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Science Idle

Dogs Defecate In Alignment With Earth's Magnetic Field 222

Posted by timothy
from the markov-chain-as-god dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "But for whatever its worth, all that spinning is far from arbitrary. What dog owners witness is a small and furry version of the aurora borealis and a link between species and environment that's as holistic and beautiful as a dog pooping can be. A team of Czech and German researchers found that dogs actually align themselves with the Earth's magnetic field when they poop. Proving at least that they're really devoted to their work, the researchers measured the direction of the body axis of 70 dogs from 37 breeds during 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations over the course of two years, and found that dogs "prefer to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm magnetic field conditions." They fittingly published their results [abstract] in the journal Frontiers in Zoology ."
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Dogs Defecate In Alignment With Earth's Magnetic Field

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  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by realilskater (76030) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:17PM (#45851415)

    sounds like a shitty job

  • by jonfr (888673) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:18PM (#45851437) Homepage

    I smell bullshit moving around the news media at this moment.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      I have 2 dogs. When they pee at the same time, they always do it at right angles to each other...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Em Adespoton (792954)

        I have 2 dogs. When they pee at the same time, they always do it at right angles to each other...

        One of them obviously likes flux closure domains....

        I wonder if they did the study with multiple dogs peeing at the same time. This could be your opportunity to publish a follow-up PhD in Zoology!

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:18PM (#45851439)

    I suspect the dogs just don't like staring into the sun then they poo. I'd also speculate that since streets and walls tend to be aligned with the cardinal directions there's an overall alignment augmentation due to their surroundings. finally if they like to poo in a shadow of a tree then likely they may face back to the tree and thus have a bias to north or south alignments.

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:20PM (#45851465)

      I wonder which way they poo in space and can anyone hear them scream?

    • by rednip (186217)
      If that was true, then wouldn't it be more likely that they'd end up in a 'east-west' alignment(or something similar depending on latitude) during daylight hours , with the facing direction dependant on time of day than 'north-south' and random directions at night. If this turns out to be a repeatable study, it's one of the most shocking discoveries ever, if only because everyone who's ever waited on a dog to 'do it's business' has seen that twist every time. Of course it doesn't really answer 'why', but
      • The spinning around is exactly the same behavior they use to tamp down grass for a place to sleep.. I mean, do you really want blades of grass tickling your bum while you poop?

        • by FlopEJoe (784551)

          The spinning around is exactly the same behavior they use to tamp down grass for a place to sleep.. I mean, do you really want blades of grass tickling your bum while you poop?

          Hmph... I pay extra for that.

    • by reboot246 (623534)
      Uh, dogs also poop at night. I don't the sun would be in their eyes at midnight.
      • But if it was to do with the sun, they'd poop randomly at night. The effect due to the sun during day poops would still be evident.

      • by drnb (2434720)

        Uh, dogs also poop at night. I don't the sun would be in their eyes at midnight.

        You are assuming the researchers are watching at night.

    • by PsychoSlashDot (207849) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:46PM (#45851829)

      I suspect the dogs just don't like staring into the sun then they poo. I'd also speculate that since streets and walls tend to be aligned with the cardinal directions there's an overall alignment augmentation due to their surroundings. finally if they like to poo in a shadow of a tree then likely they may face back to the tree and thus have a bias to north or south alignments.

      Wait. That means that during the early hours they should be facing West and during the late hours they should be facing East. At high noon it doesn't matter what they do. There's no sun-related time that would put bias on North/South axis alignment and the data shows a bias against East/West alignment.

      As for the assertion that the alignment of streets and walls are involved, I accidentally RTFA and found this curious line. "The magnetic consciousness was observed only in dogs off leash, in the middle of a field."

      Better yet, there's variation in behaviour that reflected magnetic fluctuations.

      So it turns out dogshit science isn't as easy as you thought.

      • by goombah99 (560566)

        I read the article too.

        the standard deviations were ~100 degrees and the lower variation between magnetic fluctuations is simply due to fewer samples since those days are fewer. the article is crazy pants.

