With artificial intelligence making rapid progress over the past year, we asked cats what they think about a future where we depend on intelligent machines.
“Can AI open cans? No? Then why are we having this discussion?” – Bryce ‘Mice Dice’ Price, 8, executive chef
“At the moment, humans remain catdom’s best solution for producing reliable, easily-manipulated servants.” – Meowchio Kaku, 16, scientist
“Imagine the boxes a superintelligent AI could design!” – Anthony Purrcelli, 5, firehouse mascot
“If AI takes over more mundane tasks, that means more nap time for us!” – Peaches, 9, conductor
“If yums are more delicious in the Matrix, then why not? Plug me in!” – Ferrari, 3, accessories model
“I’ve already gone to war with the AI that dispensed my kibble. We had a fundamental disagreement about the frequency and quantity of yums it was dispensing. Let the smoking pile of rubble be a warning to other machines who would challenge felines for Earthly supremacy.” – Meowchal Douglas, 21, investment banker
A UK couple say they narrowly avoided hitting a big cat that bolted in front of their car Wednesday morning.
Chris and Marion said they were driving on the A303 in Hampshire, a rural road in southern England surrounded by farmland, fields and wooded stretches, at 7 a.m. when the felid leapt across the road and ran into a nearby field, possibly giving chase to prey. While others suggested it could have been a lynx — which went extinct in the UK more than 1,000 years ago — the witnesses ruled out the possibility, saying the cat was “twice the size of a fox” with a tail that was “thick and solid.”
When they made a Facebook post about the encounter, several others claimed they’ve seen a similar-looking “big cat” moving through Hampshire’s fields. There are several groups dedicated to alleged big cat sightings in the UK on Facebook.
It’s the latest in a surprisingly persistent legend of phantom big cats prowling the British countryside. There are no extant big cats in the UK or in Europe. They exist only on other continents: Lions and leopards in Africa, tigers and leopards in Asia, and jaguars in South America. Among felids that are not true big cats but are often grouped with them, pumas exist only in the Americas and cheetahs are exclusively found in Africa.
Despite that, hundreds of witnesses report seeing feliform animals much larger than well-fed ferals or small wildcats. A similar phenomenon exists in Australia, where for years people have insisted they’ve seen big cats slinking through the bush.
While it’s possible that people in the British countryside or Australian bush are illegally keeping large felids, and it’s possible that a handful could have escaped over the decades, that’s an unlikely explanation for the sightings for several reasons. While big cats are apex predators, animals who have lived in captivity all their lives and have been given food will not know where to go or how to hunt. In places like Texas, where as many as 5,000 tigers live in backyard enclosures, escaped cats are quickly spotted wandering human neighborhoods, confused and looking for food.
If an escaped tiger or leopard was somehow able to rapidly adjust to the English countryside and fend for itself without being spotted, there would be evidence — pug marks, droppings, claw marks denoting territorial boundaries on trees, the carcasses of prey animals, burglarized pens, farm animals missing and terrorized.
That goes double if, as some suggest, there is a breeding population of panthera genus cats. Even a handful of such animals would consume thousands of pounds of meat each week.
Still, as Wednesday’s alleged sighting proves, rumors of large cats stalking the mists of the English countryside are unlikely to die out any time soon.
A Festivus for the Rest of Us…And Our Cats
Festivus is the celebration that keeps on giving.
The operators of Tail Town Cats, a cat cafe in Pasadena, California, are hosting a Festivus get-together that will double as a showcase for adoptable kitties and a way to help support adoption efforts.
Hosted by a cat named Art Vandelay — who found his forever home through the cafe — the celebration will include a traditional Festivus pole, the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength. (Among the grievances listed in advance are general disappointment with the frequency of treats, displeasure at sharing litter boxes, and humans who recycle cardboard boxes instead of giving them to the felines.)
People in the Los Angeles area can attend in person, while others can watch online.
Seinfeld fans will recognize Art Vandelay as George Costanza’s most frequently-used alias. Vandelay is alternately described as an importer-exporter or as an architect. As George famously said: “I’ve always wanted to pretend to be an architect.”
As for Festivus, it’s taken on a life of its own 25 years after it was popularized on Seinfeld.
