The speed of evolution in domestication

In PNAS today an article on “Evolution of facial muscle anatomy in dogs” which argues for an adaptation of canine facial anatomy in the context of domestication. From the abstract: “Domestication shaped wolves into dogs and transformed both their behavior and their anatomy. Here we show that, in only 33,000 y, domestication transformed the facial […]

Bees learn symbols for the numbers 2 and 3

In PTRSB today, bees learned to associate “N” with groups of 2, and “⊥” with groups of  3. From the discussion: “Our findings show that independent groups of honeybees can learn and apply either a sign-to-numerosity matching task or a numerosity-to-sign matching task and subsequently apply acquired skills to novel stimuli. Interestingly, despite bees demonstrating […]

New blog: Outdex

Here’s a new blog, Outdex, featuring Thomas Graf (and friends), that should be of interest to people who read FoL. This week, Thomas has a post on the “inverted T” (or “inverted Y”) model of Generative Grammar.

Why do geese honk?

A question to CBC Radio‘s Quirks and Quarks program, “Why do Canada geese honk while migrating?” The answer the CBC gives is “They honk to communicate their position in the flock”. But Elan Dresher gave a different answer back in 1996.

GG + NN = Thing 1 + Thing 2?

Language, stealing adopting the BBS model, has a target article by Joe Pater and several replies. Here’s my attempt at bumper-sticker summaries for the articles. You can add your own in the comments. (No, there are no prizes for this.) Pater: GG + NN + ?? = Profit! Berent & Marcus: Structure + Composition = […]

Scheering forces

I’ll respond to Tobias in a post rather than a blog reply because he raises several points, and I want to include a picture or two. 1. TS: “When you cross the real-world boundary, i.e. when real-world items (such as wave lengths) are mapped onto cognitive categories (colors perceived), you are talking about something else […]

ECoG to speech synthesis

In Nature today, another fascinating article from Eddie Chang’s lab at UCSF. They were able to synthesize intelligible speech from ECoG recordings of cortical activity in sensory-motor and auditory areas. The system was even able to decode and synthesize speech successfully from silently mimed speech. The picture (Figure 1 in the article) shows a block […]

Two cipher examples

I’m not convinced that I’m getting my point about “arbitrary” across, so maybe we should try some toy examples from a couple of ciphers. Let’s encipher “Colorless green ideas” in a couple of ways. 1. Rot13: “Colorless green ideas” ⇒ “Pbybeyrff terra vqrnf”. This method is familiar to old Usenet denizens. It makes use of the […]


(In memory of Felix d. 1976, Monty d. 1988, Jazz d. 1993) In Nature today, some evidence that cats can distinguish their own names. The cats were tested in their homes using a habituation-dishabituation method. This is in contrast to dogs, who have been tested using retrieval tasks, because “the training of cats to perform […]