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Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 | 4 comments

Rats, Words, and the Human World

Rats, Words, and the Human World

In 2010 Radiolab ran a story on words, the first act of which was titled “Words that Change the World” (if you don’t know what Radiolab is, you should check it out—it’s awesome). During the story they related an experiment (of course involving rats) that revealed some interesting things about the role language plays in our lives. In the experiment, a rat was placed in a rectangular white box, and food was hidden in one corner. The rat was shown the food, then spun about so it no longer knew where the food was. It was then supposed to go to the corner in which the food had been placed. However, given that the walls were all white, the rat had no way to orient itself and it only headed to the correct side of the room about fifty percent of the time. The experimenters then painted one wall blue, and you’d expect that this would have solved the rat’s orientation problem. It didn’t. Rats can do color, and...

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Posted by on Jun 7, 2013 | 8 comments

Many Horizons

Many Horizons

I grew up just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota in its northwest suburbs. Throughout my childhood, I would excitedly climb into the car ready for a trip to “the city.” I can still close my eyes and see the twist of the highway that would reveal the sparkling cityscape of Minneapolis slowly climbing higher into the sky as I approached. When I grow a bit homesick, this is the Minneapolis I long for. But, this is not the only “Minneapolis.” If you come in from the east, the city that appears is much different than the Minneapolis of my childhood; from that angle there is the mighty Mississippi and fluffy-white of the Metrodome at the forefront of the city, both of which are hidden coming in from the west—but, it is the same city. And, of course, there is a real Minneapolis, which, if someone claimed contained a mountain range in the distance or rivaled the size of Chicago, the city would be able to “bite back” and insist that...

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