#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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#MilitaryMonday: Georgia Church Sends Over 5 Tons of Oreos to US Troops Serving Overseas

The congregation of Alpharetta First United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, donates 5.6 tons of Oreos for troops serving overseas in June 2015. (Photo: Nelson Wilkinson)

The congregation of Alpharetta First United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, donates 5.6 tons of Oreos for troops serving overseas in June 2015.
(Photo: Nelson Wilkinson)

A church in Georgia has recently collected over five tons of Oreos, which were shipped overseas to members of the United States Armed Forces.

Alpharetta First United Methodist Church collected 5.6 tons of the beloved cookies in an annual charitable endeavor called “Operation Oreo.” Beth Allain, spokeswoman for Alpharetta UMC, told about the process undergirding Operation Oreo.

“We collect the Oreos during the month of June and conclude Operation Oreo at the patriotic Sunday worship service that is held on the Sunday before July 4. Immediately following that service, we pack up the Oreos,” said Allain.

“The next couple of days we receive cookie donations collected by fellow United Methodist churches in the North Georgia Conference of the UMC. And by that Wednesday, the cookies are sent to the post office. We have already gotten thank you notes and photos of soldiers who received the Oreos this year.”

Allain explained that Operation Oreo began in 2009, directing CP to a letter written by senior pastor Don Martin in that year.

In the letter, Martin recalled a plane trip he had in February of that year wherein he sat next to a young soldier who served in Iraq whose primary mission was defusing bombs.

“‘What did you miss most while you were in Iraq?’ I asked. ‘Oreos, Double Stuf!!!’ was his quick reply,” wrote Martin.

“I told him that I was the senior pastor of the finest Methodist church in all of Christendom and that I would see that ‘Oreos galore’ would be sent to Iraq.”

Allain told CP about the scale of the annual Operation Oreo, how in 2010 they gathered 2,000 packages of Oreos and by 2013 it had spiked to over 6,000.

“Because the cookies come in so many different sized containers, we stopped counting by the package in 2014. By then Operation Oreo had turned into a community — not just church — outreach project, and the packages were just too many to count,” explained Allain.

“We set our goal that year [2014] at 2 tons, but we collected 3.7 tons of the cookies. Our goal this year was 4 tons, and we collected 5.6 tons.”

Alpharetta UMC engages in community outreach for Operation Oreo in several ways, including social media, contacting business and community leaders, putting ads in local papers, and with signs outside their church building.

Operation Oreo has caught the attention of many, with donations coming from several entities, noted the local media news site northfulton.com.

“Congregations at Chamblee, Roswell, North Springs, Mt. Pisgah, Bethelview, Cannon and Simpsonwood United Methodist Churches collected hundreds of packages each,” reported the site.

“In addition, members of Boy Scouts Troop 69 and Cub Scout Pack 459 donated cookies and wrote thank you notes. A note was attached to nearly every package of Oreos sent.”

Operation Oreo is not the only way that Alpharetta UMC helps the troops. According to Allain, the church also supports the Alpharetta Old Soldiers Day Parade and has a ministry centered on helping returning soldiers find civilian employment.

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Sacred Sunday: Gothic Tombs and Architectural Sculptures 1251 thru 1300, Part 2

This is the second and final part to Gothic tombs and sculptures of this period. Sacred Sunday is a continuing series on Crash Course.

Angel Musician 1280-1300 Stone Cathedral, Strasbourg

Angel Musician
1280-1300
Stone
Cathedral, Strasbourg

Virgin and Child 1277 Marble Cathedral, Tarragona

Virgin and Child
1277
Marble
Cathedral, Tarragona

In Catalonia, Gothic sculpture begins with Master Bartomeu, author of this marble statue of the Virgin on the center pier of the main porch of Tarragona cathedral (c. 1277). This extraordinarily delicate figure is carved in a style that can best be described as idealized archaism.

South Portal 13th century Stone Basilica de San Vicente, Ávila

South Portal
13th century
Stone
Basilica de San Vicente, Ávila

The picture shows the decorated south portal of the Basilica of San Vicente at Ávila.

Coroneria Door 1240-60 Stone Cathedral, Burgos

Coroneria Door
1240-60
Stone
Cathedral, Burgos

The Coroneria (Coronation) Door is in the north wall of the transept of the Burgos Cathedral. It is probably the work of Master Enrique (died 1277), architect, sculptor, designer, master builder of the Cathedral of León. The style is more Spanish than that of the sculpture around the Sarmental Door, doubless the most ancient of the Burgos Cathedral.

