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Tuesday, November 25

The Debunker: Can Owls Turn Their Heads All the Way Around?

by Ken Jennings

In November, we set our clocks an hour forward and officially say good-bye to an hour of daylight every evening. From now until spring, we're going to be spending most of our non-working hours in the dark: commuting home from the office when it's dark, making dinner when it's dark, meeting friends when it's dark, getting the kids to and from a million stupid activities in the dark. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, is going to brighten this gloomy month with the light of knowledge, debunking some long-held myths about other nocturnal urban wanderers: the birds and critters you might see on a streetlit November night.

The Debunker: Can Owls Turn Their Heads All the Way Around?

One of the secrets of owls' lethal hunting skills is their amazing eyesight. Unlike most birds, owls have two front-facing eyes, which give them binocular vision. In other words, they're one of the few birds that could actually enjoy a 3-D movie (assuming they gave a hoot and could find a pair of the special glasses to fit them). But there are trade-offs involved: bird eyes are fixed into their sockets by a tiny ring of bone, so owls must move their whole heads any time they need to look around. In popular belief, they can swivel their heads all the way around. You know, like R2-D2, or Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

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Monday, November 24