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Let's Hear It For Squirrels

Why do I love squirrels so much? I can't explain it. I have plenty of evidence that they don't love me -- I even have a well-developed theory that the two biggest jerks of the backyard animal family are squirrels and bluejays. But every time I see a squirrel, I'm fascinated: I want to know what the little guy is up to. What's going on in that squirrel brain? Probably some scheme related to nuts.

My apartment has flower boxes in the second-floor windows. Every time I plant something in the boxes, I find little squirrel-caches of nuts -- the oddest being peanuts in the shell, buried an inch or two deep. Where are they getting peanuts? And what do they have to gain by digging up my tulips and flinging them at my window? Clearly there's some master plan here that the squirrels have not shared with me.

I could have gone all "trivia" and actually learned something about squirrels, but for today let's take a look at some great squirrel videos. Here's a favorite short film, "Squirrel Eating Walnut." (I won't ruin the plot for you, just watch.)

Many more after the jump!

Okay, that's fun, but nowhere near as awesome as the similarly named "Squirrel Eats a Walnut," which features a rather amazing ending. Seriously.

"Squirrel Obstacle Course" is another fun one, and includes bonus footage of a vending machine heist:

"Will 'Cute' For Food" (now I know where those peanuts are coming from):

And the last one for today, a squirrel in Madison Square Park figures out how to drink from a water sprinkler:

If you actually want to learn something about squirrels rather than watching cute videos, check the mental_floss fact library, read up on Wikipedia or try the Squirrel Facts page from Squirrel Place.

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Which Rooms In Your Home Have the Most Types of Bugs, According to Entomologists 
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Insects can make any home their own, so long as it contains cracks, doors, and windows for them to fly, wriggle, or hitchhike their way in. And it turns out that the creepy crawlers prefer your living room over your kitchen, according to a new study that was recently highlighted by The Verge.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study looked at 50 homes in Raleigh, North Carolina, to measure their insect populations. Entomologists from both North Carolina State University and the California Academy of Sciences ultimately discovered more than 10,000 bugs, both alive and dead, and a diverse array of species to boot.

The most commonly observed bugs were harmless, and included ladybugs, silverfish, fruit flies, and book lice. (Luckily for homeowners, pests like bedbugs, termites, and fleas were scarcer.) Not all rooms, though, contained the same distribution of many-legged residents.

Ground-floor living rooms with carpets and windows tended to have the most diverse bug populations, as the critters had easy access inside, lots of space to live in, and a fibrous floor habitat that could be either a cozy homestead or a death trap for bugs, depending on whether they got stuck in it. The higher the floor level, the less diverse the bug population was, a fact that could be attributed to the lack of doors and outside openings.

Types of bugs that were thought to be specific to some types of rooms were actually common across the board. Ants and cockroaches didn’t limit themselves to the kitchen, while cellar spiders were present in all types of rooms. As for moths and drain flies, they were found in both common rooms and bathrooms.

Researchers also found that “resident behavior such as house tidiness, pesticide usage, and pet ownership showed no significant influence on arthropod community composition.”

The study isn’t representative of all households, since entomologists studied only 50 homes within the same geographical area. But one main takeaway could be that cohabiting bugs “are an inevitable part of life on Earth and more reflective of the conditions outside homes than the decisions made inside,” the researchers concluded. In short, it might finally be time to make peace with your itty-bitty housemates.

[h/t The Verge]

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Special Viewfinders Allow Colorblind People to Experience Fall Foliage in All Its Glory
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Each autumn, the foliage of the Great Smoky Mountains erupts into a kaleidoscope of golds, reds, and yellows. Visitors from around the world flock to the area to check out the seasonal show, and this year some guests will have the chance to see the display like they’ve never seen it before. As the Associated Press reports, Tennessee is now home to three special viewfinders at scenic overlooks that allow colorblind users to see the leaves of the forests in all their glory.

The new amenities cost $2000 apiece and have been installed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development at the Ober Gatlinburg resort, at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area near Oneida, and at the westbound Interstate 26 overlook near Erwin in Unicoi County. The lenses are similar to glasses that allow people with red-green vision disorders to see in full color, but according to state officials this is likely the first time the technology has been implemented in scenic tower viewers.

Color blindness varies from person to person, but those who have it may tend to see mostly green or dull brown when looking at a brilliant autumnal landscape. Before the new features debuted at the beginning of November, tourism officials allowed a group of colorblind individuals to test them out. You can watch their reactions to seeing the true spectrum of fall colors for the first time in the video below.

[h/t AP]

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