Good Moos: Science Says Cows Have Unique Voices

BilevichOlga/iStock via Getty Images
BilevichOlga/iStock via Getty Images

As fans of The Far Side have long suspected, cows are possessed of rich interior lives and are prone to conversation when humans aren’t around. While that comic strip may be taking certain creative liberties, it turns out that bovines really do have distinct “voices.” New research shows that cows can produce their own unique moos.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, recruited 18 Holstein-Friesian heifers (virgin cows) at Wolverton Farm in New South Wales, Australia, and had them vocalize into a microphone. The study’s authors wanted to see how their mooing was affected by a variety of circumstances, like when heifers were in heat, when they were about to eat, denied food, parted from the herd but within sight, or parted and out of sight.

The results? Each cow warbled a different moo with an acoustic structure that was distinct from its peers and maintained that sound throughout the different scenarios. These high-frequency noises may someday help farmers sort out a cow’s contentment or displeasure with their surroundings. Previously, few researchers had studied whether cows maintained their vocal characteristics in different social settings.

It will take additional work to figure out precisely what a cow might be displeased with—the animals are relatively stoic and not prone to emotional outbursts—but the research is a step forward to a time when we might be able to identify their feelings and address the cause of their bad moooods.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

3D Map Shows the Milky Way Galaxy in Unprecedented Detail

ESA
ESA

It's our galactic home, but the Milky Way contains many mysteries scientists are working to unravel. Now, as The Guardian reports, astronomers at the European Space Agency have built a 3D map that provides the most detailed look at our galaxy yet.

The data displayed in the graphic below has been seven years in the making. In 2013, the ESA launched its Gaia observatory from Kourou in French Guiana. Since then, two high-powered telescopes aboard the spacecraft have been sweeping the skies, recording the locations, movements, and changes in brightness of more than a billion stars in the Milky Way and beyond.

Using Gaia's findings, astronomers put together a 3D map that allows scientists to study the galaxy in greater depth than ever before. The data has made it possible to measure the acceleration of the solar system. By comparing the solar system's movement to that of more remote celestial objects, researchers have determined that the solar system is slowly falling toward the center of the galaxy at an acceleration of 7 millimeters per second per year, The Guardian reports. Additionally, the map reveals how matter is distributed throughout the Milky Way. With this information, scientists should be able to get an estimate of the galaxy's mass.

Gaia's observations may also hold clues to the Milky Way's past and future. The data holds remnants of the 10-billion-year-old disc that made up the edge of the star system. By comparing it to the shape of the Milky Way today, astronomers have determined that the disc will continue to expand as new stars are created.

The Gaia observatory was launched with the mission of gathering an updated star census. The previous census was conducted in 1957, and Gaia's new data reaches four times farther and accounts for 100 times more stars.

[h/t The Guardian]