Dangerous Sheep And Anatidaephobia

Facial recognition has been in the news a fair bit over the last few weeks, not least because the iPhone X implemented as a device unlocking feature which doesn’t always work when you’re twins, children, or wearing glasses.

A far more amusing story caught my eye, though, when I saw news of a study by researchers at Cambridge University in to whether sheep can recognise human faces.

It turns out that they can, to the same level as primates.  Eight female Welsh Mountain sheep were trained to distinguish Barack Obama, Fiona Bruce, Jake Gyllenhaal and Emma Watson from pictures of relative peasants, using food pellets as a reward.

The beasts were shown different photos on two computer screens; the sheep made their choice by breaking an infrared beam with their noses to release the treat. The sheep were able to recognise the people from multiple angles as well as their handlers at rates significantly above chance.

This is kind of concerning when viewed in the light of a new word I learnt this week – anatidaephobia.  This is the fear of being looked at by a duck or goose.  It’s not a real phobia, but is apparently made up by cartoonist Gary Larson for his popular comic The Far Side.  If someone does have that fear, though, does that not make it real?

And if you’re scared of ducks looking at you, just imagine what the sheep are thinking when they can recognise you…

We all recognize that I’m the problem here
We all recognize that I’m the problem here
It’s impossible to know or so it seems
What I’m supposed to do with you on anything
I know that playing this time is going to fall on me
Cause we all recognize that I’m the problem here
Can’t help but feel attacked, what’s that supposed to mean
I know I won’t relax or act like it’s no big deal
This happens all the time, it’s kind of our routine
But we all recognize that I’m the problem here
We all recognize that I’m the problem here
We all recognize that I’m the problem here
We all recognize that I’m the problem here
We all recognize that I’m the problem
Ghouls by We Are Scientists

 

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