Rejoice! Looking at cute animal photos is good for you! »
Good news, everyone! Time to go find kittens, puppies, and bunnies online!
Wired Science reports on a new study that suggests looking at cute animal pictures can improve your concentration. The research was done in Japan, where cute overload is basically the national condition.
Cute baby animals help you concentrate, but they don’t help you just generally be smarter, though, so probably better to use kitten flashcards while studying but not while at cocktail parties. Though that would make you popular in other ways, so go for it! Bring kitten flashcards!
[Photo via cute overload]
Owl monkey dads are the best! After tracking this owl monkey fam, a scientist documented that the monogamous owl monkey couple shares parenting duties—with the dad taking on most of the jobs other than nursing! The video says that monogamy is rare among primates. National Geographic says the scientist believes that “monogamy goes hand in hand with the upbringing.” If pops is going to be taking care of the babies, he can’t be busy stepping out with other owl monkeys!
Meet the teeny tiny leaf chameleons! »
Oh hey there, little guy, what’s up? I noticed you were recently discovered — along with three other species of tiny chameleons—by scientists in Madagascar. Man, I love science.
You know what else I love? How you’re shaped like E.T. How your juveniles are smaller than the width of a human fingernail. You know what I don’t love? That your continued existence is an extremely delicate situation. So let me introduce you to someone who knows how to navigate the big world in a tiny body. You guys can go hang-gliding together, maybe.
Also: OMFG I’M GOING TO CRAWL OUT OF MY SKIN YOU ARE SO CUTE I AM GOING TO PUT A TINY HAT ON EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!!!!
Factory Farming = Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs. Europe Gets It. »
Some wonky science policy news from “across the pond,” as they say: Last month, European scientists and leaders talked some big talk about how the massive insane horrible quantities of antibiotics used in factory farming are going to kill us all.
The bad news? The massive insane horrible quantities of antibiotics used in factory farming are going to kill us all.
The good news? At least some officials, somewhere, admit it. “Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most serious public health challenges that we face,” says the head of Europe’s version of the CDC. And yup, overuse of antibiotics in agriculture is one of the big culprits.
This story gets really wonky really fast, so if you want details I’ll refer you to Wired.com's coverage. But I just thought you should know, so you can be saving up for your plane ticket and your villa in France. Budget option: Stay in the U.S. and buy a hazmat suit. Hipster budget option: Buy a hazmat suit on Etsy.
[photo modified from an image by friendsoffamilyfarmers on Flickr]
Eat less meat: Science says so! »
A study in Nature this week gives you a new round of paintballs to shoot at the non-vegan world in your mission to convince people that flesh-licking is for zombies. Basically, the researchers asked, “How the hell can we possibly feed the 9 billion people we’ll have on this planet by 2050?!?! FUCK!!!”
In a tiny little nugget of optimism, they found that it actually might be possible to do such a thing, IF we change a lot about how we deal with agriculture on this planet. That’s a huge if.
The team, from four different countries, looked at farm data and satellite images and probably went cross-eyed and bonkers and needed glasses from all the number-crunching.
They found that we could double food production AND reduce environmental impact, for only three easy payments, act now because this offer won’t last, if we:
- Stop clearing land for agriculture: We have enough land, we need to use it better.
- Catch the rest of the world up to the “developed” world in terms of crop yields (god help us, is that really a good idea?).
- Use fertilizer and other chemicals in a smart and frugal way.
- Stop throwing so much food out (a third of all food right now!).
- EAT LESS MEAT.
YES! The scientists actually say that moving toward plant-based diets will help end world hunger. According to one of the study’s authors, three-quarters of the world’s agricultural land is devoted to raising livestock, either for grazing or for growing feed.
So put that in your quiver. It’s not like scientific conclusions sway many minds (see: climate change), but it’s nice to know we’re right, you know?
Your right amygdala loves animals! »
Guess what: Your brain loves animals! Duh, right, you read this blog. Or maybe you read this blog because you hate plants with such a vengeance you want to spend all your food-time destroying them. Even YOUR brain loves animals, because scientists recently discovered that everyone’s brains have a thing for them. At least this one specific part of everyone’s brains.
Turns out your right amygdala (which is an almond-shaped bundle of nerves deep in your brain that helps with processing emotions and survival-y stuff) is full-on hypersensitive to animals. Cute animals, scary animals, doesn’t matter: Show those neurons a picture of a house or landscape or whatever, and they’re like, “Yawn;” Show them a picture of your mom, or your best friend, or even the hottest person EVER, and they’re still like, “Uh-huh;” but show them a turtle or a llama or a newt? ZING! They respond 20 percent faster and more often.
The researchers who discovered this give credit to a little theory they like to call “evolution.” Ars Technica breaks it down like this: “Sometime during the evolutionary history of humans, animals became important enough to receive expedited processing in this region of the brain.”
Moral of the story: Pay attention to animals. Your amygdala is begging you to.
