The Jeff Wise Blog

How Dogs Read Our Minds

I’m currently in northernmost Quebec, in the Inuit village of Puvirnituq. The seemingly endless expanse of snow and ice, the biting subzero temperatures and the howling wind, powerfully drive home the resourcefulness of the Inuit, who for over a thousand years thrived in this unforgiving landscape with only stone-age technology. But what powerful technology it was: fire, seal-skin anoraks, snow-carving knives for making igloos, and above all, dogs. Yesterday afternoon I went for a dog-sled ride with expert musher Jean-Marie Novalinga, whose team pulled us across a flat, wind-scoured landscape. Unlike dog teams in Alaska, those in this part of the Arctic are harnessed in a loose fan formation, as if one were being pulled by a feral pack of dogs. One there in the empty expanse, man and dog working together, the partnership feels like a very primal relationship indeed.

It is, at heart, both a practical relationship and a deeply emotional one. “You have to feel connection to your dogs,” Novalinga said. “It’s the only way to work together.”

Anyone who has ever lived with a dog knows what he means by connection. Humans and dogs have a way of intuiting one another’s emotions – of feeling like we know what the other is feeling — that is unique among all the species on earth. But how they can achieve it is something of a biological puzzle. After all, dogs and humans are not particularly closely related species. Our last common ancestor lived far back during the age of dinosaurs. Dogs are more closely related to whales than they are to us. We are more closely related to mice than to dogs. So why should we feel such a powerful and unique bond? Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Wilderness Skills

Hunting With Home-Made Weapons

Recently I traveled to Santa Cruz, California, to write about a wilderness-skills enthusiast who hunts big game using home-made weapons of stone and wood. It wasn’t until I was crouched in the undergrowth of the Santa Cruz mountains, waiting for a 300-pound boar to come strolling within bowshot, that I realized how incredibly dangerous an undertaking this could be. That doesn’t daunt my guide, 30-year-old Cliff Hodges, who has killed a 450-pound black bear with a stone-tipped arrow. I’ll post more about this when the article is published in Popular Mechanics. In the meantime, here’s a short video I made about Hodges, with the help of my 13-year-old niece (and video wunderkind) Anna Emy. Thanks, Anna!

Filed under: Wilderness Skills

Thinking About Fear & the Brain

If I find myself in a severe crisis, will I be able to keep it together? How can I control anxiety and panic? Is it possible to lead a life less bounded by fear? These are the sorts of questions that I'll be exploring in this blog, an offshoot of my book, Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, published on December 8, 2009 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Video Introduction

Also by Jeff Wise