Captive dolphins have picked up some new vocabulary. Not from each other, but rather from a “sounds of the sea” tape played during their performances.
When their handlers noted strange sounds coming from the tanks at night, they compared them to known calls and discovered they were mimicking and practicing whale calls they had heard on tape.
When the researchers used a computer program to compare auditory recordings of the whale calls with the mysterious nighttime noises, it showed that the two sounds were very similar. And because the dolphins had been captive their entire lives, they couldn’t have picked them up from real whales.
To get a second opinion, the team asked 20 human volunteers to listen to humpback whale sounds and wild dolphin sounds. Then the researchers played the nighttime vocalizations and asked the volunteers whether the sounds came from a whale or a dolphin. About 76% of the time, the volunteers classified the imitations as sounds from real whales
The dolphins were last reported to be working on whale disguises, surely as part of their world domination plan.
Amazing just on its own, but it also reminds me of the famous Lyre Bird, which has an extraordinary repertoire of chainsaws, car alarms, and camera shutter clicks (WITH motor drive)!
Now I wonder if the dolphins are simply mimicking the whale songs for fun (that is, with no new meaning ascribed to them), or if they’re actually incorporating the new sounds into their own “language”, just as the internet created its own lolspeak and language based off of onomatopoeia. (I can’t believe I spelled that correctly on the first try)
There are no scientific studies that I know of that say men and women differ in “mental abilities”, which is an awfully broad term on its own.
There are anatomical and developmental differences in male and female brains, but these differences have resulted in much myth and little truth. For instance, men have larger brains, on average, than women. But if having larger brains was a sign of greater mental faculties, then whales would have beaten us to fire and spaceships.
It’s important that we acknowledge that there are genuine genetic and biological differences in male and female development, but it’s equally important that we don’t extend these differences into myths of superiority. I’m a fan of what Stanford neuroscientist Josef Parvizi says about it:
“…if we are to entertain the idea that humans ‘experience’ life differently, and that different experiences mold the brain function differently, then we must also seriously consider that gender (along with class, ethnicity, age, and many other factors) would also contribute to this experience, and that they will contribute to molding of the brain…
So if women and men have systematically different life experiences and face dissimilar expectations from birth, then we would expect that their brains would become different (even if they are not innately dissimilar), through these different life experiences. Even if neuroscientists see differences in the brains of grown men and women, it does not follow that these differences are innate and unchangeable.
For instance, if girls are expected to be more adept at language, and are placed in more situations that require communication with others, it follows that the networks of the brain associated with language could become more efficient in women. Conversely, if boys receive more toy trucks and Lego’s, are given greater encouragement in math and engineering classes, and eventually take more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses, it follows that the sections of the brain associated with mathematics could become more efficient in men…
The tricky part is that we do not make the mistake of taking account of these differences as evidence for biological determinism.”
Beyond the social implications of such a question (which has, is, and will be a topic of many a debate and paper), I am reblogging this for its acknowledgment of the underlying biological differences (differences, and not inequalities) and the elements of behavioral conditioning and environment, the latter of which is too often overlooked.
What did you get?
Sweet, peaceful, passionate, insecure
outgoing, passionate, naive and sweet.
Outspoken, passionate, charismatic and lovely
Lazy, Passionate, Loyal & Sweet
Peaceful(HAHA!), Reserved(??), Talented, Passionate
Passionate, sweet, dependent and outspoken
Lethargic, sentimental, peaceful, and patient.
… yeah, that’s mostly accurately.
Dramatic, passionate, courageous, restless.
I’m not a whore this time, sweet.
loyal, impatient, genuine, elegant
Though, even before I started this game, I wondered if as a native English speaker and reader, if it meant that I would be unintentionally biased toward the top horizontal rows? And then I started wondering if I should try and TRULY randomize it by taking my first two samplings while intentionally reading vertically, right to left, and then covering the horizontal rows from the bottom up, or if I was trying to game the system too much, and whether even native readers of other systems of writing (such as Chinese, which is traditionally up-to-down and right-to-left) would REALLY reflexively look for vertical words even when looking at a grid of obviously western characters, and then I got all mixed up and gave up.
