16 January 2010
14 January 2010
Bill Maher is urging NASA to leave monkeys out of the space race.
The space agency recently approved a proposal to conduct radiation studies on live squirrel monkeys in an attempt to understand the effects of interplanetary travel. The space agency has not used monkeys for radiobiology research in decades.
“I’m writing to ask you to rethink NASA’s recently announced plan to spend $1.75 million on an experiment that will blast live squirrel monkeys with dangerous levels of radiation.” writes Mr. Maher in a letter dated Jan. 13 to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. “It’s been decades since NASA last funded a study that involved irradiating nonhuman primates. Don’t turn back the clock — cancel this cruel exercise in futility.”
In the planned experiment, researcher Jack Bergman will irradiate squirrel monkeys in an attempt to understand what might happen to humans on long-term space flights, such as a trip to Mars. Bergman has used squirrel monkeys for 15 years in addiction experiments that have involved applying electric shocks, withholding food, and completely immobilizing the animals in restraint chairs for extended periods. Ongoing studies, including those funded by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, already use non-animal methods to determine the effects of low-dose radiation on human tissues.
"…when we really look at the data, it’s not nature red in tooth and claw; there’s really a lot of empathy and compassion both within and between species."
12 January 2010
The Art of Falconry : News (KGBT 4)
"RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS -- The art of falconry dates back more than 4,000 years, but as Paul Juergens readies his peregrine for flight, he adds a touch of modernity in the from of a satellite tracking device."
Sonar wars in the night skies (NewsObserver.com)
"Conner began to study bats and moths together and learned that just like military aircraft, at least one species of tiger moth can jam enemy sonar by producing a sound at the right frequency. Moths, of course, found it first. Jamming sonar means the moths interfere with their enemies' fine-tuned way of bouncing sound off objects to navigate. However, the b. trigona moth seems to thwart its enemy, the bat, every time, and the military still can't claim that rate for foiling anti-aircraft missiles. Conner has only studied the one type of moth but has never seen a moth get eaten after producing the high frequency racket. So, can the military learn a thing or two from a moth?"
Birdland is an immersive sound work. Set in a 3D game construction space, visuals are minimalised and sound is maximalised in order to experiment with sensations, perceptions and flows of listening. Within the space, the user glides freely around sculptural, architectural and topological formations. The project aims to develop new techniques for composing sound and new ideas about the significance of listening, through a reading of Deleuzian and Lacaning texts in conjunction with playful and intuitive exploration. An iteration of the work presented for the Time Transcendence Performance conference is an early prototype created for the Design Research Institute’s Virtual Reality Centre.
11 January 2010
07 January 2010
….I talk to animals all the time. Once upon a time I was out in the pre-dawn darkness wiping dew off my car window so I could drive to work "... when I felt a bump on my right ankle. I looked down to see a big, fat striped skunk sniffing my leg. "Hey, Stinky, please don't do that," I said softly. The skunk looked up, turned around and waddled off into the darkness.
–Gary Bogue, Contra Costa Times
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientists who compare insect chirps with ape calls may look like they are mixing aphids and orangutans, but researchers have found common denominators in the calls of hundreds of species of insects, birds, fish, frogs, lizards and mammals that can be predicted with simple mathematical models.
Compiling data from nearly 500 species, scientists with the University of Florida and Oklahoma State University have found the calls of crickets, whales and a host of other creatures are ultimately controlled by their metabolic rates — in other words, their uptake and use of energy.
The finding, reported in today's Proceedings of the Royal Society B, will help scientists understand how acoustic communication evolved across species, uniting a field of study that has long focused on the calls of particular groups of animals, such as birds.
The results also provide insights regarding common energetic and neuromuscular constraints on sound production, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of producing these sounds.
"Acoustic signals are used to transfer information among species that is required for survival, growth and reproduction," Gillooly said. "This work suggests that this information exchange is ultimately governed by the rate at which an animal takes up and uses energy."
Animal communication is a long-studied area of biology, going back at least to the days of Aristotle. But generally the studies were species-specific, made in the context of courting calls or parental care of a certain type of animal — nothing to relate an animal call across a variety of species.
"From my perspective this is one of the first true attempts to provide a general theoretical framework for acoustic communication," said Alexander G. Ophir, Ph.D., an assistant professor of zoology at Oklahoma State, who began the painstaking process of compiling data on animal calls in hundreds of different species while a postdoctoral student at UF. "This seems to provide unifying principles for acoustic communication that can be applied to virtually all species. In terms of producing sounds, we use vocal cords, but other mechanisms of sound production exist, such as insects that rub their legs together. Until now, these sounds have been treated differently. But by providing a general mathematical framework — a baseline — we have a reference point to compare those differences.
"So if we say one animal's call is loud, we can provide a predictive reference point to say whether it is truly loud when compared with other animal sounds," he said.
That common reference point can even predict what animals long extinct — think of Tyrannosaurus rex of "Jurassic Park" fame — may have truly sounded like.
"These findings say if you give me information about an animal of a certain body size and the mechanisms it uses to make sounds, I can give you a rough idea of what it sounds like," said Jeffrey Podos, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who did not participate in the study. "It allows us to imagine where the evolution of acoustic signals might go, and where it might have come from. Further study will probably put these principles in a more explicit evolutionary framework, but this is an interesting idea and presented with such a broad view. I can't think of anyone in at least 30 years who has tied together data from such a diversity of species. These authors are really trying to see the forest instead of the trees."
"Bob Simon has reported for CBS News on everything from the Vietnam War to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait to the Israel-Palestine conflict. This past Sunday on 60 Minutes, Mr. Simon returned to an even heavier subject-elephants. 'Elephants communicate in a complicated, sophisticated language that scientists are trying to decipher and compile into the world's first elephant dictionary,' reported Ms. Simon."
05 January 2010
"…Nick Gales from the Australian Antarctic Division, who is leading the expedition, believes it will show that Japan's arguments for whale hunting are misguided. 'Anyone can always come up with a project that you have to kill an animal to measure something,' he said. 'But the important question is whether or not you need that information - and our view very strongly is that all of that type of information that is relevant to the conservation and management of whales can be gathered using new and very powerful non-lethal tools.'"…
04 January 2010
The researchers therefore conclude that the nose touching between dogs not only is a way of saying "Hello" but also helps to answer the question "Have you encountered any snacks or other food around here?"
02 January 2010
Spiders Decorate Webs with Ornaments
Ribbons, shimmery fluff, silk tufts and hints of red and green might sound like Christmas tree ornaments, but these decorative touches have all been spotted in the webs of orb-weaving spiders, according to a new study.
However, the festive scene takes on sinister new meaning. Researchers have just discovered that, similar to how human eyes are drawn to holiday ornaments, spider prey are drawn to their death by colorful, shimmering decorations.