new study by University of Maryland researchers has revealed
that noise levels in day-care centres and homes can interfere
with the language development of infants younger than 13 months.
The study suggests that, during their first year infants have
difficulty differentiating between voices in even mildly noisy
rooms. As a result, conversation directed at them may simply
go unrecognised. "This might potentially delay the onset
of speech. Caregivers may think they're giving the right kind
of language experiences but all too often, the talk may be
going over the children's heads. Not all homes and day-care
centres are equally noisy but all caregivers should set aside
quiet time or a quiet corner where infants can get the language
experiences they need," said the study's author, Rochelle
Newman. "There's a need for awareness. That first year
is critical to infants. They're clearly struggling to hear
what's said to them if there's too much noise and at the same
time laying the foundation for learning to speak. Caregivers
simply need to pay greater attention to background noise,"
racing is to be transformed as a spectator sport in the United
Arab Emirates (UAE) with robot riders taking the place of
child jockeys. The remote-operated riders were developed following
a ban on the use of jockeys under 16 years of age, imposed
by the UAE Camel Racing Association in March 2004. Camel racing
is a lucrative sport with a long tradition among Bedouin Arabs.
But human rights groups have linked it to the kidnap and mistreatment
of children as young as four years old. Riders have traditionally
been younger than 16 and weighed less than 45 kg. The first
full trials involving the remote-controlled robots have now
been conducted successfully. "The mechanical jockey is
light in weight and receives orders from the instructor via
a remote control system fixed on the back of the camel,"
says a statement issued by the UAE government.
and meat from cloned cattle appear safe for human consumption,
a pilot study has found. Scientists in the US and Japan found
that meat and dairy products from a bull and cow cloned using
the "Dolly" technique met industry standards. The
team says its results suggest cloning techniques could be
used to boost food production, particularly in developing
countries. Two beef and four dairy clones were used in the
research, all derived from a single Holstein dairy cow and
a single Japanese black bull. The scientists found no significant
differences in their comparisons of the milk and meat. But
the cloning technique has raised welfare concerns, as most
copied animals do not make it to term before being born and
many of those that do are born deformed or prone to illness.
"We don't know what this technology will result in the
future; we know so far that it is unsustainable," Compassion
in World Farming director, Joyce D'Silva, told BBC News. "Huge
numbers of animals die. They are born with deformed lungs,
hearts and kidneys that don't function. They die slow and
lingering deaths. Is this the technology that we need or want?
I don't think so." Animal food products from clones have
yet to enter the food chain in any country.
Science of Superman
strip characters like Superman and the Incredible
Hulk reflect what society thinks about science, says
a UK researcher. Dr Simon Locke of Kingston University says
superhero comics present science, technology and scientists
as a force for good and evil. Superman was the first
comic strip superhero, created by Action Comics in 1938 and
later brought to life on the big screen. Superman
came from a planet with an advanced human race and had special
powers due to his advanced physical structure. The Hulk was
created when a scientist accidentally irradiated himself with
his own "gamma bomb". Locke says people researching
the public understanding of science have generally ignored
superhero comics because they are a popular but "perverse"
hybrid of art and literature, thought only suitable for "children
and retarded adults". Some people have even thought they
are harmful because they are highly implausible. But the conflicting
way science and scientists have been portrayed in superhero
comics reflects a broader societal ambivalence with science.
He says scientists are presented as "saviour-heroes"
with "techno-magical interventions" or mad villains
trying to turn the world upside down. Australian science and
fiction writer Dr Rosaleen Love says she is not surprised
that Locke has found ambivalence towards science reflected
in superhero comics. "I think that what he's saying is
science is so pervasive in our culture that even something
that would seem to be pretty remote from it is still reflecting
the anxieties and the hopes about science more generally."
search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) could be taking
the wrong approach. Instead of listening for alien radio broadcasts,
a better strategy may be to look for giant structures placed
in orbit around nearby stars by alien civilisations. "Artificial
structures may be the best way for an advanced extraterrestrial
civilisation to signal its presence to an emerging technology
like ours," says Luc Arnold of the Observatory of Haute-Provence
in France. And he believes that the generation of space-based
telescopes now being designed will be able to spot them. Arnold
has studied the capabilities of space-based telescopes such
as the European Space Agency's forthcoming Corot telescope
and NASA's Kepler. These instruments will look for the telltale
dimming of a star's light when a planet passes in front of
it. They could also identify an artificial object the size
of a planet, such as a lightweight solar sail, says Arnold.
New Scientist, ZdNet and BBC Online.
by: Imran H. Khan
(R) thedailystar.net 2005