Bees also like (paintings of) sunflowers (study)

July 13th, 2017

“Flower colours have evolved over 100 million years to address the colour vision of their bee pollinators.” With this in mind, investigators Professor Lars Chittka and Julian Walker of Queen Mary College, University of London, decided to investigate whether bees might also be attracted to paintings of flowers – for example (a copy of) Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

A set of experiments demonstrated that, yes, they are : “[…] when bees were confronted with paintings containing flowers, the majority of landings were indeed recorded on flowers.”

See: Do bees like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers? , L. Chittka, J. Walker / Optics & Laser Technology 38 (2006) 323–328

Note: The photo is from a follow up study by the same team. Chittka, L. & Walker, J. (2007). ‘Insects as art lovers: Bees for Van Gogh.’ Antennae, 2: 37-42.








Biscuits-with-No-Added-Sugar-Containing-Stevia,-Coffee-Fibre-and-Fructooligosaccharides News

July 11th, 2017

There’s big news for anyone with a keen interest in biscuits with no added sugar containing stevia, coffee fibre and fructooligosaccharides.

Details are in this new study: “Biscuits with No Added Sugar Containing Stevia, Coffee Fibre and Fructooligosaccharides Modifies α-Glucosidase Activity and the Release of GLP-1 from HuTu-80 Cells and Serotonin from Caco-2 Cells after In Vitro Digestion, ” Nuria Martinez-Saez, Christina Maria Hochkogler, Veronika Somoza, and Maria Dolores del Castillo, Nutrients, 2017, 9(7), 694.

The authors are at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the University of Vienna. Here’s further detail from the study:

Is Silver Vine the new Catnip? (recent study)

July 10th, 2017

Effective though Catnip (Nepeta cataria) might be – in causing cats to sniff, roll over, and undulate the skin on their back (amongst other things) – it only affects about 50% of cats. And usually has little or no impact on Tigers. A new study in BMC Veterinary Research, March 2017, compares Catnip with Silver Vine (Actinidia polygama) – or to be more specific, Silver Vine that has been parasitised by the gall midge Pseudasphondylia matatabi, producing fruit-galls.

The study found that not only was Silver Vine around 40% more likely to create an ‘intense’ response in cats – it has now been shown, for the first time, that it also dramatically affects Bobcats :

[The photo shows an eight year old female bobcat holding a paper bag containing Silver Vine powder between her forelegs, while she is rolling around and giving it chin and cheek rubs.]

The study contains this statement: “Unlike domestic cats, tigers were either not interested in silver vine or responded disapprovingly.”

See: Responsiveness of cats (Felidae) to silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Note: Although many of the active-ingredient chemicals have been identified and isolated, no-one has any idea why they affect felids in the ways they do.

Six Cups of Coffee Goes to Your Head, for Surgical Guidance [research study]

July 8th, 2017

A special hat filled with six cups’ worth of ground coffee may make it easier for surgeons to succeed at some kinds of nose and throat surgery. This study presents the news:

Coffee: the key to safer image-guided surgery—a granular jamming cap for non-invasive, rigid fixation of fiducial markers to the patient,” Patrick S. Wellborn [pictured here, not wearing a cap], Neal P. Dillon, Paul T. Russell, and Robert J. Webster, International Journal of Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery, vol. 12, no. 6,  2017, pp. 1069-1077.

The authors, at Vanderbilt University, report: “Our granular jamming cap surrounds the head and conforms to the contours of the patient’s skull. When a vacuum is drawn, the device solidifies in a manner conceptually like a vacuum-packed bag of ground coffee, providing a rigid structure that can firmly hold fiducial markers to the patient’s skull…. We tested our new approach… Conclusion —The granular jamming cap concept increases the robustness and accuracy of image-guided sinus and skull base surgery by more firmly attaching fiducial markers to the patient’s skull.”

This short video gives a brief, graphic demonstration of how the thing works:

The hat itself is constructed along the same principles used to make an old-fashioned toy called Stretch Armstrong. The toy, shown in this 1994 TV commercial, used a substance other than coffee, though:

Automated Acoustic Detection of Mouse Scratching [research study]

July 7th, 2017

Acoustic detection of mouse scratching has been automated at least once. This report tells about the mice involved, and about their scratching, and about the detection — done acoustically — of that scratching:

Automated Acoustic Detection of Mouse Scratching,” Peter Elliott, Max G’Sell, Lindsey M. Snyder, Sarah E. Ross, and Valérie Ventura, PLoS ONE, vol. 12, no. 7, 2017, e0179662. The authors, at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, report:

“we propose a novel automated method for acoustic detection of mouse scratching. Using this approach, we show that chloroquine-induced scratching behavior in C57BL/6 mice can be quantified with reasonable accuracy… This report is the first method to apply supervised learning techniques to automate acoustic scratch detection…. Mouse scratching occurs in small sets of rapid swipes, which we refer to as scratch bouts. The goal of our procedure is to detect scratch bouts rather than individual scratches….though our results were collected from a single strain and small number of mice tested with a single pruritogen, it is likely that the approach will be broadly applicable to the audio detection of scratch.”