It’s impossible to deny it. Society has reached a point where generations are distinguishable primarily based on which technology had yet to exist during one’s childhood. For most of us, it’s hard to remember a time before our computers, cars, and cellphones all doubled as a GPS. Long gone are the days when invitations to birthday parties included turn-by-turn directions such as “proceed through four traffic lights, then make a right at the Amoco station.” Hey, come to think of it, Amoco is also a relic of the past after being bought out by BP in 1998. And while it’s easy to digress and reminisce about the tangible things that disappear slowly over time, perhaps we’re losing an even bigger connection to our surroundings and to the world itself.
Pop quiz: if you were dropped off in unfamiliar territory, unable to verbally communicate with anyone around you and only wearing the clothes on your back, would you be able to find your way home? Enter Holly, a 4-year-old tortoiseshell cat from Florida whose incredible journey made her an overnight sensation. Holly’s family dealt with the heartbreak of losing her when she disappeared from their RV on a trip to Daytona Beach. Determined to reunite with her loved ones, Holly did the unthinkable. She traveled 200 miles in two months to get back to her home.
Shall we pause for a momentary math break? According to a Google search for the “average speed of a domestic cat,” let’s say Holly could run nearly 30 mph. (Extra credit: what did people do before Google? Click for the answer!) Had she maintained a direct sprint for upwards of six and a half hours, she could have returned in time for dinner. Still, with no GPS or steadfast guide to follow, Holly only had one option: instinct. This is where even the most “sciency” of scientists (i.e. the Sheldon Coopers of the world) struggle to understand how Holly succeeded.
Studies show that animals often use the stars to determine their direction, a technique that humans familiar with navigating by way of the North Star also use. Even after distinguishing north, south, east and west, Holly needed to remember exactly where her house was located in proximity to her starting point. Meanwhile, other research suggests that various species also navigate by magnetism, which means they can use the Earth’s magnetic field and polarity to develop an internal GPS system that could be more accurate than Apple Maps (not terribly difficult) or the latest Garmin tech (a tad harder).
Because our primary understanding of most species comes solely from monitoring their physical behavior, and it’s impossible to know whether Holly received any human assistance, perhaps the easiest way to come to terms with how she returned home is to chalk it up as one of nature’s miracles. That it is.
It also makes you wonder whether modern day humans could manage the same without all of the tools regularly at our disposal. As for the whole magnetism thing, maybe that finally explains why some of us are so strongly opposed to asking for directions. Could it simply be our “animalistic” nature? Try as it might, technology can never replace that. Probably.
Image via AmazingCreatures.