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News stories have a measurable impact on Americans taking to Twitter to talk about policy issues, according to a study published today in Science. Researchers found people — regardless of their gender or political affiliation — discussed race, immigration and other topics more often after stories were published than if news outlets weren't covering the issues.
The bottom line: If a few small outlets can have an effect on the national conversation as the study suggests, study author Gary King says bad actors may also be able to have a big impact. "And so we all have this responsibility to make some kinds of decisions about the entire ecosystem since it seems to be highly influential," according to King, who's a social scientist at Harvard University.
Axios' Erin Ross writes: In classrooms in the U.S. and around the world, science is often taught as an idea that began with the Greeks. Now there is a growing movement calling for science to be decolonized, and to acknowledge the contributions and ideas of non-Western peoples.
At the World Conference of Science Journalists last month, South African science writer Sibusiso Biyela spoke about how language inequality can keep people — and ideas — out of science. Axios followed up with Biyela to ask whether colonization still influences science in South Africa today.
"Do you really understand something if you don't understand it in your own language?" Biyela asks.
For all the emphasis on language's role in communication, many animals — including us talking humans — communicate non-vocally. We clap and knock on doors. Other unintentional sounds, like our footsteps, communicate our presence.
Other animals do the same. The wing songs of mosquitoes harmonize before they will mate. Rattlesnakes rattle, presumably to signal their presence. Darwin was interested in how these sounds influence our behavior and interactions.
"We're still discovering what animals do this, the biology of how and the relationship between how a sound is made and then how it is used by the animal," says Chris Clark, a biologist at the University of California Riverside.
Australian National University's Trevor Murray tried to address those questions by studying crested pigeons. First, the team synchronized high-speed video of the birds taking off (pictured above) with audio recordings and confirmed that the birds produced a distinct sound with their feathers when fleeing.
They then trimmed some of their feathers — specifically an unusually thin one and those surrounding it. When they played back audio recordings of the sound made without the skinny feather to other birds, the birds did not flee. (When the skinny feather was there, they did.)
The closest relatives of the crested pigeon don't have these unusually shaped feathers. And because the shape produces the sound, it suggests the feathers actually evolved to produce that sound, Murray says. The advantage of these built-in noisemakers? He says by fleeing together the birds may have a smaller chance that a predator will catch them.