Inside Doug's Head

For all your intelligence, you seem unable to know where you are wanted.

An interesting and well established peculiarity about elephant behavior is that sometimes, while they are sleeping, elephants can tip over onto their face and begin rotating around in a circle, pushed along by their hind legs as they move together in a pseudo walking motion.

The elephant’s weight, combined with the natural diggy-ness of their tusks, will cause an ever deepening hole to form in a short interval of time. If left unstopped, this action leads to the hole becoming large enough that the entire body of the elephant sinks into it, and the elephant buries itself alive. Death soon follows, like so many out of bounds solo snowboarders stuck head first in fresh powder.

Although this odd behavior has been observed by elephant experts in the past, it has never been explained. Recently, in a breakthrough research program, the sleeping brainwaves of an elephant have been linked into the mind of a human scientist. The interspecies psycho-mental connection has allowed scientists to view and interpret the subconscious dreamtime of elephants for the first time.

As everyone knows, elephants are hatched from eggs, and while only females are found in the wild, males are made from females as the need arises, determined and sanctioned by the International Elephant Welfare Committee. For the experiment, a male elephant was purpose-built by bolting on a few extra parts to an immature female, including electrodes wired directly to the brain. The account of the experiment by the researcher who was attached to the sleeping elephant sheds new light on the animal’s behavior.

In the dream, as I experienced it, I was walking along in the jungle, with a tuba in one hand and a sack full of walnuts in the other. I was humming a Bing Crosby song, thinking I should have bought oranges.

Since both of my hands, or front feet as they are sometimes called, were occupied with non walking tasks, it was necessary for me to perambulate upright solely on my hind legs, which were definitely not up to the dual challenges of bearing my massive weight and moving it forward. The whole bipedal motion arrangement was decidedly unstable, and it was only a matter of time before I slipped on a bit of jungle leaf clutter, detritus if you will, falling face first into a hollow spot in the ground.

Once I was down, the only thing I could do was to push forward with my hind legs while concurrently trying to lever myself back into an upright, also known as vertical, orientation. To do so required me to shift my center of gravity to be colinear with my pelvis and tail, such that the resultant tipping moment would rotate me up, instead of translating me forward, but it was impossible to do so. The effort could have yielded a better outcome had I possessed the presence of mind to let go of the items I was firmly grasping in my hands. Eventually, I fatigued, exhaustion set in, and I could continue to struggle no more.

The researchers have concluded that elephants are dreaming of falling over and being unable to right themselves, leading to their tipping over and digging themselves into a hole. The purpose for the sack of walnuts remains a mystery; perhaps, some kind of metaphor.

Researchers are now focused on finding a way to train the elephants to let go of the things they are holding in their hands when they fall down, and determining where they learned so much about mechanical dynamics.

Other questions remain, but the technology could help find the answers: Do dogs dream of catching cars? Do android sheep dream of electric vehicles? What about cats? What sort of sick and twisted perversities do cats dream of?


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