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January 05, 2005

Infrasound animals

"Infrasonic Symphony" Intrigued by reports of tsunami-avoidance behavior in Sri Lankan wildlife? Science News offers a timely antidote to simplistic mumbo-jumbo about the "mythical power" of animal earthquake detection with a detailed look at the latest research into low-frequency sound. The Elephant Listening Project is particularly interested in elephant rumblings that produce Rayleigh waves. "Mammals, birds, insects, and spiders can detect Rayleigh waves," notes The Explainer. "Most can feel the movement in their bodies, although some, like snakes and salamanders, put their ears to the ground in order to perceive it."

January 5, 2005 in Tech/Science | Permalink


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The Science News article seemed incoherent. I assume they were intending to quash the mysticism about so-called "sixth senses" (zoology is full of non-mystical sixth senses -- from vomero-nasal organs to visual perception shifted toward the infra-red or ultra-violet, to the fishes' lateral lines and electric sensors). Mysticism is probably unquashable. People prefer it to rationality, and seem disappointed when phenomena are explained in terms of standard causes. The absence of mystical powers should be perfectly manifest in the sorry fact that all animals die, usually in unpleasant ways. They may escape tsnamis, but fall to predation or disease. In other words, (as you were trying to say) "Bah! Humbug!"

Posted by: judith | Jan 5, 2005 9:08:14 AM

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