Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Science Update: Chimps and Death, Melanin Protection for Radiation Therapy, and Learning Hebrew

Not much time for original writing today, but here are excerpts from a few recent ScienceDaily reports I have found interesting:

How Chimps Deal With Death: Studies Offer Rare Glimpses
ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2010) — Two studies in the April 27th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, offer rare glimpses into the ways that chimpanzees deal with the deaths of those closest to them. In one case, researchers describe the final hours and moment of death of an older female chimp living in a small group at a UK safari park as captured on video...
In the days leading up to the chimp's death, the group was very quiet and paid close attention to her, the researchers report. Immediately before she died, she received much grooming and caressing from the others, who appeared to test her for signs of life as she died. They left her soon after, but her adult daughter returned and remained by her mother all night. When keepers removed the mother's body the next day, the chimpanzees remained calm and subdued. For several days they avoided sleeping on the platform where the female had died, even though it was normally a favored sleeping spot, and remained subdued for some time after the death.

Novel Nanoparticles Prevent Radiation Damage
ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2010) — Tiny, melanin-covered nanoparticles may protect bone marrow from the harmful effects of radiation therapy, according to scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University who successfully tested the strategy in mouse models. Infusing these particles into human patients may hold promise in the future.

Teaching a Foreign Language? Best Teach in the Accent of the Listener
ScienceDaily (Feb. 17, 2010) — Perception of second language speech is easier when it is spoken in the accent of the listener and not in the 'original' accent of that language, shows a new study from the University of Haifa. The study was published in the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.
Many adult schools teaching second languages insist on exposing their students to the languages in their 'original' accents. However, this new study, carried out by Dr. Raphiq Ibrahim and Dr. Mark Leikin of the University of Haifa's Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities, Prof. Zohar Eviatar of the Department of Psychology and Prof. Shimon Sapir of the Department of Learning Disabilities, found that this system is not necessarily the best and certainly not the most expeditious.


  1. Several weeks ago, I discussed that same Haifa University study:

    I explained why I'm not sure that I agree with the researchers' conclusion.

  2. Learning Hebrew as a second language is further complicated by the fact that it is not a foreign language for most who are being taught it, at least in the frum communities. Prior to any formal language instruction whatsoever we are exposed to the language on a daily basis, and for many, many people the exposure is not to the accent of modern Hebrew as spoken in Israel. It is to the accent of a baal tefilah in shul, to the accent of our parents as they teach us to make a brocha or as a father makes kiddush. It is to the accent of our moras or rebbeim as they teach us in yeshiva.

    By the time we hit any formal education in safah we are already "speaking" a different dialect with a different accent. And losing that accent is difficult to say the least. Those who are raised in different parts of the US speak/pronounce English differently from other parts of the country. Even moving from one part of the country to another doesn't mean that you lose your accent by being exposed to a different way of pronouncing things. Southerners are always going to sound like Southerners and Westerners are always going to sound like Westerners no matter where else they may find themselves living. And yes, it can sometimes be difficult for those from one part of the country to understand clearly those from another part.

  3. Mrs. S-
    Yes, and I think that the widespread practice of hiring Israelis to teach Hebrew is because most people agree with you: Better to take a little longer to learn the language, but learn it as it is currently spoken.

    I hear what you are saying, but I'm not sure it applies to the research group they identify in the study.