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News: First Orchid Fossil Found in Amber
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/08/070829-orchid-fossil.html
 
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31  Earth Changes / Ecology / 5-year-old chimp beats college kids in computer game on: December 05, 2007, 01:23:29 pm
5-year-old chimp beats college kids in computer game

Story Highlights
The chimps were faster than humans in some tests

The chimps and humans both had an 80 percent success rate on one test

One chimp kept this score while humans dropped to 40 percent in a new test

 
     
NEW YORK (AP) -- Think you're smarter than a fifth-grader? How about a 5-year-old chimp? Japanese researchers pitted young chimps against human adults in tests of short-term memory, and overall, the chimps won.



 
A chimpanzee named Ayumu performs a memory test.

 1 of 2  That challenges the belief of many people, including many scientists, that "humans are superior to chimpanzees in all cognitive functions," said researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University.

"No one can imagine that chimpanzees -- young chimpanzees at the age of 5 -- have a better performance in a memory task than humans," he said in a statement.

Matsuzawa, a pioneer in studying the mental abilities of chimps, said even he was surprised. He and colleague Sana Inoue report the results in Tuesday's issue of the journal Current Biology.  Take the quiz and see how you'd do

One memory test included three 5-year-old chimps who'd been taught the order of Arabic numerals 1 through 9, and a dozen human volunteers.  Watch as the chimps out-perform the humans

They saw nine numbers displayed on a computer screen. When they touched the first number, the other eight turned into white squares. The test was to touch all these squares in the order of the numbers that used to be there.

Results showed that the chimps, while no more accurate than the people, could do this faster.

One chimp, Ayumu, did the best. Researchers included him and nine college students in a second test.

This time, five numbers flashed on the screen only briefly before they were replaced by white squares. The challenge, again, was to touch these squares in the proper sequence.

When the numbers were displayed for about seven-tenths of a second, Ayumu and the college students were both able to do this correctly about 80 percent of the time.

But when the numbers were displayed for just four-tenths or two-tenths of a second, the chimp was the champ. The briefer of those times is too short to allow a look around the screen, and in those tests Ayumu still scored about 80 percent, while humans plunged to 40 percent.

That indicates Ayumu was better at taking in the whole pattern of numbers at a glance, the researchers wrote.

"It's amazing what this chimpanzee is able to do," said Elizabeth Lonsdorf, director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The center studies the mental abilities of apes, but Lonsdorf didn't participate in the new study.

She admired Ayumu's performance when the numbers flashed only briefly on the screen.

"I just watched the video of that and I can tell you right now, there's no way I can do it," she said. "It's unbelievable. I can't even get the first two (squares)."

What's going on here? Even with six months of training, three students failed to catch up to the three young chimps, Matsuzawa said in an e-mail.

He thinks two factors gave his chimps the edge. For one thing, he believes human ancestors gave up much of this skill over evolutionary time to make room in the brain for gaining language abilities.


The other factor is the youth of Ayumu and his peers. The memory for images that's needed for the tests resembles a skill found in children, but which dissipates with age. In fact, the young chimps performed better than older chimps in the new study. (Ayumu's mom did even worse than the college students).

So the next logical step, Lonsdorf said, is to fix up Ayumu with some real competition on these tests: little kids. E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/12/03/chimp.memory.ap/index.html
32  General Category / Computers & Internet / Google's search engine for the universe on: May 10, 2007, 01:06:10 am
Google's search engine for the universe

POSTED: 12:14 p.m. EDT, May 9, 2007
By Jonathon Keats
Popular Science



The LSST will wield a 27.5-foot-wide mirror and a three-gigapixel camera to image cosmic marvels.


(PopSci.com) -- Within a decade, a dream team of astronomers and computer geeks vows to bring a world-class observatory to every desktop, giving anyone with a PC access to remote galaxies and exploding supernovae.

The pledge is the result of a partnership announced last winter between a network of 19 national research institutions and engineers from the search-engine giant Google.

Their collective objective is to develop potent software to process the estimated 30 terabytes of astronomy imagery (think 12 billion five-megapixel photos) that will stream nightly from the newly built Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST, slated to go online in 2013.

Set atop Cerro Pachon Mountain in Chile, the LSST will be the largest survey scope of its kind, sequentially imaging nearly 20 billion astronomical objects in the night sky twice a week at least 2,000 times over the scope's 10-year lifetime.

Google's role in this $350-million project (beyond the modest $25,000 annual dues payment) is still largely undefined, but Rob Pike, Google's principal engineer for the LSST, envisions a tool set akin to Google Earth, which combines a search tool with satellite imagery.

So instead of killing time flying over your ideal vacation spot onscreen, you can opt for more productive surfing, such as scanning the skies for hazardous near-Earth asteroids.

How it works
One thousand times as powerful as previous telescopes, the LSST will survey the entire sky every three nights using a wide-angle mirror and a three-billion-pixel digital camera.

As the telescope rotates on its base, the camera's 15-second exposures take in an area 50 times as large as the full moon. Software will compile three-dimensional imagery to produce time-lapse digital "movies" of the universe.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/space/05/09/google.nasa.telescope/index.html
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