Category Archives: Science Caturday

Science Caturday: The Latest from the LHC

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Big news in tiny particles: the Large Hadron Collider has set a new energy record ahead of its scheduled full restart in June.  Scientists at CERN reported that on May 20, the LHC succeeded in smashing together protons with an energy of 13 trillion electron volts (TeV). That’s close to the 14 TeV maximum that the LHC is designed to achieve.

The record was reached during tests to prepare for a second run of experiments starting next month. The collider underwent a $150 million upgrade after its first run, which produced results that helped confirm the existence of the Higgs boson.

Our physics kitties tend to have substantially lower energy levels than that, but the Large Hairball Collider (pictured above) looks likely to yield important data on particles found under the sofa. The red dot, the so-called “holy grail” of kitty physics, remains elusive. Reached for comment, the head of the LHBC said:

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Science Caturday: Introducing KittyBiome

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Scientists have made huge strides in understanding the human microbiome, and now they’re ready to move on to more advanced creatures – cats. A crack team* of microbiologists headed by Jonathan Eisen, Jennifer Gardy, Holly Ganz and Jack Gilbert** just launched KittyBiome, a citizen science project that aims to understand “how microbiomes differ among cats, whether those differences reveal insights into cat behavior and biology, and how the kitty microbiome depends on and may shape the health of your cat.”

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Among the questions they plan to address are:

  • How do grumpy cats compare to happy cats?
  • How do athletic cats compare to couch potato cats?
  • Does it matter if you feed your cat a paleo-mouse diet?
  • How do indoor and outdoor cats compare?

They reckon the answers are in the poop.  For a $99 donation to the KittyBiome Kickstarter, any cat owner can send in a fecal sample and answer a few questions about his or her cat’s health and diet. The researchers then sequence the DNA of the bacteria in the sample and, after a few weeks, share the type and concentration of the bacteria online. Participants (or their hoomins) can even compare their microbiomes to those of other cats, including some “celebrity kitties.”

Don’t have a cat of your own? For just a $25 donation, the researchers will sequence the microbiome of a shelter kitty. KittyBiome plans to expand beyond housecats, too – a pledge of $149 or more allows donors to see the microbiome profile of a wild cheetah, leopard, puma, or lion.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other awesome perks the KittyBiome team is offering – they include a cool illustrated book about bacteria by Jennifer Gardy and an exclusive Kitty Microbe scarf, designed by me.

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*Extra points for refraining from using the word “buttcrack”

**Noted dog person

For more information and microbiology-related lolcats, you can follow @KittyBiome on Twitter

Science Caturday: Still Watching Birdies

If there was ever a day to repeat the same thing you did last year, it would be World Migratory Bird Day. Plus, Michele is very busy working on a “very special thing” that you will be hearing more about soon; and I do not have her way with cats.

Today is World Migratory Bird Day!  Kittehs love to watch the birdies. For science, of course!

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As for the related subject of bird-assisted coconut migration, it’s a simple question of weight ratios:

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lol via Cheezburger.com, graphic via head-fi.org

(Political) Science Caturday: Kittehs of the World, Unite!

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Yesterday was May 1, also known as International Workers’ Day, a celebration of labor and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement. Although it is barely celebrated in the US, it’s a big deal in communist and socialist countries, with parades and festivities, and of course, a day off work. Every day is a day off work for cats, so let’s just say they celebrate this one on behalf of their humans, who trudge off to work each day to earn the money to provide noms, warm pillows and fluffy mice.

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As a side note, the popularity of memes like Lenin Cat and Chairman Meow demonstrates the enduring appeal of the punchy graphic design, if not the actual theory and practice, of communism. Score one for the artists, who are generally among the most downtrodden workers of all.

Science Caturday: Chimps seek Freedom; Cats Have Other Goals

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This week brought confusing news on the legal status of research animals, as a judge in New York state seemed to grant two chimps legal personhood and then revoke it the next day.

New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe signed an order on April 20 requiring Stony Brook University to respond to claims by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) that two research chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, were being unlawfully detained. The NhRP then claimed that by this action the judge had implicitly granted the chimps legal personhood, because the document, called a writ of habeas corpus, can only be granted to a person in New York state.

However, after extensive media coverage on April 21, Jaffe amended the order, letting arguments on the detention of the chimps go forward but removing the words WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS from the top of the document.

Sorry, chimps. As far as legal status, cats really do seem to have it better. In 2012, Hank the cat ran for the senate in Virginia, while in 2011, a cat in Italy inherited $156 million. Power. Money. Noms and naps. What next, kittehs?

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