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Topic: What's Going on in Science? (Read 1193 times)

  • Mr. Tennessee
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What's Going on in Science?
Well, many things, of course. You might find this of interest.
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/shadows-two-failed-searches-loom-over-physics

  • Frenzie
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  • Administrator
Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #1
Monkeys aren't physically incapable of speech as has been posited. I learned their larynx is too far down or something like that, but that was based on dead apes rather than live ones.

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/09/504890630/say-what-monkey-mouths-and-throats-are-equipped-for-speech

William Tecumseh Fitch e.a., Monkey vocal tracts are speech-ready, Science Advances. 9 December 2016. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600723

Quote
We conclude that if a macaque monkey had a brain capable of vocal learning and combinatoric operations over speech sounds, its vocal tract would be able to produce clearly intelligible speech. Our data join those based on computer models of the human vocal tract, showing that the importance of human vocal anatomy for speech has been overestimated (24-26). Our data are also consistent with anatomical data from apes and monkeys, indicating that human vocal anatomy and the descended larynx are not as exceptional as widely thought (27, 28). These findings refute the widespread opinion that nonhuman primate vocal tracts are "unsuited to speaking" [(29), p. 59]. We conclude that the inability of macaques and other primates to speak is a reflection not of peripheral vocal tract limitations but of their lack of neural circuitry enabling sophisticated vocal control (30, 31). In short, primates have a speech-ready vocal tract but lack a speech-ready brain to take advantage of its latent operating range.

  • Barulheira
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #2
Any scientific news on unintelligible English language writings? :right:

  • Mr. Tennessee
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #3
We can learn a good deal of science from the Red State Rustler, a Twitter genius.

  • rjhowie
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #4
Sounds like a Glaswegian rather than an Edinburgh man.
"Quit you like men:be strong"

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #5
Compare:

Monkeys aren't physically incapable of speech as has been posited.
...and...


William Tecumseh Fitch e.a., Monkey vocal tracts are speech-ready, Science Advances. 9 December 2016. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600723

In short, primates have a speech-ready vocal tract but lack a speech-ready brain to take advantage of its latent operating range.
Thus it's posited now that monkeys are mentally incapable of speech.

What options follow from this? It would still mean that monkeys cannot speak, wouldn't it?

What if further research concluded something like that primates have a "speech-ready" brain, what would follow? That they could speak, but just don't for some reason? For what reason?

What else would follow in terms of the theory of evolution? That, without ever using speech, monkeys evolved speech-readiness? Why not rather that they devolved from speech-readiness?

What is speech-readiness anyway and why is it more notable than, for example, fart-readiness, depression-readiness or readiness to assume someone's readiness for a behaviour that has never been observed?

  • Belfrager
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #6
What if further research concluded something like that primates have a "speech-ready" brain, what would follow? That they could speak, but just don't for some reason? For what reason?

What else would follow in terms of the theory of evolution? That, without ever using speech, monkeys evolved speech-readiness? Why not rather that they devolved from speech-readiness?

What is speech-readiness anyway and why is it more notable than, for example, fart-readiness, depression-readiness or readiness to assume someone's readiness for a behaviour that has never been observed?

The very existence of monkeys is a perturbing philosophical and teological problem.
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #7
The very existence of monkeys is a perturbing philosophical and teological problem.
And missing links between humans and other primates are a perturbing scientific problem. Darwin solved it by asserting common descent. Asserting, not demonstrating.

  • jax
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  • Global Moderator
Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #8
Obviously Descent of Man predated the unravelling of DNA by about 80 years, but even back in the 19th (and 18th) century the naturalists, and in particular Darwin, put up an impressive case. 

For most theologies and theologians this shouldn't come up as that much of an issue, but those who take the two creation myths in Genesis as absolute literal truth may find it challenging to come up with an explanation.

  • Mr. Tennessee
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  • Frenzie
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  • Administrator
Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #10
What is speech-readiness anyway and why is it more notable than, for example, fart-readiness, depression-readiness or readiness to assume someone's readiness for a behaviour that has never been observed?
Perhaps I should've written some more commentary or quoted from the article itself rather than the abstract. What interested me here was the actual research on the phonological aspects and how it was performed ("Materials and Methods").

