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June 13, 2014

"This spider web was deliberately spun to look like bird poop"


Below, excerpts from Helen Thompson's May 29 Smithsonian story.


Deep in the forests of Southeast Asia lives a silver-colored orb-weaving spider that decorates its web with a silky spiral pattern and bits of dead leaves. This isn't just to make the web a bit more festive, though. Some scientists think that this arachnid is just pretending to be poop — bird poop specifically.

In a paper published today in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Tunghai University and the Endemic Species Research Institute in Taiwan argue that Cyclosa ginnaga spiders' body color and web designs are part of a strategy to masquerade as bird droppings and cut its chances of dying in a predator attack.

"We provide empirical evidence for the first time that bird dropping masquerading can effectively reduce the predation risk of an organism," says I-Min Tso, a co-author on the study and an ecologist at Tunghai University in Taiwan.

June 13, 2014 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

EverStryke Perma-Match Fire Starter


From the website:




• Contains the fuel, ferro rod and wick in one all-inclusive fire starting kit that fits conveniently in your pocket.

• Strikes hot, burns hot: Ferro rod strikes at over 3000 degrees and flame burns at over 600 degrees Fahrenheit

• Each match is capable of 15,000 long-burning strikes — will start a fire in the rain, sleet, or snow

• If you can strike a match you can start a fire (and this one won't burn your fingertips)



June 13, 2014 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Experts' Expert: How cats see in the dark

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 12.57.49 PM

C. Claiborne Ray's June 2 New York Times Science section Q&A, below, explains how cats' eyes enable them to see far more than humans when darkness falls.


Q. Does the slit shape of a cat’s pupil confer any advantages over the more rounded pupils of other animals

A. "There are significant advantages," said Dr. Richard E. Goldstein, chief medical officer of the Animal Medical Center in New York City.

"A cat can quickly adjust to different lighting conditions, control the amount of light that reaches the eye and see in almost complete darkness," he said. "Moreover, the slit shape protects the sensitive retina in daylight."

The slit-shaped pupil found in many nocturnal animals, including the domestic cat, presumably allows more effective control of how much light reaches the retina, in terms of both speed and completeness.

"A cat has the capacity to alter the intensity of light falling on its retina 135-fold, compared to tenfold in a human, with a circular pupil," Dr. Goldstein said. "A cat’s eye has a large cornea, which allows more light into the eye, and a slit pupil can dilate more than a round pupil, allowing more light to enter in dark conditions."

Cats have other visual advantages as well, Dr. Goldstein said. A third eyelid, between the regular eyelids and the cornea, protects the globe and also has a gland at the bottom that produces extra tears. The eyes' location, facing forward in the front of the skull, gives cats a large area of binocular vision, providing depth perception and helping them to catch prey.


Times illustration (top) by Victoria Roberts.

June 13, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nightlight with Integrated LEDs



From Popular Science: "Traditional nightlights can hog one or more outlets, so SnapPower embedded three LEDs into the Guidelight's faceplate. The clever design keeps both outlets free."


June 13, 2014 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Writing of Stones (12)


June 13, 2014 at 04:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Death Star Cookie Jar


"Easily replenishable cookie-based power core."



[via CSYCB]

June 13, 2014 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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