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These Wetsuits Could Make You Invisible to Sharks

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By Chris Gayomali

Although still incredibly rare in the United States, shark attacks reached decade-high levels in 2012, according to a University of Florida study. Including data from Hawaii and Puerto Rico, 53 attacks occurred in U.S. waters, with a fatality rate of just two percent.

To be clear, you're still more likely to die from a lightning strike.

It's a different story in other parts of the world, particularly along the coast of Western Australia, where the surf is pristine and great white sharks are abundant. Although we're still a far greater threat to them than they are to us—practices like shark finning have reduced the animals to dangerously low levels around the globe—a series of high-profile incidents have painted the area as a hotbed for attacks.

For surfers, international or otherwise, the allure of a shark-repellant wetsuit has always been something of a Holy Grail, if only for the peace of mind. Scientists from the University of Western Australia, working with suit designers at Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS), have revealed two new "shark-proof" wetsuits designed to make you look less like a tasty shark-snack: One makes you "invisible" to their eyes, while the other mimics the pattern of a toxic fish the predators are known to avoid.

Sharks actually have amazing vision, despite what you may have heard. Although their visual systems are similar to those of humans, their eyes actually have stacked duplex retinas that allow them to see prey clearly even in dark, murky waters. The "invisibility suit," according to researchers, takes advantage of the "upper limits on spatial resolving power/visual acuity of the eye in pelagic sharks"—a kind of blind spot—and effectively renders the swimmer camouflaged.

The idea behind the other shark-repelling suit has actually been around for awhile. The black and white stripes of the poisonous pilotfish have long been known as a biological deterrent. In fact, the fish are known to spend most of their lives alongside sharks.

And even though your safety isn't guaranteed with either wetsuit, it sure beats anything that makes you look like a hapless seal.

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'Angry Badger' Terrorizes Scottish Castle, Forcing Closures 
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Portions of the 16th-century Craignethan Castle in Scotland were shut down last week after a less-than-friendly badger holed up there and refused to leave. Historic Environment Scotland, which manages the site in South Lanarkshire, sent out a tweet last Friday notifying visitors that the property's cellar tunnel would remain closed over the weekend “due to the presence of a very angry badger.” Staff tried to coax it out with cat food and honey, but the badger did what it wanted, and they were unable to move the mammal.

A spokesman for HES told the BBC, "The castle is surrounded by woodland and we believe the badger may have become lost. Staff first spotted some dug-out earth on Wednesday evening, and later spotted the badger on closer inspection."

On Saturday, staff used a GoPro camera to check out the tunnel from a safe distance and learned that the badger had left voluntarily, but not before making a mess. The critter dug through both soil and stonework, according to The Scotsman. The castle, an artillery fortification erected around 1530, is already partly in ruins.

Craignethan Castle in Scotland
Sandy Stevenson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Badgers are not typically dangerous, but they can become aggressive if they feel cornered or threatened. They can be seen year-round in Scotland, especially during spring and summer. Earthworms, bird eggs, small mammals, fruit, and roots are among their favorite meals, and they can even be “tempted into your garden by leaving peanuts out—a tasty snack for our striped friends,” the Scottish Wildlife Trust says.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
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Chloe Effron / iStock

Cats can sleep 16 to 20 hours a day. It’s not always deep sleep. Cats spend a lot of time taking short “cat naps” that build their energy, yet keep them alert enough to jump up the moment they sense danger or excitement. They don't sleep a lot because they’re lazy or bored. Cats sleep so that they’re ready to hunt.

Their genes (geenz) tell them to. Genes are the tiny instructions inside the cells of all living things that make a species look and act certain ways. These instructions get passed down from parents to kids. In the case of cats, their genes tell them to sleep a lot, especially during the day. 

A long time ago, cats weren’t domesticated (Doh-MESS-tih-cay-ted). That means they were wild and didn't live with humans. Cats had to hunt to survive, and they needed a lot of energy for that. Just like lions, tigers, and other wild cats, domesticated cats sleep more during the day so they’ll be ready to hunt at night, especially around sunrise and sunset. Of course, most house cats no longer have to hunt at all. But just in case they do, their genes tell them to nap often so they’ll be ready.

Cats can sleep in some pretty strange places, as you can see in this video

 

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