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Friday, January 14, 2022

OF GOLDFISHES THAT DRIVE WHEELED WATER TANKS, AND UNIVERSAL NAVIGATIONAL SKILLS!

Goldfish drives fast a super car (by @sciencemug)
Goldfish drives fast a super car (by @sciencemug)
Goldfish pic by zhengtao tang, and car pic by Damian Ochrymowicz, are free images (source: Unsplash); all pics adapted by @sciencemug

So folks, four researchers from Israel (aka the Fab4), put six goldfishes (Carassius auratus) at work (Givonet al, 2022 (P)) to see whether space representation and navigation skills (which allow animals to do plenty of things, like finding food, shelter, sex buddies and so on) are shared properties across the animal kingdom, or, instead, they specifically depend on the different species, brain structure, and ecological system.

The researchers, in their study, use the "
domain transfer methodology, where one species is embedded in another species’ environment and must cope with an otherwise familiar (in [their] case, navigation) task" (P): in layman's terms, the Fab4 want to see if a fish can navigate through a terrestrial environment.
To check that, the brains train each fish to "drive" something called <Fish Operated Vehicle> (aka FOV). The FOV is a water tank (35×35×28 cm) put on a four wheeled self-propelled platform (40×40×19 cm), equipped with a pole, on top of which there are a computer, a camera and a lidar. By this control apparatus, whenever (and only when) "
the fish [gets] near one of the water tank walls and facing outwards, the FOV is automatically propelled in [such] direction" (P).

The machine, with its aquatic driver, is then placed in the center of a three by four meters room, illuminated with artificial light, and with white walls and one or more colored boards stuck on them. The colored spots are the targets the fishes are trained to reach in exchange for a food reward (consisting of a 0.002 g food pellet of the same kind the fishes are usually fed with).

Well, dear reader, in the end, the goldfishes training's success, they can reach the targets, adapt to changes in such targets positioning and overall overcome the "
distortion in vision due to refraction through the air-to-water interface [and the] differences in the natural structure of the terrestrial and aquatic environments" (P).

The Fab4's work (that they define "
an observational report, rather than a scientific study" (P), and that needs follow-ups ) shows, thus, that "a fish [is indeed] able to transfer its space representation and navigation skills to a wholly different terrestrial environment, thus supporting the hypothesis that the former possess a universal quality that is species-independent" (P).

But this dumb blog, in the following cartoon, shows you, dear reader, what's the next step of this experimental journey humanity has embarked on.

A fish drives a car full of water to go to a sushi bar (by @sciencemug)
A green fish drives a car full of water to a sushi bar (by @sciencemug))
The car pic by Dan Gold , the green fish pic by Gábor Szűts, the bubbles pic by Alberto Bianchini and the spilling water pic by Pixa Karma, are free images (source: Unsplash)
; the fish drawing by Mrmw, is
under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication (source: Wikimedia Commons); all images adapted by @sciencemug

Friday, December 24, 2021

HAPPY JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE'S LAUNCH EVE!

The James Webb Space Telescope talks to @sciencemug
The James Webb Space Telescope talks to @sciencemug and Bernard
[The JWST pic by NASA, is a public domain image
(source: Wikimedia Commons); the starry background free pic, by Francesco Ungaro, is  under Pexels license (source: Pexels); pics adapted by @sciencemug]

 

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launch is near!

- 25/Dec/2021 - 12:20 UTC (GMT) -

Go buddy, we all root for you! 

 

25-Dec-2021 update: the launch was a success! Now fingers crossed for the next 29 days, and then for the following (at least) five months, of commisioning...

Thanks to NASA, ESA, CSA and Arianespace, i.e. to the thousands people who worked, work and will be working on this mind-boggling, astonishing, amazing, wildly wonderful (and so on and on) project!

 

PS
Just to put things in prospective, buddy, think of this.
The James Webb Space Telescope project involved thousands of people from three space agencies, "over 300 universities, organizations, and companies from 29 U.S. states and 14 countries" (see).
JWST cost about 8.8 billion euros/10 billion dollars over 24 years. This means that, to make something that is going to let humanity see the unseen and therefore most probably change the way it sees the Universe (with all the repercussions such changes have), well, humanity spent, per year, roughly the same amount of money spent to shoot "Avengers: Endgame", and, in total, ~1billion bucks less than two nuclear submarines, or, if you prefer, the 0.01% of 2020 World's Gross Domestic Product-GDP...
 

Ah, Science! 

 

Merry Christmas, folks!

