Category Archives: By Daniel Sternklar

Big Cats Play With Toilet Paper

Big Cats Play With Toilet Paper

Everyone knows that cats love to play with toilet paper. That got the Big Cat Rescue wondering, would big, wild cats find toilet paper just as fun and entertaining as their little domesticated cousins?

From this video it becomes clear that, yes, big cats love TP as much as any kitty. Adorable. 


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Human Pathogen Found in Gray Seal Pups

Pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and fungi seem to jump between species quite often. Ebola, West Nile, Lyme disease, dengue, salmonella, and malaria are just some of the zoonotic diseases that are transmitted between animals and humans. Researchers used to think that their spread stops at the land-to-sea interface, but now, surprisingly high levels of a human bacterial strain have been found in gray seal pups in Scotland. The study, published in Molecular Ecology, is one of the first to establish a direct land-sea transfer of a human pathogen to marine wildlife. 

As we expand and urbanize, sewage and wastewater inevitably pollute coastal environments. One well-known case of a terrestrial pathogen that made its way out to sea is Toxoplasma gondii: Sea otters can become sick with toxoplasmosis when cat litter containing parasites is flushed out to sea. 

To explore the potential for human pathogens to spread to marine wildlife, Moredun Research Institute’s Johanna Baily and colleagues isolated the common zoonotic bacterium Campylobacter from gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) in a breeding colony on the Isle of May in Scotland. These coastal “hook-nosed” pinnipeds are an important bioindicator (or sentinel species) for environmental pollution—they’re like the canary in a coal mine, except for monitoring coastal contamination. People who become ill with the foodborne disease campylobacteriosis might get abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhea. It’s occasionally life-threatening if it spreads to the bloodstream.

They found Campylobacter jejuni present in half of all the pups sampled: 24 out of 50 dead pups and 46 out of 90 live pups. The infected dead seals also showed signs of intestinal inflammation, similar to the human symptom. “We suspected it was there, but we expected to find a very low prevalence,” Baily tells Science. “Campylobacter has been previously detected in seals at very, very low levels. The prevalence we found in gray seal pups was absolutely shocking.”

All 19 of the returning yearling animals, on the other hand, were negative for C. jejuni. That suggests the seals can become cleared of their infection while away from the localized source in the colony. 

So, to get at the source, the team sequenced the genomes of 90 strains isolated from seals and compared those to 192 published genomes from multiple sources, including Campylobacter isolated from marine mammals, wild birds, agriculture (like livestock), and human clinical samples. Their analyses grouped 76 percent of the seal samples with those from human and agricultural samples.

“The findings are consistent with either a common source or direct transmission of human and gray seal Campylobacter infection,” Baily says in a news release. However, the genomic sequences of the seals’ bacteria were also very similar to those from poultry. And since we typically contract Campylobacter from eating infected poultry, it’s quite possible that humans and seals are both getting the bacteria from domestic birds. If that’s the case, agricultural runoff—and not direct contact—could explain why a human pathogen is found in seals.

Images: (top), Johanna Baily (middle)

Photo Gallery

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Astronaut Ron Garan Joins Social Good Summit


The speakers roster for Social Good Summit — a three-day conference exploring how digital technology is impacting the world for good — is filling up fast. The Social Good Summit partners are hard at work planning sessions that address all of the world’s greatest challenges, and feature some of the brightest minds in digital and social good.

Register for Social Good Summit 2011 - Presented by Mashable, 92Y and UN Foundation - September 19 - 22, 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

We’re pleased to have the following speakers join the dynamic agenda:

Ron Garan: Astronaut Ron Garan has traveled 71,075,867 miles in 2,842 orbits around the Earth. Garan is also passionate about openness, collaboration and transparency, especially in government. He was involved in NASA’s Open Innovation Initiative, and he’s been involved with many global mass collaboration and citizen science programs. Garan’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through numerous projects like Unity Node, which seeks to develop a universal, open source, collaborative platform to enable humanitarian organizations around the world to work together toward common goals.

Jack Andraka: Jack Andraka is not your average teenager. When he was 15 years old, he created a paper sensor that detects pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer in five minutes, costing as little as three cents. He’s given several amazing TED Talks on his views on the medical industry, and he’s been featured on 60 Minutes, NPR Marketplace and the BBC. Andraka also speaks about open access, STEM education and universal Internet availability.

Steve Howard: Steve Howard is IKEA’s chief sustainability officer and a member of its Executive Management Committee. He is responsible for the company’s sustainability strategy, a trend that he believes will shape society’s landscape greatly over the next century. Howard focuses on making sustainability attractive and affordable for everyone.

These speakers join a list of other great speakers who are already confirmed. We’ll be announcing more speaker updates for Social Good Summit each week on Mashable, so stay tuned!

