Bilingualism & A Smart Dog | SciByte 95

Bilingualism & A Smart Dog | SciByte 95

We take a look at Bilingualism, cancer cell mortality, one smart dog, bringing Mars to Earth, spacecraft updates, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Path of Destruction: Star Wars: Darth Bane, Book 1

  • 2,000 years after KOTOR
  • 1,000 years before New Hope
  • Before, but general area of Yoda being born (+/- 50 or so)
  • Connected to prophesy from Dark Forces Books/Game, dealing directly with Kyle Katarn

Brains and Bilingual Language

  • According to new research, individuals who learn two languages at an early age seem to switch back and forth between separate \”sound systems\” for each language
  • Previous Ideas on the Brain and Languages
  • One idea was that people who speak more than one language have different processing modes for their two languages
  • One mode for processing speech in one language and then a mode for processing speech in the other language
  • Another view was that bilinguals just adjust to speech variation by calibrating to the unique acoustic properties of each language
  • New Research Supports…
  • Kalim Gonzales, a psychology doctoral student at the University of Arizona, research supports the first view
  • When most people think about the difference in languages they think of the different words and grammar, but at the root of the languages are different sounds
  • The Study – Setup
  • The study looked at 32 Spanish-English early bilinguals, who had learned their second language before age 8
  • Participants were presented with a series of pseudo-words beginning with a \’pa\’ or a \’ba\’ sound and asked to identify which of the two sounds they heard
  • \’pa\’ and \’ba\’ sounds exist in both English and Spanish, how those sounds are produced and perceived in the two languages varies subtly
  • For example, for English speakers \’ba\’ typically begin to vibrate their vocal chords the moment they open their lips
  • Spanish speakers begin vocal cord vibration slightly before they open their lips and produce \’pa\’ in a manner similar to English \’ba.\’
  • English-only speakers might, in some cases, confuse the \’ba\’ and \’pa\’ sounds they hear in Spanish
  • The Study – Bilingual Participants
  • The bilingual participants were divided into two groups. One group was told they would be hearing rare words in Spanish, while the other was told they would be hearing rare words in English
  • Both groups heard audio recordings of variations of the same two non real words bafri and pafri
  • Both groups heard the same series of words, but for the group told they were hearing Spanish, the ends of the words were pronounced slightly differently, with the \’r\’ getting a Spanish pronunciation
  • Participants perceived \’ba\’ and \’pa\’ sounds differently depending on whether they were told they were hearing Spanish words, with the Spanish pronunciation of \’r,\’ or whether they were told they were hearing English words, with the English pronunciation of \’r.\’
  • When they put people in \”English mode,\” they actually would act like English speakers, and then if you put them in Spanish mode, they would switch to acting like Spanish speakers
  • Hearing the exact same \’ba\’s and \’pa\’s would label them differently depending on the context
  • The Study – Bilingual Participants
  • When the study was repeated with 32 English monolinguals, participants did not show the same shift in perception
  • They labeled \’ba\’ and \’pa\’ sounds the same way regardless of which language they were told they were hearing
  • What Does That Mean?
  • Difference between the two groups provided the strongest evidence for two sound systems in bilinguals
  • This is primarily true for those who learn two languages very young
  • If you learn a second language later in life, you usually have a dominant language and then you try to use that sounds system for the other language, which is why you end up having an accent
  • Bilinguals who learn two languages early in life learn two separate processing modes, or \”sound systems\”
  • One of the reasons it sounds different when you hear someone speaking a different language is because the actual sounds they use are different
  • Someone might sound like they have an accent if they learn Spanish first is because their \’pa\’ is like an English \’ba,\’ so when they say a word with \’pa,\’ it will sound like a \’ba\’ to an English monolingual
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Study shows how bilinguals switch between languages |