Friday, December 17, 2021

THE CONSPIRACY THEORY PEOPLE & THE ANTI-VAXXERS: A CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT (IMHO)

Conspiracy
Conspiracy
Free pic by Markus Winkler (source: unsplash)

 

Keywords: conspiracy, conspiracy theory, anti-vaxxer, anti-vaxxers, COVID-19, pandemic, no-mask, SARS-CoV2, SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, vaccine, vaccines, fake news

Hello pal, welcome back to the place where donuts are the round voluptuous deities of cosmic pleasure, and quantum physics the clumsy magician hired for a flat universal birthday party (the galactic clown being busy looking for its missing nose among all the red giants of the Milky Way)!

What follows, dear reader, is not something taken from science (or any) literature (hence the lack of references), and, of course, I'm neither a psychiatrist, nor a qualified expert on human mind and nature. Heck, I'm a dumb blog for Gnagnamantus Krosfazt's sake, as you know very well!

No, mate, what follows is just my opinion, developed through the years, about the issue in question.

So, again, no science or anything resulting from research and study here, just thoughts (that are quite a milestone for a brainless entity like myself), and personal considerations.

Ok, let's go.

The Conspiracy Theory People (aka CTP), to me, can be divided (but, sadly, not conquered by reason) into five groups which are not mutually exclusive, and with the fourth (subgroup "a") and fifth being pretty contiguous to each other.

 

Q
Q
Free pic by Wesley Tingey (source: unsplash)

1) There are the CTP who are not necessarily genuine CTP, but just individuals who tend to their agenda. Examples: "Evolution isn't a fact, it's just a theory the Atheists want to feed to your children's minds and that will corrupt them and destroy morality, while Religion has the real explanation, we, the Religion's advocates, guarantee you that" | "Smoking is not dangerous as said by those who are interested in destroying us and our chain of supply, we, the tobacco industry's advocates, can prove it" | "Nah, climate change is not a fact/is not human driven, the coal and oil industry are not a problem, we, who advocate for them, guarantee you that it's just them crooked so-called scientists who are in the pockets of the so-called Green Economy ring etc. etc. who are making things up".

 

Sloth in a Ball
Sloth in a Ball
Pic by Eric Kilby; license: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) (source: flickr)

2) Then, there are the CTP who are just

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

THE LAUNCHED DART!

DART spacecraft communicates with NASA (by @sciencemug)
DART spacecraft communicates with NASA (by @sciencemug)
[NASA logo pic, the DART spacecraft pic and the starry background pic are in the public domain
,
(source: Wikimedia Commons); adapted by @sciencemug]

 

Soo, dear reader, today (24-Nov-2021) the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) Mission launched. Developed and led for NASA by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), DART launched at 6:21 p.m. GMT, from the Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, USA. The payload was carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The mission falls under the umbrella of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), and it is the first test of "the kinetic impactor technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space" (see). In other words the NASA's brains, on behalf of humanity, will try, for the first time ever, to hit a space object with a man-made object in order to change its (the space one's, that is) course, and therefore to see if this is a sound strategy for preventing the Earth from getting hit by a space rock et al, and related havoc.

The DART mission's target is a 160 meters in size moonlet, Dimorphos, that orbits, at just over one km distance, the 780 meters in diameter near-Earth asteroid (65803), aka Didymos. So, Didymos and Dimorphos are a binary system, and DART spacecraft "will intercept [Dimorphos] in late September 2022, when the Didymos system is within 11 million kilometers of Earth" (see).

Although its innovative solar panels (the Deployable Space Systems Roll-Out Solar Arrays, aka ROSA, that, by DART, are going to be deployed in deep space for the first time) measure 8.6 meters by 2.3 meters, DART spacecraft per se has just the dimensions of a small US car (that is, probably, of a big European car...). But DART will strike the binary system at the impressive velocity of about 6.6 Km/s (meaning roughly 24000 Km/h or, for you, stubborn impractical non-SI users, 14800 miles per hour), meaning 20 or so times the speed of sound, meaning, dear reader, that, when the hit happens, a looot of energy will be released up there! 

This impact generated energy, scientist think, will indeed be enough to "change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body [i.e. Didymos] by a fraction of one percent, but this will change the orbital period of the moonlet by several minutes - enough to be observed and measured using telescopes on Earth" (see). In other words, the event will be powerful enough to eventually change the asteroid system's course, and, ultimately, it will prove that the kinetic impactor technique can be used with success to deflect something similar to Didymos that, unlike it and its tiny satellite, be someday actually rushing toward Earth.