I'm not really sure what influence you see on evolution either way, except that in their abstract the authors seem to be grossly exaggerating the lack of evolution on our vocal tract: obviously our ancestors would've been able to talk already in some form even if perhaps they had slightly fewer phonemes.[1] As I already indicated, we still evolved to choke (i.e., our larynx rose) so that we could communicate better.

That brains are the major limiting factor is no news either. Even if you forget about the inferior statistical capabilities of monkeys,[2] human infants have all kinds of musculature in place while their brain isn't quite up to the task of fine motor control yet. Or viewed from a slightly different angle still, thanks to our larger brains we can use more complex tools than apes and monkeys even though our hands are rather similar.[3]

Anyway, since the phrase "speech-ready" is apparently so offensive I suggest to mentally replace it with something like "a sufficiently distinct number of vocalizations that could theoretically be used for spoken language." Or to quote the authors of the paper (from a part I consider rather uninteresting because it is a tad self-evident):
Quote
There is no reason to believe that linguistic communication requires /i/ or any other particular vowel, because the role of extreme vowels (for example, for vocal tract normalization) could be played by whatever vowel does represent the extreme "corner" of the phonetic space available to that species. Thus, we do not claim that macaque speech would sound precisely like human speech. Rather, our results definitively show that the phonetic range inherent in a macaque vocal tract, based on actual observed vocal tract configurations, would itself pose no impediment to linguistic communication if macaques had human-like neural control systems.
I agree it sounds somewhat preposterous, a bit like saying monkeys have typing-ready hands. In spite of that, they still have 'em! ;)
That being said, there are some hypotheses (which I never found very convincing) that sign language came first.
Or I suppose I should say we can use tools more effectively. See, e.g., this paper on monkeys using tweezers https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/psjproc/2005/0/2005_0_S180_4/_article

  • Mr. Tennessee
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #11
What if further research concluded something like that primates have a "speech-ready" brain, what would follow? That they could speak, but just don't for some reason? For what reason?
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Humans are really good at picking out faces. Our brains are so good at this that we even see faces in places they don't exist -- like Jesus on toast. Flip a face upside down, though, and the brain needs an extra moment to determine that, yes, that's a face.

This is known as the inversion effect. And a new study finds that we're not the only species to demonstrate it: Chimps do, too. Only they do it with butts. And this says something about human evolution -- but we'll get to that in a bit.

In 2008, Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny of Emory University in Atlanta showed in an Ig Nobel-winning experiment that chimpanzees could recognize each other from their behinds -- or at least photographs of them. The chimp rear, it turns out, conveys important information about sex and, in females, ovulation status. Both males and females pay attention to those signals, which are important in mating and competition.

Given the evidence that chimps could use both face and behind for recognition, Mariska Kret of Leiden University in the Netherlands and Masaki Tomonaga of the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University in Japan wanted to know if, like us, chimpanzees display the inversion effect when it comes to these body parts -- and how humans might compare.

They started by gathering a group of more than 100 university students and giving them a matching game. The student would be shown a picture of a human or chimp face, butt or foot. Then they would be shown two pictures of the same body part (from the same species) and have to choose the one that matched the first image. Some of those images were right side up and others were turned upside down. The researchers then repeated the experiment with images in black and white and then repeated both experiments again with a group of four female chimps and one male chimp living at the Primate Research Institute."
https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/chimps-look-behinds-way-we-look-faces?tgt=nr

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #12
Obviously Descent of Man predated the unravelling of DNA by about 80 years, but even back in the 19th (and 18th) century the naturalists, and in particular Darwin, put up an impressive case.
What case was that? Can you quote it?

