The Christian Science Monitor and lots of other news outlets inform about a seemingly crackpot-sounding yet fascinating Czech-German (well, mostly, 10:2, Czech) research published in Frontiers in Zoology,
But back to the result. During defecation, dogs apparently prefer to sit along the North-South direction.
I found the Table 3 on Page 7 of the paper to be the most informative summary of the results.
How strong the results are? The researchers kindly asked their dogs of various breeds to urinate more than 5,000 times and to poop almost 2,000 times over a two-year-long period.
For both activities, significant deviations from random orientations were found. Only for defecation, the rule was clear: the dogs as well as bitches (doggesses) like to align themselves with the North-South magnetic direction, at least when the magnetic field is "calm" i.e. unperturbed. The overall significance of this claim is way over 5 standard deviations. The direction at which they stand was something like 181±5 degrees (5 degrees is the standard deviation which seems incredibly exact: how could they even define and measure the direction of the dog with a better precision? BTW they prefer to talk about 95% and 99% confidence intervals which are comparable to 10 degrees). I didn't catch whether the dogs like to orient their head to the North or to the South or whether this bit is random. If you were able to determine this detail, please let me know.
So unless they are lying to us, the effect seems to be indisputably real. Some tablets contain compasses, some tablets don't. Similarly, humans are similar to the low-brow tablets that were not given compasses. Dogs possess them.
I think that due to the dependence on the magnetic fields' being unperturbed, one may exclude other ways how the dog could orient themselves. For example, in principle, dogs could feel the tiny Coriolis' force, a fictitious force caused by the Earth's spin. But that force is really small – something like a million times smaller than the ordinary gravitational acceleration for speeds of liquids in a body – and moreover, this explanation wouldn't explain why the orientation was only preferred for "calm" geomagnetic fields.
So far, this research was about "playing with the dogs" performed by some playful adults who know some statistics. The results open lots of questions for a more genuine scientific research:
Where is the compass located in the canine bodies?If you have puppies, you are invited to check this research. Be careful that the dogs can't actually use some other signs to orient themselves (don't forget Feynman's story about the rats and mazes). If you are a physicist, you may try to do experiments with stronger (fridge?) magnets and dogs. Can you find a place on the dog where it starts to respond in some way?
How does the compass work?
How did it evolve?
Why did it evolve?
Why do the dogs prefer to orient themselves in this way while pooping? Would they be distracted by a "magnetic wind" from the side?
Why don't we seem to have these abilities? Or do we?
Do cats and others have these compasses? Does someone have GPS receivers? ;-)
One more story that has something to do with biology, physics, Czechia, and Germany follows.
Gregor Mendel: 130 years from death
130 years ago, Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) died in Brno, the 2nd largest city in Czechia.
This ethnic German physicist spent most of his important life in Moravia, Czech lands, Austria-Hungary. He was born on a farm in Hynčice and died in Brno (don't these names sometimes sound better to English ears than the German counterparts, Heinzendorf bei Odrau und Brünn?). Řehoř Mendel, as we would call him in Czech, had two sisters, Veronika (older than him) and Theresia (younger).
He worked as a gardener and a beekeeper but went to study to Opava's gymnasium, Northeastern Czechia. Between his 18th and 21st birthdays, he would study both physics and theoretical and practical philosophy in Olomouc, the spiritual capital of Moravia. He had to take a break for a year because he was ill. Due to financial stress (he was also expected to feed his nephews), he became something that most greedy people who need some bucks pick: a monk. His physics teacher Friedrich Franz actually encouraged Mendel to become a priest. Johann Mendel was his secular name; Gregor (a name popular among Popes and similar occupations) was the name adopted when he became a professional religious manipulator.
In the early 1850s, he went to Vienna where he studied some more religion. He took some physics classes as well – by Christian Doppler, the discoverer of the velocity-induced red shift. With the extensive physics training, he was an unusual priest. He published lots of physics work, especially in meteorology (he also founded the Austrian Meteorological Society) but also astronomy, and began his research of physics of inheritance (now called genetics).
His superiors didn't like the idea that he would scientifically participate in animal sex so he gave up mice and later bees as his research tools in favor of plants. His most important experiments were pea experiments. He "macroscopically" discovered laws that make much more sense in terms of chromosomes and DNA.
The first law, the law of segregation, says that every individual has a pair of alleles for any trait and he or she gives a random copy from these two to each son or daughter. It's the alleles that segregate; only one copy goes to the offspring. Which allele "wins" depends on the rules of dominance.
The second law, the Inheritance Law or the Law of Independent Assortment, says that different genes are inherited independently. Those laws resulted from ratios 3:1 and 9:3:3:1 when he was mixing one trait or two traits, respectively.
During the Cold War, especially in the USSR, Mendel's insights were suppressed because of the influence of a careerist communist crackpot and a predecessor of the climate alarmists named Trofim Lysenko who introduced an alternative "consensus science" based on Lamarck's flawed version of "evolution".
I chose to classify Mendel as a physicist not just because of his training and the bulk of his publications but also because his publications were ignored by the biologists of his age (and several decades after he died). He was decades ahead of the world, as a good physicist should be.
In March 2013, we had discussions with the Communist and Socialist Swine on whether or not the discovery of the laws of inheritance was due to the textile industry in Brno and due to "globalization", among related questions. This blog post is only fifth TRF article mentioning Mendel.