Scientists’ lifestyle

Issues related to the every day life of scientists when they are not working

Looking forward to Christmas

In the West, it's relatively easy to get caught up in the euphoria of Christmas, isn't it? Regardless of one's beliefs in the origins of the Universe and humanity's place in it, countless millions of us succumb to the fake snow and the artificial sentimentality. The twinkling lights, the shops full cotton polymer resin reindeer, the children's (and adult toys), chocolate goodies, the interminable loops of festive songs on the radio, the TV shows you just know were recorded in July but have jolly tinsel and baubles nevertheless. Then there are the parties, the lunchtime "Christmas" drinks, Secret Santa, the bustling shopping centres, the ubiquitous sound of a Jingle Bells sample in every muzak track. Oh isn't it all so wonderful?
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Science of sounds

In his latest book, Harnessed, cognitive scientist Mark Changizi, reveals how and why language, speech and music exist, and why they are apparently uniquely human attributes that separate us, as a species, from the rest of life on Earth. A fact that also gives us special responsibility for the Earth, you might say. According to Changizi, the "lower" parts of the brain, the bits that recognise the sounds of nature, the scuffs, cracks and bangs, were hijacked by the "upper" parts of our brain and give us speech as we evolved from our ape-like hominid ancestors.
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