Category Archives: Science Caturday

Science Caturday: The Mysteries of Pudge


Plenty of evidence says that average portion sizes of food have increased over the last fifty years, and obesity rates have risen too. But the seemingly obvious conclusion – that the former is to blame for the latter – may not hold up, according to a new paper released this week.

Every smart kitty knows that correlation does not equal causation. The paper published this week in Physiology and Behavior (paywall) suggests that there is little evidence that large portions are making us fat.  While the authors concede that further studies covering longer time periods may find stronger evidence of a causative link between big portions and bigger hoomins, it’s just not there yet. “It is at least conceivable that larger portions at home could simply mean more leftovers,” the authors write.

ate too much

Kate Wheeling in Pacific Standard explains that the authors of the paper “present at least one other reason to be skeptical such a link exists: The obesity epidemic has not struck the population evenly. Mean weight has increased faster than median weight, which means the heavier end of the spectrum has become much heavier, while the lighter end has barely budged. What data we have on the portion size effect so far indicates that it does not discriminate; people of all shapes and sizes fall victim to the psychological trap, so larger portion sizes alone can’t explain the pattern of obesity we see today. The focus on portion size, the authors argue, blinds us from targeting other potential culprits of obesity, such as the increase in meal frequency—another well-documented trend.”


Hmmm, so maybe we’re eating too often? Again, clever cats know that anecdotes are not data, but a story from England backs up this case. Clive the cat went missing from his home in Toton, England, more than a year ago…and turned up recently at a pet food warehouse nearby. On being reunited with Clive, his hoomin, Tanya Irons, said “I can’t believe he’s so porky!” (I personally would count this as evidence that that she is quite rude and none too bright.)

Clive was astutely taking advantage of the opportunities he was offered, Tanya. Be like Clive.






Science Caturday: Nautical Naughty Cat


Despite heavy competition, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen emerged as obnoxious billionaire of the week, amid reports that his 300-foot luxury yacht destroyed 14,000 square feet of protected coral reef near the Cayman Islands.

According to the Cayman News Service, the anchor chain of Allen’s yacht, the MV Tatoosh, caused “extensive damage” to the reef earlier this month. The incident comes just five months after Allen announced that he would provide funds for research to “stabilize and restore coral reefs” through his Seattle-based company, Vulcan.

A spokesman for Vulcan said Wednesday that the boat’s mooring position was “explicitly directed” by the local port authority and that Allen was not on board at the time. It added that Vulcan and the ship’s crew had immediately moved the ship from the affected area and were “actively and cooperatively working with local authorities to determine the details of what happened.”

Well, OK…but still, bad billionaire! Coral is precious. Fat Cats should be more careful.

Science Caturday:Buzzed Off


A report released this week by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed a link between a major class of pesticides and harm to honeybees, but only when used on certain types of crops. The report showed that pesticides known as neonicotinoids posed a significant risk to honeybees when used on cotton plants and citrus trees but not when used on other big crops like corn and tobacco.

Both the pesticide manufacturer and anti-pesticide advocates were unhappy with the report, which failed to make a clear case for either continued use of neonicotinoids or an outright ban.

Neonicotinoids, chemicals that work on insects’ central nervous systems, have been the subject of intense debate in Europe, where several countries have enacted full or partial bans on their use.  Despite this, most scientific bee experts agree that neonicotinoids alone are not to blame for the problem of dwindling bee populations, although they may be a factor in some cases.

Entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois noted that the health of honeybees, agriculture’s top pollinator, is a complex puzzle that includes climate, food for bees, parasites, disease and the way different pesticides and fungicides interact. “People would like a nice simple story with a guy in a black hat as the bad guy, but it’s complicated.”

Our science kitteh, on the other hand, seems to have identified a villain. Oh, dear.




Science Caturday: Meme Sandwich


By now you’ve probably all heard the story of Hamdog, in which a guy posted a funny picture of his dog on Facebook with a slice of ham on its face, claimed that the dog had been seriously burned trying to save his family from a house fire, and asked for prayers in the form of likes and shares. Well, it worked: the picture was shared 110,000 times in a week and got over 54,000 likes before the truth came out. We could condemn the hoax or chuckle at the gullibility of internet folk, but instead, we’re going with option 3 – showing people how much better cats are than dogs at this sort of thing. Years before anyone draped ham over a dog’s snout, possibly as early as 2004, someone threw cheese at a cat’s head and gave birth to two classic memes – “Doing it Wrong” and “Who Throws Cheese, Honestly?”


In 2011, a Reddit user posted a photo of a cat with its head stuck in a piece of bread and spawned a “cat-breading” craze that lasted until 2013.


So I guess you could say that the arrival of Hamdog completes a meme sandwich that’s been in the works for a decade, with cats (naturally) leading the way for the slower  canines. Sure, I’ll take some chips with that.


Science Caturday: The Cats Awaken

This week, researchers with USAMRIID published findings on Sphingosine kinase 2 as a host factor….oh look, who are we kidding here? This week’s big nerd story was STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. This post contains absolutely no spoilers, only a collection of all the best Star Wars lolcats the internet had to offer. Enjoy them we hope you will.