Diet Help Makes Cancer Cells Mortal

  • New research suggests that a compound abundant in the Mediterranean diet takes away cancer cells\’ \”superpower\” to escape death
  • By altering a very specific step in gene regulation, this compound essentially re-educates cancer cells into normal cells that die as scheduled.
  • Apigenin
  • One way that cancer cells thrive is by inhibiting a process that would cause them to die on a regular cycle that is subject to strict programming
  • Researchers, found that a compound in certain plant-based foods, called apigenin, could stop breast cancer cells from inhibiting their own death.
  • Parsley, celery and chamomile tea are the most common sources of apigenin, but it is found in many fruits and vegetables
  • Through additional experimentation, the team established that apigenin had relationships with proteins that have three specific functions
  • Among the most important was a protein called hnRNPA2, which influences the activity of messenger RNA, or mRNA, which contains the instructions needed to produce a specific protein
  • Splicing
  • The production of mRNA results from the splicing, or modification, of RNA that occurs as part of gene activation, abnormal splicing is the culprit in an estimated 80 percent of all cancers
  • In cancer cells, two types of splicing occur when only one would take place in a normal cell – a trick on the cancer cells\’ part to keep them alive and reproducing.
  • Researchers observed that apigenin\’s connection to the hnRNPA2 protein restored this single-splice characteristic to breast cancer cells, eliminating the splicing form that inhibited cell death
  • This suggests that when splicing is normal, cells die in a programmed way, or become more sensitive to chemotherapeutic drugs.
  • Multimedia
  • XKCD | Cancer Cells
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • The compound in the Mediterranean diet that makes cancer cells \’mortal\’ |

Dog Understanding Grammer

  • In experiments directed by her owner a 9-year-old border collie has demonstrated a grasp of the basic elements of grammar by responding correctly to commands such as “to ball take Frisbee” and its reverse, “to Frisbee take ball.”
  • Word Training
  • The dog had previous, extensive training to recognize classes of words including nouns, verbs and prepositions
  • Throughout the first three years of the dogs life she was trained to recognize and fetch more than 1,000 objects by name
  • Researchers also taught the meaning of different types of words, such as verbs and prepositions and sentence training at age 7
  • The dog learned that phrases such as “to Frisbee” meant that she should take whatever was in her mouth to the named object.
  • An experimenter would say, for instance, “to ball take Frisbee.” In initial trials, the experimenter pointed at each item while saying its name.
  • After several weeks of training, two experiments were conducted
  • The Experiments – \’Eyeing the Prize\’
  • In one experiment the dog had to choose an object from one pair to carry to an object from the other pair
  • Researchers read commands that included words for those objects. Only some of those words had been used during sentence training
  • To see whether Chaser grasped that grammar could be used flexibly student also read sentences in the reversed form of “take sugar to decoy.”
  • In 28 of 40 attempts, the dog grabbed the correct item in her mouth and dropped it next to the correct target.
  • The Experiments – Hidden in Plain Sight
  • Another experiment tested the dogs ability to understand commands when she couldn’t see the objects at first
  • Researchers placed two objects behind her at the other end of the bed, after hearing a command, the dog turned around and nabbed one of the objects.
  • Then ran to the living room and delivered the item to one of another pair of objects. She succeeded on all 12 trials
  • What is Exactly Happening
  • Exactly how the dog gained her command of grammar is unclear although researchers suspects that she first mentally linked each of two nouns she heard in a sentence to objects in her memory
  • Multimedia
  • Chaser – The intelligent Border Collie | PetfansDotnet
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Dog sniffs out grammar | Psychology | Science News


A Year on Mars, on Earth

  • The Mars Society has just announced a year long simulation of astronauts on Mars in the arctic
  • The proposed Mars Arctic 365 (MA365) mission on Canada’s Devon Island would take place at Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station
  • According to the Mars Society the arctic is a lot like Mars in that it is cold, isolated, and dangerous
  • The society is asking for $50,000 from supporters in the next 24 days before starting the first phase (basically retrofitting the station and adding equipment) in July
  • More information on MA365 – perhaps with information on crew selection – should come in August, when members of the Phase 1 crew issue a report at the 16th Annual International Mars Society Convention
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Mars Society Proposes A Year-Long Arctic Mission To Better Prepare for the Red Planet |


