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Submission + - Newfound Exoplanet is best yet candidate for supporting life (scientificamerican.com)

uigrad_2000 writes: With all the new exoplanets discovered recently with Kepler, it seemed a sure thing that the first exoplanet in the habitable zone of a star would be found soon. It's been found now, but the irony is that Kepler was not involved!

GJ 667Cc, is at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth, and lies in the habitable region of its host star, reports Scientific American. It was discovered by comparing public data from the ESO to recent observations from Hawaii and Chile. As opposed to the stars Kepler is watching, this is only 22 light years away, making it even more interesting.


Submission + - Should the leap second be abolished? (www.cbc.ca)

An anonymous reader writes: The CBC — Canada's public broadcaster — is asking its audience to vote on if the leap second should be abolished. The poll is tied to a vote coming up on this subject at the United Nations. The article says, "Member countries are set to vote at a UN telecom meeting on whether to abolish the leap second, which has kept clocks around the world in sync with the earth's rotation for 40 years.

A single second has been either added to or subtracted from the world's time scale, known as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) every year since 1972. UTC is measured with atomic clocks, which use atoms' regular vibrations to count the seconds... The United States, France and Germany are among the countries that support getting rid of the leap second. Canada, China and the United Kingdom support keeping it, according to BBC News."

Comment Re:The latest shot fired in a long battle (Score 1) 79

I don't know how accurate Jaynes is in dating the events in the Iliad and how much liberty he takes in interpreting Homeric art, but I have done a play-by-play meta-analysis of his analysis of the Iliad, and it seemed to me like what he said about the really strange style it was written vis-a-vis how the characters may have perceived the world was pretty insightful. As to his theories being about as off-the-wall as theories about Atlantis, they are pretty crazy, but that's part of what makes them so interesting.

Comment Re:Multi-lingual? (Score 1) 79

I didn't say that language ability shuts off after the critical period. I did say that the Language Acquisition Device - a device specifically in place for acquiring a first language - switches off after the critical period. There is some debate within the second language acquisition community about whether or not the LAD plays a role in SLA, but it's pretty obvious that learning a second language happens in a radically different way than native language acquisition does.

Comment Re:The latest shot fired in a long battle (Score 2) 79

Jaynes' ideas about consciousness and Chomsky's ideas about a language acquisition device aren't mutually exclusive. Jaynes' bicameral mind theory only requires that it is possible to have language without consciousness, something that might actually require the existence of a LAD. Jaynes uses the Iliad extensively when discussing his ideas about the bicameral mind, but language isn't central to his argument - rather, he's using the epic as a window into the minds of the greeks of that time period and arguing that they don't have consciousness as he defines it.

Comment Re:The latest shot fired in a long battle (Score 1) 79

I've always felt that the no-language-acquisition-device-hypothesis has been on really shaky footing. If you put kids w/o a first language together, they'll develop one - all on their own - without any linguistic input (there are a couple of pretty famous cases of this happening at schools for the deaf in developing nations) and it would be pretty hard to explain that without some existing linguistic structures in the brain.

Comment Re:Multi-lingual? (Score 4, Insightful) 79

I've got an undergraduate degree in linguistics - which, granted, isn't much, but i did spend some time learning about language acquisition. The general consensus within linguistics is that there exists both a language acquisition device (LAD) and a critical period for language learning. Language learning is a biological process on par with learning how to process visual data that (in neurotypical individuals) unfolds regularly given adequate input. After somewhere between 11-13 years the LAD switches off, and languages that are learned after this critical period are typically learned imperfectly.

I've seen side-by-side fMRI scans of people speaking two languages they learned before the critical period and of people speaking a language learned before and a language learned after. In the true bilingual speakers, both languages lit up the same area of the brain, and in the speakers who learned a new language after the critical period, the post-critical language lit up a different area of the brain from the native language.

As far as post-critical-period second language acquisition goes, there is some indication that the LAD is involved in the process - there is a specific order in which English speakers will learn grammatical features of German regardless of who taught them or what method they used to learn the language. There are actually some language acquisition theorists (Krashen in particular) who think that language processing and production (at a grammatical level) is all done at an automatic level, and that all our conscious brains do is monitor what comes out.

The environment you learn the language in and your degree of identification with the target language's culture do play a pretty big role in how accurately you'll be able to reproduce the target language, though.

Also, programming "languages" aren't capital-L languages and are (presumably) not handled by the part of the brain that handles language.

Comment Re:News Flash: Apple limits app store! (Score 1) 664

That's not entirely accurate. Censorship is the refusal to publish, etc. because the content is objectional, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient. This does not include declining something because it is unmarketable, poorly-written, or boring. As with most real-word categories, it is a fuzzy one: unmarketable and objectionable often overlap, and it's impossible to always point at a single reason that something could theoretically be declined.

Nevertheless, what Apple has done is clearly censorship; but simply (accurately) describing something as censorship doesn't imply that the censor has no right to do it; it can, however, imply that the decision is a poor or morally suspect one.

There is an incredible amount of space in between what we have a right to do and what we should do.

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