Category Archives: Uncategorized

Science Caturday: New Old Hoomins


The biggest news in science this week was the announcement of the discovery of a new human ancestor, Homo naledi. After anthropologists excavating in South Africa found an almost inaccessible cave which appeared to contain hominid remains, they recruited a team of the smallest, skinniest cavers they could find and sent them to explore it. What they found was astonishing – the skeletons of some 15 individuals of a human-like species with features unlike any seen before. This article in National Geographic gives many more details, with more sure to come as teams of researchers study the finds.

While our science kittehs applaud the discovery of new hoomins, they are slightly vexed that they were not allowed to join the team, given that they are experts in crawling through small tunnels and also highly skilled at guarding valuable stuff.


Science Caturday: The Cat’s-Eye Street View


A map generally shows a bird’s eye view, but now a small Japanese city has pioneered a paradigm-changer, the cat’s eye view.  The tourism board of Hiroshima prefecture has created an online map for cats — similar to Google Street View, but at a cat’s height instead of a car’s — of a commercial area in the city of Onomichi.

This article in Vox explains the features of the cat map, including cat locators and biographies of the neighborhood’s kitties. Needless to say, it appears vastly superior to a view from a bird, satellite or car. Two paws up.


The Chevin

I visited the area around Leeds recently, and came across this sign [pdf] by the Leeds Geological Association, on the Chevin.


The Chevin is a ridge in the West Yorkshire landscape, formed over thousands of years. The surrounding area is mostly a valley (one of the “dales” of the Yorkshire Dales) formed by prehistoric rivers and glaciers.


The view

I wasn’t expecting to encounter any science on this trip, so the geology sign was a surprise. Fittingly, I found it at “Surprise View”, the highest point of the Chevin.

The Art of Science: Radical Elements

Grace Harbin Wever, Iridium - My Darkness to Light II, 2013, Mixed Media

Grace Harbin Wever, Iridium – My Darkness to Light II, 2013, Mixed Media

Soft materials meet hard science in Radical Elements, an exhibition at the National Academy of Sciences featuring 40 contemporary art quilts, each inspired by a different element from the periodic table. The works in the show, organized by Studio Art Quilt Associates, explore the elements in many ways, ranging from their industrial uses to personal memories associated with them. For example, Barbara Schulman’s piece, A Pepto Bismuth Story (below), started with the “beautiful crystalline structure” and iridescent colors of the element, which reminded the artist of her mother’s hankies and lace, so she incorporated them into the design along with bismuth’s best-known consumer product, Pepto-Bismol.

Grace Harbin Wever’s Iridium – My Darkness to Light II (above), takes a more strictly scientific idea, although she expresses it in a highly artistic, indirect way. The artist, a former cell biologist, was intrigued when she learned that iridium microelectrodes had been successfully implanted into the human brain as part of studies in vision and perception. A range of materials, including holographic fabric and copper wire, surround the central eye image, nodding to the juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made that characterizes recent advances in the field of vision.

Indeed, very few of the quilts on display stick to the traditional materials of fabric, thread and batting. Materials used range from duct tape and aluminum foil to keyboard keys and dining utensils. Curator Jill Rumoshosky Werner notes, “In a relatively short period of time, the field of art quilting has undergone a fundamental change. The primary focus has shifted from decorating the surface of a quilted wall hanging to a much broader acceptance of ideas, styles, and materials.”

Radical Elements is on exhibit at the NAS Building in Washington, DC, through October 19th.  Many of the quilts can be seen online here.

Barbara Schulman, A Pepto Bismuth Story, 2013, Mixed Media

Barbara Schulman, A Pepto Bismuth Story, 2013, Mixed Media

Science Caturday: Distractingly Sexy Kitteh

toosexylabDo I even have to mention this week’s top story in science? Nah.