Kepler Strategies

  • What\’s the Latest?
  • Kepler engineers are now strategizing about how to remotely repair one of two broken reaction wheels that precisely point the telescope
  • It will take at least several weeks before they beam commands up to the $600-million telescope, and they admit that a fix is a long shot.
  • Kepler Exoplanet History
  • When Kepler was launched into space astronomers knew that the galaxy contained at least 350 exoplanets, nearly all of them the size of Jupiter or larger
  • Kepler’s then spent four years adding nearly 3,000 planets
  • Now astronomers are convinced that the Milky Way contains hundreds of billions of planets, roughly one for every star, with at least 17 billion of them Earth-sized
  • Kepler’s main goal was to determine the frequency of Earthlike planets in the galaxy while they now have enough data to make an intelligent extrapolation about what that number is, determining a more exact number will remain in limbo unless the telescope comes back online
  • What\’s the Next Mission
  • NASA’s next exoplanet-hunting mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, is scheduled for a 2017 launch
  • Whereas Kepler has fixed its gaze on distant stars, TESS will focus on bright, nearby stars so that powerful telescopes like the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to probe the atmospheres of planets that TESS discovers
  • While less sensitive than Kepler, will nonetheless uncover plenty of planets in our neighborhood, including a handful of Earth-sized worlds
  • Astronomers hope to pair size measurements of planets observed by telescopes such as TESS with mass readings from ground-based scopes that look for subtle wobbles in stars’ motion caused by the gravitational pull of orbiting planets.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Gone perhaps, but Kepler won\’t soon be forgotten | Atom & Cosmos | Science News

Opportunity, Still Hard at Work

  • Opportunity, has just discovered the strongest evidence to date for an environment favorable to ancient Martian biology
  • Opportunity’s analysis of a new rock target named “Esperance” confirmed that it is composed of a “clay that had been intensely altered by relatively neutral pH water
  • Esperance is unlike any rock previously investigated by Opportunity; containing far more aluminum and silica which is indicative of clay minerals and lower levels of calcium and iron.
  • Most, but not all of the rocks inspected to date by Opportunity were formed in an environment of highly acidic water
  • This represents the most favorable conditions for biology that Opportunity has yet seen in the rock histories it has encountered
  • Water that moved through fractures during this rock’s history would have provided more favorable conditions for biology than any other wet environment recorded in rocks Opportunity has seen
  • Opportunity accomplished the ground breaking new discovery by exposing the interior of Esperance with her still functioning Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) and examining a pristine patch using the microscopic camera and X-Ray spectrometer on the end of her 3 foot long robotic arm.
  • This discovery comes at the conclusion of a 20 month long science expedition circling around a low ridge called “Cape York,” the team even committed several weeks to getting this one measurement of it
  • Esperance stems from a time when the Red Planet was far warmer and wetter billions of years ago.
  • What’s so special about Esperance is that there was enough water not only for reactions that produced clay minerals, but also enough to flush out ions set loose by those reactions
  • Opportunity can clearly see the alterations caused by that process
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Opportunity Discovers Clays Favorable to Martian Biology and Sets Sail for Motherlode of New Clues |


  • Self-Portrait
  • This self-portrait of NASA\’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover\’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013)
  • In addition three exposures were taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover
  • The updated area, which is in the lower left quadrant of the image, shows gray-powder and two holes where Curiosity used its drill on the rock target \”John Klein.\”
  • The rover\’s robotic arm is not visible in the mosaic. MAHLI, which took the component images for this mosaic, is mounted on a turret at the end of the arm.
  • Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic\’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images, or portions of images, used in the mosaic
  • Radiation Reading Findings
  • Announcement coming on Thurs, May 30
  • May\’s Planet Dance | SkyandTelescope
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Updated Curiosity Self-Portrait at \’John Klein\’ |


Looking back

  • May 25, 2011 : 2 years ago : SciByte 1 : After appearing on a few shows on the Jupiter Broadcasting Network, most specifically after doing \”Space Wednesday\’s\” on Jupiter@Night, Heather (chatroom handle : Mars_Base) started doing a science based show with Jeremy. The show had a short hiatus between SciByte 16 and 17, leading to a change in style and co-host, Chris. Throughout it\’s life the show has been about spreading science information, and in general making Science Happy.

Looking up this week

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