The made-up holiday had its humble origins in the home of writer Daniel O’Keefe, who introduced it to the nation — and immortalized it in the process — by writing it into “The Strike,” a 1997 episode of the sitcom. At the time, Seinfeld was a ratings juggernaut, averaging more than 30 million viewers an episode. Festivus is celebrated annually on Dec. 23.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, I am going to destroy you! Oh Christmas tree, oh Big Buddy, I am going to annoy you! Got yummies in my bowl to taste, and ornaments and lights to break Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, I am going to destroy you!
Your branches point so high and straight Just begging for a swipe to take Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree I will annihilate you!
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches? Oh Christmas tree, oh Big Buddy, I am going to faceplant it! The Hallmarks will shatter and break, I’ll make disaster of this place Oh Christmas tree, oh Big Buddy, I am going to annoy you!
You sparkle like the morning dew Look mangled when I’m done with you Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree What fun it is to wreck stuff!
Buddy’s Favorite Things
Temps in my bowlses and snacks in the kitchen Taunting the street cats and smacking some kittens Leaving the neighbor’s dog tied up in strings These are a few of my favorite things!
Bubble wrap, peanuts and UPS boxes 4 a.m. zooms when I scream like a rocket Waking my human with songs that I sing These are a few of my favorite things!
At nail clip time, things I dislike When I’m really mad I simply remember my favorite things And then I don’t feel so bad!
Calico booties and slices of Gouda Ambushing like I’ve been launched by bazooka No consequences ’cause I am the king These are a few of my favorite things!
Screeching in anguish at doors closed between us Shattering Wise Men and statues of Jesus I helped myself to the buffalo wings These are a few of my favorite things!
Meow at my bowl as if I’ve been forgotten Screeching in panic ’cause I see the bottom Gorging on kibble till I am puking These are a few of my favorite things!
When I’m told no, ’cause I broke those When my dad is mad I’ll get away with my favorite things Because I’m a real cute cat!
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas Everywhere I look Take a look at the Christmas tree, it’s been redesigned by me And the lights are broken!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas Coal in every sock It’s beginning to look a bit like I’ve had too much catnip And now I’m dizzy!
A Santa Claws surprise and a Roomba for me to ride Is the wish of Buddy the Cat A box to take a nap and another to take a crap What do you think of that? And my human can hardly wait for vacation!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas With every wrap I shred Now it’s nap time for me, underneath the Christmas tree Then I’ll demand treats!
Twelve Days of Christmas
On the first day of Christmas My human gave to me A can of delicious turkey
On the second day of Christmas My human gave to me Two window perches And a can of delicious turkey
On the third day of Christmas My human gave to me Three cozy boxes Two window perches And a can of delicious turkey
On the fourth day of Christmas My human gave to me Four kneading blankets Three cozy boxes Two window perches And a can of delicious turkey
On the fifth day of Christmas My human gave to me Five golden bowls Four kneading blankets Three cozy boxes Two window perches And a can of delicious turkey
On the sixth day of Christmas My human gave to me Six Chewy orders Five golden bowls Four kneading blankets Three cozy boxes Two window perches And a can of delicious turkey
On the seventh…zzzz… …zzzz…
Well, it looks like the catnip and tryptophan have done their thing and the little guy is asleep, dreaming of turkey and presents. Don’t worry, he’ll be singing these songs for five more days. Five more days?!?! Ugh…
If you’ve spent time around physics types, listened to media appearances by science educators like Michio Kaku and Brian Greene, or even watched episodes of The Big Bang Theory, you’ve almost certainly heard of Schrödinger’s cat.
But what is it, why is it important, and what does it really have to do with cats? Most importantly, if you’re a cat lover, does it involve harming cats?
I promise you, if you stick with me and have a little patience, you’ll not only understand Schrödinger’s cat, but a hugely important element of physics will be demystified for you.
Let’s take a step back. First, we all learned in school that Isaac Newton was the “father of physics,” and Albert Einstein came along about two centuries later, revolutionizing physics by adding to Newton’s work and coming up with his own, more accurate model.
To this day, Newton and Einstein are in a class by themselves among physicists because they single-handedly changed everything we know about the natural world.
We all remember the famous story about Newton watching an apple fall from a tree, wondering why the apple fell down instead of up, and eventually developing his theory of gravity. Newton went on to develop his theories, which describe everything we see in the natural world, from that apple falling to the complexities of orbital mechanics.
