Scientists gave a camera to an octopus, and she only needed 3 tries to learn to use it.

How does an octopus say "cheese"?

Presumably it sounds like a muffled underwater version of "Silly humans, bow down to your cephalopod overlords," but I can't say that we'll ever know for sure.

What we do know for sure is that an octopus named Rambo has mastered the art of the f-stop and is now selling her own original photographs to visitors at the New Zealand aquarium she calls home.


"Lights! Camera! Tentacle!" GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Like many talented artists, this eight-armed savant is, erm, also a bit of a diva.

"On day two, she pulled the camera off, ripped it up, smashed it to bits and spat it out," behaviorist Mark Vette recalled. "We realized how powerful she was."

They went through a dozen iterations of the camera case before they settled on one that was strong enough to withstand her tentacled fury. (That's also how she got her name.)

"What is this cheap plastic crap? They don't make cameras like they used to." GIF via One News/TV New Zealand.

Fortunately, Rambo's creative endeavor is sponsored by Sony, who happily provided her with a new TX30 camera in the aftermath of her artistic outburst. You can even check out a whole gallery of her work on their Facebook page, allowing you'll have to forgive the occasional stray tentacle sneaking into the frame.

(In other words: Yes, this was originally part of a cross-promotional marketing opportunity, but that doesn't make it any less cool.)

"Make love to the camera, baby, yes, that's right. You're a natural!" GIF from Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Rambo's not the only pictorially inclined marine mollusk either.

In March 2015, an octopus at Middlebury College turned the lens on his scientific observers. A digital media producer at the school visited a neuroscience laboratory where students were studying the clever creature. Mostly, they wanted to know if an octopus could learn by observing the actions of other octopuses.

But when they placed a GoPro in his tank, the octopus decided to turn things around and observe his own observers.

"No photos 'til I've had my coffee." GIF via Benjamin Savard/The Washington Post.

"I was just trying to brainstorm different ideas of how to show off the kind of unique research that's going on here and in ways that would be engaging," one of the students told The Washington Post. "I think the octopus's timing was great. I was just in the right place at the right time."

This all begs the question: How do octopuses even see?!

The obvious answer is, of course, with their eyes. Which is true. Ish. But like most things involving octopuses, the answer is much weirder and much more fascinating than that.

Unlike us lowly humans with our feeble brains that serve as central processing stations for our entire fragile bodies, octopus tentacles are capable of functioning as their own independent nervous systems. That's right: Each of those squirmy limbs with the suckers on the bottom basically have a mind of their own.

"Don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful." GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

And just beneath the surface of the skin, those writhing minds are covered in cells called chromatophores, each of which is kind of like its own little painter's palette. These chromatophores can change color, which is how the octopus camouflages itself to lash out at unsuspecting passersby.

But they also contain opsins, the same light-sensitive proteins that are found in eye retinas. Which basically means that octopus skin can sense light and color without any help from the creature's brain.

That's right, they "see" with their freakin' tentacles!

"Oh no! The humans are catching on to us! Must escape!" GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Honestly it's not entirely clear just how clever this specific photo-taking endeavor really is. But still!

Rambo was trained, like animals often are, using a food reward system. And her subjects all stand in a designated photobooth, within the range of the stationary camera. Obviously she's helped along by that handy autofocus feature, too — although that shouldn't necessarily be a slight against her intelligence, considering that most humans rely on that as well.

"What is 'art,' anyway? What does it truly mean to see, or to express oneself? Is art driven by intention, or the manifestation of the subconscious?" — a philosophtopus, probably. GIF via One News/TV New Zealand.

But that shouldn't detract from the fact that octopuses are weird, complicated, fascinating creatures, and we should consider ourselves lucky to share this wonderful planet alongside them.

Check out this behind-the-scenes video of Rambo the Octographer at work:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less