Type A canine: Dogs have personalities too



Q. The personality survey had 34 items, focusing on the four traits of energy, cooperativeness, emotional sensitivity, and intelligence-plus-curiosity. Who was being surveyed?– G. Gurdjieff


A. Dogs, the aim being to look for distinctive canine personalities. Indeed, the researchers found them, concluding that certain personality traits differ as much among dogs as they do among people, University of Texas- Austin psychologist Samuel Gosling told Science News.

But how would anyone gauge this? The 78 dog owners rated their own personalities and those of their dogs, almost half of them mutts.Then each owner had a friend rate the traits of the owner and the dog, showing surprising concurrence. Finally, strangers at a park watched the owners interact with the dogs– again concurrence.

Next up for the researchers? To check if other mammals also have personalities.

Q. What's the most common test for people to take at night? And not just at night, but while they're sleeping! –S. Freud


A. The classic Examination Dream, in which the dreamer can't find the room where the test is scheduled, or sits at a desk but has trouble seeing the questions, or the pen won't write, said Dr. Theresa A. Sullivan at the 2003 University of Texas graduation.

In our society, this is among the top five dream types, generally appearing first during adolescence but striking in old age as well. Perhaps some 40 percent of college students have these dreams, but here's the good news: "Almost 100 percent of college graduates report having the dreams!" Why good news, when the dreamer often awakens in a cold sweat with heart pounding? Because real exam failers are far less likely to have had Examination Dreams than those who ultimately succeed.

Beyond the school setting, these dreams seem subtle reminders to the dreamer of having faced old challenges and come through okay, says Charlottesville psychologist Robert Van de Castle. So a looming job interview or new family responsibility may trigger such a dream. "What better metaphor could there be for how we measure up?"

And so, concluded Sullivan to her graduating audience, "while I won't wish that all your dreams come true, I can hope that all your wishes be fulfilled."

Q. As you read this, how many solar neutrinos pass through your body each second? None? A hundred? A million? A billion? –C. Kent


A. More like 400 trillion, answers Arizona State University astronomer Jeff Hester. Each of these neutrinos forms when two protons fuse together in the core of the Sun. This is the first step in the sequence of nuclear fusion reactions turning hydrogen into helium, providing the energy that has powered the Sun for 4.5 billion years and will continue to do so for the next 5 billion. Even though these neutrinos are formed in the heart of the Sun, they interact so feebly with matter that they are able to stream outward as if the rest of the Sun weren't there. They are also able to pass cleanly through Earth– and your body– without leaving a trace.

Even though extremely elusive, neutrinos can be detected if you are clever enough. Raymond Davis Jr. and Masatoshi Koshiba were awarded a share of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work with these elementary particles.

Q. How often are people born with six fingers? Is the extra finger useful or does a surgeon remove it as soon as the baby is born? –L. Kotke


A. So-called "polydactyls" may have six or more digits on either their hands or feet or both, an inherited condition, says "Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia." The extra digits vary from small pieces of soft tissue to complete fingers or toes and occur in about one in every 500 babies, more in certain populations such as the Amish, where few outsiders join the group and marriage occurs within the community. In Western society, the extra digits are usually surgically removed early in life.

Whether these are useful is unclear, but one major league pitcher from the Dominican Republic reportedly had six digits on both hands and feet– nickname: "the octopus." After the team won an important game, the manager jokingly asked him to "give me six."

Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at strangetrue@compuserve.com.