Itsy-Bitsy Spiders Follow Laser Pointers Like Cats Do

Kaldari, Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0
Kaldari, Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0

Humans of Earth, we have feared our spider neighbors long enough. It’s time we appreciated them for the helpful, adorable little critters they are. You need proof? We’ve just learned that the presence of a laser pointer turns jumping spiders into teeny, eight-legged kittens. For this information, we can thank Twitter and scientists—although the heroes of this story are not arachnologists but astronomers. Jamie Lomax spends most of her time studying objects in space at the University of Washington. But one afternoon, she found her work interrupted by a very small object much closer by:

And then another spider fell. And then another. “It was a little unnerving,” Lomax told The Atlantic. “I’m not scared of spiders but if someone else wants to take care of the spider in a room, I’ll gladly let them do it over me. And I don’t really want them raining down on my head.” Suggestions on how to deal with the spiders came pouring in. They were pretty much what you’d expect—“nukes and fire” was a popular option—with one exception:

Lomax had not tried lasers. But her colleague at the University of Washington, Emily Levesque, was reading the tweets, too, and she couldn’t wait. “She has a laser pointer and she happens to be the only other person with spiders in her office,” Lomax said. “She ran down to me and said: You have to see this.” Consummate scientists, the two astronomers tested the spiders on different-colored lasers to see which they’d prefer. For whatever reason, the green light was like spider catnip.

The scientists’ progressively sillier and more fascinating spider/laser updates drew a large following of astronomers, laypeople, and spider experts, including Nate Morehouse of the University of Cincinnati. Jumping spiders don’t spin webs, Morehouse explained. They rely on their keen eyesight to stalk their prey the same way cats do. The spiders’ enormous, sophisticated eyes “are built like … wait for it … Galilean telescopes”—that is, tubes with a convex lens at one end and a concave lens near the other.

“They can definitely resolve the moon in the night sky,” Morehouse tweeted. This image, of wee spiders gazing up at the moon, has already inspired at least one artist. Lomax is also into it.

If all this doesn’t just melt your heart, there’s probably no hope for you.

[h/t The Atlantic]

This Stylish Cardboard Box Is Designed to Be Your Cat’s New Favorite Hideout

Scott Salzman
Scott Salzman

You can buy your cat a fancy bed or perch, but when it comes right down to it, your feline friend is probably going to be more eager to curl up in the cardboard box that it arrived in. So why not just cut out the part where you spend time and money picking out something your cat couldn’t care less about? Just get a really nice box. That’s the premise behind the Purrfect Cat Box, a cardboard box specifically tailored to cats’ needs.

While every cat is finicky in his or her own way, almost all cats love a good cardboard box. (Seriously, it’s science.) Squeezing into a cozy box makes cats feel protected, and, since cats like warmer temperatures, the insulating cardboard also helps keep them at their preferred level of toasty.

Designed by Colorado-based inventor Scott Salzman, the Purrfect Cat Box is made to be just the right size for ultimate kitty comfort. At about the size of a shoebox, it’s big enough for most cats to squeeze into without being cramped—though Salzman doesn’t specify whether it will work for big breeds like Maine Coons—but small enough that they still feel protected inside. It has a small cutout in the front to allow your cat to peek his head outside the box, and, most importantly, to get in a really good chin scratch.

While we humans might find cardboard cars or cardboard Taj Mahal replicas adorable, most cats just want a plain box that makes them feel safe and comfortable. The geometric-patterned Purrfect Cat Box walks the line between utilitarian and chic, making the empty cardboard box in your living room a little bit less of an eyesore.

Plus, it’s cardboard-priced. At $6 a box, it's about what you'd pay to have a regular cardboard box full of anything from Amazon delivered to your door, but it’s still inexpensive enough that if your cat destroys it, it’s easy enough to throw in the recycle bin and get a new one.

Get it on Indiegogo.

Signalman Jack: The Baboon Who Worked for the Railroad—and Never Made a Mistake

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

One day in the 1880s, a peg-legged railway signalman named James Edwin Wide was visiting a buzzing South African market when he witnessed something surreal: A chacma baboon driving an oxcart. Impressed by the primate’s skills, Wide bought him, named him Jack, and made him his pet and personal assistant.

Wide needed the help. Years earlier, he had lost both his legs in a work accident, which made his half-mile commute to the train station extremely difficult for him. So the first thing he trained the primate to do was push him to and from work in a small trolley. Soon, Jack was also helping with household chores, sweeping floors and taking out the trash.

But the signal box is where Jack truly shined. As trains approached the rail switches at the Uitenhage train station, they’d toot their whistle a specific number of times to alert the signalman which tracks to change. By watching his owner, Jack picked up the pattern and started tugging on the levers himself.

Soon, Wide was able to kick back and relax as his furry helper did all of the work switching the rails. According to The Railway Signal, Wide “trained the baboon to such perfection that he was able to sit in his cabin stuffing birds, etc., while the animal, which was chained up outside, pulled all the levers and points.”

As the story goes, one day a posh train passenger staring out the window saw that a baboon, and not a human, was manning the gears and complained to railway authorities. Rather than fire Wide, the railway managers decided to resolve the complaint by testing the baboon’s abilities. They came away astounded.

“Jack knows the signal whistle as well as I do, also every one of the levers,” wrote railway superintendent George B. Howe, who visited the baboon sometime around 1890. “It was very touching to see his fondness for his master. As I drew near they were both sitting on the trolley. The baboon’s arms round his master’s neck, the other stroking Wide’s face.”

Jack was reportedly given an official employment number, and was paid 20 cents a day and half a bottle of beer weekly. Jack passed away in 1890, after developing tuberculosis. He worked the rails for nine years without ever making a mistake—evidence that perfectionism may be more than just a human condition.

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