Fido has brains

Your dog may be as smart as a toddler, says Stanley Coren, a UBC professor emeritus of psychology and leading researcher on dog behavior.

Coren garnered international attention this month for research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention.

Coren told the audience that the newest research strategy for understanding dogs is to use tests meant for very young children.Using such tests, psychologists have learned that average dogs can count, reason and recognize words and gestures on par with a human two-year-old.

Coren said the average dog can understand about 165 words, including signs, signals and gestures; they can count to about five; and they can intentionally deceive other dogs and people to get treats they want.

CNN, China Daily, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Toronto Sun, USA Today and the Daily Telegraph were among those that covered Coren’s presentation.

UBC unveils DNA cleaner

A new technique developed by UBC researchers could prove revolutionary for forensic investigators and molecular biologists.

The device uses electricity to extract DNA from heavily contaminated samples that would otherwise not produce enough clean DNA for analysis, says lead researcher Andre Marziali, director of UBC ‘s engineering physics department and spin-off company Boreal Genomics.

The Vancouver Sun, CBC, Canwest News Service, CTV, The Canadian Press and Business in Vancouver reported the findings.

Early prototypes of the instrument, called Aurora, have been sold to a U.S. defence company, the U.S. navy and Canadian universities.

Pierse nabs another world record

UBC swimmer Annamay Pierse set a world short-course record last month in the 200-metre breaststroke at the British Grand Prix swimming competition in Leeds, England.

It was Pierse’s second world record in eight days, having just set the world long-course record at the FINA world aquatic championship in Rome.

“It feels pretty awesome to get the record again,” Pierse told the Vancouver Sun, which joined the Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press, CBC and the Calgary Herald in reporting on her accomplishments

Geese use their pecs

A higher density of blood vessels and other unique physiological features in the flight muscles of bar-headed geese allow them to do what even the most elite of human athletes struggle to accomplish – exert energy at high altitudes, says a new UBC study.

The New York Times reported that researchers led by UBC doctoral student Graham R. Scott found that the bar-headed goose has more capillaries around the muscle cells than related species like barnacle geese and more of the mitochondria – which use oxygen to supply energy to the cell – within cells.

Often bred in captivity as domestic garden birds, bar-headed geese migrate annually in the wild between India and the high altitude plateaus in China and Mongolia, flying over the world’s highest mountains on their way.

Hybrid programs don’t work

A UBC study finds that government programs that provide rebates to hybrid vehicle buyers are not worth the investment, the CBC reported this month.

“If the intention of rebate programs is to replace gas guzzlers with hybrids, they are failing,” said Ambarish Chandra, a professor in the Sauder School of Business and study co-author.

Chandra says people are choosing hybrids over similarly priced small- and medium-sized conventional cars, which are not far behind hybrids for fuel efficiency and emissions.

The multi-million-dollar rebate program becomes more ?inefficient as the rebate amount climbs, reported news outlets including Xinhua, The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun.