago, but the minute she sees her she knows her and is happy to greet her.

I have to tell you that toy poodles have small heads but having lived with Missy for 13 years, I know that she learns and remembers better than most smart people I know. I also clearly see that she is full of emotions and expresses her love with kisses enough to make your hands sore. You literally have to tell her, “No more kisses!”

Now I have taken flying lessons and I can assure you it is no easy task to pilot a plane in 3 dimensions. Just the other day when working on my computer I noted a small speck of dust floating in front of the screen. I found it interesting to note that it floated up and down in a way I rarely expected air currents in the room to move. Looking more closely, I discovered that the dust mote was really some form of flying insect. It was so very small that my very good eyesight could just barley resolve its details.

It then occurred to me that this living dust mote, was able to, find food, feed, eliminate, find mates, have sex and reproduce as well as fly and navigate successfully in 3 dimensional space! Now I wondered, my dog Missy’s brain was fraction of mine in size. This living dust mote had a brain so small I could not find without the aid of a microscope.

I had frequently wondered what science really knows about our mind. I am a doctor and I have long ago learned NOT to accept anything you learn from scientists as the gospel truth. After all, we are limited in our perception of the universe and as such we make the best approximation of reality with our ‘theories’ and then if they prove out in the scientific lab we assume they are ‘proven.’ But, proven only means Useful! Any thinking man knows we have no facts that are 100%, just ‘proven’ theories and models of the universe that can be, for our needs, very reliable.

Science says you are created by the neuro-chemical interactions in your mind. If we cut into your brain with a scalpel, you will no longer be you! Bullets and surgery have proven this, they say. On the other hand, if we keep in mind my rule about science never being 100% correct, we could imagine that the brain is a transceiver that connects us to a non-physical spiritual self. So maybe we don’t live in our brains and that is why much of our neurotransmitters are found in our stomach and why people say things like, “I have a gut feeling…..”

Now I was not hallucinating about the flying mote but that brings up another topic, Hallucinations. Science says they are unreal creations of a dysfunctional mind. But is this a scientific truth? There is some research to the contrary. Consider that drawings by people in the stone age have much in common with those drawn by todays shamans using hallucinogens to experience what they believe is an alternative reality. In cave drawings found across the world many thousands of years old and in very different cultures, there are again very many common paintings. In many of these caves there is evidence that the artists used magic mushrooms or some plant to experience these creative visions.

What might be a possible explanation for common art work such as ‘humans with animal heads’ that were drawn by vastly different cultures across times as far distant as the stone age is to our current era? Well, in the era of the Internet we could say that some common communication like our ubiquitous web sites would do it. But, this did not exist in the stone age. On the other hand, if we exist outside our bodies as part of the Akashic Record this could explain the common drawings.

Whatever the answer is, I suspect that there is more to us than a few pounds of fat and neurons in our head. My dog, Missy, not only has strong emotions, an excellent memory and obvious intelligence, she has something most of us do not have! Missy can go out for a walk and find plants to eat that help her when she is sick! Can you? Scientists says this is ‘innate intelligence.’ This is the way the ‘Intelligentsia’ likes to put down animals as stupid creatures with simple minds with precoded knowledge. They can then claim that animals are too stupid to learn from their own thinking and some sort of marvelous symbolic code that written language affords us so they compensate with a pre-recorded message. Is this true?

Consider that animals may be in contact with things we are not. Perhaps they do not need magic potions of mushrooms to open their eyes to an alternative world that exists outside of our limited perception. In that case, they have more than we have in terms of mental abilities. Then again, I do recall kids seeing invisible friends and other fancies that stern adult warnings scared out of them. How about you, do you recall anything from your childhood that you were told to stop thinking or talking about!

When we evolved our Neocortex and became so smart did the neocortex filter out a view of reality that we now can only garner with drugs or trance dancing?

So the question persists. Do we inhabit our brains or is it a transceiver? I for one believe the latter but you chose whatever makes sense to your intuition.