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

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]

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Animals
The Simple Way to Protect Your Dog From Dangerous Rock Salt
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iStock

Winter can be a tough time for dogs. The cold weather usually means there are fewer opportunities for walks and more embarrassing accessories for them to wear. But the biggest threat to canines this time of year is one pet owners may not notice: the dangerous rock salt coating the streets and sidewalks. If you live someplace where this is a problem, here are the steps you need to take to keep your pooch safe until the weather warms up, according to Life Hacker.

Rock salt poses two major hazards to pets: damage to their feet and poisoning from ingestion. The first is the one most pet owners are aware of. Not only do large grains of salt hurt when they get stuck in a dog’s paws, but they can also lead to frostbite and chemical burns due to the de-icing process at work. The easiest way to prevent this is by covering your dog’s paws before taking them outside. Dog booties get the job done, as do protective balms and waxes that can be applied directly to their pads.

The second danger is a little harder to anticipate. The only way you can stop your dog from eating rock salt from the ground is to keep a close eye on them. Does your dog seem a little too interested in a puddle or a mound of snow? Encourage them to move on before they have a chance to take a lick.

If, for some reason, you forget to follow the steps above and your pet has a bad encounter with some winter salt, don’t panic. For salty feet, soak your dog's paws in warm water once you get inside to wash away any remaining grit. If your dog exhibits symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and disorientation and you suspect they’ve ingested rock salt, contact your vet right away.

Even with the proper protection, winter can still create an unsafe environment for dogs. Check out this handy chart to determine when it’s too cold to take them for a walk.

[h/t Life Hacker]

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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