Corgi Calculus

Where was Elvis when I was flunking calculus in grad school? I dont mean THE Elvis as in blue suede shoes, Graceland and hound dogs...

Joy  |  Mar 8th 2006


Dogs Know Math

Where was Elvis when I was flunking calculus in grad school? I don’t mean THE Elvis as in blue suede shoes, Graceland and hound dogs (though that hound dog part is really cool). I’m talking about Elvis the Corgi who was written up in, among other things, Science News Online. Elvis Bogart Wales lives with mathematician Tim Pennings of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Pennings realized that Elvis was performing calculations when he and Elvis went to the beach to toss a ball. Don’t ask me about the fine points of the calculations (I did say I flunked calculus, didn’t I? Twice.) but it seems that when Tim throws the ball at an angle to the beach, Elvis chooses the most efficient path back. Pennings even ran experiments with Elvis to see if he was actually making the best choices. Seems he was.

But Pennings isn’t the only mathematician watching dog calculations. Pierre Perruchet of the University of Bourgogne and Jorge Gallego of Robert-Debre Pediatric Hospital in Paris worked with a female Labrador named Salsa to come to the theory that dogs optimize their behavior, and choose paths, on a moment-by-moment basis.

Then another mathematician, Leonid Dickey of the University of Oklahoma published his theoretical extension on Pennings research, questioning what would be the effect if the soil on which the dog ran varied. No research on the theory though. As the article said, maybe he doesn’t have a dog.

If I had only known calculus involved so many dogs I might have paid more attention in class. Take that back. I would have paid more attention if there HAD been dogs involved.