Pellejeria Door 1240-60 Stone Cathedral, Burgos

Pellejeria Door
1240-60
Stone
Cathedral, Burgos

The side door of the cathedral contains low-reliefs representing the Conception of Our Lady.

Portal of the Cloister 1240-60 Stone Cathedral, Burgos

Portal of the Cloister
1240-60
Stone
Cathedral, Burgos

The finely decorated door leads from the Cathedral to the Cloister.

Alfonso X and Doña Violante 1460-70 Stone Cloister of the Cathedral, Burgos

Alfonso X and Doña Violante
1460-70
Stone
Cloister of the Cathedral, Burgos

The columns and galleries of the cloister are adorned with groups of statues that illustrate the diversity of Gothic sculpture of the period. The group representing Alfonso X and his wife is especially noteworthy. In these figures the idea of a portrait has been fully realized without detracting from the strictly plastic values.

Adoration of the Magi 1260-70 Stone Cloister of the Cathedral, Burgos

Adoration of the Magi
1260-70
Stone
Cloister of the Cathedral, Burgos

The Queen of Swabia 1290s Stone Cloister of the Cathedral, Burgos

The Queen of Swabia
1290s
Stone
Cloister of the Cathedral, Burgos

The sculpture of the upper cloister at Burgos Cathedral belongs to the end of the 13th century. In this case, the influence of Reims is decisive and combines with reflections of the Amiens style. The figure of Queen Beatrix of Swabia shows the Spanish sculptor typically assimilating outside influences and yet arriving at something characteristically Spanish. With its air of authority and its realism, it stands midway between the calm nobility of the Reims Queen of Sheba and the sharp Countess Uta or the harsh Gerburg at Naumburg Cathedral.

Portada de la Virgen Blanca 1250-1300 Stone Cathedral, Leon

Portada de la Virgen Blanca
1250-1300
Stone
Cathedral, Leon

Portada de la Virgen Blanca is the west portal of the Leon Cathedral. The of west porch appears to be derived from Chartres; but the sculpture itself relates first to Burgos and then back to France (probably to Amiens and Reims).

La Portada de la Virgen Blanca (detail) 1250-1300 Stone Cathedral, Leon

La Portada de la Virgen Blanca (detail)
1250-1300
Stone
Cathedral, Leon

The detail shows the Last Judgment in the Tympanum of the main (west) door of the Cathedral.

In the Cathedral of León, the range of sculpture, from the second half of the thirteenth century, is even broader than at Burgos. The three doors of the west front with its portico, the transept doors, and the interior with its beautiful funerary monuments represent a cross-section of the plastic arts of the early Gothic. Clearly there were three principal sculptors, whose personalities are distinctly expressed. The foremost of the three, to whom the more important groups were entrusted, is none other than the man who carved the statues for the Coronería Door in Burgos cathedral.

His stone image of the Virgin and Child, known as the White Virgin (Virgen Blanca), is one of the finest sculptures ever made in Spain. The noble severity of his style stands opposed to the greater freedom and imagination of the second of the three sculptors of León, known only as the Master of the Last Judgment, whose narrative poetry is very personal and profoundly Spanish. The third master carved the apostles on the jambs of the south door and many statues in the main façade. The style of this artist is more restrained, closer to the manner of the French masters from Amiens who carved the Sarmental Door at Burgos.

The Virgen Blanca 1250-75 Stone Cathedral, Leon

The Virgen Blanca
1250-75
Stone
Cathedral, Leon

The Virgen Blanca or Nuestra Señora la Blanca of the west portal of Leon Cathedral is the masterpiece of a certain Enrico, who died in 1277. He worked at Burgos and at Leon, and though he must have been trained at Amiens, he transformed the stylized grace of his masters’ 13th century French Gothic art into something more picturesque and anecdotal. The drapery folds are more broken, more angular, the Virgin is pleasant and kindly, and her Son, a lively and mischievous ‘niño’.

Tomb of Infante Don Felipe 1274 Marble Villalcázar de Sirga, Palencia

Tomb of Infante Don Felipe
1274
Marble
Villalcázar de Sirga, Palencia

During the thirteenth century, the introduction of the Gothic style by artists from the north of France was paralleled by an independent evolution toward the new forms. This was characterized by lingering traces of the Romanesque, particularly a certain archaism and a taste for the ornamental interpretation of structure and detail. One of the best demonstrations of the potentialities of this art is the tomb of the Infante Don Felipe (died 1274) and his wife, Leonor Rodríguez de Castro, in Villalcázar de Sirga.

The faces of the tomb are carved with scenes of mourning, set between bands of heraldic ornament. The two recumbent figures, both of great beauty, reveal the sculptor’s interest in the details of dress, though at no time does he lose sight of the general design. This work is attributed to the sculptor Antón Pérez de Carrión and is remarkable for its freshness and originality.