[Image by Liz Henry via Flickr]
Bees might actually be more afraid of us than we are of them, for real »
Despite my morbid fear of bees, I try to respect them. If I see one, I run screaming at least 20 feet before looking to see if he or she chased me. But it seems as though this behavior might hurt their little bee feelings: A recent study at Newcastle University says that bees can have “pessimistic biases,” meaning “the tendency to perceive threat or anticipate negative outcomes”—but only when they’re feeling pessimistic. Wait, what? Yes, when bees are feeling bad, they behave like something bad is about to happen.
The researchers trained a group of bees to associate two odors with two foods, one that bees like and one that they don’t. After this, the response of the bees’ mouth parts was measured in response to “ambiguous” odors, to see if they would open their mouths to eat, or not.
To further test the bees’ responses, half of the subjects were plopped into a badger-attack simulator (such a thing exists?!) and then measured their neurological responses. When the bees were scared, they responded negatively to the stimuli. A negative experience—a.k.a., being treated cruelly by researchers—made the bees assume the ambiguous odor would not be food. Neat, right? Neat and mean!
Had you already assumed that bees have feelings? Why risk it—most other creatures seem to. Still, this study’s results are pretty awesome. Apply them to your life, and go say nice things to a bee today. Buzz!
[Beautiful cartoon by Megan Rascal]
Gross meat germs cost us billions in healthcare dollars annually! »
I get a lot of questions about being vegan:
Q. Do you actually like tofu?
Q. Don’t you miss steak?
Q. How did you get to be so beautiful?
A: I’ll never tell.
One of the most irritating questions is, “Isn’t veganism crazy expensive?” and I’m all, “How much did that carton of free-range eggs cost you?” Now science can back me up: Some study ranked pathogens found in food according to how much they cost society, and more than half, including the top three, are found in meat products.
Guess what was at the very tip-top? A food contaminant called Campylobacter, which is found in the nastiest of factory-farmed products: chicken! Campy, as it shall be affectionately known henceforth, sickens 600,000 people and costs society $1.3 billion per year in terms of medical care, missed work, chronic health problems, and even death. DEATH, Y’ALL. Could this all be fixed, as the article suggests, by overhauling the USDA? Probably not—they be in the pockets of the meat and dairy industry, yo!
In conclusion, while veganism might sometimes cost me slightly more money right off the bat (assuming I choose to eat exclusively processed faux meat products) than eating burgers and chili dogs, it saves me AND society money in the long run!
Awesome vegans: 1; defensive omnivores: 0 »
If you’re vegan, you’ve heard it. And if you’re an omnivore, (admit it) you’ve said it. It’s usually one of the first “lines of defense” against a vegan diet: “If we weren’t meant to eat meat, why do I have these canine teeth?”
But do the meatheads have any ground to stand on? Lucky for us (and the animals), Milton R. Mills' comprehensive article "The Comparative Anatomy of Eating" breaks down, in no uncertain terms, the differences between mammalian carnivores, omnivores and herbivores once and for all. “Culture, custom and training are confounding variables when looking at human dietary practices. Thus, ‘observation’ is not the best technique to use when trying to identify the most ‘natural’ diet for humans,” says Mills. “While most humans are ‘behavioral’ omnivores, the question still remains as to whether humans are anatomically suited for a diet that includes animal as well as plant foods.”
He then goes on to compare in great detail the difference between the three classifications. Exhibiting anatomical and physiological features associated with each kind of diet, Mills covers oral cavities and dental structure, stomach and small intestine distinctions, and colon and digestive tracts.
Breaking the scientific mumbo-jumbo down in layman’s terms, we learn some pretty powerful facts:
- Herbivores’ saliva contains carbohydrate-digesting enzymes which begin breaking down food molecules while the food is still in the mouth; carnivores’ saliva does not contain this enzyme as they do not chew their food.
- In herbivores, the jaw joint is positioned above the plane of the teeth, allowing complex jaw motions needed to chew plant foods; carnivores have a simple hinge joint lying on the same plane of the teeth, almost eliminating side-to-side motion.
- Carnivores have a single-chambered stomach and short small intestines; herbivores have significantly longer, more elaborate guts so as to properly digest fibrous diets.
- Carnivores’ colons are simple and very short, as its only purposes are to absorb salt and water; in herbivores, it is a highly specialized organ involved in water and electrolyte absorption, vitamin production and absorption, and fermentation of fibrous plant materials.
Yeah yeah, all of this is well and good, I guess…but what’s the big conclusion? Are humans built to be vegans, or soulless, arrogant flesh-eaters?
SORRY, CARNIES! Here’s the key, my fellow veggies—memorize this for future ammunition needs:
In conclusion, we see that human beings have the gastrointestinal tract structure of a “committed” herbivore. Humankind does not show the mixed structural features one expects and finds in anatomical omnivores such as bears and raccoons. Thus, from comparing the gastrointestinal tract of humans to that of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores we must conclude that humankind’s GI tract is designed for a purely plant-food diet
Honestly, though—is anyone really surprised? Didn’t think so! Find Dr. Milton. R. Mills’ compare/contrast chart at the bottom of the page here for further info.