The one I know is this, "It may be worth while to illustrate this view of classification, by taking the case of languages. If we possessed a perfect pedigree of mankind, a genealogical arrangement of the races of man would afford the best classification of the various languages now spoken throughout the world; and if all extinct, and all intermediate and slowly changing dialects, were to be included, such an arrangement would be the only possible one. Yet it might be that some ancient languages had altered very little and had given rise to few new languages, whilst others had altered much owing to the spreading, isolation, and state of civilisation of the several co-descended races, and had thus given rise to many new dialects and languages. The various degrees of difference between the languages of the same stock, would have to be expressed by groups subordinate to groups; but the proper or even the only possible arrangement would still be genealogical; and this would be strictly natural, as it would connect together all languages, extinct and recent by the closest affinities, and would give the filiation and origin of each tongue."

Darwin, Origin of Species, page 459 https://archive.org/details/originofspecies00darwuoft

Here Darwin makes a case for common descent by parallel with linguistics. Unfortunately, the parallel is false even considering the linguistics of his own time. If we go by evidence, his point does not apply in linguistics and insofar as his case rests on this parallel, he simply has no case. And he had no genes in his time, so what impressive case did he have?

These days, given genetics, I'm not sure of a solid case for common descent either. What makes the case for it? If it's something like "All biological life forms are made up of genes, therefore common descent," it's as fallacious as "All languages are made up of sounds, therefore common descent." So, what is it?

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #13
...obviously our ancestors would've been able to talk already in some form even if perhaps they had slightly fewer phonemes.
Actually, if children are any guide, the development of sound system goes in the opposite direction. Children make all sorts of possible sounds, i.e. they have the entire range of "phonemes" except that they are not phonemes in the relevant sense. Children practise pronunciation of all sounds without having a sound system yet, i.e. they don't stay within the range required by the phonology of the language, they have no notion of phonotactics, vocabulary and syntax. They have all the material, but no system in the material. In this sense they are born "speech-ready" but it takes time, effort, and certain preconditions for the readiness to mature.

Anyway, since the phrase "speech-ready" is apparently so offensive I suggest to mentally replace it with something like "a sufficiently distinct number of vocalizations that could theoretically be used for spoken language." Or to quote the authors of the paper (from a part I consider rather uninteresting because it is a tad self-evident):
Quote
There is no reason to believe that linguistic communication requires /i/ or any other particular vowel, because the role of extreme vowels (for example, for vocal tract normalization) could be played by whatever vowel does represent the extreme "corner" of the phonetic space available to that species. Thus, we do not claim that macaque speech would sound precisely like human speech. Rather, our results definitively show that the phonetic range inherent in a macaque vocal tract, based on actual observed vocal tract configurations, would itself pose no impediment to linguistic communication if macaques had human-like neural control systems.
I agree it sounds somewhat preposterous, a bit like saying monkeys have typing-ready hands. In spite of that, they still have 'em! ;)
Actually, I agree that monkeys can be considered physically speech-ready. The point is how to actualise this readiness, how to make it mature, meaningful, and self-instructive for those who use this readiness. Children learn from their parents, teachers and peers to use language and then be creative with it. Have humans been able to teach monkeys to speak on any level? They can teach parrots, so why not monkeys? Looks like physical readiness means nothing. Even mental readiness would mean hardly anything.

Parrots can "talk" but is it really talking? Looks like mechanical behaviour is radically distinct from conscious behaviour. Neuroscientists don't have the tools to comprehend and detect this important distinction. I have seen no signs that they are even looking for such tool.

  • Belfrager
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #14
For most theologies and theologians this shouldn't come up as that much of an issue,
No? why not?
but those who take the two creation myths in Genesis as absolute literal truth may find it challenging to come up with an explanation.
I don't kow what is worst, those protestants who take the Bible as a literal truth, or those atheists that take philosophical ignorance as a literal truth.
A matter of attitude.

  • Belfrager
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #15
Actually, I agree that monkeys can be considered physically speech-ready. The point is how to actualise this readiness, how to make it mature, meaningful, and self-instructive for those who use this readiness. Children learn from their parents, teachers and peers to use language and then be creative with it. Have humans been able to teach monkeys to speak on any level? They can teach parrots, so why not monkeys? Looks like physical readiness means nothing. Even mental readiness would mean hardly anything.

