10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet): A Guide to the by Michael Hanlon

By Michael Hanlon

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The fact that apes, our closest relatives, can be this bright is perhaps not surprising, but what has taken more than a few scientists aback is just how intelligent some birds, a group whose very name was previously a byword for stupidity, are turning out to be. In the BBC television series Life of Birds, shown in 1998, some extraordinary footage was shown in which crows in Japan dropped hard-shelled nuts onto the road at a pedestrian crossing. After waiting first for the nut to be cracked open by a passing car and then for the traffic to be stopped when a pedestrian pushed the button, the crows would land to retrieve their nuts.

Perhaps inevitably, this is a field which attracts flaky thinking like moths to a candle – to some, it is only a short step from talking parrots to telepathic parrots. We may no longer be alone, and this will, inevitably, affect the way we treat our fellow consciousnesses. Hurting a zombie is fine because the zombie cannot mind. But how many scientists now believe that even their rats are zombies? For the moment the mainstream scientific establishment considers that it is, just about, OK in extreme circumstances to experiment on a chimpanzee.

S. (2004) The mentality of crows: convergent evolution of intelligence in corvids and apes. Science, 306, 1903–7. 2 why is time so weird? 43 44 10 questions science can’t answer yet Time makes our lives. It is the key to how we perceive everything, from the ticking of our own minds to the events which mark our passage from birth to death. We can perhaps imagine a universe without colour, or without heat or light, but we cannot imagine a world without time. And yet, as far as physics seems to understand it, we may have to.

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