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Friday, June 11, 2004

Really Cool News 

The ability to understand and produce language, rich in context, syntax and novelty, is one of the hallmark features thought to distinguish humans from other animals. The more research done on language with animals, however, the less convincing this is. Chimps, apes, dolphins, and parrots have all be successfully taught to communicate fairly well with humans, and many more animals are known to communicate heavily with each other. A study published in today's Science shows impressive language ability for the first time in a dog. Rico has a vocabulary of around 200 words, and, much more impressively, demonstrates "fast mapping," previously only observed in human children. Even with a sample size of only one, this is a Big Deal.

Another bit of Really Cool-ness comes from Washington University. Researchers there used implanted electrocorticographs (ECoG) in patients to correlate movement and imagined movement with ECoG profiles, and then linked them up to computer games, which patients played using only their minds!!! This work is hoped to lead to thought-controlled prosthetic devices, etc., for persons with disabilities. I, however, am holding out for a fully telepathic house. You know...just think about cleaning and it happens, etc.

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