What We Need More of is SCIENCE

And by the atoms of Einstein, I’m gonna give it to ya!

Along Came a Blackbird Showing What He Knows

I always knew crows were well above the average avian standards, but this is just insane.

Crows seem to be able to use causal reasoning to solve a problem, a feat previously undocumented in any other non-human animal, including chimps…

A choice morsel of food was placed in a horizontal Perspex tube, which also featured two round holes in the underside, with Perspex traps below.

For most of the tests, one of the holes was sealed, so the food could be dragged across it with a stick and out of the tube to be eaten. The other hole was left open, trapping the food if the crows moved it the wrong way.

Three of the crows solved the task consistently, even after the team modified the appearance of the equipment.

Birds smarter than primates. Sure didn’t see that one coming.

Click here for the Proceedings of the Royal Society report.

It’s Clearly the Planet Krypton

Some big brains over in Hawaii have discovered what could be a planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. The star is 1RSX J160929.1-210524, but you just know none of his friends call him that. That’s the name he uses when he wants to know who’s selling his name to telemarketers.

Interestingly, even though scientists are convinced the object is about 5 million years old and has a mass of about eight times that of Jupiter, there is no way at this point to determine whether it is actually a planet or just another star waaaaaaaay in the distance. In order to know for sure, we need to track it across the sky over a long period of time.

Super-hip astronomer Phil Plait offers some fascinating insights than even a mathematically inept noob like me can understand:

The reason astronomers think this is a planet is because they took spectra… when you carefully examine the spectrum you can determine all sorts of things about the object emitting the light: how hot it is, what chemical composition it has, how old it is, even if it’s spinning!

The spectrum of the object matches that of an old, very low mass star. That might make you think it’s a star, but wait! The planet is young, and still hot. The light it gives off depends on its temperature, so a young low mass object, like a planet, can look just like a more massive object like a star. Since we know this object is young, we know it has a lower mass than its spectrum naively suggests…

But this is not confirmed! For example, it could be a low mass star that happens to be near the other star along our line-of-sight — in other words, it’s in the background. The best way to see if that’s true is to wait a year or two and take more images. If the object moves against the background stars along with the brighter star, then it must be physically associated with the star, and therefore it’s a planet.

For the record, Plait doesn’t think either scenario is likely, based solely on the available data. Go to his blog to find out why. It’s a great way to quickly add a few more bumps to your brain.

And now I must make a quick trip down the hall to expedite some decidedly less glamorous scientific processes.

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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9 Responses to What We Need More of is SCIENCE

  1. lauowolf says:

    Crow info is really cool.I love crows.We have a small flock of them in my neighborhood .Or maybe they are a gang.They certainly ave attitude.

  2. Lurkertype says:

    They are a MURDER of crows, technically.But that's just the name of their gang.

  3. lauowolf says:

    D'you think maybe under all the feathers they have little leather jackets?

  4. Lurkertype says:

    But of course. Embroidered with their name and logo.Either that or they keep the jackets back at the roost and wear them at night.

  5. lauowolf says:

    Actually, I wonder a lot about our crows.I've lived in Berkeley off-and-on since 1974.We didn't have crows here til – I think – the 90s.But we used to have lots a jays, and now I hardly ever see one.Corvid wars?

  6. Kirk says:

    The jays must have realized Washington was were it's at right around the same time the rest of California did, because we've had plenty of them here ever since. 😛 Blue ones, that is. You were talking blue ones, right?I have noticed I never see jays and crows at the same time, but I never considered the Corvids might have family troubles. Geez, first the Corleones and now the Corvids. What's the world coming to?

  7. lauowolf says:

    Or else, mild-mannered Clark Crow throws off his black feathers and reveals himself to be SuperJay.

  8. Snowy says:

    And of course the three smart crows are Democrats.

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