What’s New In Science #9

Three interesting and fresh pieces of news from the world of science. This time, we're talking about why birds don't have teeth; a memory transplant between snails; and how we recall verbs more easily than — er — nouns.

Why birds don’t have teeth

Don’t be fooled by cartoons. Birds don’t have teeth. They seem to have traded them for beaks as they evolved from sharp-toothed dinosaurs over hundreds of millions of years. Why, though? Till now, scientists thought toothlessness helped birds fly better or was apt for swallowing worms. But a new study suggests that as birds began to lay their eggs in open vulnerable nests as opposed to burying them underground, it became important for them to hatch fast. And guess what reptile embryos take 60% of their six-month incubation period to do? Grow teeth, with its tough enamel and dentin and whatnot. So, birds decided to just shed them. Anyway, who needs teeth when your feet can cause such damage?

In memory of a snail

You’ve heard of a heart transplant, maybe even a brain transplant. But a memory transplant? Well that’s just what scientists have done with snails, and understood therefore that the home of memory may not quite be the brain with its neural synaptic connections, but actually RNA, a copy of genetic codes. Here’s how they did it. They gave snail A a memory of being zapped with electric shocks, by giving it electric shocks, which made snail A curl up. They then extracted some RNA from snail A and implanted it into snail B. And snail B curled up as though it remembered the pain. And you thought Inception was confusing.

Er, what’s the word?

Speaking of… um… memory, a new — uh — study shows that we tend to remember… well… verbs more easily than — er — nouns. A team from the Dept of Literary Studies and Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam analysed 288,848 recordings of people speaking extempore in nine different languages across various cultural regions, and found that people tend to pause or use placeholder sounds 60% more often before a noun than a verb. This is because a noun contains new information that even the speaker’s brain takes time to plan, prepare and visualise before saying it out loud. So if you’re thinking without speaking, you probably are a dummy.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 9:26:30 PM |

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