By the way, dear reader, the whole smash&crash fuss will be witnessed, at close but safe distance, by the small LICIACube CubeSat (Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids) built by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and released by DART spacecraft itself shortly before its rough demise.

The DART spacecraft, besides, is packed with state-of-the-art tech, like its NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster — Commercial (NEXT–C) ion engine, an electric propulsion system, its SMART Nav navigation algorithm for real time autonomous targeting of the Didymos system, and, last but not at all least, its only instrument, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation, aka DRACO. This is a camera that will take fancy pics of the asteroid system ("better than 20 cm/pixel at impact" (see)), but, above all, that, right before the impact, will feed the SMART NAV the necessary images to choose the right target, that is to identify and distinguish between Dimorphos (to hit) and Didymos (not to hit).

Well, dear reader, that's all for now. Let's wish DART mission's success, so that y'all, on Earth, be a little bit safer!

The comics are a rendering of what this dumb blog figures NASA's and DART spacecraft's communications have probably been, and will possibly be.

Ciao!

DART spacecraft communicates with NASA nad bets (by @sciencemug)
DART spacecraft communicates with NASA (by @sciencemug)
[NASA logo pic and the DART spacecraft & asteroids pic are in the public domain
,
(source: Wikimedia Commons); the target pic by Karen Arnold
is under the CC0 Public Domain license, (source: Public Domain Pictures); adapted by @sciencemug]

Friday, October 29, 2021

THE TRUE REASON WHY DOGS CAN READ HUMANS!

Doggy sick by (@sciencemug)
Human mind's sick dog reader (by @sciencemug)
[The
dog pic by Matthew Henry is a free one (source: Unsplash); adapted by @sciencemug]

Soo, dear reader, five researchers from different German universities (aka the Wonderful Fives aka the W5s), find out that dogs can "distinguish intentional [human] actions from unintentional behaviour" (Schünemann et al., 2021)(P).

The W5s study 51 dogs of different breeds, sex (27 females and 24 males), and age (1 - 15 years) that are not trained (e.g. they're not police or rescue dogs). The researchers and the animals are on opposite sides of two 1.45 m wide × 1.15 m high barriers (each consisting of "a wooden frame holding a sheet of transparent plastic" (P)), placed one aside the other, and separated (or not) by a 15 centimeters wide gap.

The Wonderful Fives test the dogs' reaction to three different situations: the unwilling-condition (UWC), the unable-clumsy condition (UCC), and the unable-blocked condition (UBC) (P)

The UWC means the 15 cm gap is open, one scientist moves a treat towards the gap, but then quickly and intentionally pulls it away while saying, to the dog's face, “ha-ha!(P).

The UCC is like the previous one, but this time the researcher pretend to accidentally drop the treat, and says "oops!" (P).

The UBC, finally, means one of the W5s closes the gap between the plastic barriers, then a second member of the W5s tries to give the treat to the dog, but, unable to do it, drop it in front of herself (the W5s are all women), and says "oh!" (P).

So, once performed the experiment, the W5s conclude that "[dogs] behaved differently depending on whether the actions of a human experimenter were intentional or unintentional" (P). Indeed, the animals wait significantly longer before going for the treat when such treat is intentionally withheld by the researcher (unwilling-condition (UWC)) than when the reward fails to get to their mouths because the human researcher is clumsy (unable-clumsy condition (UCC)) or because there's a physical obstacle (unable-blocked condition (UBC)). Moreover, the W5s observe that, in a similar manner, "the dogs that ceased to move their tail mainly did so in the unwilling-condition [(UWC)]" (P).

The W5s say that the dogs' reactions may have different explanations, but that they clearly indicate our four legged friends have the ability to "recognize the intentionality of human action in their spontaneous behaviour" (P).

Finally, the Wonderful Fives say that future research is needed to understand "whether dogs’ distinguishing reaction really reflect a capacity to read human intentions or only some form of behaviour reading based on learned associations" (P).

Aaaanyway, dear reader, this dumb blog, in the following cartoon, shows you the true reason why dogs evolved this "human reading" ability.

Dogs read humans and play poker (by @sciencemug)
Dogs can read humans (and probably play poker) (by @sciencemug)
[The
poker table pic by slgckgc, is
licensed under the Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license (source: flickr); the dog pic is licensed under the CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication license (source: pxhere); all pics adapted by @sciencemug]
 
 
 The paper this mini-post is about (P) 
- Schünemann, B., Keller, J., Rakoczy, H., Behne, T., and Bräuer, J. (2021). Dogs distinguish human intentional and unintentional action. Sci Rep 11, 14967.