Thursday, August 30, 2007

Perfect pitch: you got it or you don't

This story caught my eye - so I am giving you a few details because a Scientific American story reports that you don't have to be Mozart to correctly identify a tone as A-sharp or D-flat. In fact, says a new report, perfect pitch may be genetic.

Says reporter Nikhil Swaminathan, "In the midst of recruiting subjects for a genetic study on perfect (absolute) pitch—the ability to discern a note from nearly any sort of sound without a reference tone—scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered several interesting patterns among people who have the skill.

"Among the findings of the study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA : 'Either you've got it or you don't," says senior report author Jane Gitschier, a professor of medicine and pediatrics at U.C.S.F. She says that data collected from more than 2,000 people aged eight to 70 years old during the study indicates that there is likely a genetic basis to perfect pitch—one she believes is activated by early music training "Absolute pitch almost certainly requires exposure to music at a young age," Gitschier notes. "You need to have some idea of the nomenclature.'"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Facebook shares photos from the unborn

I was taken with this story, so I am sharing it - let's say social networking, new technology and communications makes it right for WendSight.

Says FOX News, "It already has its own Facebook page and more than 100 people want to be its friend — but Bubba Waring, described by its mother as "the world's most famous fetus," hasn't actually been born yet. Sydney couple Claire Gillis and Luke Waring, who are expecting their first child in three months, initially turned to the social networking site to keep their family and friends updated on the pregnancy. But instead of creating a profile under her own name, Gillis said she thought it would be better to do it from her unborn child's perspective.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Global warming - come on people wake up!

Back to the same ol' same ol' - does global warming exist - you would think we were talking about extraterrestrial life or ET sightings.

SCIAM OBSERVATIONS Opinions, arguments and analyses from the editors of Scientific American: Newsweek denies the existence of global warming covers this this week.

Maybe it's because I don't have the faith in people that I should, but I find this Newsweek cover really irresponsible. Actually, it's due to the polls cited in the article--and those I have seen elsewhere--that suggest that the American public thinks, among other things, that scientists are still trying to determine if global warming is for real and that it's a major issue in the upcoming Presidential election.

Sure, the cover is provocative and gripping, but it also may be doing a disservice to the general public and the people working hard to develop new ways to combat what is realistically the greatest threat to our livelihood: climate change. In fact, global warming isn't just a threat. Combating it will require us to dramatically change the way we live. (But, you've heard this all before.)

Anyway, as a journalist and magazine junkie, I spend a lot of time combing newsstands for new reads, eye-catching designs and little bites of information that can be gleaned from a cover line, a headline or a quick turn through a publication. So, if I am scanning a magazine rack--assuming I am not a science writer--what am I going to think when I see this Newsweek cover.

Probably not much. The Internet hasn't killed all journalism, but it certainly has deeply wounded news-weeklies like Time, US News and Newsweek. Am I going to take the time to read what the asterisk is referencing? Maybe. Another plausible scenario could be: I just read the big print, forget about it and then three weeks later--while I am talking to someone about politics or energy policy or compact fluorescent light bulbs--blurt out, "I read somewhere that global warming is a hoax."

I know I am being a little dramatic, but I think this cover would better serve readers (or, more importantly, casual observers), if it said something like: "Minority Report: The Global Warming Deniers".

Hat tip to Charlie Petit over at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker for bringing this to my attention.