Weekly News Bites: Octopus dreams, a cat app, and robot arms for dancing

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are whether octopuses have dreams, an app that can tell you if your cat is in pain, and interchangeable arms for cyborg dancing.

Can an octopus dream? That’s a question Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) and University of Washington researchers may be asking themselves after observing that octopuses undergo something that looks like our REM sleep. The teams saw that the octopuses had periods of quiet sleep interrupted by “active sleep” where their limbs twitch and eyes move.

“Blue food” such as fish, marine plants and algae face large environmental pressures, says research by Xiamen University and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Human-induced climate change could put 90% of marine food supplies at risk through pollution, rising temperatures, industry overproduction, and changes in rainfall. Many countries rely on fishing and other marine activities for income and so they could be left vulnerable.

Cats will loudly let us know when they’re hungry but it can be more difficult to tell when they’re in pain. Nihon University’s College of Bioresource Sciences teamed up with a technology company Carelogy to create an app that can tell whether your cat is in pain. The app uses AI that was trained using a scoring system based on cat facial expressions to spot when they are feeling down. 

National University of Singapore and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew scientists have discovered a palm species that can both flower and fruit underground. Some plants can flower or fruit underground but it is extremely rare for a plant to do both. How this strange plant called Pinanga subterranea survives is still a mystery.

A sensor patch that is shaped like a flower can monitor wound healing though AI. This wearable technology was developed by the National University of Singapore, A*STAR, Nanyang Technological University, and the Skin Research Institute of Singapore. The patch measures things like temperature and moisture levels, avoiding the need for a physical examination which can increase the risk of infection.

A new state of matter has been discovered by the University of Massachusetts, Nanjing University, and Peking University. The chiral Bose-liquid state is found in a frustrated quantum system where particles are forced to be in multiple "possibilities". This state could be useful for quantum computing.

Want to make your dance showcase a little more interesting? Strap on a harness and try “Jizai Arms”, interchangeable robotic arms created by the University of Tokyo. These robotic arms were inspired by Japanese fiction and puppet shows. The arms are controlled by a user and can be swapped around. More arms can be added or they can be taken away from the harness which has sockets for easy adjustments.