The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.
I, for one welcome our new monkey overlords. The study of language is one of my under-explored interests on this blog. Ever since being introduced to Noam Chomsky and that idea that the language that we speak can have a direct impact on our view of the world, I have found linguistics fascinating. One of the hallmarks of our humanity is that we have a written language…something that we thought was uniquely human. This study showed that baboons can learn to “read” English words. While it is too much of a leap to say that they understand language, it is interesting nonetheless. The experiment basically rewarded a monkey for determining if a word was real or not. A positive response for the word “wasp” would return a treat, a positive response for the word “telk”… no treat. At the end of the study, the baboons could get the right response 75% of the time. Let that sink in for a moment…baboons can determine real English words from fake English words. Nature is awesome.
Cooler than any highway overpass I’ve ever seen. The Trans-Canada highway is huge. I mean, it is massive, stretching across the entire continent. It also traverses some of the most important and undisturbed wildlife habitat left in North America. When engineers were planning the highway, care was taken not to completely bisect these forests. The plan called for wildlife overpasses that would be built just like a highway overpass, but populated with soil and flora to provide passage for wildlife. The Highway Wilding Blog tracks a team studying that wildlife, and they capture some awesome photos, like this:
(via Boing Boing)
Oceans. Except Cooler. This is an awesome infographic that looks at the vertical scale of the ocean, showing exactly how deep things are. It is waaay too big to post directly into the blog here, so click over and check it out. A few surprising tidbits…the Kursk and the Lusitania both sank in water that was shallower than the ship was long. The Mariana trench isn’t exactly that trench-like when it is illustrated to scale, and also, Sperm whales? Seriously? That is insane. (via Boing Boing)
Wait, common sense and contraception? What? Melinda Gates delivers a powerful and straightforward talk at a recent TED conference that tackles the simple idea that a couple should be able to decide when they want to have children. She ties many of the world’s socioeconomic ills to access to birth control, and advocates for the increased use of birth control in the developing world. It strips a potent political issue down to it’s most essential elements and uncovers the truth that being able to decide when you want children will benefit you, society, and the world.
Well, that didn’t last long. Earlier this week, media site Gawker announced that their newest hire was a Fox News employee who had decided that he had had enough. His story is fairly typical, a recent college grad took a position with Fox because there was nothing better, and ended up there for years. He endured Fox’s blatant hypocrisy on many issues until one Fox story titles “Obama’s Hip Hop barbeque Didn’t Create Jobs” broke him. He explains it this way:
“The post neatly summed up everything that had been troubling me about my employer: Non sequitur, ad hominem attacks on the president; gleeful race baiting; a willful disregard for facts; and so on. It came close on the heels of the Common controversy, which exhibited a lot of the same ugly traits. (See also: terrorist fist jabs; Fox & Friends madrassa accusations; etc.)”
Needless to say, I was really looking forward to these dispatches from the belly of the beast – but Fox outed and fired him within 24 hours. *sigh* Oh well. It was a fun 24 hours.
Is it facebook official? An interesting article on some research done on facebook and romance. More specifically, do social networks contribute to jealousy? It seems reasonable, when your significant other friends a former flame, or a picture gets posted of questionable behavior, and of course whether or not a relationship goes facebook official. This topic intrigues me because I feel like I lived in the facebook petri dish – starting college right when facebook opened up to schools outside of the ivy league, and having to establish and navigate the social norms of the network. I still remember a college roommate holding out as long as possible before making it “facebook official” with his girlfriend…and being really upset when he finally had to take the plunge.