This past week, you might have noticed the many news stories about killer cats. The research study about domestic cats’ impact on nature concluded that cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds and 20.7 billion mammals every year. Did you happen to pick up that the senior author on the paper was Peter Marra of the Migratory Bird Center, a research unit of the National Zoo, and one of his cowriters was Scott Loss, also of the MBC? While we are always excited by and proud of the research output of the Smithsonian, this is an example of a scholarly article having an impact in the public sphere—i.e. beyond just the scientific community. Does that matter? How does it matter? Is there a way for the organization sponsoring that research to measure impact of research output like this? These are the kinds of questions we can finally begin to tackle with the use of altmetrics.
Is it possible to have too many cat images in one's blog? Not when they're as wonderful as this one! The frantic feline (left) is an illustration of "Phoenix's Feline Attachment," an ingenious contraption designed to harness the energy of one's pet cat to power a sewing machine. This technological innovation is the brainchild of George Horatio Derby (1823-1861), writing under the pen name John Phoenix, in his book of humorous stories and illustrations, The Squibob Papers (New York: Carleton, publisher, 1865; call number PS1535 .S6X 1865 AAPGRB American Art/Portrait Gallery library). For just $90.00 and change (which works out to over $1200.00 in today's money), an enterprising person could build this cat-powered sewing machine, assuming he or she could find a cat that didn't immediately get bored with chasing the mouse dangled in front of its nose. Obviously, it's not meant to be a REAL invention. After all, no self-respecting cat would put up with this sort of treatment (notice that the budget for the machine doesn't include bandages, more »