        • by umafuckit (2980809) on Friday January 03, 2014 @10:29AM (#45856653)
          This is biology. A standard deviation of 100 degrees is not at all surprising for a study such as this and on its own is not enough to write off the result. The study may be BS for other reasons, but a large SD isn't one of them. Look at the first figure in the paper (http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/pdf/1742-9994-10-80.pdf) The clustering around N/S is pretty impressive for the 0% magnetic declination. What I don't understand, however, is why the relationship falls apart when magnetic declination is non-zero. I don't see why that should happen and it makes me think the effect is BS.
    • by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:50PM (#45851867) Journal

      My dog poops mostly facing east, but I believe that's because I always take him on walks at night along the same route, and there's a long straight easterly stretch close to the end of the route. Come to think of it, I don't remember ever seeing him poop facing north or south. Maybe he's broken.

      • by istartedi (132515)

        TFA mentioned that the study was conducted off-leash in a field. The owner has more influence than the magnetic field.

      • I've found that shaking my dog vigorously or lightly tapping his face with my index finger gets him to realign correctly.

    • by drnb (2434720) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @08:22PM (#45852631)
      I wonder how many scientists who happen to own a dog are now writing grant applications.
    • by physicsphairy (720718) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @08:23PM (#45852645) Homepage

      According to the paper, studies were conducted in an open field and there was reportedly no bias based on whether data was recorded e.g., in the morning or in the afternoon. Due to the local weather conditions most of the time the skies were cloudy. When there chanced to be magnetic storms during the day then the dogs' North-South preference disappeared. They did a fairly good of controlling for other factors. The alignment of the magnetic field gave the best correlation.

      • by aevan (903814) on Friday January 03, 2014 @12:22AM (#45853895)
        I'd love to refute this but... in um... maybe 7,000 walks of our two dogs, the clear majority of the time they face north. They face northish when we walk them on a north/south road. they face north when we let them crap on an east/west road. It's not always, but it's good majority. To the point that they'll muck around nibbling leaves and grass, but moment they do a 'spin in a circle and face north' you know what's coming next.

        The only time I've seen them go really randomish is when we're by a power station up the road. So maybe the story has a point.
    • -1, uninsightful

      The article actually addresses time of day and disproves this.

      • by goombah99 (560566)

        the article is rubbish. there's a 100 degree standard deviation in the measurements. the slightest residual bias in the field, say an interesting tree, would completely overwhelm the measured averages with such whopper deviations.

    • by ebbe11 (121118)

      I'd also speculate that since streets and walls tend to be aligned with the cardinal directions

      FYI: This is rarely the case in Germany and the Czech Republic where the study was performed.

  • by BitterOak (537666) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:20PM (#45851457)
    I do the same, and I have a special rotating toilet in my house for that purpose.
  • Correlation (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:23PM (#45851495)

    So which causes which?

  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:23PM (#45851503)
    He defecates in random directions.
    • by zlives (2009072) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:34PM (#45851641)

      please have him subscribe to /. to get his shit straight...

    • by knarfling (735361)
      Have to agree. I have a few dogs, and i have never noticed that any of them line up in one direction or another. All of them have faced different directions when pooping. I must have a bunch of broken dogs.

      A more simple explanation, of course, is that there is an underground facility nearby that is wrecking havoc on the magnetic fields near my house.

      Only way to be sure is to ask my dogs to carry a compass and keep a poop journal. "Iggy, if you can't write in the journal which direction you were facing
      • Any high power lines near your house? Ham radio?

        Plus, it only works off-leash in a field.

        I was thinking that this was a good reason to keep a dog with you if exploring uncharted territory though; not only can you use the excrement to find your way back, you can also take your bearings from it.

