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The Importance of Properly Setting Up a Study

Scientists have only recently proven (to themselves because really, have you seen the documentaries on elephant behavior in the wild?) that elephants are at least on par with chimps in terms of intelligence. It took them this long because the tests they were setting up didn't take into account how an elephant's senses work.


From the cable they dangled fruit-tipped bamboo branches of various lengths both within and without of Kandula's reach. After preparing the aerial snacks they retreated out of sight, turned on a camera and waited to see what the young elephant would do. It took several days for Kandula to achieve his initial insight, but after that he repeatedly positioned and stood on the cube to wrap his trunk around food wherever the scientists suspended it; he learned to do the same with a tractor tire; and he even figured out how to stack giant butcher blocks to extend his reach.

Other elephants had failed similar tests in the past. As it turns out, however, those earlier studies were not so much a failure of the elephant mind as the human one. Unlike people and chimpanzees, elephants rely far more on their exquisite senses of smell and touch than on their relatively poor vision, especially when it comes to food. Previously, researchers had offered elephants only sticks as potential tools to reach dangling or distant treats--a strategy at which chimps excel. But picking up a stick blunts an elephant's sense of smell and prevents the animal from feeling and manipulating the desired morsel with the tip of its dexterous trunk. Asking an elephant to reach for a piece of food with a stick is like asking a blindfolded man to locate and open a door with his ear.

Ignore the fact that it seems like they got my mother to operate the camera and focus on how awesome it is that the elephant got his stepping stool to reach the tall thing.

And more examples of awesome:

"When they are getting ready to do a group charge, for example, they all look to one another: 'Are we all together? Are we ready to do this?' When they succeed, they have an enormous celebration, trumpeting, rumbling, lifting their heads high, clanking tusks together, intertwining their trunks."

Cynthia Moss, director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants and another preeminent elephant researcher, once saw a particularly amazing example of elephant cooperation. One day the young and audacious Ebony, daughter of a matriarch named Echo, bounded right into the midst of a clan that was not her own. As a show of dominance, that clan kidnapped Ebony, keeping her captive with their trunks and legs. After failing to retrieve Ebony on their own, Echo and her eldest daughters retreated. A few minutes later they returned with all the members of their extended family, charged into the clan of kidnappers and rescued Ebony.

At a Thai conservation center, they divided an outdoor elephant enclosure into two regions with a volleyball net. On one side stood pairs of Asian elephants. On the other side the researchers attached two bowls of corn to a table that slid back and forth on a frame of plastic pipes. They looped a hemp rope around the table so that when both ends of the rope were pulled simultaneously the table moved toward the elephants, pushing the food underneath the net. If a single elephant tried to pull the rope by him or herself, it would slip out and ruin any chance of getting the food. All the elephants quickly learned to cooperate and even to patiently wait for a partner if the scientists prevented both animals from reaching the rope at the same time. One mischievous young elephant outsmarted the rest. Instead of going through the hassle of tugging on one end of the rope, she simply stood on it and let her partner do all the hard work.

A lazy, but clever elephant!!

The article brings up the "how can we justify keeping such an intelligent animal in a zoo" question. I can see how the more intelligent the animal, the more painful the captivity must be. But really, how we can justify keeping any animals in zoos? Zoos aren't sanctuaries. A zoo's purpose is to make something available to the public that they would not otherwise see without trekking through some jungle or wilderness and they charge you for that favor. How would you feel if your entire life consisted of one room and one fenced outdoor area? And everyday, strangers came and stared at you, making noises and pointing? Possibly petting you?

I say we release the animals and pen up the people who buy poached animal products. They prolly deserve to be poked and prodded. Then we wouldn't need to worry about poachers because there'd be nobody to buy their stolen goods. And we wouldn't have all this hand-wringing when a giraffe gets fed to the lions (the lions would have been fed lettuce otherwise. clearly.) because they'd all be out in their natural habitat and the lion could give the giraffe a sporting chance at running away.

