Good quality zoos have long moved on from the outdated perspective that their only job is to keep the animals physically healthy for the entertainment of the visitors. Modern zoos are now getting more and more concerned about the emotional well-being of their animals, by providing them with psychological enrichment and intellectual stimulation. In the process, a few zoos have come up with some unique ideas.
The Mirror Week
Werribee Open Range Zoo in Australia has come up with an unusual idea to start a mirror week for some of their animals. They put mirrors in front of the animals to entertain them and also to observe their reactions. Being exposed to their own reflection like this for the first time stimulates the animals and their responses are providing insight for the keepers of the zoo. They are closely monitoring how each animal is responding to the mirror and evaluating them to learn about differences between and within species.
The Need for the Mirrors
Located west of Melbourne, Werribee Open Range Zoo is large enough to keep boredom at bay for its animals. But, the zoo authority still believes that the animals need a bit of extra enrichment. Through this mirror experiment, they’re exploring the effectiveness of the approach. Facing their own reflections can spontaneously stimulate the animal’s cognitive abilities and social-communicative behaviors like flocking or vocalizing.
According to zoo official Jacinda Goodwin, animals generally come across their own reflections in the wild by looking into a large body of water. Then also, reflections could possibly not be as clear as looking into a mirror. So, in a way, the mirrors might bring a totally new experience for the animals. As Goodwin revealed, different animals have responded to the mirrors differently. While the monkeys playfully modify their facial expressions in fun with some of them even recognizing their own reflections, the orange-bellied parrots and koalas generally perceive them as another member of their species.
There are very few people who don’t love chocolate! But have you ever thought about the reason behind the universal feelings of enjoyment while biting into a chocolate piece? In a nutshell, which component makes chocolate enjoyable? The sweetness or the bitterness? Or maybe it’s the crunch. Or all of the above? Food scientists have pondered upon the question and are now close to creating the perfect piece of chocolate, using innovative technology.
The Futuristic Chocolate
Recently, a team of scientists at the University of Amsterdam attempted to use geometry and physics to accurately answer the above-mentioned questions and to create a chocolate that’s even more enjoyable. The result of their research so far is a unique, 3D-printed. spiral-shaped chocolate candy, which doesn’t resemble anything we can see on the supermarket shelves, but may just change the future of chocolate as well as food!
The Research Project
This specific research is part of a broader field of study including edible meta-materials and these 3D chocolates are the first step in creating metafoods. The research is led by Corentin Coulais, a physicist working with non-food meta-materials, materials with non-natural properties and structures, at the University. With the experience of working in the fields like prosthetics and robotics, Coulais and his team turned their focus to chocolate after making a partnership with renowned foods and consumer goods company Unilever.
The Study’s Finding
The spiral-shaped chocolates came with different patterns, ranging from simple S-shapes to intricate labyrinth-like structures. The pieces were given for testing (and tasting) to a panel of lucky chocolate lovers, to find out the most preferred shapes and the reason behind the choices. According to Coulais, the more elaborate and intricate shapes, with more cracks in them, were more enjoyable to the testers. He further elaborated that the crunching of food in mouths gave people pleasure, and that’s why the more brittle and ready-to-shatter chocolates are preferred universally.