Abstract oil on paper, Waldemar Smolarek


“Seeing the Mind Behind the Art”

Often abstract modern art is greeted with the criticism: “It looks like a child could have done it”, but it seems that even its harshest critics see more talent in such pieces than we might at first believe. A research report published online in early March, Seeing the Mind Behind the Art by Angelina Hawley-Dolan and Ellen Winner, has revealed that both art students and non-art students could distinguish professional artwork from images created by a child or an animal, and furthermore, they judged them to be better than the non-professional works.

When presented with two unlabeled paintings, one of which was by an abstract expressionist, the test subjects could still identify the works of the artists, and the same result arose even when the pieces were mislabelled. In general, participants viewed the professional pieces to be superior due to the intentions of the artist, and so it appears that the deeper meaning of abstract art is more accessible than is commonly thought.

Hilary Boden

Not a Load of Rubbish

Robots could soon be used to help save recyclable raw materials from ending up in landfill sites, a robotics team in Finland have found.

The Recycler robot, made by ZenRobotics in Helsinki, has been programmed to recognise 12 different types of material using a variety of actions at its disposal that include weight measurement, visual sensing, tactile feedback and metal detecting in order to differentiate waste from other material that can be recycled. As humans usually carry out the task of waste identification for later disposal or recycling, it is hoped that robots can be used instead to keep workers safe. As well as this, the use of the Recycler robot could also help save resources as well as reduce landfill fees.

However, as the robot has only been able to identify half of the items it is presented with since testing began in February, it could be a while before we see these little critters at work.

Katie Henderson


Does The Five Second Rule actually exist?

We’ve all done it at some point or another – after dropping a piece of yummy food on the floor, many of us have thought about the ‘three/five/nine second rule’ (depending on your own preference), picked up whatever we’ve dropped and eaten it regardless. However, a new study has shown that salmonella can transfer from surfaces to food immediately upon contact – although how much salmonella may depend on where you drop your food.

By analysing salmonella transfer from different surfaces to food over time, it was found that tiled and wooden surfaces caused the greatest transfer of bacteria to food after a 5 second exposure, whereas carpet showed a much slower transfer.

It was also found that salmonella can survive for up to 4 weeks on surfaces, highlighting the need for good hygiene and thorough cleaning practises in areas where food is prepared. Or to stop being so clumsy and just watch what you’re doing when you’re eating, anyway.

Katie Henderson