Purchase Your Tickets to Social Good Summit


The Social Good Summit is where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions and is brought to you by Mashable, The 92nd Street Y, The United Nations Foundation, The United Nations Development Programme, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Ericsson. Held during UN Week, the Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss a big idea: the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges.

Date: Sunday, Sept. 22 through Tuesday, Sept. 24
Time: 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. each day
Location: 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., New York, N.Y.
Tickets: $130 for a three-day pass

Register for Social Good Summit 2011 - Presented by Mashable, 92Y and UN Foundation - September 19 - 22, 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

Press: Press credentials will be given to press and bloggers from around the world for all Social Good Summit sessions and the Digital Media Lounge (DML). The DML is a fully wired workspace at 92Y to report out of, network with fellow members of the media and self-organize interviews and exclusive content from Social Good Summit sessions. The DML will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 22 though Sept. 24. To apply, please fill in the form here.

About Ericsson

Image courtesy of Ron Garan

What Color Are These Shoes? New Argument Engulfs The Internet

Its the meme that refuses to die. That dress yes, that one is back, but it appears to have been reincarnated into flip-flop form.

For the record, this writer sees the footwear as being adorned with a blue and gold mixture. They dont look blue and black, or white and gold, to yours truly.

Sure, you can use Photoshop to ascertain the exact pigment of color and settle the debate once and for all (again), but that would ruin the chance to see your coworkers and friends shout and point at each other anew.

The fact that this optical illusionstill persists in its popularity is fairly astounding. It doesnt help that it keeps getting reported on, and the irony isnt lost on us at IFLScience. Still, peak dress doesnt appear to have happened yet in fact, it looks like were far from it.

So it seems that, for now, civilizations will rise and fall, but this meme and all the rage and bemusement it produces will live on. Beyond climate change, beyond apocalyptic volcanic supereruptions, beyond alien invasions, this treacherous color dichotomy will endure.

This meme will likely stand alongside cat videos as one of the enduring creations of our species. Make of that what you will.

To be fair, we have always preferred another optical illusion meme. Namely, can you tell the difference between these pastries and various dog breeds?

[H/T: Metro]

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These TripAdvisor Reviews Of Scientific And Natural Wonders Are Unbelievably Weird

Science and nature are bloody amazing something that, as a reader of our site, you already know. From the incredible variety of wildlife all around us to the waterfalls, canyons, volcanoes, and oceans, planet Earth is a rather wonderful place to live.

Some people, however, disagree with this sentiment. They seem unimpressed by everything in this regard, poo-pooing archaeological wonders as a bit dated or impact craters from meteorites as just mere holes in the ground. Even our best museums monuments to our understanding of the cosmos are dismissed as being a bit rubbish.

We arent sure why these few humans have such insurmountably high standards, but its safe to say that they arent afraid to express their controversial opinion. So for your delectation, dear readers, here is a selection of the most extreme and strangely negative reviews weve found on TripAdvisor for natural wonders, fabulous museums, and phenomenal ancient architecture.

1 London’s Natural History Museum, UK

Is it possible for a vegan to be offended at the sight of Sophie the Stegosaurus being displayed in her skeletal entirety? We didnt think so, but then according to this reviewer, wed be wrong.


2 Grand Canyon, Arizona

Just a big old hole in the ground one that contains a river and not much else, apparently. There were quite a few reviews like this actually, with many of them saying that the photographs of the canyon were much better than the real thing.


3 Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

An overrated water fountain. Boring.


4 Northern Lights, Iceland

Iceland still cant control the weather or the Sun? What a total disappointment.


5 CERN, Switzerland

This rather profoundly sexist reviewer thinks that only men with science brains, not women of any kind, can enjoy this marvel of modern science. Sweet gift shop though.


6 Loch Ness, Scotland

Although we enjoy the fact that the reviewer recognizes that Nessie could be male or female, were not sure why theyre so surprised they didnt see it in real life.


7 Pompeii Archaeological Site, Italy

FAKE. This is fake archaeology.


8 Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Just a rubbish pile of snow. Just like the Pacific Ocean is a gigantic wet puddle of nothing.


9 Mount Fuji, Japan

Is it possible to think a mountain is boring or shit? Especially one of the most iconic and beautiful mountains/volcanoes on Earth? Apparently it is possible if you try hard enough.


10 Patagonia, Chile

This is just a bloody massive park. Couple of mountains and lakes, but otherwise, boring.


11 Stonehenge, UK

This ancient timepiece was a bit too old-school for this reviewer.


12 Maccu Piccu, Peru

They are stone ruins on top of a hill.


