Cows talk, and a new study has been listening

What is it about "moo" that you don't understand?

Image source: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock
  • 333 cow recordings reveal rich communications and unique individual voices.
  • Cows do more than vocalize to their calves — they share emotions with each other.
  • A better understanding of what cows are saying and feeling can help in the formulation of humane cattle-care standards.
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Yann Martel: ‘Transgression is central to art’

Is it acceptable to write a story from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you?

  • Man Booker Prize-winning writer Yann Martel, a Canadian man, has written from the perspectives of a man with AIDS, a body-switching woman, an Indian boy, and 20th-century Portuguese widowers.
  • Is it acceptable to write from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you? Martel believes these transgressions put empathetic imagination into practice, allowing your mind to go where your body cannot.
  • In Martel's case, it's the recipe for great art—books that have been loved and read by millions. "[W]e are who we are in relation to others," says Martel. "But the key thing is the empathetic imagination, and the empathetic imagination is the great traveler. And travelers necessarily cross borders. And not only do they have to but it's a thrill to do so. It's a thrill encountering the other."
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Prove or disprove: A Nobel Prize winner’s approach to science

Whether the data prove you right or wrong, it's crucial to ask: what else is it telling me?

  • In 2018, Dr. Jim Allison was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering an effective way to attack cancer through immunology.
  • In his lab, Allison urges researchers to get rid of the idea that they can prove something with science. All they can do is fail to disprove.
  • Jim Allison is the subject of Jim Allison: Breakthrough, a documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson that brings filmmakers and scientists together to tell the story of a Nobel Prize-winning cancer discovery that changed the world. In cinemas September 27th, 2019.
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Nom-nom or dinner call? Silverbacks sing as they eat.

Dominant wild silverbacks wax musical with their mouths full.

Image source: Grant Tiffen/Shutterstock
  • Recent recordings of gorillas singing as they eat add the species to a lengthening list of musical eaters in the animal kingdom.
  • Two types of songs have been recorded: a hum, and, well, gorilla improv.
  • It's suspected that spoken language may begin with songs.
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Snakes with hind legs were the old normal

A tiny, perfectly preserved 3D fossil from Argentina tells us more about an early snake.

Illustration: Raúl Gómez
  • It turns out legs, and least back legs, were no passing fancy for some serpents.
  • Hind legs were found on Najash snakes, a bridge species between lizards and snakes.
  • A new study provides several new insights into Najash rionegrina.
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