Science Friday

Science, technology, environment and health news and discussion with host Ira Flatow.

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Friday, November 21, 2014 Permalink

Science Friday: Languages, Robot Schedulers, Food Failures, Wormholes

Ghosts of Early Language May Linger in the Brain

Infants' brains are primed to pick up the language of their parents. But a new study suggests that those early impressions of language are much more durable than scientists predicted. For example, Chinese adoptees living in Canada, who now speak only French, still process Chinese sounds as native speakers do, even if they have no conscious recall of word meaning. Study author Fred Genesee of McGill University in Montreal discusses the findings, out this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and what they might mean for language learning.

 

Would You Trust a Robot to Schedule Your Life?

Given access to your Google calendar, a personal assistant named Amy will happily schedule all your appointments. Just copy her on your emails to contacts, and she'll take care of the rest. The catch? She's a machine—a digital personal assistant. Manoush Zomorodi and Alex Goldmark of the WNYC podcast New Tech City put Amy's skills to the test, and they're here to talk about what worked, what didn't, as well as the inevitable awkwardness of life with a bot.

Food Failures: The Science of Sides

When it comes to Thanksgiving, you might want to think twice before tossing your potatoes into the food processor or smothering your cranberries with sugar. Julie Yu, staff scientist at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, explains the science at work behind the holiday’s classic sides: gravy, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. What role does pectin play in congealing your cranberries? How do you avoid lumpy gravy? In this episode of our “Food Failures” series, Yu—who says Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday—is here to help you avoid Turkey Day trip-ups.

 

Into the Wormhole: The Science of 'Interstellar'

With its fanned plumage and bold strut, a male wild turkey's display conjures images of Americana and festive feasts. But this grandstanding isn't intended for human eyes—it's for female turkeys who actually use it to discern a male's genetic prowess. How exactly she parses performances to pick her suitor can be a fairly complex enterprise, but thanks to the research of Richard Buchholz of the University of Mississippi, we have some clues as to what a female turkey finds "hot" in a male.

 

‘Hot’ for Turkey

With its fanned plumage and bold strut, a male wild turkey's display conjures images of Americana and festive feasts. But this grandstanding isn't intended for human eyes—it's for female turkeys who actually use it to discern a male's genetic prowess. How exactly she parses performances to pick her suitor can be a fairly complex enterprise, but thanks to the research of Richard Buchholz of the University of Mississippi, we have some clues as to what a female turkey finds "hot" in a male.

 

 

Meet The Brain Scoop’s Emily Graslie