By min | February 28, 2014, 8:25 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

Serving Sizes That Make Sense

I don't care so much if the new nutrition labeling affects obesity or diabetes. I'm just glad someone's finally making those labels less stupid. Hopefully, this will eliminate stupid serving sizes like 1 can of something equaling 2.3 servings. What the hell am i supposed to do with 0.3 servings? Save it up until eventually my extra 0.3 adds up to a whole number?

Current serving sizes are based on the amount people should eat, not how much they actually consume. A quick glance at the nutrition label on a 5.3 oz bag of M&M's shows 220 calories--but snack on the entire 3.5-serving package and you've actually consumed 770.
Larger packages that could potentially be eaten in either single or multiple servings will have "dual column" labels listing both "per serving" and "per package" calorie and nutrition information.

I hope the "per package" info is more prominant in these cases then the "per serving" info. I think most people aren't sharing their M&Ms with their 2.5 friends.

Although, this is still a problem:

But there are lingering concerns with current labels that have not been solved in the new proposal. For example, the proposed label does not address the fact that the FDA currently permits five different methods of measuring total calories and allows for a calorie-count margin of error of 20 percent.


And obviously, the Sugar Association isn't happy about the "added sugar" category that will now be appearing. I picture the Sugar Association as a bunch of little people with big heads (kinda like the original Strawberry Shortcake) covered in frosting and sugar and candies. That's pretty close, right?

By min | February 28, 2014, 8:07 AM | Science | Comments (2)| Link

Dementia via Fried Meats

Well, that's one path to losing my mind that i don't have to worry about. Whew!

I concur with wnkr, though, who upon seeing this article declared, "omg that fry up looks so good.". Except for the baked beans. And the black pudding. And the fries are a cheap replacement for homefries. But i can totally get behind those eggs and mushrooms and sausage.

Toxic chemicals found at high concentrations in fried and grilled meats may raise the risk of diabetes and dementia, researchers say.

US scientists found that rodents raised on a Western-style diet rich in compounds called glycotoxins showed early signs of diabetes, along with brain changes and symptoms that are seen in Alzheimer's disease.

The findings matched what the researchers saw in a small number of older people, where those with higher levels of glycotoxins in their circulation had memory and other cognitive problems, and signs of insulin resistance, which precedes diabetes.


The sheer ubiquity of glycotoxins means dietary changes might not be easy or effective as public health interventions, but Vlassara said that cooking foods differently might help. Levels of glycotoxins rise when food is cooked dry at high temperature, but moisture prevents this.

"People will grill bacon and fry eggs for breakfast, or have a toasted bagel or muffin. But they could boil or poach the eggs, and have fresh bread. With meat, we recommend stewing and boiling, making sauces instead of exposing meat to very high dry heat," she said.

Cause i do worry, you know. About losing my mind. I need a loyal retainer to care for me in my old age. Where can i find one of those?

By min | February 25, 2014, 3:44 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

That's Just So Wrong

It's bad enough that crocodiles exist at all. They're prehistoric! Why haven't they died out or evolved into something new ferchrissakes??? *shudder*

And now this!

Crocodiles can climb trees. And they do it well, too: Some of the toothy reptiles have been spotted as high as 32 feet up a tree.
To determine just how frequently crocodiles climb into trees, the team looked in several places. The first was published scientific literature -- all three references, one of which, dating back to 1972, described how baby crocodiles could "climb into bushes, up trees and even hang on reeds like chameleons."
In Australia, they saw crocodiles in trees -- and spotted one individual attempting to scale a chain-link fence. In the Everglades and Central America, many crocodiles were spotted basking on the concealed lower branches of mangrove trees. At some of these sites, the only way the reptiles could have reached their resting spot was by climbing up the tree trunk itself. And in Africa, Nile crocodiles and their relatives were seen just as frequently in trees as were some birds. In many instances, these reptiles were lying on tree limbs that were nowhere near the water. One was spotted on a log 13 feet above the water and 16 feet from the riverbank. "To reach this site the crocodile would have had to scale a [13-foot] completely vertical bank and then walk amongst the branches to reach the end of the tree," the authors reported.

WTF?? Next you'll be telling me sharks can come out on land. Goddamned landsharks!

By min | February 12, 2014, 9:45 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

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