Science, Wildlife

Study Shows That Crows Are Much Smarter Than We Ever Imagined

Anyone who has ever had a run-in with a crow knows that they are quite intelligent. But a new study released in Science proves that they may be even smarter than we think. According to researchers, crows and other corvids possess primary consciousness—something that, until now, only humans and some primates were thought to have.

Crows have already proven themselves to be great problem solvers and can get quite creative, but this new discovery could change the way we think about the evolution of animals. So what exactly is primary consciousness? Also known as sensory consciousness, it’s a term that refers to the ability to put together memories and observed events to cultivate an awareness of the present and immediate past. For instance, as a child, we may have put our hand near a flame and gotten burned. Remembering this painful feeling taught us not to repeat the same action the next time the opportunity presented itself.

How did the researchers measure the cognitive abilities of crows? They worked with two carrion crows and trained them to signal whether or not they saw a coloured marker on a screen by moving their heads. Unequivocally throughout the tests, the crows showed that they could reliably signal whether or not the colored markers appeared. At some moments during the test, the markers were so faint that they were barely perceptible. In these cases, sometimes the crows still signalled the marker and in others, they did not. That’s where their subjective perception came into play — via My Modern Met

Science, Wildlife

Urban foxes may be self-domesticating in our midst

In a famous ongoing experiment started in 1960, scientists turned foxes into tame, doglike canines by breeding only the least aggressive ones generation after generation. The creatures developed stubby snouts, floppy ears, and even began to bark. Now, it appears that some rural red foxes in the United Kingdom are doing this on their own. When the animals moved from the forest to city habitats, they began to evolve doglike traits, new research reveals, potentially setting themselves on the path to domestication — via Science

Science, Wildlife

Cuttlefish go light on lunch when there’s shrimp for dinner

A team of scientists led by the University of Cambridge has found that when cuttlefish know they’re getting shrimp for dinner, they’ll only have a light lunch of crabs. This ability to anticipate their favourite food is an indication of the cephalopod’s complex brain and cognitive abilities — via New Atlas

Science
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Rust offers a cheap way to filter arsenic-poisoned water

When water flows deep underground, it often dissolves inorganic substances from mineral deposits in the earth’s crust. In many regions, these deposits contain arsenic, a naturally occurring element that is colourless, tasteless and odourless. Although its presence is barely noticeable, prolonged exposure to arsenic-contaminated water can lead to gangrene, disease and many types of cancer, resulting in major loss of income for millions of people and even death.

Inspired by natural processes in soil that bind contaminants and filter them out, Case van Genuchten, a researcher in the Geochemistry Department of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, has been using iron oxides such as rust, which are abundant in soil, to filter out arsenic from groundwater. He leads experiments at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory that investigate low-cost methods of treating groundwater using only small amounts of electricity and steel or iron. The team’s most recent paper, which compares the arsenic-removing performance of different forms of rust has been published in Water Research — via Phys.org

Science

Scientists have trained rats to drive tiny cars to collect food

Rats have mastered the art of driving a tiny car, suggesting that their brains are more flexible than we thought. The finding could be used to understand how learning new skills relieves stress and how neurological and psychiatric conditions affect mental capabilities.

They constructed a tiny car out of a clear plastic food container on wheels, with an aluminium floor and three copper bars functioning as a steering wheel. When a rat stood on the aluminium floor and gripped the copper bars with their paws, they completed an electrical circuit that propelled the car forward. Touching the left, centre or right bar steered the car in different directions.

Six female and 11 male rats were trained to drive the car in rectangular arenas up to 4 square metres in size. They were rewarded with Froot Loop cereal pieces when they touched the steering bars and drove the car forward — via New Scientist

Science

Why Are 96,000,000 Black Balls on This Reservoir? / Veritasium

Derek Muller took a boat through 96 million black plastic balls on the Los Angeles reservoir to find out why they’re there. The first time he heard about shade balls the claim was they reduce evaporation. But it turns out this isn’t the reason they were introduced — via Youtube

Entertainment, Science

New Horizons / Brian May

Celebrating the whole 12-year Journey of New Horizons probe. This is Brian’s personal tribute to the on-going NASA New Horizons mission, which on New Years Day 2019 will achieve the most distant spacecraft flyby in history — via Youtube

Health, Science

Melbourne researchers flag potential for new hearing loss treatment using nanoparticles

Scientists from Melbourne’s Bionics Institute and the University of Melbourne believe they can use nanotechnology to deliver restorative drugs to deep within the ear to sufferers of neural hearing loss.

It is the most common form of deafness, affecting people as they age, or if they’ve been exposed to prolonged periods of loud noise in industries such as music, mining, construction, manufacturing or the military — via ABC News

Science, Wildlife

Why Goats Have Strange Eyes / Science Insider

Just admit it, goat eyes look a bit unusual! They’re flatter and more elongated than ours and that actually might be a key towards their survival. A study out of the University of California, Berkeley looked at many different animal eyeballs and discovered a fascinating trend — via Youtube

Science, Wildlife

World’s first domesticated foxes / Verge Science

Verge Science met the very cute and very bizarre result of an almost 60-year-long experiment: they’re foxes that have been specially bred for their dog-like friendliness toward people. They do a little behaviour research of their own, and discover what scientists continue to learn from the world’s most famous experiment in domestication. The fox experiment continues under the supervision of Lyudmila Trut at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics. Her book How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog), co-authored by Lee Alan Dugatkin, details the history and science behind the experiment — via Youtube

Science

How To Stop Structures from Shaking / minutephysics

This video is about Tuned Mass Dampers, which can be used to reduce or avoid unwanted vibrations, swaying, swinging, bending, etc on engineered structures ranging from buildings, skyscrapers, electricity power transmission lines, airplane engines, formula one race cars, etc. TMD’s use damped coupled oscillators — via Youtube

Science

Hear the Otherworldly Sounds of Skating on Thin Ice / National Geographic

This small lake outside Stockholm, Sweden, emits otherworldly sounds as Mårten Ajne skates over its precariously thin, black ice. Wild ice skating, or Nordic skating, is both an art and a science. A skater seeks out the thinnest, most pristine black ice possible — both for its smoothness, and for its high-pitched, laser-like sounds — via Youtube

Science, Wildlife

Why do animals have such different lifespans? / Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

For the microscopic lab worm C elegans, life equates to just a few short weeks on Earth. The bowhead whale, on the other hand, can live over two hundred years. Why are these lifespans so different? And what does it really mean to age anyway? Joao Pedro de Magalhaes explains why the pace of ageing varies greatly across animals.

Lesson by Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, animation by Sharon Colman — via Youtube