Parrots can "talk" but is it really talking? Looks like mechanical behaviour is radically distinct from conscious behaviour. Neuroscientists don't have the tools to comprehend and detect this important distinction. I have seen no signs that they are even looking for such tool.
And that's just the beginning.
Much more problems arises with the existence of monkeys.

I never found any author adressing such enigma.
As far as I know, neither philosophical, religious or scientifical approaches gives a credible explanation.
A matter of attitude.

  • OakdaleFTL
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #16
Quote
Parkinson's Law is a purely scientific discovery, inapplicable except in theory to the politics of the day. It is not the business of the botanist to eradicate the weeds. Enough for him if he can tell us just how fast they grow.
(source)
While this is not the science that most interests me it is indeed interesting! (Well, to me...)

I fail to see why monkeys shouldn't exist. The only answer I can imagine is you don't like monkeys. I don't much like them either; but can't make the leap to "shouldn't exist"...
Sometimes I don't like you (fill in the blank, including myself)! Still, I'd not like the responsibility of deciding what should exist or not -- except in a self-defense situation.
I don't see how monkeys threaten humans. (Sure, that AIDS thing and Ebola were problematical; but people did stupid shit... Otherwise, they'd have been nothing-burgers.)

BTW: Parkinson held a post at university in Singapore for many years... A typical Englishman of accomplishment! :) The same can be said of Scotsmen... And Irishmen.
Oddly enough, Americans tend to stay in America -- unless they want to dabble in the "arts" and diddle little girls. (Polanski's a typical American name, right? :) )
进行 ...
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • Belfrager
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #17
I don't see how monkeys threaten humans.
By the possibility. Their possibility of being humans, unique at all the animal kingdom.
If they were humans, what would humans be?
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #18
I don't see how monkeys threaten humans.
By the possibility. Their possibility of being humans, unique at all the animal kingdom.
If they were humans, what would humans be?
Some people consider the possibility to be quite real. I've heard that orangutan means, in the original language where the word came from, something like "man of the forest" and the people who gave orangutans the name treated them like just another tribe of men.

Then again, it's not too unique. In far north aboriginal people commonly used to say something like, "Don't go beyond those hills. There be polar bears there. It's their land. If you go in a bigger gang, they will gather a bigger gang too and come to retaliate."

I personally don't see the threat. Many humans are not humans in the relevant sense, so why worry about animals.

  • OakdaleFTL
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #19
Many humans are not humans in the relevant sense
A typically European comment.
进行 ...
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • Belfrager
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #20
I don't consider monkeys a threat in the physical sense of the word, course they aren't, we, humans, are happily slaughtering them for fun and easy food, no threat at all.

I consider that if we were aware, fully aware, of their conscious capabilities we'll feel guilty after exterminating them. The threat is moral.

Mankind is not used to have more than one human race, like it happened at the times of Neanderthals, and monkeys are the sole possibility of that happening again. We should look at them differently than we do.
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #21
Many humans are not humans in the relevant sense
A typically European comment.
Okay, it's clear now that "European" is just a curse word for you and means as little as (or the same as!) when you say "racist", "Communist", "Fascist" etc.

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #22
I consider that if we were aware, fully aware, of their conscious capabilities we'll feel guilty after exterminating them. The threat is moral.
Being vegetarian is not too hard, you know. Jains and Buddhists can do it. Atheist animal rightists can do it. It's so common that you may even find it insufficient to alleviate your pangs of remorse, but you'll have to try it to find out for sure.

  • krake
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #23

  • Belfrager
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Re: What's Going on in Science?
Reply #24
Being vegetarian is not too hard, you know. Jains and Buddhists can do it. Atheist animal rightists can do it. It's so common that you may even find it insufficient to alleviate your pangs of remorse, but you'll have to try it to find out for sure.
There's no connection between species diversity and vegetarianism. Man is biologically omnivorous as stated by the teeth and digestive system.

The problem is the relationship between Man and species diversity and I mantain that monkeys are a case apart amongst animal species and so they should be looked as that.

The doggy should be posting in DnD asking for being considered a monkey, not watching movies... :)
A matter of attitude.