These interesting short articles in English can boost your vocabulary and reading skills in a few minutes a day! Check out the variety of topics-- you're sure to find something you'll enjoy.
"New Caledonian Crows Are Even Smarter and Scarier Than We Thought" examines the way crows use tools. Researchers taught the crows that they would get a reward when they put a piece of paper of the proper size into a slot. Then they gave the crows a larger piece of paper. The crows figured out that they needed to rip it into the proper size.
(In their native environment, these crows rip tree leaves apart to get food. Researchers wondered if they would use a similar technique with a new material.) The fact that they did shows impressive learning abilities—and raises questions the scientists want to explore in further studies.
This article on how much of our speech dogs actually understand describes a study of the way dog brains respond to familiar commands vs gibberish (sounds with no meaning to people.)
Owners trained their dogs to bring them either a monkey or a pig toy. After they were thoroughly trained, the dogs lay down in an fMRI scanner that read their brainwaves while their owner spoke to them.
In some of the trials, the owners would say ‘piggy’ or ‘monkey’ and then show them that toy. In other trials the owners held up various other objects while saying made-up words.
Unexpectedly, the dogs’ auditory brain regions showed more activity when they heard the gibberish. You’ll need to read the article to find out what the researchers guess is going on.
Things are very dry (and hot) in California right now (summer 2022), and the governor is rationing water in some areas and warning of worse ahead. So, I read anything I find that suggests some hope.
When I found two fairly short science articles with some interesting ideas, I felt like you might be interested as well. We’re not as badly off as Capetown was, yet, but there are too many needs for the limited supply of water in this years-long drought…
So I was glad to find this short article on pulling water out of the air—even when humidity is low. Researchers at the University of Texas have developed an inexpensive gel that can pull over six liters of water a day out of air with under 15% humidity. Earlier materials needed high humidity or were much more energy intensive.
The scientists say "This could allow millions of people without consistent access to drinking water to have simple, water generating devices at home that they can easily operate," even in some of the hottest and driest parts of the earth.
A newsletter reader later shared a link for another system for getting water from the air. It’s now being used in Puerto Rico and Flint, Michigan. Its inventor hopes it can help in disaster zones and places where it’s getting hard to meet basic water needs. At the bottom of the page there’s a TED talk that discusses it. (The talk is concerned with the ongoing water crisis in Flint.)
The second article describes a few less amazing but still useful technologies that could help California (and other semi-arid climates) cope with drought.
Several are tools to monitor water use and loss: satellites to monitor farm water usage and sensors to notify homeowners of leaky faucets. Others include vertical and micro-drip farming, cloud-seeding, and desalination plants powered by wave action rather than fossil fuels. (That’s impressive to me!)
None of them can “solve” our water shortage, but they might mean we can keep going without emergencies or the loss of as many gardens and farm plantings (especially the fruit and nut trees that take years to produce but can be killed in one season without water.)
Are you interested in sports? Here's an explanation of why hitting a baseball is the hardest skill in sports. Popular Science discusses the physics, neuroscience, and coordination that make it so difficult. There's also a short video on the "sweet spot" on a bat-- the place yo want to connect with the ball for the most power (and least pain.)
The Guardian has a fascinating article about a new discovery about fungi (mushrooms and related plants we often think of as simple.)
Scientists have discovered that they send electrical signals in patterns that resemble human speech. They haven't proved that these signals are communication, but there are some surprising similarities.
The researchers wonder if the fungi might be passing on information about environmental threats or resources-- or not. Another scientist who studies fungi has noted that "the interpretation as language seems somewhat overenthusiastic" without much more research.
Don't forget to check again later for new articles!