Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sheep Can Recognize Your Face!

By Christine H. Chen
Fall 2017 Intern
The ability to recognize familiar faces or to learn to recognize new ones is a complex image process that we, humans, take for granted. Other mammals such as chimps have that ability, but what about sheep?

A recent study revealed that scientists succeeded in training sheep to recognize the faces of four celebrities by repeatedly presenting the sheep with photographs of their faces. Then the sheep were shown two different photos on separate computer screens—one of the “learned” celebrity and one of an unknown face. The sheep were able to identify the learned face eight times out of ten.

The sheep were also able to recognize their handler from a photograph, a task that requires shifting from a 3D to a 2D representation, demonstrating that sheep have face recognition abilities similar to humans’. Further research might also shed light on whether sheep can identify emotional expressions on human faces—imagine that while you’re counting sheep at night!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

From Carpenter to Library Benefactor: Francis Buttrick

By Christine H. Chen
Fall 2017 Intern
During my frequent trips to the Waltham Public Library, I noticed a plaque with the name Francis Buttrick on a wall of the brick building. Though I could safely assume that Francis Buttrick was a benefactor of the library, I was curious to learn more about him and the history of the building.

Francis Buttrick came to Waltham in 1838 as a carpenter, bought a lumberyard in 1857 and eventually made a fortune in real estate. In 1894, he left a $60,000 bequest for a new library, though legal issues prevented use of the money until 1914, when the sum had increased to $123,731 from interest!

Boston architectural firm Loring and Leland designed the building in the Colonial Revival style. The construction broke ground on October 23, 1914, on Main Street, and was completed the following year when it opened to the public on December 13, 1915.

Renovations and modern additions have updated the building since then, but its amazing history still symbolizes the American Dream: a modest carpenter’s rise to fortune and his legacy to give back to the community, which has enabled access to free books and education that patrons—including me!—still benefit from today.

Image: Tim Pierce

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Create Your Own Winter Wonderland

By Melina Leon
Fall 2017 Intern
The season is changing, and as the winter chill arrives—especially here in New England—what better way to enjoy it than to stay indoors and get crafty. Let’s bring winter inside our homes with these fun DIY ideas!
·            A new take on classic snow globes are DIY waterless ones. Items needed include glass jars, or clear plastic ornaments, artificial snow or glitter, small decorations such as trees or snowmen to include inside the globe, and a hot glue gun.
·            3D snowflake decorations are also a cool way to say hello to winter. Materials needed to craft these are six to eight pieces of paper, scissors, tape and a stapler. Adding glitter, sequins or using different colored paper can also make each DIY snowflake one of a kind.
Glittered pinecones are another option for making some great wintery decor. They make beautiful tabletop decorations. The materials needed are spray paint, spray adhesive, glitter and pinecones—store-bought or from your backyard. Finish off the project with a pretty glass jar or vase.
Pinecones are also a crafty way to make a wreath. All you need is a wire hanger, a hot glue gun, beads to attach to the pinecone, ribbon and white spray paint for a nice snowy effect.
Although I love the winter, I’d rather celebrate its beauty from inside my home!

Friday, December 8, 2017

En Garde! The Niche Sport of Fencing

By Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern

When I was younger, I always dreamed of being a pirate or a knight. When I discovered the sport of fencing at age 8, that dream came true.

There are three different types of fencing: foil, epee and sabre.

In foil, the target area is only the torso, and you must hit with the point of the weapon (there’s a little button that gets pressed in, it’s not sharp!). There are also special rules called “right of way” to determine who gets the point if both people hit.

In epee, the target area is the whole body, and you must hit with the point, but there is no right of way—if both people hit, they both get a point!

In sabre—the weapon that I fence—the target area is anywhere waist up, including the head! Like foil, the right of way rules apply, but unlike either of the other two weapons, you don’t have to hit with the point of the weapon. You can hit with the side of the blade, which makes it seem more like the fencing you might see in Pirates of the Caribbean.

After fencing for 13 years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country for national tournaments, compete for an NCAA team, and meet Olympians. Fencing is a thrilling and unique sport that you can start at any age. Try it!

Science and Sweets: Why Some of Us Like Candy and Others Don’t

By Christine H. Chen
Fall 2017 Intern

With the holiday season upon us, many of us will indulge in sweet treats at the office and at home, unless you are someone who does not care much for sweets, a concept that may surprise some of us candy lovers!

It turns out our sweet tooth has to do with two genetic variants of a hormone known as FGF21. Published research from the University of Copenhagen showed that individuals with the genetic variants rs838133 and rs838145 were 20 percent more likely to eat sweets than individuals lacking these variants. These two genetic variations of the FGF21 hormone are amazingly specific to the craving of candies like lollipops, but do not seem to have any effect on the fattier sweets like cupcakes and other pastries.

A separate study asked participants whether they liked sweets or not, and found that those who did had 50 percent less FGF21 hormone in their blood, suggesting that the hormone regulates sugar cravings. In other words, having lower levels of FGF21 or having a mutated version will cause you to eat more sugar.

The good news is FGF21 levels do not necessarily correlate with weight gain, so don’t let that hold you back from enjoying some holiday treats this season!

PSG Favorites: Video Games

by Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern 

One of my favorite ways to unwind after work or on the weekend is by playing video games. Here are some of our staff’s favorite games to play!

  •             Don jokes that Adobe InDesign is his favorite “game” because he’s so good at it. But as far as console games go, he prefers to stick to Forza and Rock Band—racing and rocking!
  •             Melina enjoys scary games such as the Silent Hill and Resident Evil franchises. Even though they’re very creepy (she always keeps the lights on while playing), she has a lot of fun solving the puzzles they contain. She also loves the music from the Silent Hill games.
  •             Lori used to play Ms. Pac-Man after school every day in junior high and also loves Tetris. Years ago a friend told her, “Your brain operates like Tetris. Not everyone’s does, so use it well!”
  •             Sarah is a fan of older games that she grew up with. She still regularly plays her Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 2 as well as her Game Boy Advance SP. She also loves World of Warcraft.

As for me, my favorite series will always be The Legend of Zelda, but I’ve recently gotten into the Final Fantasy series. In my opinion, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VI are two of the best role-playing games (RPGs) ever. I love games that have a good balance between fighting and puzzle solving, as well as a good story!