13 Nazca Lines, Peru

These enormous 2,500-year-old geoglyphs are completely uninteresting. Peru really is pants, eh?


14 Terracotta Warriors, China

Can these ancient warrior casts ever be considered to be inconvenient? Were they not giving the tourists proper directions or something?


15 Very Large Array, New Mexico

Just a bunch of stupid pointy things.


16 Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico

Made famous among non-scientists thanks to the James Bond flick GoldenEye, this reviewer thinks that only science geeks need visit. Completely nonplussed, they describe the telescope itself as a big thing hanging from some wires.


17 Paris Catacombs, France

The complaint here is essentially that these catacombs contain far too many skulls and bones. Thats like saying a restaurant has too much food inside it.


All these scientific institutions, natural wonders, or archaeological sites are actually breathtaking, by the way. Plonk them all on your bucket list if you havent done so already.

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Contest Gives You The Chance To 3D Print Your Own Design On The International Space Station

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have had their own 3D printer up there since 2014. The goal is totest out the potential of astronauts printing their own tools up in space duringfuture long-term expeditions and, thanks to a new contest, youcan be a part of that amazing project.

Mouser Electronics are holding a competitionwhereanybody has the opportunity to create their design onboard the ISS 3D printer. All you have to do is write a 200-word blurb of your design about how it could benefit the astronautsand upload an image of it. You also have to keep in mind some rules and guidelines. As they explain in their description, You design it. Well 3D print it in space. Mouser is looking for an innovative design idea from college engineering students and engineers that can be used by astronauts 200 miles above Earth.

The tech company added, The design can be a useful tool, a research item, even an item for entertainment.

To judge the entries, theyve brought in former ISS Commander Chris Hadfield and ex-Mythbuster Grant Imahara. The competition closes at midnight on October 7, 2016.

You can also see all the entries from other participants as they come in, which so far includes “food delivery system” and a model of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.

The grand prize is your own 3D printer. But lets face it, the coolest bit is having your own creation floating around 400 kilometers (250 miles) above Earth.

Click here to enter.

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Microgrid Keeps the Power Local, Cheap, and Reliable


A recently completed distributed energy project at the large, 4,000-inmate Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California, ties together power from fuel cells, solar panels, wind turbines, and diesel generators—all located at the jail—to form a microgrid that can operate independently of large, centralized power plants. The system keeps the power on when storms take down the grid, which is essential for safety at the maximum security facility, and it’s saving the jail about $100,000 a year.

The jail microgrid is one of the largest and most advanced in the United States. It’s the latest example of an emerging smart-grid technology that’s providing a cleaner, more reliable, and, in some parts of the country, significantly cheaper alternative to the conventional grid. “In many cases, it has a very nice payback, with our without subsidies,” says Michael Clark, president of Fort Collins, Colorado-based Encorp, which recently installed the software and equipment needed to manage the jail’s microgrid. Microgrids also provide new ways to use solar and wind power. Ordinarily, the intermittent nature of such power sources makes them a challenge for utilities. By integrating them with batteries and other sources of power, they can provide a reliable boost to conventional power supplies to help utilities meet peaks in demand.

Microgrids are a step beyond either emergency backup systems or stand-alone solar-panel arrays. They use special software and power electronics to integrate multiple sources of power and energy storage to provide electricity around the clock, even when the sun isn’t shining or regulations limit the use of diesel generators. In the case of the system at the jail, Encorp has installed networked controllers—the size of large computers—at each source of electricity, including a large array of thousands of batteries, as well as at the point where the jail connects to the grid. Coordinating power from diesel generators, solar panels, and other sources of power also requires equipment that can adjust the frequency and voltage of the power they produce.

Clark says Encorp has developed algorithms to help the system get the most out of each power source. At the jail, where the system is connected to the grid, this includes responding to the needs of a utility. If the utility experiences a large spike in demand, the microgrid can respond by selling excess power to the utility.

At certain times, it makes sense to use the system’s ability to temporarily decrease power consumption at the jail for things like the air-conditioning or lighting to create more excess power to sell to the grid.

The first customers for microgrids are businesses and organizations that can’t afford even short power outages—such as jails, hospitals, data centers, and military bases—or remote areas that don’t have access to the grid. They make economic sense in places such as California, where electricity costs are high and regulations on backup generators are strict. But they could soon make sense in more places as the cost of renewable energy and large-scale batteries decreases, and as advanced controls and power electronics make them more efficient. (See “New Solar Panel Designs Make Installation Cheaper,” “GE’s Novel Battery to Bolster the Grid,” and “Battery to Take on Diesel and Natural Gas.”)