My eyes still automatically picked out only horizontal words in the upper half of the happy face. >.>
So says a new double-blind study pokes a big f-hole in the assumption that legendary, vintage instruments like Stradivari make any discernable difference in playing quality. By taking six instruments (three new and three of the most rare, worth $10 million together) and putting them blindly in the hands of 21 expert players, the researchers found that violinists couldn’t tell the old from new.
Ever since the early 19th century, many tests have questioned the alleged superiority of the old Italian violins. Time and again, listeners have failed to distinguish between the sound of the old and new instruments. But critics have been quick to pick holes in these studies. In most cases, the listeners weren’t experts, and the players and researchers knew which violin was which – a flaw that could have biased the results.
What’s more, no one has tested whether violinists themselves can truly pick up the supposedly distinctive sound of a Strad. The common wisdom is that they can, but Fritz and Curtin showed that this isn’t true. “Many people were convinced that as soon as you play an old violin, you can feel that it’s old, it’s been played a lot, and it has a special sound quality,” says Fritz. “People who took part in the experiment said it was the experience of a lifetime when we told them the results. They were fully convinced they could tell the difference, and they couldn’t.”
During the Eighth International Violin Competition of Indianapolis – one of the world’s most important competitions – Fritz and Curtin persuaded six violinists to part with their instruments. Three of the violins were new; one was made a few days before. The other three had illustrious, centuries-long histories. Two were made by Stradivari and the other by Guarneri. One of the Stradivari, denoted “O1”, currently belongs to an institution, and is loaned to only the most gifted players. All three have featured in concerts and recordings, bowed by famous violinists. Their combined value is around 10 million US dollars, a hundred times more than the three new ones.
Of course, as Ed points out, this self-deceptive behavior is common, from wine to women’s shoes. He pointed out this piece from Jonah Lehrer that suggests although we are fooling ourselves by going for rarity over actual quality, we feel a certain psychological reward from giving ourselves a treat, no matter if it’s real.
I’m a pianist, not a violinist, but this does bring up a host of questions in my mind:
- Whenever I have played new pianos and complained about certain aspects of it, I was often told that “time will help tune it” - as in, with brand new felt pads on the hammer, they are somewhat stiff at first, but with continuous play, they will soften up and bring a richer tone. However, that would only be true relative to what the piano started out as. It may very well be that some pianos start out sounding richer than others, and this is a feature which piano makers can build right into their instruments - you can “artificially” age a piano, in a sense, by installing pads that have already been softened up a bit by needling them, etc. So, I can sort of understand the argument here … the sound of an instrument is so intrinsic to its construction, how could someone not tune every single aspect of it to produce the most pleasing sound possible, and thus, through technology and applied science, reproduce effects immediately that used to only be available through the natural “breaking in” process of playing an instrument for years upon years?
- However, that said, I think some focus should also be turned to its playability. While I have played on pianos whose voice I’ve preferred over others, simply due to either the type of song I was playing (ragtime vs classical, baroque vs romantic, etc) or simple personal preference (I usually prefer slightly brighter to darker tunings), there has never been any question in my mind as to just how easy it might be to play one. The Fazioli pianos, for instance, whose virtues I’ve extolled endlessly in the past, had been an entirely new and delightful experience. There are definitely some songs that I would not attempt to play on any piano that isn’t perfect in its action. While, in a way, this action is also tuneable to varying degrees on both new and old pianos, I wonder if violinists might not experience such variations as well, and if it is any more (or less) consistent as trying to tie sound to age.
But, to actually say something a bit more concrete, such as what, if not the sound and playability, actually counts toward the pricetag on these instruments:
- Maybe the value of these rarities is simply that they have stood up to the test of time, and still sound just as good as when they were first made, or the history that they carry. After all, museums hold plenty of abstract, unidentifiable pieces of stone and wood (to the layman’s eye) but their value lies in the stories that they tell, not in their utility.
- To reference another study, it was shown that golfers significantly improved their putting ability when they believed they were using equipment that had belonged to a celebrity golfer. Would having a century-old Stradivarius in their hands make a violinist play better? If it did, should it be worth more than a new off-the-shelf violin?