Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wonderful science

The New York Times has added quite a few nice pieces in their science section today. Let me just point to two of them that I found very, very interesting.

Carl Zimmer is also the winner of the Scientific American's 2005 Web Awards.

The first one looks at the way little kids learn, and compare their learning behaviour with that of some of our primate cousins, chimpanzees in particular. The specific question is whether learning-by-imitation is a common factor. Answers to such questions may have broader implications about, among much else, the evolution path that our species took. So, the essay by Carl Zimmer, an A-list science blogger, is interesting not just because of the importance of the research, but also because of the cleverness with which experiments are set up and conducted.

There is another article on the long tusks of the norwhals, "stocky whales that live in arctic waters". [The article also has some beautiful graphics.] Scientists have suggested several possibilities for the 'purpose' or 'use' of these tusks: "breaking ice, spearing fish, piercing ships, transmitting sound, shedding excess body heat, poking the seabed for food, wooing females, defending baby narwhals and establishing dominance in social hierarchies." The article is about interesting discoveries about the tusks. What are these discoveries? Find out for yourself!