What does it mean to be self-aware?

That is the question that some scientists are coming back to. There is a test to see if an animal is self-aware: the mirror test. First scientists put a mirror in the environment so the animal can get familiar with it. Then they put a mark on their body that they can only see in the mirror. It’s evidence for self-awareness if they look in the mirror and then touch that part of their body.

Human can do this when they’re about 2 years old. Many other primates also pass. So do elephants, and 1 bird, the magpie. Some scientists disagree that they elephants and magpies really passed.

And now, there’s another possible species that might be considered self-aware: The cleaner wrasse. This is an intelligent, very social, fish that lives in coral reefs. Researchers gave some the mirror test, and some of them passed. The injected a bit of color under the scales around the “chin” of the fish, and after seeing their reflection, they tried to scrape their chin on the sandy bottom, something they do to remove irritants.

The researchers had a lot of trouble getting their paper published, possibly due to resistance in the scientific community to admitting that a fish can be self-aware. Many scientists doubt the results of this experiment, thinking that the fish’s behavior doesn’t show self-awareness.

Just what this experiment means has yet to be decided, but it’s very interesting.

Why do people doubt Climate Change?

Many people in the U.S. don’t think that Climate Change is happening, even though a vast amount of evidence shows that it is. Justin Farrell, at Yale University, looked into the reasons there is so much polarity on the subject. He examined two decades of public texts on the subject, and found that there are over 150 organizations that have something to lose is alternative sources of energy are promoted.

In looking at the data, he found that organizations with corporate funding were more likely to give out information that was meant to polarize that organizations with public funding. He also found that the corporate funding influenced the content, and lead to a digression from actual science.

In short, he suggests that contrarian efforts by some actors seeking to mislead the public have caused so much confusion that many Americans are no longer able to figure out who to listen to or believe. He suggests that his research also highlights the needed for more information dissemination from publicly funded sources to counter those that are backed by corporations.

Here are some links to actual scientific information on Climate Change and Global Warming.

  1. Climate change: How do we know? [NASA]
  2. Global Climate Change Indicators [NOAA]
  3. Evidence for Global Warming [Skeptical Science]
  4. Global Warming Science [Union of Concerned Scientists]
  5. Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense [Scientific American]
  6. A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems [Nature]
  7. Ecological responses to recent climate change [Nature]
  8. Tropical Glacier and Ice Core Evidence of Climate Change on Annual to Millennial Time Scales
  9. Ice Core Evidence for Climate Change in the Tropics: Implications for our Future
  10. Modern Glacier Retreat on Kilimanjaro as Evidence for Climate Change: Observations and Facts
  11. Archaeological and palaeoecological indications of an abrupt climate change in The Netherlands, and evidence for climatological teleconnections around 2650 BP