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The Spill: Eyes on the Back of a Cow

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The Cows Have Eyes

Have you heard the saying that someone must have eyes in the back of their head? Well, how about cows with eyes on the back of their bottoms? You may laugh, because it does seem like a silly idea, but nevertheless researchers and farmers came up with an idea to paint eyes on cow butts to help reduce herds from losing members to predators.

Researcher Neil Jordan, who is a study co-author from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, explained the reasoning for painting eyeballs on the rear ends of cattle. “Lions are ambush predators that rely on stalking, and therefore the element of surprise,” he said, “so being seen by their prey can lead to them abandoning the hunt.”

The study consisted of researchers and farmers working together in Botswana. They selected 14 herds of cattle, each with up to 100 cows, that had been having issues with lion attacks. One-third of each of the herds were given an eye design, another one-third were painted with simple cross marks, and the others were left natural and unpainted.

The eyes have it, or rather, less cattle were attacked by predators. “Cattle marked with simple crosses were significantly more likely to survive than were unmarked cattle of the same herd,” Jordan said.  During the four-year study, 15 unpainted cows were killed and four of the cross-painted. “Although eye-marked cattle were more likely to survive than the other groups,” Jordan continued, “this general ‘conspicuousness’ effect suggests that novel cross-marks were better than no marks at all, which was unexpected.”

For some of nature’s creatures, this technique is nothing new. There are other species that are born with features resembling eyes on their bodies such as butterflies, birds, and fish. However, mammals do not produce such a protection and humans are now finding that painting eyeballs on the backsides of vulnerable herds may go a long way towards discouraging predators from attacking.

Babar is a character from a 1931 French children’s story. He’s an elephant that painted eyes on the rear ends of other elephants to scare off the rhinoceroses that had been threatening attack. It’s taken a while for humans to adopt the practice to save livestock, but at least some cows are thankful today that they have eyeballs painted on their behinds.

Screen Time or Green Time?

Do you prefer “screen time” or “green time”?  Do you know the difference? If you prefer to watch television and play videos, then you are a screen time person. But if you prefer to be outdoors, playing sports or hiking, then you are a green time individual. There are pros and cons of both, but as with anything, too much of either may not be good for you.

Screen Time

According to researchers, kids in the United States average about seven-and-a-half hours a day in screen time – and this is before the Coronavirus pandemic hit and children across the nation started attending online learning. That is a lot of time to be sitting in front of a computer or television. While screen time is not all bad and can even aid in cognitive learning, there may be some serious effects to take into consideration.

Ph.D. candidate Tassia Oswald from the University of Adelaide in Australia said that “The overwhelming majority [of studies] found that there was an association between increased screen time and unfavorable psychological outcomes” which vary depending on the age groups. “Excessive screen time for young children under five years was more often associated with poor cognitive outcomes,” she continued. “That makes sense because at that age they’re developing cognitive abilities like language.” For adolescents, she suggested “there was more association between mental health outcomes like depression and anxiety.”

There is also the concern that too much time spent by oneself in front of a screen will damage a person’s social experience and lead to a more solitary lifestyle. Getting out and socializing is important to develop skills needed to “fit in” to society.

Green Time

Spending time out doors among the “green” nature is believed to be healthy both physically and mentally. Chances are if you’re outside, then you are getting some kind of exercise by playing sports or just going for a walk. The sedentary lifestyle of sitting in front of a screen doesn’t allow for much physical activity. Exercise increases endorphins in the brain, which helps to stimulate brain activity and has been linked to helping with depression and a myriad of other conditions.

The challenge with kids being able to have green time, however, has become real over the past couple of decades as parents are concerned with their children’s safety. There is also the issue of finding enough space to play outdoors as the population grows and free roaming areas are being turned into apartment buildings and other structures.

The trick, then, is finding the right balance. A healthy amount of both screen and green time is recommended, but researchers are still unsure just what that balance would equal. There are a lot of factors that come to play and can be different from one person to another. Things such as where they live, health concerns, and more will need to be taken into consideration for each individual.

Rules for Thee but not for Me

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed our way of life. The novel virus has stumped experts who are not exactly sure how the disease spreads, how to treat it, or whether the nation should continue to be locked down. With all the confusion and mixed messages, it’s hard to know what to do, so we turn to our national and local leaders for direction. But what happens when those very officials don’t even follow the rules they give to their constituents?

President Donald Trump caught a lot of heat when he refused to wear a mask while attending events or holding meetings. The commander in chief, however, always expressed his disbelief in wearing face coverings, but finally adopted the habit while visiting a veteran’s hospital.

Nancy Pelosi

Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made headlines after going to a beauty salon for a hair appointment. Not only were salons not allowed to have indoor appointments yet, the speaker was not wearing a mask, which inflamed Americans’ anger. To make matters worse, Pelosi then accused the salon of setting her up and said the owner should offer her an apology. Protesters argue that the House Speaker – who is responsible for a lot of the nation’s shutdown regulations – should have been aware of the laws in her own jurisdiction.

New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, and the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, have been caught repeatedly not wearing masks while simultaneously blaming the president for the spread of Coronavirus. In fact, de Blasio was caught attending a gym before they were allowed to be open. When confronted about the double standard, he said, “I need exercise to be able to stay healthy and make decisions.”

Philadelphia’s mayor, Jim Kenney, became the angry focal point for his constituents after prohibiting indoor eating in the city and then being caught dining indoors, without a mask, at a Maryland restaurant. Although he apologized, he used the excuse that Maryland had much fewer cases of the virus than Philadelphia.

The “practice what you preach” approach doesn’t seem to carry much weight with government officials. They should be setting an example for their citizens. Those citizens are now wondering why we have these regulations in place at all if these people who are “in the know” don’t feel mask-wearing is necessary for their own health and safety?

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