Main Portal (detail) 1250-75 Stone Cathedral, Burgo de Osma

Main Portal (detail)
1250-75
Stone
Cathedral, Burgo de Osma

The Gothic cathedral at Burgo de Osma was begun in 1232, the sculpture in the main portal was installed between 1250 and 1275. The jamb-piers are divided into two registers, the lower decorated with blind arcading, and the upper with a series of figures from the Old and New Testaments. These prophets, kings and queens are the work of an artrist who knew the art of Burgos but not French cathedral sculpture.

The proportions are more compact than those of contemporary French figures, the faces schematic, and the draperies coarser in treatment. This simpler, low-keyed provincial art is at several removes from its model, the series of kings and prophets at Reims.

Crash

Astronomy: The Week Ahead – Sun 15 Aug to Sat 22 Aug 2015

aug sky photo

su

Sunday August 16

This evening at sunset the planet Mercury is directly west, and very close to the horizon as the sky becomes dark enough to try finding it. A two day old moon will accompany Mercury six degrees to its east, showing only a very thin 6% illuminated waxing crescent. You will be lucky to pick out either, as an absolutely flat horizon and good timing will be necessary. Mercury’s due west position will be helpful in spotting its magnitude 0.17 speck, while only the thin crescent of the moon will be possible. Above Mercury, Leo’s brightest tail star, Denobola, might be visible as the sky continues to darken.

mo

Monday August 17

The dim and long constellation Eridanus, the River, is rising west of Orion in the predawn sky. You can easily locate its beginning, next to the bright blue-white giant star Rigel, at the foot of Orion. Like an old river, the path of Eridanus meanders through mostly empty skies, terminating due south below the horizon with the 0.5 magnitude star Achernar. Eridanus is the Latin name for the Po River, in Italy. It is an ancient constellation, among the 48 original ones designated by Ptolemy in the 2nd century A.D. Only four of its main stars shines brighter than magnitude 3.0.

tu

Tuesday August 18

Today the moon enters ascending node, crossing north of the celestial equator, called the Ecliptic (green line). It is also now at apogee, its farthest point from earth in its orbit. Watch as it passes Spica tomorrow night, while its waxing crescent phase increases from 17% illumination, and passes Saturn to reaches first quarter phase with 53% illumination in four nights.

we

Wednesday August 19

Grab your binoculars and look for Mars low over the eastern horizon below Gemini. If you are able to see it, your binoculars should reveal the red planet shining brightly among the stars of the great open cluster called The Beehive, or Messier 44 (M44), in the constellation Cancer. Mars will be at magnitude 1.75, and easy to identify. The Beehive Cluster is magnitude 3.7, large and coarse, with many bright stars overflowing most binocular fields of view. Mars will be 48 arc-minutes from the center of the cluster this morning. The Beehive will overflow most binocular fields of view, at 95 arc-minutes in size.

th

Thursday August 20

Use your binoculars this morning to find the Great Andromeda Galaxy, M31, high in the western sky. The Square of Pegasus will be your starting point. Find it then hop up the gentle arcs of stars to Beta Andromedae, and scan across past the dimmer star (Mu Andromedae) just to its north, until you see a large glowing oval. You’ll have found the galaxy, or at least part of it. M31 is huge in our skies. At 178×63 arc-minutes, it is wide a five full moons and twice as thick! You won’t be able to view the entire galaxy in one binocular field of view! This galaxy at magnitude 3.4, is the farthest object that can be seen without optical aid, at a distance of 2.9 million light years.

Enjoy Saturn season while you can, it always seems to end too soon!

fr

Friday August 21

Saturn reaches eastern quadrature today. The earth and Saturn form a right angle with the sun. We are now halfway through “Saturn season”, with the earth speeding away from Saturn, to leave it in the glare of the sun in a few more months. Since we are at right angles to the sun, you’d expect the distances to reflect that. We are currently 9.9 Astronomical Units (AU) from Saturn, and Saturn is 9.9 AU from the sun!

sa

Saturday August 22

The first quarter moon and Saturn sits just under 5-1/2 degrees apart tonight, straddling the constellations Scorpius (moon) and Libra (Saturn). Use your extended three middle fingers, held at arms length, and they should just fit between these two celestial objects. Your fist equals about five degrees, so now you have a measuring device at hand! A fist is ten degrees. The moon tonight is so bright it will drown out our view of the Milky Way rising from the Teapot is Sagittarius. Surprisingly, it is only 1/11th as bright at a full moon!

Happy viewing!

Crash