Most Shared

This odd commonality between kids and birds could be a major neuroscience breakthrough.

Eating food off the ground, pooping with abandon, and language acquisition — three things kids and birds have in common.

This odd commonality between kids and birds could be a major neuroscience breakthrough.

You, like most humans, were born — and about a year later, you learned to talk.

A uniquely human story, right? Not so fast.

It turns out, when it comes to language learning, songbirds are a lot like humans.

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, suggests humans and songbirds both rely on patterns to categorize sounds into words.


The birds are already tweeting this story like crazy. Images by Thinkstock.

When human children acquire a language, they learn sounds and words at the same time.

These sounds work together to create patterns. These complex patterns are categorized as words.

When a child greets their mother for the first time, it might sound like they're just saying the individual "ma" sound twice in a row, but they're actually deliberately saying "mama" as a complex pattern, which forms a word that means something specific.

It may seem silly, but the difference is significant.

This sweet little guy is hiding out before the birds arrive. Image by Thinkstock.

Like humans, European starlings, a common songbird, use complex patterns to communicate.

Their "words" are made up of warbles, rattles, whistles, and other high-pitched tones — like children.

Baths now. Equal footing with humans later. Image by Thinkstock.

The researches wanted to see if pattern recognition influenced the ability of European starlings to categorize sounds.

In the study, two groups of starlings had to categorize a string of complex sounds.

The starlings in the first group heard the sounds in a specific order, while the starlings in the second group did not.

And boom. Without the sounds in a specific order, it was much harder for the second group of starlings to categorize what they heard.

Cooooool. So what does it all mean?

It means that the starlings rely on pattern much like humans do.

Be kind to our new bird overlords. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

This odd biological coincidence could be a breakthrough for neuroscientists.

While starlings don't use words, they can provide insight into the cognitive processes that make language learning possible.

Research and advancements like this shed some light on the brain, a wildly complex organ that we know very little about. There's still a lot of of work to be done in this field.

For now though, keep an eye (and ear) on the sky.

A chattering of starlings, no doubt discussing the avian uprising. Photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less

Working parents have always had the challenge of juggling career and kids. But during the pandemic, that juggling act feels like a full-on, three-ring circus performance, complete with clowns and rings of fire and flying elephants.

With millions of kids doing virtual learning, our routines and home lives have taken a dramatic shift. Some parents are trying to navigate working from home at the same time, some are trying to figure out who's going to watch over their kids while they work outside the home, and some are scrambling to find a new job because theirs got eliminated due to the pandemic. In addition to the logistical challenges, parents also have to deal with the emotional ups and downs of their kids, who are also dealing with an uncertain and altered reality, while also managing their own existential dread.

It's a whole freaking lot right now, honestly.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
True

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

Keep Reading Show less