Blindfolded and fitted with noise-canceling headphones, this seal might better fit a marine-creature hostage crisis than a scientific study. In reality, it’s making history by showing for the first time that the whiskers of harbor seals are so sensitive that they can discern the shapes of objects by the ripples they make. Marine biologists have known for a while that seals use their whiskers to find fish in dark, murky waters, but as lead researcher Wolf Hanke told LiveScience, whiskers had “never been shown to analyze things” beyond that. Being able to discern shape and size means that seals may use their whiskers to pick out the fattest fish.
Henry, a 12-year-old harbor seal, was plopped into an open-air pool in a Cologne zoo to put his whiskers to the test. Researchers blindfolded and placed headphones on him so that he could only use his whiskers to sense underwater objects. In the pool, the researchers placed a plastic box containing an assortment of variably-shaped paddles. Because they trained Henry to touch his nose to a small plastic sphere whenever he thought a paddle’s ripples were different from a control paddle’s ripples, the scientists were able to test whether the seal could discriminate between different shapes and sizes.
Some may say it as a joke, others might find it offensive, but it turns out there’s some truth to the idea that people of other races “all look alike.” A new study demonstrates that people have more trouble recognizing faces of people of other races.
While this effect has been observed for almost a hundred years, scientists still don’t fully understand why it happens and who it happens to, explains Ars Technica:
It has been suggested that the other race effect is simply a result of differing amounts of facial variation between races, or varying observational abilities of particular races. However, in this study, subjects of both races showed the same trends, suggesting that the other race effect is a generalized phenomenon experienced by people of more than one race.