Monday, January 6, 2014

Data Collecters Wanted

or Dog Owners Needed

I know there are many of you out there who are as interested as I am in experimenting and collecting data for scientific purposes. You may remember my ill-fated egg frying experiments, my potato chip size to bag comparisons, and the M &M taste test that is still getting off the ground. Well, I've heard about a new study that I would love to try to replicate if I only had a dog. But alas, I only have cats. So I'm hoping that some of you with dogs will collect data and report back so we can hear if your results agree with the findings of the study.

Miss Lander's dog that I may have to borrow.
The study I am referring to came out in the December 2013 journal of Frontiers in Zoology. It stated that for two years, German and Czech researchers watched a group of 70 dogs of various breeds poop* 1893 times and pee** 5589 times. What they discovered from their observations was that when there was a calm magnetic field (no sunspot flareups, etc.), the dogs preferred to poop with their body aligned in a north-south direction. At this point, the researchers don't know why, but they're pretty excited because this is the first time that they have actually seen that the earth's magnetic field affects a mammal other than for navigation.

Now if you're going try to do this experiment to be published in a peer-reviewed journal or for a grade in school, there are several things you should take into consideration like the daily activity of the magnetic field and whether or not your dog is on a leash.*** And to make your results meaningful, you should use circular statistics to norm this activity with your observations. But just for fun, you can just get a GPS/compass (or use the sun and moss on trees) to figure out which way is north and start paying attention when you're walking your dogs.

So who's going to start collecting data? Or have some of you already observed something like this in your dog's behavior already? I may have to borrow a dog. :)

*in the biology world known as defecate
**in the biology world known as urinate
***dogs on a leash didn't exhibit the N-S alignment

A little more:
Although I read a couple of news releases and the provisional abstract of the article in Frontiers in Zoology, the complete article was not yet available online. So I was left with many unanswered questions like:

Where'd they get the dogs and did they depend on owner reporting or was there carefully measured, unbiased observation?

What happened when the dogs peed? Any directional preference?

What was the actual statistical confidence in their numbers?

Was there any correlation in size of dog to the amount of magnetic field disturbance it took before it affected the pooping behavior?

Who thought this one up?