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

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Facebook Data Explores Truth Of Stereotypes About Cat-Lovers And Dog-Lovers

Plenty of stereotypes come with your preference for either dogs or cats. But what does the cold-hearted data say about these prejudices: Are all “dog people” actually outdoorsy, excitable, and sociable? Are “cat people” really all single, grumpy, Internet-loving hermits?

Facebook holds huge amounts of data on around 1.7 billion people from all corners of life, from their interests and tastes to their social circles and family. Just recently, the brains over at Facebook Research have been prying into this data to get some insights into one of societysdeepest divides: the differences between dog people and cat people.

The researchers analyzed the profiles of about 160,000 people in the United States, using object recognition artificial intelligence. This AI was originally developed to help blind people use Facebook by recognizing images and explaining their content using automated text-to-speech software. It was able to pick up on the proportion of photos that the users had shared of cats or dogs or both. These numbers were used to break them down into dog people or cat people. From there, they paired this with the information on their page likes, friends, photographs, and events.

First up, dog people tended to have more friends. People who had more photos of dogs had on average 26 more Facebook friends than cat-lovers. Nevertheless, cat people got invited to more events.

And yep, as the prejudices and stereotypes suggest, cat people are more likely to be single. Around 30 percent of cat people are single, compared to just 24 percent of dog people. However, not all cat-lovers are single older ladies. As Facebook explains unlike the stereotype, being single and a cat lover isn’t related to age or gender younger cat-lovers, and male cat-lovers of all ages are just as likely as older female cat-lovers to be single.

The data also gives insights into the tastes of each group by looking at which books, TV shows, and films they liked on Facebook Pages. Overall, cat people liked the pages of books, TV shows, and films more so than dog people, suggesting they prefer indoor activities. Cat-lovers also tended to show more interest in fantasy, anime, and science-fiction, such as Pokemon, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Dracula,The Hobbit, and Alien. While dog lovers liked romance, drama, and reality TV, such as One Tree Hill, Marley & Me, Pretty Woman, The Hills and anything by Nicholas Sparks.

Frozen, Seinfeld, Catcher in the Rye, Goodfellas, and Jackass managed to transcend these barriers and are more or less loved equally by both groups.

They also aggregated data from Facebook’s feelings feature and saw how people in each group ranked on displaying their emotions. Cat people were shown to be more expressive and showed a wider variety of feelings on the site, namely: happiness, tiredness, annoyance, and sadness. Dog people tended to keep their emotions cool while on Facebook, mainly only expressing themselves when they felt proud or excited.”

Head over to the Facebook Research blog for more of these insights.

AllImages credit: Facebook Research

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100 Billion Brown Dwarfs Could Be Hiding In The Milky Way

Theres a lot we cant see in our galaxy. Neutrinos, dark matter, black holes; we know they are there but we cant see them. And according to new research, we might have also missed up to 100 billion brown dwarfs.

An international team of researchers has been looking for brown dwarfs the extremely faint stellar objects that failed to become stars focusing on star-forming region NGC 1333, which is located 1,000 light-years away. They discovered that there were half as many brown dwarfs as there were stars, which is actually a much higher number than expected.

The research, which is presented this week at the National Astronomy Meetingin the UK, didnt stop there. The regionwas just one of the targets the team had decided to explore after the unexpected finding. Another stellar cluster, called RCW 38, in the constellation of Vela, also sported the same ratio of brown dwarfs to stars.

RCW 38 is actually quite different from NGC 1333. It has a lot more massive stars and is a lot further than the other cluster observed, about 5,500 light-years away. The team used the Very Large Telescope to observe this cluster and pick out the dim brown dwarfs among the bright stars.

Weve found a lot of brown dwarfs in these clusters. And whatever the cluster type, the brown dwarfs are really common,” team member Aleks Scholz from the University of St Andrews, said in a statement. “Brown dwarfs form alongside stars in clusters, so our work suggests there are a huge number of brown dwarfs out there.

According to the statistical estimate based on these two objects, there should between 25 and 100 billion brown dwarfs currently in the Milky Way. And since there are many brown dwarfs smaller than the ones detected in this survey, this could be a significant underestimation.

Brown dwarfs are missing link objects, aan intermediate stage between stars and gas giant planets. They are mostly made of hydrogen but they are not heavy enough to achieve nuclear fusion in their core, meaning they fail to become stars. Scientists this year were finally able to put some constraints on these objects namely, if they are lighter than 70 times the mass of Jupiter and cooler than 1,300C (2,400F) then they will remain a browndwarf.

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Grumpy Cat’s Prehistoric Relatives

Grumpy Cat may be the spirit animal of the 21st century, but for all we know, the relatives of this sourpuss may have hated on humans since the dawn of mankind.

In this comic, artist Lonnie Easterling from Spud Comics proves that even cavemen knew of Grumpy Cat’s notorious crabbiness.