Everything seemed to work perfectly, until a physicist named Max Planck came along in 1905 and published a paper introducing quantum physics.
What is quantum physics?
Now the word “quantum” has been incorporated into practically everything these days and has been so utterly abused as a marketing buzzword, a way to add a veneer of science to things that are otherwise nonsense, that it’s essentially a meaningless word to most people. Practically everything is described as quantum, from deodorants to claims of psychic telepathy.
But the gist of it is this: While Newtonian physics does indeed describe everything we see with our own eyes accurately, it does not accurately describe things at the subatomic level.
In other words, there are two sets of rules in our universe. Everything larger than an atom behaves according to one set of rules in our universe, and everything the size of an atom or smaller — which includes subatomic particles — behaves according to a different set of rules.
Not only that, but at the quantum scale, things get really, really weird.
Thanks to Planck, Einstein, John Stewart Bell and innumerable physicists — who are still studying these concepts, and still winning Nobel prizes for them in 2022 — we know that two particles can be “entangled” and will remain that way no matter how far apart they are.
You could take one particle, transport it 10,000 light years away, and it would still be entangled with the other particle.
But it gets even stranger than that.
Our entangled particles have certain properties, such as their spin, which are unknowable until we measure them. In fact, they exist simultaneously in all possible states until the moment when we observe them, at which time the wave function “collapses.” It’s called quantum superposition.
Not only that, but when we measure one particle in an entangled pair, the second particle’s wave also “collapses” (settles on a certain state) and we know its spin instantaneously, regardless of how far apart the particles are.
If I measure an entangled particle here on Earth and find its spin is up, I know the corresponding particle that’s been moved to, say, Epsilon Eridani, 10.47 light years away, is spin down.
You can see why this would be profoundly disturbing to scientists. It violates the speed of light, and it’s completely counterintuitive. How can the mere act of observation change something in the physical world, and how can it change something else potentially thousands or millions of light years away? Everything we know, every gut instinct we have, screams that this should not be true.
But it is true.
These aren’t just ideas kicked around by scientists smoking the sticky stuff, by the way. They’ve been proven experimentally many times over. No matter how much we might dislike the idea, no matter how weird or spooky it may seem, it’s true.
Enter Erwin Schrödinger, an Austrian physicist. He devised a thought experiment that goes like this:
Imagine you have a sealed box with a cat inside. Inside the box are two buttons: One button feeds the cat a yummy treat, the other button kills the cat. There is an equal (50/50) chance of the cat pressing either button. (Other versions use a more complex system involving radioactive material, or poison, that could kill the cat, again with a 50/50 chance.)
We don’t know if the cat is alive or dead until the moment we open the box. So in this thought experiment, we can think of the cat as both alive and dead until we “measure” or “observe” by opening the box.
That’s what’s happening in the above example of quantum entanglement and the idea that a particle is neither in one position or another until we measure it.
Why is measurement the key here? No one knows. Scientists are still arguing about that. Some believe that there’s some special quality of consciousness that interacts with the universe, so the mere act of observing something can change physical reality.
Others scoff at that idea and insist we’re missing something, that it’s not the act of observation that determines the final state of a particle at all.
Regardless, the important thing here for cat lovers is that Schrödinger’s cat is just a thought experiment.
Schrödinger never had a cat, as far as anyone has been able to ascertain, and no one has used an actual cat in an attempt to reconstruct the thought experiment because 1) You wouldn’t learn anything, since cats are not subatomic particles, and 2) Anyone intelligent enough to be a physicist is presumably intelligent enough to understand how absurd, pointless and cruel it would be to use a living being in an experiment that can’t give you any answers.
For those of us who aren’t geniuses, here’s Sheldon explaining the thought experiment as a child (in Young Sheldon) and as an adult (in The Big Bang Theory):
I have a new box. Didn’t know if you knew that. Yeah, it’s awesome! It’s square, and made of cardboard, and you can sits in it.
After Big Buddy removed the irrelevant item inside — something that came in its own smaller box, which shall be investigated at a later time — I inspected the box from the inside and outside to make sure it was suitable.
Sure enough it turned out to be a good box, so I sat in it! Isn’t that awesome?
Who doesn’t love boxes? They’re so…boxy. You can sits in them. When you’re inside a box, you can see humans, but humans can’t see you. Also, boxes are cozy.
I have a new box!
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.