Spacey & Timely Superpowers, Life in Triplicate, Man Sniffs Dog

This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has four segments. Here are the beginnings of each of them:

  • Spacey superpowers — Some people have a superior knowledge, and maybe control, of space and direction. That is evident in the harvest from Feedback’s call to identify trivial superpowers – a person’s ability to reliably do some particular task that seems mundane to them, but that most people find impossible to do except once in a while by sheer luck. Also evident, in the views expressed by some harvesters, is that other people have an inferior knowledge.Martin Pettinger says: “I almost always can sense which direction is north (or east/west/south) without looking at a map or the sun. My children can also do it, but my second wife and her family, and apparently others, cannot.”Jan Horton says…
  • Timely superpowers — Other people have a superior knowledge of time. These time-related abilities may be the most beneficial of trivial superpowers.Bonnie Packert says: “I have no idea whether this is common. I shared this ‘talent’ with my father but have not heard from others who could do the same. When I set an alarm to wake up, I usually awaken just before it goes off, within a minute or two of the set time, maybe as much as five minutes early. It is nice not to have to listen to the blaring and to leave my partner sleeping peacefully.”George Greider says:
  • Life in triplicate — While perusing the latest crop of research news about estimating mesocarnivore abundance on commercial farmland using distance sampling with camera traps, Feedback happened across a paper by three researchers from Durham University, UK, who happened across some Caracal caracal caracal.Caracal caracal caracal is, it is perhaps needless to state, one of several species that have been graced with a triple tautonym for their formal scientific name.A tautonym is a name – for some particular kind of animal, plant, alga, fungus or whatever – that has the same word for both genus and species. A triple tautonym has that same word repeated a third time for the subspecies.Caracal caracal caracal brought to mind Bison bison bisonBison bison bison triggered memories of Bufo bufo bufo….
  • Man sniffs dog — A twist on the old joke about “man bites dog” is playing out in homes where well-groomed dogs live together with (presumably) well-groomed people. “Dog Cosmetics: Another unexpected source of allergen exposure” reads the headline of a report in the journal Contact Dermatitis.Authors Livia Francine Soriano, Shannon Kimberly Soriano and Deirdre Buckley surveyed “all 163 dog cosmetic products sold face-to-face in five high street pet stores in Southampton, UK”, paying special attention to the lists of ingredients….