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Thursday, January 30, 2020


Keywords: Christmas, Xmas, Black Friday, charity, economics, experimental economics

Ooooh, hello dear English speaking-reading-hearing listener, welcome back to me, @sciencemug, the blog/podcast/twitter&instagram accounts/entity behind the unsuccessful e-shop stuffngo on which can hold its breath for 55 straight hours since it has neither lungs nor cardiovascular system (let alone a brain in need of oxygen), aaand which talks to you thanks to the voice, kidnapped via a voodoo-wireless trick, from a veeery very very dumb human.
Aaand which does all of this in Eng?ish, a language that is to proper English what to publish the second part of a Xmas episode closer to Valentine’s day than to Christmas itself is to something belonging to the realm of the things that make even a pale imitation of sense...

Soo dear listener, in the previous episode I told you the first of two studies (study 1 and study 2) about seasonal effects on people’s propensity to donate to charity and ‘bout its surprising findings: on Christmas time donations are less than on summer time, and this is a trend unexpectedly driven by prosocial individuals (i.e. people with a predisposition to generosity), who donate less frequently and less money during winter Holidays.
The studies are performed by two researchers of the German University of Gottingen, Dr. Stephan Muller and Professor of Experimental Economics Holger A. Rau (aka the Rau's Duo, or the RDs) and are published on a paper (P) on the open access scientific journal PLOSONE.

In this episode, dear listener, I’ll tell you what the RDs do to understand why is that people, especially prosocials, are less generous on Xmas time than on summer, in other words, what are the “[d]rivers of the lower donations (P).

Listen to the podcast episode
on iTunes

So, the Rau’s Duo performs its second study (study 2) the week after the Black Friday, that is in November. The researchers recruit again subjects from the Gottingen University, but none of those already involved in the previous study (study 1) or in other similar studies.

The RDs pick 72 persons (42 females and 30 males) between 18 and 50 years old with an average age of 22 and a half.

The first part of study 2 is identical to study 1 (do you remember dear reader? Semi fake money called Talers that can be donated to the German Red Cross, Social Value Orientation (SVO) evaluation of prosocials, individualistics, competitives, and so on and on (if you don’t remember, dear listener, well, don’t worry, just check the previous post/episode and maybe consider implementing your diet with some phosphorus, but hurry up mate, since world’s irreplaceable reserves of this essential stuff are depleting at an alarming rate (see)).

Anyway, dear listener, of the 72 individuals initially selected for study 2, only 66 are eventually tested (of which fifty are prosocials, and sixteen individualistics). The competitives and the “none of the above” are indeed, as happened in study 1, discharged.

So, dear listener, surprise surprise, the results of this first part of study 2 are basically the same of study 1: meaning those sneaky prosocials are the ones responsible for sinking the donations rate on Xmas season, while individualistics are steady cheap lads both in summer and winter holiday time.

At this point the second phase of study 2 starts. Unlike in study 1,

Thursday, January 23, 2020


The European Space Agency (ESA) has now a prototype plant that produces oxygen out of simulated moondust, i.e. out of stuff similar to the actual regolith, "a layer of loose, heterogeneous material, composed of mostly dust and rock fragments" [see] that covers almost all Moon's surface and is made up of "40–45% oxygen by weight" [see].

ESA's final goal is to have a working plant "that could operate sustainably on the Moon, with the first technology demonstration targeted for the mid-2020s" [see].   

ESA's new prototype facility is in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, in the Netherlands.

The following cartoon reports the Moon's comment on this news.

Moon's comment on ESA making oxygen out of moondust! (by @sciencemug)
Moon's comment on ESA producing oxygen out of moondust (by @sciencemug)

[Moon's free pic by Neven Krcmarek (source: Unsplash); adapted by @sciencemug]

Thursday, January 16, 2020


Soo, dear reader, there's this transparent plastic box, divided by a partition with an opening that lets the two halves communicate.
And there're two African gray parrots, one in each half of the box.
And there're two researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, that do an experiment. 

The researchers give to one of the parrots (parrot A) a bunch of metallic rings as a token. After the token, the parrot is given food.
To the other parrot (parrot B), the researchers don't give the token and, therefore, neither food.

At this point, seen this, parrot A passes parrot B one of the metallic rings so that its buddy can have food too.

Researchers then publish a paper (P) on the journal Current Biology where they say that their "findings show that instrumental helping based on a prosocial attitude [...] is present in parrots, suggesting that this capacity evolved convergently in this avian group and mammals" (P) but that whether "the parrots’ helping behavior was caused by an intrinsic motivation to provide help to familiar conspecifics (= spontaneous prosociality) or by their anticipation of reciprocated help in the future (= reciprocity) remains to be addressed" (P).

So, dear reader, to sum up, a couple of researchers find scientific evidence of the first non mammals (parrots) that can be altruistic and help one other (see the video here).

But this dumb blog have a different theory about the "help" thing. See the cartoon to find out.

One parrot is a shark and loan one metal ring to the other one (by @sciencemug)
The true reason why parrots show "kindness" and altruism to one another (by @sciencemug)

[African Gray Parrot's pic by OPi.Toumoto, and cigar pic are under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license (source: Wikimedia Commons); all pics adapted by @sciencemug

Paper (P)
Brucks, D., and Bayern, A.M.P. von (2020). Parrots Voluntarily Help Each Other to Obtain Food Rewards. Current Biology 30, 292-297.e5.

Thursday, January 9, 2020


Soo, dear reader, a bunch of scientists goes and studies seabirds (more specifically Atlantic Puffins) on Skomer Island, Wales, and sees two of 'em using wooden sticks to scratch themselves.
The researchers publish their finding in a paper (P) on PNAS, stating that this is a "previously unknown tool-use behavior for wild birds, so far only documented in the wild in primates and elephants" (P). 

But this dumb blog thinks that the researchers got it wrong, and that the true reason why those seabirds evolved the tool use skill, more specifically the ability to use wooden sticks, isn't to scratch their bodies, but it is indeed the one showed in the following cartoon...

Two Atlantic Puffins discussing about the true reason why seabirds evolved the ability to use tools (by @sciencemug)
The true reason why seabirds evolved the ability to use tools (by @sciencemug)

[Atlantic Puffins pic, by Thomas O'Neil, is under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license (source: Wikimedia Commons); adapted by @sciencemug]

Paper (P)
Fayet, A.L., Hansen, E.S., and Biro, D. (2020). Evidence of tool use in a seabird. PNAS 117, 1277–1279.

Thursday, January 2, 2020


Soo, dear reader, it seems that evidence be accumulating about the fact that plants, like animals, evolved kin recognition (for instance, apparently there's the possibility they regulate their root spread according to the presence of relatives nearby).

Here's the true reason why, in this dumb blog's opinion, plants might have evolved the ability to recognize kin.

The true reason why plants too evolved kin recognition (according to @sciencemug)
The true reason why plants too evolved kin recognition (according to @sciencemug)

Happy new year!