Good Grammar Is a Matter of Life or Death for Japanese Tits


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We are not the only ones bound by the rules of grammar. Birds are too.

These reactions and non-reactions suggest that tits need syntax to make sense of commands. Rather than telling the flock to mob right away, it’s important to educate the birds on the threat first. Similar grammatical logic has been exhibited in other species like the Carolina Chickadee, says Carrie Branch, a PhD candidate in behavioral ecology at the University of Nevada, who was not involved in the study. Though Suzuki’s work does an excellent job furthering our understanding of bird communication, Branch says, it would also be interesting to see if Willow Tits respond to the same remixes.

The complete article

Rashmi Shivni — Audubon

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It Gets Wetter


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Today’s needull looks at Kim Stanley Robinson’s new book New York 2140. The writer looks at how climate change will affect New York and how might the city look then.

It’s a novel scene—New York City, 123 years from now: half-drowned but not out. Still a capital of real estate, still a political powerhouse, still an unequal battleground between finance and housing movements, still a crucible where capitalism and climate politics are smashed, melted, and twisted together. The (true) physical premise is that upper Manhattan is fifty feet higher than lower Manhattan.

The complete article

Daniel Aldana Cohen — Dissent

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My Search for Ramanujan


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Another needull on Ramanujan. Ramanujan is an Indian mathematician who continues to fascinate me endlessly.

Using a long and complicated argument, we finally found a way to show that the truth of the generalized Riemann hypothesis implies that every odd number greater than 2719 can be written as x2 + y2 + 10z2 for some integers xy, and z. The fact that almost every mathematician believes in the truth of the generalized Riemann hypothesis and the fact that every odd number greater than 2719 up to a very large number can be represented by Ramanujan’s quadratic form convinced us that we had found the law. But although the law is simple enough to state, it thus far defies a definitive proof. To be sure, if someone manages to prove the generalized Riemann hypothesis, then our conditional proof will at once become a genuine proof. But the generalized Riemann hypothesis is arguably one of the most difficult open problems in mathematics. So Ramanujan was right that the odd numbers do not obey a simple law, in the sense that they are constrained by one of the most difficult unsolved problems in mathematics.

I had no idea that I would see the number 2719 again ten years later, etched on a wall in the very spot where Ramanujan performed some of his first calculations.

The complete article

Ken Ono — IAS

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Waking From the Dream


How well do our brains perceive inequality? Are skewed perceptions to blame for American inequality?

Keith Payne, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, is intent on showing how the problem of inequality operates within the human mind. He does not claim to have studied the historical causes of the American class system, nor does he aim to explore the political or cultural ideologies that have been used to rationalize differences between the haves and the have-nots. His singular focus is on how the brain is evolutionarily wired for ambition and justice alike. When societies such as ours deviate from the primitive sense of fair play, he asserts, everyone suffers.

American Scholar

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

How Mastiffs Became the World’s Top Dogs


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This is an interesting article about the mastiff. Apparently, they took an evolutionary shortcut to get adapted to the Tibetan plateau. Interesting.

As recent as 24,000 years ago the mastiffs of the Tibetan highlands bred with grey wolves, animals that were already well adapted to that demanding environment. The implications of the study, Wang says, might surprise Darwin, because it shows that survival of the fittest sometimes means borrowing a gene or two from another species.

The complete article

Emily Underwood – Smithsonian

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The therapy of reading


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Reading can be therapeutic. Needull has always believed in finding good reads and sharing them with you. So, now you have one more reason to visit needull.

Sometimes it is not the content of the stories themselves but just knowing you have control by choosing to read or listen that provides the calming effect. All stories offer a safe, contained world with a beginning, middle and end. We have the power of when to start or stop and choose how long we stay in this story’s world.

Time spent listening to authors talk about their work and their own understanding of the power of literature also allows us, as readers, to reflect on stories that have shaped us.

The complete article

Germaine Leece — The Guardian

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Recommended by Abhishek

‘Pure’ European is a Myth


With all of European media harping about immigration issues in Europe, it is ironic that the latest studies show that almost ALL indigenous Europeans descend from immigrants, most of them from what is now known as the Middle East. This article, by Science, explores the history of migration in Europe, examines the different studies being done by genetic researchers and surprises us with their findings.

When the first busloads of migrants from Syria and Iraq rolled into Germany 2 years ago, some small towns were overwhelmed. The village of Sumte, population 102, had to take in 750 asylum seekers. Most villagers swung into action, in keeping with Germany’s strong Willkommenskultur, or “welcome culture.” But one self-described neo-Nazi on the district council told The New York Times that by allowing the influx, the German people faced “the destruction of our genetic heritage” and risked becoming “a gray mishmash.”

In fact, the German people have no unique genetic heritage to protect. They—and all other Europeans—are already a mishmash, the children of repeated ancient migrations, according to scientists who study ancient human origins.

Full Article Here

Science – Ann Gibbons

Original Scientific Paper – Available for Download

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