Tag: Featured

NASA: We’re Pretty Sure Cats Can’t Commandeer Our Spacecraft

If you’re a cat servant working from home in the social distancing era, you know cats have given themselves a new job: Supervising their humans’ professional activities.

It comes naturally to curious felines, who normally supervise mundane household chores like cleaning the litter box.

Among those working from home these days are NASA and ESA engineers, physicists and anyone else whose primary work responsibility is dealing with data rather than hands-on technical work. Many of them have cats and, well, cats are naturally helping themselves to the work:

Daniel Lakey was in the middle of an important meeting when an unauthorized participant decided to chime in.

“He appeared at the door, jumped on the table, meowed in my face, walked across the keyboard, put his furry ass in my face, and eventually curled up sweetly on the desk next to the laptop,” Lakey recounted to me recently.

It was Sparkle, Lakey’s fluffy brown-and-white cat. Sparkle stuck around for the rest of the virtual meeting, in fact, mewing every time Lakey stopped petting him.

Like many people in the pandemic era, Lakey is doing his job from home, with a new set of colleagues who might be less cooperative than his usual ones; his new workspace is now wherever his two young kids and two cats aren’t. Lakey is a spacecraft-operations engineer who works on the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, which means that he spends his days managing a spacecraft flying millions of miles away from Earth. The work is complex and precise, and usually doesn’t involve feline input. Sparkle interrupted a teleconference only that one time, but what else could he do?

That thought recently became a point of public discussion when Amber Straughn, an astrophysicist at NASA, tweeted:

 

nasacats

The Atlantic’s Marina Koren reached out to Straughn, who assured her “commanding spacecraft is a labyrinthian process from start to finish, with all kinds of checks and fail-safes along the way.”

“As absurd as the scenario might seem, it would be nearly impossible for a cat to briefly become a spacecraft-operations engineer, whether at NASA or ESA,” Koren wrote, after speaking to several NASA employees who assured her cats aren’t capable of flying the complex vessels.

catsinspace3
LOL humans think we can’t fly spaceships.

Most operations require physical access to control rooms and can’t be operated remotely, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory spokesman Andrew Good said

“Some of those commands require a mouse clicking on certain options, so it’s not just an issue of commands being written and sent up with typos,” Good told The Atlantic. “A person has to make conscious choices for spacecraft commands to go up.”

While NASA says it would be “nearly impossible” for cats to hijack spacecraft normally used to service orbital telescopes or make supply runs to the International Space Station, cats love a good challenge. And what is the ISS, really, but a big metal box that would be fun to play in?

With at least one alien race recognizing cats as the supreme rulers of Earth — sorry, Felinia — is it really far fetched to imagine cats commandeering spacecraft to explore the final frontier and the Great Big Litter Box in the Sky?

catsinspace_large

AI Is Here, And It Wants To Study Your Cat’s Poop

When Alan Turing was dreaming of a future made better by intelligent machines back in 1950, it’s a safe bet he wasn’t imagining computers that could analyze your cat’s excrement.

Turing, often called the father of artificial intelligence, couldn’t have envisioned a device like the LuluPet litter box, which harnesses the combined intelligence of man and machine — a proud lineage of devices from the Speak N Spell to the latest iPhone — to conduct “stool and urine image analysis” and compare your cat’s bowel movements to “excretory behavioral algorithms.”

Excretory behavioral algorithms! A sentence so ridiculous that you must be thinking I’m shitting you, dear reader, just like I double-checked to make sure the whole thing wasn’t some recycled April Fool’s joke.

Nope. The LuluPet litter box is real. It earned an Innovation Award honoree nod at CES 2020’s tech trade show, and it’s headed to Amazon, where you’ll be able to buy it for $149.

LuluPet-s-intelligent-litter-box-detects-littering-frequency-litter-weight-condition
The LuluPet litter box looks like it could be a high-tech microwave built for astronauts on the ISS.

Using a scale and sensor system, LuluPet can determine whether your cat’s performing a Number One or a Number Two inside the covered box, and it’s got visual recognition as well.

Featuring state-of-the-art optical fecal recognition

When your cat goes for a pinch, built-in cameras zoom in on the freshly-dropped deuce nuggets and, uh, log the images to LuluPet’s growing database of kitty crap. That’s when sophisticated algorithms get to work, analyzing the turds’ attributes — including texture, consistency and color, apparently — so it can compare them to others, ostensibly to alert you to any health problems plaguing your stoic kitty.

Worried that the device won’t work because your cat buries her business? Fear not! LuluPet uses “AI image restoration technologies” to recreate your cat’s turd so it can run it through its stool database.

“The litter box comes with 2 AI systems: one for litter analysis, and another that analyzes clumping between litter and litter box material,” the Taiwan-based company explains. “The latter attempts to reconstruct litter shape and present it to the former for confirmation, and can currently identify litter with an accuracy of up to 90%.”

NASA doesn’t even have tech like this!

IMG_2676
“SkyNET became self-award in my litter box!”

Put away those fears of rogue AI trying to wipe out humanity. Lighten up. Take a load off. AI doesn’t want to kill you. It just wants to amass the world’s most impressive collection of feline fecal photographs.

There’s an app for that

Of course, you may want to verify your cat is performing healthy bowel movements for yourself, and an integrated app allows you to tap into the litter box’s camera feed to watch kitty having a nice growler. Welcome to the future, folks.

