Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene
Neuroscientists have found that a gene mutation that arose more than half a million years ago may be key to humans’ unique ability to produce and understand speech. Researchers from MIT and several European universities have shown that the human version of a gene called Foxp2 makes it easier to transform new experiences into routine procedures. When they engineered mice to express humanized Foxp2, the mice learned to run a maze much more quickly than normal mice. The findings suggest that Foxp2 may help humans with a key component of learning language — transforming experiences, such as hearing the word “glass” when we are shown a glass of water, into a nearly automatic association of that word with objects that look and function like glasses, says Ann Graybiel, an MIT Institute Professor, member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and a senior author of the study. “This really is an important brick in the wall saying that the form of the gene that allowed us to speak may have something to do with a special kind of learning, which takes us from having to make conscious associations in order to act to a nearly automatic-pilot way of acting based on the cues around us,” Graybiel says. Wolfgang Enard, a professor of anthropology and human genetics at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany, is also a senior author of the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. The paper’s lead authors are Christiane Schreiweis, a former visiting graduate student at MIT, and Ulrich Bornschein of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. All animal species communicate with each other, but humans have a unique ability to generate and comprehend language. Foxp2 is one of several genes that scientists believe may have contributed to the development of these linguistic skills. The gene was first identified in a group of family members who had severe difficulties in speaking and understanding speech, and who were found to carry a mutated version of the Foxp2 gene. In 2009, Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and his team engineered mice to express the human form of the Foxp2 gene, which encodes a protein that differs from the mouse version by only two amino acids. His team found that these mice had longer dendrites — the slender extensions that neurons use to communicate with each other — in the striatum, a part of the brain implicated in habit formation. They were also better at forming new synapses, or connections between neurons. (via Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene — ScienceDaily)
INTEL Make it wearable challenge: Team Nixie developed a wearable dronecamera for your wristband
Team Nixie is developing the first wearable drone camera, which can be worn around your wrist. The team will be presenting their prototype for the Intel Make It Wearable Challenge Finale on November 3, 2014 in San Francisco.
For all gif lovers:
I like my coffee how I like myself: Dark, bitter, and too hot for you.
The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers’ differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt. The Referendum can subtly poison formerly close and uncomplicated relationships, creating tensions between the married and the single, the childless and parents, careerists and the stay-at-home… So we’re all anxiously sizing up how everyone else’s decisions have worked out to reassure ourselves that our own are vindicated — that we are, in some sense, winning…
To the Spaniards, the ‘Indians’ were simply their contemporary version of Canaanites. The first Europeans to settle North America also tended to see it as their Promised Land and the local Native American population as Canaanites who had no divine right to the land, and their fate was similar … You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to figure this one out. Christians, taking the Bible as a how-to book, have killed pagans, taken their land, and rejoiced in God’s goodness. I mean, if it’s in the Bible, it can’t be bad, right? RIGHT?
"WHERE THE POWER IS"
I often wonder why we fail to have a kind of civilization memory; a recognition of repetition of patterns. We always seem to be interested in building huge self-induced criticalities. We put big piles of money in one place and then are surprised when hyper-predators go after it. We decide to declare war on some country and are surprised when things don’t go as we hoped. This is just the same pattern repeated again. As if something new and shiny will save the day. I think that for today, we should look for a different answer. We should look for ways to democratize social networking. We should focus on simple protocols that re-create some of our favorite features of Facebook in the open web and some of us should probably start migrating away from Facebook so that there is less of a concentration of power in one place.
Sometimes you meet someone, and it’s so clear that the two of you, on some level belong together. As lovers, or as friends, or as family, or as something entirely different. You just work, whether you understand one another or you’re in love or you’re partners in crime. You meet these people throughout your life, out of nowhere, under the strangest circumstances, and they help you feel alive. I don’t know if that makes me believe in coincidence, or fate, or sheer blind luck, but it definitely makes me believe in something.
"Or of Anything" by Albert Goldbarth
The air here shows an occasional hawk.
And on the ground, the damp-and-then-dried dirt
preserves the sign of struggle of raptor and prey,
of violent thrash
- a quick but dire ideogram.
Nearby, at the stream, a tip of willow
just touching the surface has scribbled
its lovely, idle, loose
unbroken line all summer.
These are the two kinds of writing.
Interesting, why do you consider harry potter is a dystopia?
I find it impossible to think of Harry Potter as anything BUT a dystopia. Even Hogwarts itself is a dystopia.
Children are segregated based on a personality test at age 11, and then left to fulfill roles that were set out a thousand years ago, leading to cultural divides that continue for the rest of their lives. The Hogwarts house system is one of the main foundations of the pureblood/muggleborn conflict. And I haven’t even gotten into how Hogwarts is run, how useful it is as a tool for preparing people for adult life, and how dangerous it is to live there.
As for Wizarding Britain at large:
- There’s no evidence that the Ministry of Magic is organized by anything other than cronyism.
- The Minister for Magic is not a democratically elected leader.
- Voldemort easily finds a foothold in mainstream society (even within living memory of his last reign of terror!) and his supporters easily infiltrate the government and implement all sorts of nightmarish and bigoted policies.
- We rarely see people working to innovate any aspect of wizarding society, with the exception of eccentrics like the Weasley Twins or Luna Lovegood.
- Wizarding society is so isolated that purebloods find it strange if a witch or wizard takes much interest in muggle culture, even if they are muggleborn.
- Umbridge is allowed to torture children and spread propaganda at the only major educational institution in the country.
- There’s a huge amount of discrimination relating to non-human races, particularly House Elf slavery.
I could go on at some length on this topic, but instead I’ll finish with my pet theory: that Wizarding Britain is so fucked up that the rest of the wizarding world has just given up on it.
We know from the Quidditch World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament that there are plenty of magical cultures all over the world, but Britain receives NO kind of international help when Voldemort is on the rise or when the Ministry of Magic is in turmoil.
Obviously the “real” explanation is that the Voldemort/Harry/Hogwarts narrative must to be isolated for Harry’s story to be told… but I still quite like the explanation that Wizarding Britain has been abandoned by the rest of the world. Their society has become so warped, so backward and so beholden to irrational beliefs and traditions that other international wizarding powers have decided the situation is unsalvageable.
There’s no point in stepping in to get rid of Voldemort unless he becomes a threat overseas, because another Dark Lord will probably rise up in a few years anyway. And Wizarding Britain seems functionally incapable of defending itself from this threat without the help of Harry and his team of teen sidekicks — who by the end of the series are all suffering from PTSD because they have spent their formative years fighting in a dystopian war.
(P.S. Even if my pet theory ISN’T true, then the international wizarding community must still have SOME reason not to step in and help Britain fight back against Voldemort. Which, in itself, makes the world of Harry Potter seem even more dystopian than before.)
It’s almost as if the actual public school educated British Establishment is some kind of dystopian influence.
When we allow mythic reality to rule, as it almost always does in war, then there is only one solution—force. In mythic war we fight absolutes. We must vanquish darkness. It is imperative and inevitable for civilization, for the free world, that good triumph, just as Islamic militants see us as infidels whose existence corrupts the pure Islamic society they hope to build.
But the goal we seek when we embrace myth is impossible to achieve. War never creates the security or the harmony we desire, especially the harmony we briefly attain during wartime. And campaigns… become starting points for further conflicts, especially as we find that we are unable to root out terrorism or maintain the kind of solidarity that comes in the days just after a terrorist attack.