9/17/2004:

Intermediate Word:  immured  (a) stuck in the mud  (b) overshadowed  (c) imprisoned  (d) shoved aside
Difficult Word: - xylem  (a) solvent  (b) sugar  (c) liquid-conducting heartwood  (d) percussion instrument

Parrots speak in tongues  - Nature  Left: Parrots can shape sound with their tongues.  Ever wondered what makes parrots so good at mimicking human speech? It turns out that the feathered impressionists use their tongues to create vowel-like sounds, just as we do. Until now, many researchers thought that birds produced and modified their song in the avian equivalent of the larynx, the syrinx, and that the tongue played no role at all. But parrots are known to bob their fleshy tongues back and forth when they talk, so Gabriel Beckers from Leiden University in the Netherlands and colleagues decided to see whether these movements contribute to the birds' great talent for mimicry. Their results are published in Current Biology1. The discovery "suggests that parrot communication may be more complex than we thought", says Beckers.  
Waiting for ET  - Nature  Left:  SETI telescope collects data to enable research in the areas of astronomy, planetary studies, space and atmospheric sciences.  Rumours of contact with aliens have been exaggerated (again). Philip Ball asks whether the search for extraterrestrials does anything but fuel paranoia. On 2 September, Christopher Rose and Gregory Wright pointed out in Nature that, bit for bit, it is far more energy-efficient to send messages to other worlds as nanoscribed parcels than as encoded electromagnetic signals1. Yet that week also saw excited accounts in the press that claimed the SETI@home project had just reported its "most interesting signal" so far, coming from between Pisces and Aries at a frequency of 1420 megahertz. The project is the arm of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence in which volunteers use their home computers to sift through radioastronomy data for signs of intelligent broadcasts.

Who discovered the Americas?  - Nature  Left:  Traditional colonization theories hold that the first wave of humans to migrate to the Americas came from Siberia.  The first colonizers of the Americas came from Australia, according to archaeologists who have analysed skulls from 12,000-year-old skeletons found in California. The finding contradicts the traditional view that the first immigrants were the ancestors of modern Native Americans. The skulls, taken from skeletal remains found in the desert of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, are long and narrow. "This is completely different to the Native Americans' rounder skull shape," explains lead researcher Silvia Gonzalez from the Liverpool John Moores University, UK. They have managed to radiocarbon date 4 of the 27 skeletons. So far, the oldest, belonging to an individual called Peņon Woman III, is 12,700 years old. "These seafaring travellers would have followed a corridor around the Pacific coast from Australia, along the coast of Japan, to Baja.





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