Weekly News Roundup 8/17–8/23


Don’t waste your time carbon dating ancient artifacts; try fat dating!

 Researchers have been digging up fragments of ancient clay pottery in what is now modern-day Poland, looking for traces of climate shift. These clay pots were used to store meat, and the researchers found relatively well-preserved animal fat residue soaked into the porous, unglazed fragments. Extreme drought would have frizzled feed crops and grazing lands, and cooler winters would have increased animals’ food requirements. The combined effect would have been leaner, thirstier livestock, and researchers figured that chemical echoes of that dietary stress may have been recorded in the animals’ fat. By analyzing other fat-soaked pottery fragments from sites around the world, scientists will be able to accurately recreate climate conditions for other ancient societies. “I think this could be a very useful tool indeed,” says David Orton, PhD, a zooarchaeologist at the University of York in the United Kingdom. “[It’s a] a big step forward.” Maybe even more than a big step. It’s certainly a fat one.

Cosmonauts set up animal-tracking satellites in space

Spacewalking cosmonauts set up an antenna for tracking birds on Earth and sent a series of tiny satellites flying from the International Space Station on Wednesday. Russian Sergey Prokopyev used his gloved right hand to fling four research satellites into space. The first minisatellite safely tumbled away as the space station soared 250 miles above Illinois. By the time the fourth one was on its way 14 minutes later, the station was almost to Spain. The cosmonauts spent the next several hours installing the antenna for an animal-tracking project known as Icarus, short for International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space. The project will start out tracking blackbirds and turtle doves already outfitted with small GPS tags, then move on to other songbirds, fruit bats, and bigger wildlife.

Fur-turnity leave

While many new parents are still fighting for adequate maternity and paternity leave in the United States, one Minnesota company is taking things a step further by offering fur-ternity leave to its employees. It’s exactly what it sounds like: leave from the office for new pet owners. Unlike leave for new human babies, parents at the digital marketing company Nina Hale that take fur-ternity leave still have to work during it, but they get to work at home so they can help their new pets adjust to their new surroundings. (But why would you call it fur-ternity when pawternity is such a gimme?)

How much would it cost you to go to veterinary school today?

The VIN Foundation, a nonprofit that provides tools and resources to support veterinary students and veterinarians throughout their careers, has updated its Cost of Education Map, which was developed to help preveterinary students make better informed decisions when applying to veterinary school. Costs vary widely among schools depending on whether the applicant qualifies for a discounted seat based on residency. The foundation said its goal in generating this tool is to enable students to apply smarter, and find the high-quality education they desire at the most reasonable cost. The updated Cost of Education Map includes new information for veterinary schools in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand; international residency options; the ability to compare costs from any number of schools side by side; and an improved layout that includes summaries of veterinary school costs.

Cats get their own radio station

Doth music have charms to soothe a savage Maine Coon or Turkish Angora on the long drive to the veterinarian? That’s the idea behind Cat Calm Radio, a new streaming internet service geared toward Tigger’s taste in tunes. Species-specific composer and musician David Teie created Cat Calm Radio’s 45-minute music loop, mixing new tracks with selections from his 2016 release, Music for Cats. “I had to take my own feelings out of the judgment,” he told Adweek. “That was really very hard to do, since normal composing is essentially an intuitive process. I was certainly going for a relaxed feeling and sympathetic expression, but in a ‘language’ that cats understand.” Of course, dogs are way easier to satisfy when they go for a ride. Even if you crank up Nickelback, no problem. Fido just hangs his head out the window and cheerfully drools on your paint job.