Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Drug carrier pigeons too loaded to fly

Drug smugglers in Columbia have obviously been reading my posts about how smart pigeons are.

So it must have made sense for them to use them as carrier pigeons to fly drugs into a prison.

Unfortunately they overloaded the pigeon when they attached a 1.6 ounce bag of marijuana to its back. The pigeon crash-landed near the prison but was too weighed down to take off again.

Once again proving that some people are more stupid than pigeons!

PS I’m worried now that stunts like this will give pigeons a bad name!



Vultures smarter than pigeons?

Saudi Arabian counter-espionage agents recently “arrested” a vulture they believed to be a Mossad spy.

They had spotted it circling around in the sky in a suspicious manner (that’s what they do looking for dead flesh) and when they actuall caught it they found it had a GPS tracking devices attached to it. However after news stories about “Zionist plots” a Saudi Prince announced that once the device had been checked the bird would be freed.

These devices are put there by scientists at Tel Aviv University  to track their movements. So you could, kind of, see why they might look suspicious. But come on, everyone knows that they should be looking out for pigeons!

Updated 18 February 2011: Seems that almost all Asian vultures have been wiped out because of a (now banned) drug used by farmers and vets to keep livestock healthy. This has meant an increase in disease, rats and wild dogs which are more of a threat to humans than the vultures.

So they have set up vulture restaurants in India, Pakistan, Nepal and South Africa. These are fly-in sites (no advance booking required and plenty of landing space near fresh water) where vultures can eat uncontaminated carcasses – bought from local villagers and drug-tested – nest, and breed. Read more here

Those you have read – top 10 in 2010

When you first sit down to write a blog you hope people are going to want to read it – unless you plan it as a private journal where you can unburden yourself or have a rant at the world (OK so occasionally I have a rant too).

So it’s great for me that so many people have read my blog posts and some of them have even posted comments  – usually in a friendly way although occasionally mischievously.

So which posts had most readers in 2010? In reverse order:

10th most read: Living Together Apart (LTA) on the increase

This was a follow-on from my first ever posting and obviously reflected current trends among couples of all ages

9th most read: Daydream believer

This was an early post which originated in contributions I made to the Daily Mirror and Eve magazine. Perhaps we are all romantics at heart and want to believe in the power of dreams but it was also expanded into a guest business blog for my friends at Smoking Gun PR

8th most read: I’m stressed – gaze into my eyes

Well we all prefer a pretty face don’t we but it turns out that swearing also helps us withstand pain better!

7th most read: What sex is your job?

And still on pretty faces it seems you can sometimes be too attractive for your own good.

6th most read: Shoot yourself in the foot – join Facebook

As an avowed non-Facebook person it was pleasing to see that people did want to understand the down-sides of entrusting your personal life to it.

5th most read: Pigeons smarter than people??

Surprisingly popular perhaps but maybe it explains why some people still feed these flying vermin, especially outside high street bakers’ shops.

4th most read: What makes you happy?

And on a more positive note .. don’t we all want to be happy?

3rd most read: So many “friends” yet still lonely

My first post about the perils of Facebook – and yes I admit it was a bit of a rant!

2nd most read: 101 reasons why you can’t live together

The very first thing I ever posted and it obviously struck a chord (and thanks to everyone who contributed both willingly and unknowingly!)

But by an overwhelming number of views – 3 times the second most read – the clear favourite and most read post:

Blushing – do men find it attractive?

This was another early post and originated with a contribution I made to an article in the Daily Express but has continued to appear in my top posts section.

So thank you everyone and all the very best for 2011 when I will do my best to bring you more interesting posts.


Pigeons faster than rural broadband

What next? Pigeons faster than a speeding bullet?

To demonstrate how poor broadband connections are in rural England 10 carrier pigeons were released to fly 120 miles to Skegness carrying video clips on memory cards (some reports say there was only one – Rory the racing pigeon).

The pigeon(s) arrived in 75 minutes by which time the computer had downloaded only 24% of the 5 minute long (300 Mb) video file. BT should hang its head in shame – or start hiring some pigeons.

Updated 13 January 2010: According to telecomms regulator Ofcom’s  International Communications Market report, we want more technology than our European neighbours and spend twice as much online yet we have the slowest broadband speeds.

70% of us subscribe to broadband and mobile broadband use eg smart phones increased by 70% last year – twice the average increase elsewhere in Europe. And we spend twice as much as the French and Spanish online. Yet we are rubbish with technology. 59% of us have HD TVs but only 1/3 are actually connected to an HD service. Only 0.2% of households are connected to a super fast broadband service compared to 2% in germany, 12% in Sweden and 34% in Japan!

When it comes to mobile broadband download speeds in Germany and Italy are four times faster than ours and in Japan, Poland and Australia it’s six times faster. And in Sweden they have download speeds of 100Mbps compared to our puny 7.2Mbps (by coincidence those are Swedish pigeons in the attached photo).

We are not going to get anywhere near these speeds until 2015. On the other hand we pay on average £15 per month, cheaper than anywhere else except Poland, and we apparently have the lowest mobile and fixed-line prices.

PS Although I don’t own any pigeons nor have ever eaten pigeon pie, I seem to find pigeon stories. See: “Pigeons as music critics“; “Pigeons smarter than penalty takers“; and “Pigeons smarter than people“.

Pigeons now music critics

We know pigeons are smarter than people at learning how to maximise the chances of “winning” but now it seems they have become music critics as well.

The Kings of Leon had to abandon a concert this week when they were covered in pigeon droppings from above the stage. I’d say that is giving a pretty clear message to them.

To be fair, it could be that the pigeons were just excited by the noise as they also s**t on the support band – but support bands are probably used to that!


Pigeons possibly smarter than penalty-takers in football?

The best way to take a football penalty is to shoot straight down the middle as goal-keepers tend to move to their right or to their left.

At least that’s the conclusion of a group of economists who studied penalty-taking in the French and Italian leagues using a branch of mathematics called (perhaps appropriately) game theory.


Right footed penalty takers tend to shoot to their left, their strongest side, and in fact most penalties are aimed to the right of the goalkeeper who should therefore dive to his right more often than he does.

Footballers are actually good at mixing things up when they  take penalties but why don’t they maximise their chances (like the pigeons in my earlier post)?

Because if the penalty-taker shoots down the middle and the goalkeeper saves it he looks like he is a poor penalty taker. If he shoots left or right and the goalkeeper saves it the goalkeeper gets the credit for making a great save.

But if the penalty-taker is thinking more about himself and his reputation than the team -and most premier league players are nothing if not egotistical – he is unlikely to adopt the best strategy of shooting down the middle.

Other research by sports psychologists suggests ignoring the goal-keeper and his distracting movements  http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jun/07/psychology-worldcup2010 and Petr Cech believes that wearing an orange top attracts the ball.

The colour of the keeper’s jersey could actually influence the result as some research suggests that it is harder to score against goalkeepers who wear red (just over 50% success) than against those who wear yellow , blue or green – the latter being the worst colour with a 75% success rate for the penalty-taker. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/international/article7099198.ece

Let’s see how this works out in the World Cup!

As if to make their point did you notice the pigeons sitting on the Algerian goal posts when England was playing against them? They clearly knew they were safe.

So it’s Germany again and the possibility of penalties. Hope you heard the Radio 5 phone-in this morning (25/6) with David James, Peter Schmeichel, and other experts adding their pennorth’ .