A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘rats

[NEWS] Five D-Brief links: rats and cars, gravitational lensing, black holes, geodes, dark matter

  • D-Brief notes the glorious science produced by scientists who trained rats to drive miniature cars and found that, in so doing, the rats’ stress was relieved.
  • D-Brief reports on how scientists used gravitational lensing to study a galaxy nine billion light-years away.
  • D-Brief explains how, in dwarf galaxies, supermassive black holes can stop star formation.
  • D-Brief looks at how scientists have found the giant Geode of Pulpi was created.
  • D-Brief notes how dark matter is making some spiral galaxies rotate at well over 500 kilometres a second.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 24, 2019 at 8:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Architectuul shares photos from a bike tour of Berlin.
  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait reports on new evidence that exocomets are raining on star Beta Pictoris.
  • Larry Klaes at Centauri Dreams reviews the two late 1970s SF films Alien and Star Trek I, products of the same era.
  • D-Brief reports on Hubble studies of the star clusters of the Large Magellanic Cloud.
  • Bruce Dorminey shares Gemini telescope images of interstellar comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov).
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares video of Space X’s Starhopper test flight.
  • Far Outliers notes the import of the 13th century Norman king of England calling himself Edward after an Anglo-Saxon king.
  • Gizmodo notes that not only can rats learn to play hide and seek, they seem to enjoy it.
  • io9 notes the fantastic high camp of Mister Sinister in the new Jonathan Hickman X-Men run, borrowing a note from Kieron Gillen’s portrayal of the character.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Guiliani’s soon-to-be ex-wife says he has descended from 911 hero to a liar.
  • Language Log looks at the recent ridiculous suggestion that English, among other languages, descends from Chinese.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the brief history of commemorating the V2 attacks on London.
  • Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the practice in Saskatchewan of sterilizing First Nations women against their consent.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that farmers in Brazil might be getting a partly unfair treatment. (Partly.)
  • The Planetary Society Blog explains why C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) matters.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that, for the first time, immigrants from Turkmenistan in Belarus outnumber immigrants from Ukraine.

[LINK] “The Intriguing New Science That Could Change Your Mind About Rats”

Brandon Keim’s Wired article argues that in a wide variety of ways, rats and human beings are fundamentally the same, at least in being smart social mammals. Provocative, long read.

[W]e still have much to learn about rats, and from them. Yes, there’s volume upon volume of rat research—but most of it focuses on traditional questions of basic physiology and drug responses and so forth. Few researchers have asked what rats think and feel, or how they’ve adapted to environments so very different from their ancestral home in southern Mongolia.

On this front, rats are guides to emerging questions of evolution and cognition: how cities shape the brains and behaviors of the animals within them, and whether aspects of consciousness once considered exceptional might in fact be quite common.

Foremost among these is empathy, widely considered a defining human characteristic. Yet rats may possess it too. An especially fascinating line of research, the latest installment of which was published last year in the journal eLife, suggests rats treat each other in an empathic manner. Such thoughtfulness underscores the possibility that rats are far more complicated than we’re accustomed to thinking—and that much of what’s considered sophisticated human behavior may in fact be quite simple.

This idea runs contrary to notions of human exceptionality. Yet evolution teaches us that humans and other creatures share not only bodies, but brains. In that light, why wouldn’t rats care about each other? The idea also challenges us to see rats anew: Not just as vermin, or as anonymous laboratory models of some biological process, but as fellow animals.

As neurobiologist Peggy Mason, a pioneer in rat empathy research put it, “I’m perfectly happy thinking of myself as a rat with a fancy neocortex.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 13, 2015 at 11:02 pm

[LINK] “Brains of rats connected allowing them to share information via internet”

The Guardian‘s Ian Sample reports on a rather remarkable new technological development. The paper’s title is “A Brain-to-Brain Interface for Real-Time Sharing of Sensorimotor Information”, but I’ve seen people on Facebook talking about rat telepathy, too.

Scientists have connected the brains of a pair of animals and allowed them to share sensory information in a major step towards what the researchers call the world’s first “organic computer”.

The US team fitted two rats with devices called brain-to-brain interfaces that let the animals collaborate on simple tasks to earn rewards, such as a drink of water.

[. . .]

Led by Miguel Nicolelis, a pioneer of devices that allow paralysed people to control computers and robotic arms with their thoughts, the researchers say their latest work may enable multiple brains to be hooked up to share information.

[. . .]

The scientists first demonstrated that rats can share, and act on, each other’s sensory information by electrically connecting their brains via tiny grids of electrodes that reach into the motor cortex, the brain region that processes movement.

The rats were trained to press a lever when a light went on above it. When they performed the task correctly, they got a drink of water. To test the animals’ ability to share brain information, they put the rats in two separate compartments. Only one compartment had a light that came on above the lever. When the rat pressed the lever, an electronic version of its brain activity was sent directly to the other rat’s brain. In trials, the second rat responded correctly to the imported brain signals 70% of the time by pressing the lever.

Remarkably, the communication between the rats was two-way. If the receiving rat failed at the task, the first rat was not rewarded with a drink, and appeared to change its behaviour to make the task easier for its partner. In further experiments, the rats collaborated in a task that required them to distinguish between narrow and wide openings using their whiskers.

In the final test, the scientists connected rats on different continents and beamed their brain activity back and forth over the internet. “Even though the animals were on different continents, with the resulting noisy transmission and signal delays, they could still communicate,” said Miguel Pais-Vieira, the first author of the study, in a statement. “This tells us that we could create a workable network of animal brains distributed in many different locations.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm