Sit. Stay. Parse. Good Girl!
( New York Times )

Chaser, a border collie who lives in Spartanburg, S.C., has the largest vocabulary of any known dog. She knows 1,022 nouns, a record that displays unexpected depths of the canine mind and may help explain how children acquire language.

Border collies are working dogs. They have a reputation for smartness, and they are highly motivated. They are bred to herd sheep indefatigably all
day long. Absent that task, they must be given something else to do or
they go stir crazy.

Chaser proved to be a diligent student. Unlike human children, she seems to love her drills and tests and is always asking for more. “She still demands four to five hours a day,” Dr. Pilley said. “I’m 82, and I have to go to bed to get away from her.”

But the experiment’s relevance to language is likely to be a matter of dispute. Chaser learns to link sounds to objects by brute repetition, which is not how children learn words. And she learns her words as proper nouns, which are specific labels for things, rather than as abstract concepts like the common nouns picked up by children. Dr. Kaminski said she would not go as far as saying that Chaser’s accomplishments are a step toward language. They show that the dog can combine words for different actions with words for objects. A step toward syntax, she said, would be to show that changing the order of words alters the meaning that Chaser ascribes to them.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・canine イヌ科の動物
・herd 家畜の群れ、群れを集める
・absent 不在の、留守で、without(前置詞)
・stir crazy 長い刑務所暮らしで頭が変になった
・abstract 抽象的な

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More to a Smile Than Lips and Teeth
( New York Times )

To that end, Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues have surveyed a wide range of studies, from brain scans to cultural observations, to build a new
scientific model of the smile. They believe they can account not only for the source of smiles, but how people perceive them. In a recent issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, they argue that smiles are not simply the expression of an internal feeling. Smiles in fact are only the most visible part of an intimate melding between two minds.

Some researchers have tried to move deeper, to understand the states of
mind that produce smiles. We think of them as signifying happiness, and indeed, researchers do find that the more intensely people contract their zygomaticus major muscles, the happier they say they feel. But this is far from an iron law. The same muscles sometimes contract when people are feeling sadness or disgust, for example.

The link between feelings and faces is even more mysterious. Why should any feeling cause us to curl up our mouths, after all? This is a question that Darwin pondered for years. An important clue, he said, is found in the faces of apes, which draw up their mouths as well. These expressions, Darwin argued, were also smiles. In other words, Mona Lisa inherited her endlessly intriguing smile from the grinning common ancestor she shared with chimpanzees.

But most importantly, Dr. Niedenthal argues, people recognize smiles by mimicking them. When a smiling person locks eyes with another person, the viewer unknowingly mimics a smile as well. In their new paper, Dr.
Niedenthal and her colleagues point to a number of studies indicating that this imitation activates many of the same regions of the brain that are active in the smiler.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・perceive 知覚する、認める
・meld 混合する、融合する
・signify 意味する、示す
・contract 緊縮する、契約する
・disgust 嫌悪感、反感
・ponder 熟考する、思案する

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To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test
( New York Times )

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much
people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods - repeatedly studying the material - is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other - having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning - is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.

Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and
connections that our brains later recognize.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・passive 受動性の、消極的な
・assess 評価する、査定する
・legion 多数、軍団
・cue きっかけ、合図

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Does Your Language Shape How You Think?
( New York Times )

Seventy years ago, in 1940, a popular science magazine published a short article that set in motion one of the trendiest intellectual fads of the 20th century. At first glance, there seemed little about the article to augur its subsequent celebrity. Neither the title, “Science and
Linguistics,” nor the magazine, M.I.T.’s Technology Review, was most people’s idea of glamour. And the author, a chemical engineer who worked for an insurance company and moonlighted as an anthropology lecturer at Yale University, was an unlikely candidate for international superstardom. And yet Benjamin Lee Whorf let loose an alluring idea about language’s power over the mind, and his stirring prose seduced a whole generation into believing that our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think.

In particular, Whorf announced, Native American languages impose on their speakers a picture of reality that is totally different from ours, so
their speakers would simply not be able to understand some of our most
basic concepts, like the flow of time or the distinction between objects (like “stone”) and actions (like “fall”). For decades, Whorf’s theory dazzled both academics and the general public alike. In his shadow, others made a whole range of imaginative claims about the supposed power of
language, from the assertion that Native American languages instill in
their speakers an intuitive understanding of Einstein’s concept of time as a fourth dimension to the theory that the nature of the Jewish religion was determined by the tense system of ancient Hebrew.

Eventually, Whorf’s theory crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims. The reaction was so severe that for
decades, any attempts to explore the influence of the mother tongue on our thoughts were relegated to the loony fringes of disrepute. But 70 years on, it is surely time to put the trauma of Whorf behind us. And in the last few years, new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・fad 一時的流行
・augur 前兆を示す
・allure 魅惑する、誘う
・seduce 誘惑する、唆す
・intuitive 直感(intuition)の
・relegate (ある場所・地位へ)追いやる、追放する
・loony 狂気の、馬鹿な
・disrepute 不評判、悪評

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Microbe Finds Arsenic Tasty; Redefines Life
( New York Times )

Scientists said Thursday that they had trained a bacterium to eat and grow on a diet of arsenic, in place of phosphorus - one of six elements
considered essential for life - opening up the possibility that organisms could exist elsewhere in the universe or even here on Earth using
biochemical powers we have not yet dared to dream about.

The bacterium, scraped from the bottom of Mono Lake in California and
grown for months in a lab mixture containing arsenic, gradually swapped out atoms of phosphorus in its little body for atoms of arsenic.

The results could have a major impact on space missions to Mars and
elsewhere looking for life. The experiments on such missions are
designed to ferret out the handful of chemical elements and reactions that have been known to characterize life on Earth. The Viking landers that failed to find life on Mars in 1976, Dr. Wolfe-Simon pointed out, were designed before the discovery of tube worms and other weird life in
undersea vents and the dry valleys of Antarctica revolutionized ideas about the evolution of life on Earth.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・biochemical 生化学(biochemistry)的な
・lab 実験室(laboratory)の短縮形
・weird 異様な、奇妙な
・vent 穴、通気(通風)孔
・Antarctica 南極大陸

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