If you aren’t one of the millions who have already done so, go immediately to YouTube and search for “Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo.” [View the video here] There you will see a large white bird balanced on the back of an office chair, bobbing his head, stomping his feet and doing something that — until now — scientists believed impossible: dancing just like a human.
This is good fun. It’s also good science: Snowball’s videos are changing the way researchers understand the neurology of music and dancing.
Aniruddh Patel, senior fellow at the Neurosciences Institute in California, got the link from a friend. He saw not just a funny bird but also a potential solution to a scientific argument dating back to Darwin: some researchers say that human brains have been specially wired by natural selection for dancing, because dancing confers survival benefits through group bonding. If that were true, according to Patel, you would see dancing only in animals that, like humans, have a long history of music and dance, which no other species has. The fact that only humans dance has long been seen as evidence supporting the evolution argument.
So Patel sent an e-mail message to Snowball’s owner, Irena Schulz, and asked to study her bird. “The obvious question was whether he was just mimicking somebody,” Patel said. To answer that, he made CDs of Snowball’s favorite song (“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” by the Backstreet Boys) at various speeds. Schulz videotaped Snowball dancing to each version, and then Patel graphed Snowball’s movement against the music’s beat. “Like a child, he synched to the music for stretches of time, then danced a little faster or a little slower, but always in a rhythmic way,” Patel says. “Statistically those periods when he’s locked onto the beat are not by chance — they really do indicate sensitivity to the beat and an ability to synchronize with it.”
What’s most interesting to Patel is that this ability is present in birds but not in primates, our closest animal relatives. “This is no coincidence,” he says. Patel says dancing is associated with our vocal abilities, not musical hard wiring. Humans and parrots are two of the few species with brains wired for vocal learning — hearing sounds (like words), then coordinating complex movements (lips, tongues, vocal cords) to reproduce those sounds. Other animals who have this ability: dolphins, seals and whales. “In theory,” he says, “they may be able to dance, too. We just don’t know it yet.”
Monday, December 15, 2008
Imagine how difficult is the job for this TV reporter – very funny video! [Thanx Kiran for link!]
Friday, December 5, 2008
“ Honda is pulling out of Formula One, blaming the world economic crisis for plans to sell its team.
Sources told BBC Sport the team were "optimistic" they would continue, but an investor had not yet been found.
The decision leaves Englishman Jenson Button and 2009 team-mate Rubens Barrichello without drives, with only a few mid-ranking seats still available.
Honda, which spent more than £300m a year on F1, said it would also no longer supply the sport with engines. “
Read complete story here on BBC.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Here is the text of an open letter to India’s PM, which appeared probably in Times of India. Currently it is doing rounds of emails. Only part that I disagree in the letter is about corruption in Maharashtra – no, it is not more than or even equal to what is there in some other states in India.
Read it -
LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER
Dear Mr. Prime minister
I am a typical mouse from Mumbai. In the local train compartment which has capacity of 100 persons, I travel with 500 more mouse. Mouse at least squeak but we don't even do that.
Today I heard your speech. In which you said 'NO BODY WOULD BE SPARED'. I would like to remind you that fourteen years has passed since serial bomb blast in Mumbai took place. Dawood was the main conspirator. Till today he is not caught. All our bolywood actors, our builders, our Gutka king meets him but your Government can not catch him. Reason is simple; all your ministers are hand in glove with him. If any attempt is made to catch him everybody will be exposed. Your statement 'NOBODY WOULD BE SPARED' is nothing but a cruel joke on this unfortunate people of India. Enough is enough. As such after seeing terrorist attack carried out by about a dozen young boys I realize that if same thing continues days are not away when terrorist will attack by air, destroy our nuclear reactor and there will be one more Hiroshima.
We the people are left with only one mantra. Womb to Bomb to Tomb. You promised Mumbaikar Shanghai what you have given us is Jalianwala Baug.
Today only your home minister resigned. What took you so long to kick out this joker? Only reason was that he was loyal to Gandhi family. Loyalty to Gandhi family is more important than blood of innocent people, isn't it?
I am born and bought up in Mumbai for last fifty eight years. Believe me corruption in Maharashtra is worse than that in Bihar. Look at all the politician, Sharad Pawar, Chagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane, Bal Thackray , Gopinath Munde, Raj Thackray, Vilasrao Deshmukh all are rolling in money. Vilasrao Deshmukh is one of the worst Chief minister I have seen. His only business is to increase the FSI every other day, make money and send it to Delhi so Congress can fight next election. Now the clown has found new way and will increase FSI for fisherman so they can build concrete house right on sea shore. Next time terrorist can comfortably live in those house , enjoy the beauty of sea and then attack the Mumbai at their will.
Recently I had to purchase house in Mumbai. I met about two dozen builders. Everybody wanted about 30% in black. A common person like me knows this and with all your intelligent agency & CBI you and your finance minister are not aware of it. Where all the black money goes? To the underworld isn't it? Our politicians take help of these goondas to vacate people by force. I myself was victim of it. If you have time please come to me, I will tell you everything.
If this has been land of fools, idiots then I would not have ever cared to write you this letter. Just see the tragedy, on one side we are reaching moon, people are so intelligent and on other side you politician has converted nectar into deadly poison. I am everything Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Schedule caste, OBC, Muslim OBC, Christian Schedule caste, Creamy Schedule caste only what I am not is INDIAN. You politician have raped every part of mother India by your policy of divide and rule.
Take example of former president Abdul Kalam. Such a intelligent person, such a fine human being. You politician didn't even spare him. Your party along with opposition joined the hands, because politician feels they are supreme and there is no place for good person.
Dear Mr Prime minister you are one of the most intelligent person, most learned person. Just wake up, be a real SARDAR. First and foremost expose all selfish politician. Ask Swiss bank to give name of all Indian account holder. Give reins of CBI to independent agency. Let them find wolf among us. There will be political upheaval but that will better than dance of death which we are witnessing every day. Just give us ambient where we can work honestly and without fear. Let there be rule of law. Everything else will be taken care of.
Choice is yours Mr. Prime Minister. Do you want to be lead by one person or you want to lead the nation of 100 Crore people?