CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

Are Cats and Dogs Right or Left Handed, Too?

Original image
ThinkStock

According to two studies, the answer is yes: Just like humans are usually right- or left-handed, cats and dogs are typically right pawed or left pawed.

The first study, performed by researchers at Turkey's Ataturk University in 1991, showed the majority of domestic cats are right pawed (50 percent), 10 percent are ambidextrous, and the remaining 40 percent favor their left paw. But dogs, according to a 2006 study by the University of Manchester, tend to be more evenly split—around 50 percent of dogs are left pawed and 50 percent are right pawed, with a statistically insignificant number being ambidextrous.

Determining if your cat or dog is left or right pawed or ambidextrous isn’t as simple as holding a toy just out of reach and seeing which paw they reach with. This is because their paw preference is often weakly expressed, unlike with humans. So in order to accurately determine your pet’s paw preference, you need to run tests several dozen times to see the trends. Just a few tests include: What paw does your dog most often shake with? If your dog or cat is playing on its back and you put your hand just out of their reach, which paw do they reach for your hand with? You can also try putting a treat or a toy under a piece of furniture to see which paw they usually reach for the treat or toy with. If your pet wants to come inside, which paw does it typically use to scratch at the door? 

In all these cases, record which paw is used and once you’ve done several dozen (at least) such tests, check to see if there is a clear dominant paw. If not, continue on until one emerges. If you’ve done 100 to 200 or so such tests and there is no noticeable paw preference, your animal is probably ambidextrous.

Why does it matter if your animal favors one paw over another? Stefanie Schwartz, a vet at the Veterinary Neurology Center in Tustin, California, told the Daily Mail that determining laterality—or what part of the brain is dominant over the other—could one day help breeders figure out which puppies are best suited to be military, service, or therapy dogs.

Daven Hiskey runs the wildly popular interesting fact website Today I Found Out. To subscribe to his “Daily Knowledge” newsletter, click here.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Where Is the Hottest Place on Earth?
Original image
iStock

The summer of 2017 will go down as an endurance test of sorts for the people of Phoenix, Arizona. The National Weather Service issued an extreme heat warning, and planes were grounded as a result of temperatures exceeding 120 degrees. (Heat affects air density, which in turn affects a plane’s lift.)

Despite those dire measures, Phoenix is not the hottest place on Earth. And it’s not even close.

That dubious honor was bestowed on the Lut Desert in Iran in 2005, when land temperatures were recorded at a staggering 159.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The remote area was off the grid—literally—for many years until satellites began to measure temperatures in areas that were either not well trafficked on foot or not measured with the proper instruments. Lut also measured record temperatures in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2009.

Before satellites registered Lut as a contender, one of the hottest areas on Earth was thought to be El Azizia, Libya, where a 1922 measurement of 136 degrees stood as a record for decades. (Winds blowing from the nearby Sahara Desert contributed to the oppressive heat.)

While the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) acknowledged this reading as the hottest on record for years, they later declared that instrumentation problems and other concerns led to new doubts about the accuracy.

Naturally, declaring the hottest place on Earth might be about more than just a single isolated reading. If it’s consistency we’re after, then the appropriately-named Death Valley in California, where temperatures are consistently 90 degrees or above for roughly half the year and at least 100 degrees for 140 days annually, has to be a contender. A blistering temperature of 134 degrees was recorded there in 1913.

Both Death Valley and Libya were measured using air temperature readings, while Lut was taken from a land reading, making all three pretty valid contenders. These are not urban areas, and paving the hottest place on Earth with sidewalks would be a very, very bad idea. Temperatures as low as 95 degrees can cause blacktop and pavement to reach skin-scorching temperatures of 141 degrees.

There are always additional factors to consider beyond a temperature number, however. In 2015, Bandar Mahshahr in Iran recorded temperatures of 115 degrees but a heat index—what it feels like outside when accounting for significant humidity—of an astounding 163 degrees. That thought might be one of the few things able to cool Phoenix residents off.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
How Does Autopilot Work on an Airplane?
Original image
iStock

How does autopilot work on an airplane?

Joe Shelton:

David Micklewhyte’s answer is a good one. There are essentially a few types of features that different autopilots have. Some autopilots only have some of these features, while the more powerful autopilots do it all.

  • Heading Hold: There’s a small indicator that the pilot can set on the desired heading and the airplane will fly that heading. This feature doesn’t take the need for wind correction to desired routing into account; that’s left to the pilot.
  • Heading and Navigation: In addition to holding a heading, this version will take an electronic navigation input (e.g. GPS or VOR) and will follow (fly) that navigation reference. It’s sort of like an automated car in that it follows the navigator’s input and the pilot monitors.
  • Altitude Hold: Again, in addition to the above, a desired altitude can be set and the aircraft will fly at that altitude. Some autopilots have the capability for the pilot to select a desired altitude and a climb or descent rate and the aircraft will automatically climb or descend to that altitude and then hold the altitude.
  • Instrument Approaches: Autopilots with this capability will fly preprogrammed instrument approaches to the point where the pilot either takes control and lands or has the autopilot execute a missed approach.

The autopilot is a powerful computer that takes input from either the pilot or a navigation device and essentially does what it is told to do. GPS navigators, for example, can have a full flight plan entered from departure to destination, and the autopilot will follow the navigator’s guidance.

These are the majority of the controls on the autopilot installed in my airplane:

HDG Knob = Heading knob (Used to set the desired heading)

AP = Autopilot (Pressing this turns the autopilot on)

FD = Flight Director (A form of navigational display that the pilot uses)

HDG = Heading (Tells the autopilot to fly the heading set by the Heading Knob)

NAV = Tells the autopilot to follow the input from the selected navigator

APR = Tells the autopilot to fly the chosen approach

ALT = Tells the autopilot to manage the altitude, controlled by the following:

VS = Vertical Speed (Tells the autopilot to climb or descend at the chosen rate)

Nose UP / Nose DN = Sets the climb/descent rate in feet per minute

FLC = Flight Level Change (An easy manual way to set the autopilot)

ALT Knob = Used to enter the desired altitude

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios