DIY science is not only a time-honoured tradition, it can also be a lot of fun. Anne Corwin, of Felines are Wonderful recently read about an experiment testing feline intelligence that concluded cats are pretty dumb. Anne actually paid the journal to be able to read the article. (Side note: having to pay to read journal articles is a big peeve of mine. Science should be for everybody, ya know? DIY and all that?)
She hypothesized that the design of the experimental setup worked against cats’ natural behaviours, and with a more species-appropriate setup, the cats would be able to solve the puzzles. Since Anne, besides being a cat person, is also an engineer, and is good at building things, she set about replicating the experiment (with some modifications) with her own cats. Things didn’t always work quite perfectly, as she shows in this video:
Her full report, with more photos and video, is here. It turns out, when things are set up so that a cat doesn’t fail just for using normal cat sensory modalities and doing normal cat behaviours, cats are plenty smart.
If I had the time – or the energy in the time I have – I would be all over DIY science too. But not in the following case: Does Drinking Beer Increase Your Attractiveness to Mosquitos? (Full text of the study here.)
It’s not just that I hate mosquitos a whole lot and seem to get itchier than average when they bite me. It’s also altruism: If I’d participated I would have totally ruined it. Instead of concluding that mosquitos prefer beer drinkers, they would have concluded that mosquitos prefer me.
I’ve pretty much got the mosquito-attraction jackpot.
- Mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide. As a larger person, I have a lot of biomass, and it’s all converting sugars to carbon dioxide. Lots of it.
- Mosquitos are attracted to heat. The antidepressant I take increases my body temperature ever so slightly.
- Mosquitos are attracted to type O blood, but only if you also secrete a chemical marker for it on your skin. That combination can increase your bite probability by a quarter. I know my blood is type O. I don’t know my secretor status, but I can guess.
Every damn mosquito withing a km radius swarms the buffet every time I take my fat ass outside. If I didn’t know better I’d think they did bee-style dances to tell all their friends to come bit me too. I haven’t noticed myself getting more bites when I’ve had a few beers. It’s hard to tell when I’m already maxing out the possible number of bites to get. And no, I don’t want to test this particular hypothesis. I’m 100% on board with manipulating the independent variable. I intend to manipulate the independent variable at least once this week. I just don’t want to measure the responding variable.