Currents

    Disturbance Traced to Sound Wave

    A group of scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography has determined that a mysterious disturbance recorded by seismographs across Southern California earlier this month came from a giant sound wave originating from an area of ocean reserved for military exercises and off-limits to civilian activity.

    The April 4 wave shook homes, rattled windows and set off more than two dozen seismometers before “petering out” over the Imperial Desert. The researchers determined that the disturbance came from a low-frequency wave from Warning Area 291, which includes San Clemente Island, a site that serves as a frequent home of military operations. Military officials said there were no tests in Warning Area 291 that day.

    The team also compiled a list of similar, though less powerful, wave-induced disturbances originating from the same area. Scientists suggested the possibility of a meteor disturbance in the atmosphere, but the American Meteor Society has not reported any recent meteors in the area.

    Starlings Learn Grammar Patterns

    Starlings have the ability to learn syntactic patterns previously thought learnable only by humans, according to a new UCSD study.

    Led by psychology professor Timothy Q. Genter and published in this week’s issue of Nature, the study revealed that the three-ounce birds have the ability to classify acoustic sequences defined by center-embedded grammars, which occur when new words and clauses are inserted into sentences, adding new information to the sentence and making it longer.

    The birds were able to distinguish between sets of songs with additional sounds inserted in the middle.

    The findings contradict a similar 2004 study using cotton-top tamarin monkeys and challenge the long-held beliefs of linguists including Noam Chomsky, who say that the ability to identify and construct center-embedded grammars is a defining feature of human speech.

    Tech Institute Names Resident Artist

    The UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology has named its first artist in residence in an effort by technologists to give artists a more visible role in the evolution of scientific research.

    The institute appointed visual arts professor and Director of UCSD’s Center for Research and Computing in the Arts Sheldon Brown for a two-year term. His work examines relationships between “mediated and physical experiences” and crosses many art genres, including sculpture, painting, video and virtual reality.

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