Today's Best Science: Mercury Orbiting, Toxin-Sucking Bananas, Language Colors Perception

By Patrick Morgan | March 16, 2011 10:28 pm
  • Orbit time! Launched in 2004, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will this Friday become the first probe to orbit Mercury—potentially uncovering polar ice or explaining why the planet is oddly dense.
  • Older AND wiser: When scientists played recordings of lion roars for elephants, they discovered that the oldest female elephants were the most sensitive, and even discerned the calls of lions from lionesses.
  • Health experts say that this year’s cholera epidemic in Haiti could affect double the UN’s prediction of 400,000 people. The UN’s “crude” predictions assumed only a certain percentage of the population would be affected, whereas the new estimate takes water supplies and immunity into consideration.
  • Bananas are redefining the term “water-purification plant.” It turns out minced banana peels efficiently remove toxic metals from drinking water.
  • Your blue is not my bleu: A new study suggests that language colors our thoughts, after they found that Japanese volunteers distinguished light and dark blues better than English speakers.
  • Japan update: The U.S. government thinks Japan has underestimated nuclear risk since last Friday’s quake, saying that Fukushima Daiichi’s No. 4 nuclear reactor has probably boiled dry and is leaking radiation. As Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission said to the New York Times, “We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”

Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

  • Elissa

    Interesting! Probably change the tag from biligual to bilingual to make finding this easier. =)

  • Wesley

    Language colors our thoughts because Japanese volunteers distinguish shades of blue better than english speakers?? So many holes in that logic I don’t even know where to start…

  • Jockaira

    Anyone westerner who has ever spent some time in Japan or dedicated real time to the appreciation of its modern art, knows that the Japanese grasp of color is quite different from ours, and no doubt from others’ also.

    It is so different and so characteristic that an experienced eye can readily identify the Japanese source of many artifacts or print-media artforms simply by what I call “Japanese colors”. If you don’t believe me ask any western artist who paints in oils or acrylic.

    It has long been known among philologists, linguists, etc., that different language groups frequently classify colors in different ways, some even maintaining more or less than three primary colors. Of course this language reality-modeling would have an effect on perception and use of color, just as it has in many other areas.

    If you think that language doesn’t “color” our thoughts and perceptions, then perhaps you are color blind, or maybe have only a superficial understanding of language and the breadth of its usages and its subsequent effect on people.

    There’s a link in the blurb above about the Japanese discrimination of blue shades…it’s probably worth your time to click on it and read it.

  • alems

    There are so many other characteristics that set the japanese apart from english speakers. Who’s to say it’s just the language that causes this different colour perception? Could be a whole host of other things.


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