Thursday, November 09, 2006

Self recognition, and science in the Islamic world

From the beeb’s always excellent Science page comes a fascinating story.

Elephants don’t just remember, they also show self awareness.

Yup, elephants can recognize their own reflections in the mirror. To quote the article:
“Many animals will respond to a mirror but very few show any evidence that they recognise themselves in the reflection. Canines, for example, will react to the "other dog" and will even look behind the mirror to try to find it."

This puts elephants in the group of animals with the highest degrees of self awareness; humans, the great apes, and dolphins. Read all about it here.

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And for some more interesting reading, Nature has an extensive feature on Science in the Islamic world.

To quote some nuggets:

“Low investment and a low profile combine to keep the scientific community small, marginalized and unproductive. This is not simply a matter of underdevelopment; the oil-rich Gulf states invest pitifully in R&D…”

Or “The conditions in which knowledge flowered a millennium ago are hardly those that today's Islamists say they favour. Back then, support for scientific enquiry was matched by an openness to other cultures and sources of knowledge.”

The articles range from the present seemingly hopeless state of science in Islamic countries, to a beautiful timeline of historical scientific achievement in the Islamic world, to poor support for science oil rich gulf states, with a few bright spots in Turkey, Malaysia or (surprisingly) Iran, and many, many more excellent articles.

Surprisingly (for Nature), many of these articles are free to access.

The articles are well worth your time. Here.

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