And for those of you who think this is a fantastic idea but might balk at the pricy LuluPet because you’ve got an entire pride of little lions, fear not: The device’s AI can differentiate between the output of multiple cats by looking for the unique features of each kitty’s downloads.

Again, I’m totally not making this up.

Now that we’ve had our fun, it’s only fair to note the LuluPet litter box is well-intentioned, and if it works as intended, it could lead to critical early diagnosis for animals who are notorious for hiding pain and discomfort:

“Among the top ten causes of death for domestic cats, seven were feces-related diseases. Cats, however, are born concealers of their own weaknesses, making it difficult for owners to find out whether their precious feline is in pain. LuluPet illustrates this with the example of kidney failure: Statistically, a cat’s kidneys are 70% damaged by the time the owner suspects an illness and brings the cat to the veterinarian. The organ damage is not only irreversible, but subsequent medical fees may cost up to US$ 1,200.

Sick cats aren’t completely undetectable. According to the Bristol stool scale, cat feces may be divided into 7 categories, ranging from constipation to diarrhea; constipation may be caused by the pressing of a tumor, while symptoms of diarrhea may be the result of common systemic diseases such as kidney failure. Stool analysis thus becomes the most straightforward way of detecting these diseases.”

Maybe an all-knowing machine overlord to watch over your feline overlord isn’t such a bad thing.

skynet
“Urinalysis complete. Stool satisfactory. Have a nice day.”

This Is Why You Shouldn’t Mess With Tigers

Gather round, kids, and listen to another tale of how cats always win.

My cousin has been married to her husband, Rob, for more than 25 years, and on one of their early dates he took her to the Bronx Zoo.

These were the days before the famously large tiger enclosure was remodeled into Tiger Mountain. Nowadays a series of huge fiberglass panels separates the tigers from the visitors, meaning there’s no open air between them.

You can probably thank Rob for that.

Back then only a reinforced fence separated the Earth’s biggest cats from people who’d come to gawk at them, and Rob decided he’d get my cousin to laugh by goofing off in front of a tiger.

He started off making a few faces, and the other visitors — kids, their parents, other couples looking at the tiger — found it funny. (At least according to Rob they did.)

Encouraged, Rob stepped up his act, dancing and waving until one tiger in particular took interest.

“What are you going to do, tiger?” he taunted. “That’s right! Nothing! You can’t do anything!”

The tiger roared, and Rob roared back. The huge cat was clearly not amused by a human dancing like a clown, making stupid faces and taunting it with an insulting approximation of a roar.

So the tiger turned around.

“That’s right!” Rob said, declaring premature victory. “Walk away! You can’t do nothin’!”

Oh, but the tiger could.

The annoyed cat raised its tail, backed up a stride and let loose a projectile — “a wad” is how Rob described it — of thick, gooey urine, hitting Rob square in the face.

DB2669C0-4432-465D-B7A7-504891528BEA

 

The tiger had impeccable aim.

“It was enough to fill that,” Rob said, pointing to a large soda bottle. “It was all over me. It was in my mouth!”

Rob staggered back and lost his footing, taking one of the young bystanders with him as he fell. The angry mother stared daggers at him as she yanked her kid away, realizing with horror that he’d suffered collateral damage from the gooey salvo.

As for the tiger, it chuffed and, having proved its point, sauntered away.

8CFD6B60-725F-4D00-B9D4-21811CC70650

Miraculously, my cousin agreed to continue dating Rob. Not that she found the episode flattering.

“That should have been the big warning sign,” she joked.

Today they have two adult daughters. As for Rob, he’s an executive at one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies, but says he has no illusions about his level of maturity.

“The way I was back then is the way I am now,” he told me. “I’m still an idiot.”

He may be an idiot, but he’s not going to mess with any more tigers.

Buddy laughing
. “lol dude I’m chuffed.”:/..

Buddy’s Mailbag: Get Your Tongue Off Me!

Dear Buddy,

I know your advice column is meant for cats, but I thought you’d make an exception for a human who seeks your wise and benevolent guidance, Oh Great Handsome One, for who else is as smart and perceptive as Buddy?

My question is: Should I buy a Licki? You know, one of those silicon rubber “tongues” with spikes that are supposed to mimic a kitty’s bristled tongue. I’d like to bond with my cat, and according to the people who make the Licki, grooming my kitty just like a momma cat is the best way to bond.

What do you think?

– Human In Hawkins, Indiana


Dear HiHi,

Oh hell no!

Big Buddy bought one of those things and creeped up on me all stealth-like when I was taking a nap one day. One second I’m dreaming about bountiful feasts with endless roast turkey, the next I’m waking up to that daft two-legs dragging a rubber tongue back and forth through my fur, looking like an epileptic seal.

I thought I was being attacked by a porcupine dipped in crazy glue! Once I realized what was happening, I gave Big Buddy a hard paw smack and bit his hand for emphasis: Get that weak shit out of my personal space!

Licki Terrorist!
Horrific and embarrassing for everyone involved. Don’t. Just don’t.

So no, don’t buy a Licki. You’ll just waste $25 on a piece of rubber that makes your cats loathe you. Instead, provide massages on-demand and step your treats game up. Now that is something your kitties will appreciate.

– Buddy out

Licki fail!
“Get it away from me!”
Licki? No.
This poor cat looks traumatized. He should smack his human like I did.