        I wonder if this extends to other animals as well... for animals excreting patties or drops, it wouldn't be too useful, but for those excreting logs it could be a useful addition to moss and sun tracking :)

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      So does mine. And so, I would conjecture, do all dogs.
      Why do we insist on speculating that animals have all of these magical abilities, like the ability to tell which way is north, ability to tell when an earthquake is coming, ability to tell when a person has cancer, etc. Humans are animals too, and yet we can't do any of these things (without tools). Frankly, I think the people who say animals can do these things are just full of crap.
      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        Heh tell me about it. I was with my dogs when we had our last earthquake (7.2 on the Richter scale), and I was with them for most of the aftershocks. Absolutely zero "premonition", although they made it to the stairs a lot faster than I did. And of course for every little tremor after the big one they were nervous and jumpy as hell, but then again so was I. But yeah, babies are not suddenly dumber the second they are born (because these people also carry on about how SMART babies are in the uterus), and ani
      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:59PM (#45851961) Homepage Journal

        Why do we insist on speculating that animals have all of these magical abilities, like the ability to tell which way is north, ability to tell when an earthquake is coming, ability to tell when a person has cancer, etc. Humans are animals too, and yet we can't do any of these things (without tools). Frankly, I think the people who say animals can do these things are just full of crap.

        Different species have different senses, and levels of senses. Your eyesight is much, much keener than a dog's, although not as good as an eagle's; your sense of smell is much better than the eagle's, but nowhere near as good as the dog's. And the way brains with very different structures process the information is different too. Is that really so difficult to believe?

        • Is that really so difficult to believe?

          And, of course, we need good empirical evidence to help determine what we should be willing to believe about these things. Hence, we need studies like this. Otherwise, all we're able to do is speculate about what the senses (ours and other animals) are capable of.

          • Yes, exactly! There are a whole bunch of things "everybody knows" that just aren't true, and until we study these things we have no real way to know which is which.

      • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @08:22PM (#45852633)

        Why do we insist on speculating that animals have all of these magical abilities

        This is the opposite - trying to work out more about senses instead of putting it all down to magic.

        ability to tell when a person has cancer

        They smell different and dogs are better at smelling than us. That's all it is. Sensors can be used instead of dogs now that it has been worked out what the dogs are smelling.

        Frankly, I think the people who say animals can do these things are just full of crap.

        Finding stuff in the dark looks like magic too until echo location is described.

      • Actually, humans can tell which way is north/south without tools. We can see <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haidinger%27s_brush">Haidinger's Brush</a>, and thereby detect the polarization of the sky. That tells you which way the north/south axis is, even when it's cloudy enough that you can't see the sun directly.
    • He defecates in random directions.

      Maybe it's been using Dual_EC_DRBG and the NSA hacked him?

    • by MiniMike (234881)

      He may not be broken. Do you live at the magnetic North pole?

  • mmm ...

    If I am in a tropical forest, and I can't see where is the sun because so many trees and every direction is "green", have no GPS neither a device with WIFI ... but have a dog.

    I am saved :-) ... just I need to give the dog some food and to wait.
  • soooo; (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jafac (1449) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:36PM (#45851677) Homepage

    they won't poop on a magnetized carpet?

  • by jslarve (1193417) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:42PM (#45851773)
    They really don't.
  • by organgtool (966989) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @06:46PM (#45851819)
    So stop dicking around already and put a dog in a Faraday cage to see if we can get a dog that doesn't poop!
  • You have to wonder at stories like this - are the researchers actually angling for an IgNobel, or do they have some other motive?

  • Of all time.
  • by suss (158993) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @07:07PM (#45852049)

    Does that mean that if i put a bunch of Molybdenum magnets under the sidewalk, i could get the dogs confused enough to stop pooping there?

    Or maybe the opposite effect...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Must be nothing about the NSA today.

  • my aviation canicraposcope has three pooping dogs mounted at right angles, unlike gyroscopic horizon it needs no electrical power supply, only Purina and prune juice.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @07:50PM (#45852401) Journal

    I put a magnet on an RC toy car and got my dog to draw pictures on the lawn

  • Putting magnets next to a dog's bed to see if he'll turn in fewer circles before lying down.
  • by Chewbacon (797801) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @08:15PM (#45852583)

    I take pictures of our dog pooping and send them to my wife has pranks. "Hey, look at what the baby's doing. :dog shitting picture:" So, I went through them and sure enough she's either facing north or south in the backyard pinching a loaf. She maybe off by a 10 degrees, but never east or west with the same margin.

