Chimp gestures and human language are underpinned by same mathematical principles

Are these two laws universal throughout nature?

Photo credit: ZOOM DOSSO / AFP / Getty Images
  • Zipf's law of abbreviation and Menzerath's law seem to govern not just human speech but chimpanzee gestures.
  • Fifty-eight individual chimp gestures were catalogued in a new study.
  • Their presence points to an intriguing overlap between language and genetic chemistry.
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Did ancient cave artists share a global language?

The same 32 symbols show up in prehistoric European cave art.

Photo credit: PIERRE ANDRIEU / AFP / Getty Images
  • Many of these symbols are found in caves in Africa, Asia, Australia and America as well.
  • At least 40,000 years old, the set of symbols may have been a universal communications tool.
  • Among these symbols is the iconic hashtag.
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How to use a thesaurus to actually improve your writing

Looking up big, fancy words won't make your writing better. But a thesaurus can help – if you use it like this.

  • Using a thesaurus to find larger or more impressive words is misguided, says Martin Amis. Instead, use a thesaurus to find words with the perfect rhythm for your sentence.
  • For example, the Nabokov novel "Invitation to a Beheading" was originally called – not for very long – "Invitation to an Execution". Nabokov nixed the repetitive suffix.
  • A dictionary is also a writer's best friend; looking up words has a rejuvenating effect on your mind, says Amis. "When you look up a word in the dictionary you own it in a way you didn't before. You know what it comes from and you know its exact meaning."
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How to learn a new language while you sleep

Sleep encoding turns out to be a real thing.

Laura Li prepares to take a nap in YeloSpa, in New York, on May 1, 2018, where New Yorkers can pay for a cabin to take a nap, and recharge energy without having to return to their homes. (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
  • While it was believed you cannot learn new information while asleep, a new study in Switzerland makes the case for sleep encoding.
  • 41 native German speakers were introduced to a nonsense word alongside a German word to forge a relationship.
  • When tested while awake, the real word was defined by the nonsense word 10 percent higher than random chance, suggesting a bond was formed while asleep.
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Is cursive writing important to child development?

Legislators push to keep cursive in their schools' curricula, but experts seem split as to whether it's necessary.

Tracy Burns checks her third grade student Nikolai Wilkins' cursive writing during class. (Photo: Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
  • Ohio has joined many other states in reestablishing cursive in their schools' curricula.
  • Research shows the value handwriting has for developing children's fine motor skills and a connection between words and memory.
  • But experts seem split on whether it's a question of print vs. cursive, or cognitive fluency vs. disconnect.
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