#Caturday Reader: Cats Pay More Attention to Us Than We Realize

Every move you make, every cake you bake - I'll be watching you...

Every move you make, every cake you bake – I’ll be watching you…

Cats, long stereotyped as aloof and highly independent creatures compared to dogs, may be getting a bad rap.

Research recently published in the journal Animal Cognition posits that cats are quite in tune with their owners’ emotions, and respond to those emotions. The study, “Social referencing and cat–human communication,” details the results of an experiment conducted at Italy’s University of Milan with 24 cats and their owners to see what cats do with emotional information provided by their people.

According to the study, the first of its kind involving cats, researchers put each cat-owner pair in an unfamiliar room with an object sure to cause the cats some anxiety: a running fan with plastic ribbons attached to it. One group of owners provided positive reinforcement by talking in a happy voice while looking from the cat to the fan. The second group talked to their cats in a fearful voice while looking from the cat to the fan.

Researchers then assessed what they call “social referencing” in the cats, defined as “looking to the owner immediately before or after looking at the object.” The cats clearly participated in social referencing, with researchers concluding that 79 percent of the cats alternated between looking at their owner and the fan. The study found the cats even changed their behavior “to some extent” according to their owners’ emotional message.

Interestingly, the cats responded more overtly, in terms of looking at their owners, to the negative emotions than to the positive emotions. “Overall, cats in the negative group also showed a higher frequency in their interaction with the owner than cats in the positive group, potentially suggesting they were looking for security from their owner,” according to the study.

“Cats are social animals, but their sociality is defined ‘optional,’” says Isabella Merola, lead author of the study and the owner of two cats herself. “Cats usually decide when and with whom to interact.”

Merola notes that all of the cats in the study focused on their owners because they were in a strange situation. Even cats that usually ignored their people felt compelled to look to their owners for direction in that scenario, says Merola.

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Astronomy: Cassini’s Final Breathtaking Views of Saturn’s Moon Dione

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Above: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this parting view showing the rough and icy crescent of Saturn’s moon Dione following the spacecraft’s last close flyby of the moon on Aug. 17, 2015. Cassini obtained a similar crescent view in 2005. The earlier view has an image scale about four times higher, but does not show the moon’s full crescent as this view does.

Five visible light (clear spectral filter), narrow-angle camera images were combined to create this mosaic view. The scene is an orthographic projection centered on terrain at 0.4 degrees north latitude, 30.6 degrees west longitude on Dione. An orthographic view is most like the view seen by a distant observer looking through a telescope.

The view was acquired at distances ranging from approximately 37,000 miles (59,000 kilometers) to 47,000 miles (75,000 kilometers) from Dione and at a sun-Dione-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 145 degrees. Image scale is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) per pixel.

North on Dione is up and rotated 34 degrees to the right.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Above: Dione hangs in front of Saturn and its icy rings in this view, captured during Cassini’s final close flyby of the icy moon. North on Dione is up. The image was obtained in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Aug. 17, 2015.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 45,000 miles (73,000 kilometers) from Dione and at a sun-Dione-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 35 degrees. Image scale is 3 miles (4 kilometers) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Above: This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturn’s icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the mission’s final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015. At lower right is the large, multi-ringed impact basin named Evander, which is about 220 miles (350 kilometers) wide. The canyons of Padua Chasma, features that form part of Dione’s bright, wispy terrain, reach into the darkness at left.

Imaging scientists combined nine visible light (clear spectral filter) images to create this mosaic view: eight from the narrow-angle camera and one from the wide-angle camera, which fills in an area at lower left. The scene is an orthographic projection centered on terrain at 0.2 degrees north latitude, 179 degrees west longitude on Dione. North on Dione is up.

The view was acquired at distances ranging from approximately 106,000 miles (170,000 kilometers) to 39,000 miles (63,000 kilometers) from Dione and at a sun-Dione-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 35 degrees. Image scale is about 1,500 feet (450 meters) per pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

On the Web:

Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and www.nasa.gov/cassini.

The Cassini imaging team homepage

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Art Wednesday: Frank Weston Benson, American Painter, Etcher and Teacher

Sunlight 1909 Oil on canvas, 82 x 51 cm Museum of Art, Indianapolis

Sunlight
1909
Oil on canvas, 82 x 51 cm
Museum of Art, Indianapolis

Frank Benson attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1880 to 1883 as a student of Otto Grundmann (1844-1890) and Frederick Crowninshield (1845-1918). In 1883 he travelled with his fellow student and lifelong friend Edmund Charles Tarbell to Paris, where they both studied at the Académie Julian for three years with Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre.

Frank W. Benson, (March 24, 1862 – November 15, 1951) circa 1895 Image courtesy of Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C

Frank W. Benson, (March 24, 1862 – November 15, 1951) circa 1895
Image courtesy of Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C

Benson travelled with Tarbell to Italy in 1884 and to Italy, Belgium, Germany and Brittany the following year. When he returned home, Benson became an instructor at the Portland (ME) School of Art, and after his marriage to Ellen Perry Peirson in 1888 he settled in Salem, MA. Benson taught with Tarbell at the Museum School in Boston from 1889 until their resignation over policy differences in 1913. Benson rejoined the staff the next year and taught intermittently as a visiting instructor until 1930.

The Black Hat 1904 Oil on canvas, 102 x 81 cm Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

The Black Hat
1904
Oil on canvas, 102 x 81 cm
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

1890s Impressionist art in Boston was primarily concerned with figure painting, and focused on society ladies in appropriate settings. Tarbell was one of the first to take this direction. His compositions of the 1890s, showing stylish ladies at leisure out of doors. The choice of theme was mainly responsible for Tarbell’s popularity with affluent collectors in Boston.

His influence and reputation were also consolidated by years of teaching at the Boston Museum School. People even talked of Tarbellites – that is other Bostonian figure painters whose technique and approach to their subject-matter betrayed an affinity with his presiding spirit. One of the foremost Tarbellites was Frank Benson, who concentrated on portraits.

His works were shown at annual exhibitions, in 1903 he received the gold medal at Pittsburgh, in 1904 at St, Louis and in 1906 at Philadelphia.

Benson was “deeply influenced” by Johannes Vermeer and Diego Velázquez, masters from the seventeenth-century. Vermeer painted few works during his lifetime, about 35-36 [universally accepted] paintings, but nearly each of them has become a masterpiece. The Dutch artist from Delft was astute in his depiction of light and “poetic quality” of his subjects

The works of Claude Monet, played a role in the development of Benson’s own American Impressionistic style. He capitalized on Monet’s color palette and brush strokes and keenly depicted “reflected light”, yet maintained some detail in the composition. Benson represented American people with an ideal of grace, of dignity, of elegance.

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