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— Good Thinking

App would allow humans to communicate with bonobos

The seven bonobos living at the Bonobo Hope Great Ape Trust Sanctuary in Des Moines, Iowa, are a pretty smart bunch of apes. Among other things, they have a vocabulary of about 400 words – they don’t speak those words, but instead associate the meanings of them with symbols known as lexigrams. Using large wall-mounted touchscreen displays, they are able to communicate with humans by touching the appropriate lexigrams on those displays. Now, the sanctuary wants to develop an app that could be used on mobile versions of the wall screens, so tablet-wielding bonobos could communicate from wherever they happen to be. Read More

"Dolphin speaker" could pave the way for human-cetacean communication

While there’s little doubt that dolphins are saying something to one another with all their clicks, squeals and whistles, we’re still not entirely sure just what it is that they’re communicating. We may be getting closer to figuring it out, however, as Japanese scientists have created an underwater speaker that’s capable of playing back the creatures’ entire acoustic range. The next step - see how they respond. Read More

Robosquirrels help with study of rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes, beware! The next time you spot a succulent-looking squirrel, it might actually be a cold-hearted robot. More specifically, it might be a “robosquirrel,” created by UC Davis professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Sanjay Joshi. He built the robot squirrels as part of a study on rattlesnake behavior – a study which yielded some interesting results. Read More
— Outdoors

Camera gun would let "harmless hunters" get killer wildlife shots

Not too long ago, brothers Randy and Michael Gregg were out on a hunting expedition. It was the day after deer season had ended, yet they spied a handsome animal bedded down in the snow. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity, they silently crept up on their quarry, raised their rifle, lined the deer up in the crosshairs ... and then took a picture through the scope with a mobile phone. That photo provided all the proof they needed that they had successfully stalked their prey, without bringing home an illegally-obtained carcass. It also inspired them to create the Kill Shot photo/video-recording rifle. Read More
— Science

"Vegetarian cutlet factory" produces endless slabs of fake meat

There are a number of reasons that some people choose not to eat meat – for instance, they may not want to support the slaughter of animals, they may wish to avoid the health risks associated with consuming too much animal protein, or perhaps they’re not big fans of the environmental impact of raising livestock on a commercial scale. Unfortunately, if these people still want to eat meat-like foods, a lot of the meat alternatives currently available are kind of ... yucky. Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, however, is working on a device nicknamed the “vegetarian cutlet factory.” It produces continuous slabs of veggie-based mock meat, which is reportedly quite similar to the real thing. Read More
— Science

ATP-detecting nanosensors could help reduce laboratory animal testing

Animal testing is an area that elicits strong feelings on both sides of the argument for and against the practice. Supporters like the British Royal Society argue that virtually every medical breakthrough of the 20th century involved the use of animals in some way, while opponents say that it is not only cruel, but actually impedes medical progress by using misleading animal models. Whatever side of the argument researchers fall on, most would likely use an alternative to animal testing if it existed. And an alternative that reduces the need for animal testing is just what Fraunhofer researchers hope their new sensor nanoparticles will be. Read More
— Science

Prototype system removes air pollutants and generates heat for livestock barns

If you’ve ever so much as stepped into a chicken or swine barn, you’ll know that they can be very, very smelly places. When vented outdoors, the air from these buildings does more than just make the area stink – it can actually be a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Fortunately, however, researchers from North Carolina State University and West Virginia University have created a system that not only helps clean the air going out of the barns, but it heats up the air coming in from outside. Read More
— Robotics

Leaping lizards inspire new robot design

For some time now, scientists have assumed that dinosaurs’ tails didn’t simply drag on the group behind them, but were instead held out to serve as a counterweight for the giant reptiles’ heavy front ends when running. More recently, however, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered that modern-day lizards also use their tails to control the orientation of their bodies when leaping through the air. It’s a discovery that could be applied to devices such as search-and-rescue robots, and in fact already has been. Based on their observations, the UC Berkeley team created a small, tailed robot known as Tailbot. Read More
— Good Thinking

Orangutans using iPads at zoos - soon to use Skype

Turns out we aren't that different from other apes after all. Our primate cousins at a handful of zoos love to use iPads to combat boredom just as much as humans. Zookeepers say that the device is perfect for orangutans, and many have been taking part in guided touchscreen interactions with all sorts of apps, including music, games, movies, cartoons, art, painting, drawing, photos and videos. The orangutans have been playing with the iPads for the past several months, and now a U.S. charity is hoping to round up more of the tablets so the apes can Skype with orangutans at other zoos. Read More
— Science

Camera trap app sends shots of random wild critters to your iPhone

Why do ecotourists travel thousands of miles to catch glimpses of rare, exotic animals, when they could get long, lingering looks at them just by turning on their TV? Well, partly because it’s fun to travel. Also, however, it’s a lot more exciting when you never know what you’re going to see, or when, or where. While it’s not quite as epic as trekking through the African Savannah, the Zoological Society of London’s Instant Wild App is bringing that same sort of wilderness-lottery-like excitement to the iPhone. Users can subscribe to feeds from camera traps located in several areas of the world, and will receive photos of the animals that trigger those traps, as they’re triggered. While that might be neat enough in and of itself, users can then proceed to help conservationists protect those creatures. Read More