  • by OneAhead (1495535) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @08:28PM (#45852697)

    (A draft of) the actual research article is freely available here [frontiersinzoology.com]. Key points not mentioned in the summary:
    * the researchers concluded the magnetic field was responsible after observing the dogs lost their directional bias on days with geomagnetic storms, which is pretty cool IMHO
    * the researchers did explicitly discuss bias due to the direction of the sun, and the measures they took to eliminate it from their study.

    All in all, their findings are not to be taken as gospel (as always with original research), but if confirmed, they could spark a hunt for underlying biochemical mechanism.

  • by BringsApples (3418089) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @09:58PM (#45853279)

    But this was perhaps the first time that magnetic sensitivity was proven in dogs, and it was also the first time that a predictable behavioral reaction to the fluctuations in the magnetic field—magnetic storms, often as resulting from solar flares—was proven in a mammal.

    I might be off topic here, but...
    My house sits almost exactly diagonal to Earth's magnetic field, meaning that - unlike Solomon's Temple - only the corners of the house face North, East, South or West. I noticed that both of my kids wiggle around in their sleep in order to have their head face East. This happens in their beds, as well as on the floor. I told my wife what I thought, and we did some experiments:
    Beds:
    I moved both of the kids' beds to have the head face East, and both kids slept straight in their beds (they didn't wiggle out of that direction at all - we tested this for a few weeks. When I moved them back, the kids wiggled to have their heads face East again. So I moved the beds back to have the head face East and left them that way.

    Floor:
    On the weekend we would put a bunch of blankets down in the living room and pass out watching movies. The kids would always wiggle to have their heads facing East. I changed the blankets to have their heads facing West, but the kids would wiggle around to have their heads facing East.

    I don't really find that either my wife or I wiggle around to face a certain direction, but I do find it easier to fall asleep if I move my couch to have my head facing East. Not sure if anyone else has ever had a similar experience.

  • So, does this mean I can put a magnet on a dog's collar and it will give him constipation?

  • Now to add to the "If dogs ran the world" internet meme [*], if dogs could do architecture, the orientation of the bathroom would be decided first, before anything else.

    (holy, err, shit: I looked up "feng shui bathroom" and not only do those clowns talk about bathrooms, the first hit [about.com] says "Bathrooms do tend to leak energy, as well as easily accumulate lower vibrations". Appropriately, that load of, well, shit, comes from "about.com").

    [*] OK OK I know that the Internet is really made of cats [nytimes.com] but before the

  • 70 dogs * 730 days = 51,100 dog-days.

    Now, let's morph all the dogs into one dog's lifespan.

    51,100 days / 5,582 urinations = 9.15 days / urination
    51,100 days / 1,893 defecations = 27 days / defecation

    I'll allow the [grad assistant | poor bastard] actually doing the research to miss a few, but NFW.

  • by Beeftopia (1846720) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @11:51PM (#45853811)

    Of Cows and Power Lines
    Cattle seem to have an internal compass--one that's messed up by power lines
    Posted 1 Jul 2009 | 4:00 GMT
    IEEE Spectrum

    A team of researchers from Germany and the Czech Republic has already discovered that, all factors being equal, cattle and two species of deer tend to align themselves along a north-south axis using some innate magnetic sense, and that this preferred alignment is disturbed when they graze under high-voltage power lines.

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/the-smarter-grid/of-cows-and-power-lines [ieee.org]

    • Could perhaps Bee colony collapse disorder [wikipedia.org] be caused by the sudden increase of wireless technology that's been built since the early 2000's? Perhaps the bees simply can't navigate their way back to the apiary because their internal compasses are scrambled? That might explain why we haven't found any toxins or diseases that cause it.
  • My pooch was always prone to dingleberries. Too much magnetic alignment, obviously.
  • My dogs also spin in circles when they poop, just like a compass. Must be true.

  • The original article (free to read): http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/10/1/80/abstract [frontiersinzoology.com]

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