Online Insights on fiveAA, Sunday, August 12, 2007

August 12, 2007

Why Files
This site carries in-depth articles on the “science behind the news”. There are articles about bridge collapses, space shuttles, euthanasia, etc.
Today’s top story was about the “vocabulary explosion” that occurs around 18 to 24 months of age. It is one of the more amazing feats of human learning. After months of sipping and snacking at language, the toddler begins to guzzle and gulp.
Did you know that as a child, we learn about 8 to 10 words a day right through until adulthood, by which time we have a “personal dictionary” of about 50,000 words, sometimes more?
There have been lots of theories about the vocab explosion, but whyfiles looks at one put forward by  Bob McMurray, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. He says the key is repeated exposure to words that are more or less difficult to learn.
Here it is, in brief:

  • A few words are easy to learn, a few are difficult, but most lie in between;
  • Toddlers are exposed to many words each day, through direct conversation and hearing speech around them; and
  • Each exposure to a word imparts some information about its sound or meaning. 

If you grant these assumptions, logic says that for any particular child, the time needed to learn a word depends on its difficulty and the number of exposures. Imagine a system where each exposure to a word earns you 10 cents toward “learning” it. Some words are cheap: You can learn “dog” for just $1.00. Others are more expensive: “Peacock” may cost $2.00, while a toughie word like “elaboration” might cost $5.00.
More important, this process of learning lots of words at once is the root explanation for the vocab explosion, McMurray says. “You are working on all these at the same time, and every day, you get a step closer to learning all your words. Some have a low threshold, and you step over that quickly.”
Others words take longer, but because so many words have intermediate difficulty, the result is the extraordinary period where the toddler gulps, not sips, words. “You only learn a couple of words a day at the beginning, but at some point, you hit the midrange, and you learn lots of words at once,” McMurray says.

Weird Things People Eat
The idea of good and bad “taste” is a very relative concept, especially when it refers to international cuisine. Gadling.Com presents the aptly titled “Weird Things People Eat Around the World”, a fun visual tour of some of the planet’s strangest foods and edible products.
Anyone with a weak stomach should avoid reading this article during their lunch break, as it contains some truly revolutionary and “tasteful”
delicacies. The three-page list includes a variety of tasty treats such as “Cone Pizza” in South Korea (yes, pizza in the shape of ice cream cones), Pickled Snake Head Fish, Salmon Candy, Cow Lung, Canned Giant Water Bugs (look like grasshoppers).
There’s a wonderful video of a Beijing Steet Market where there is an array of skewered bugs including shiny, black scorpians.
On the other side of the world, there is a feature of a bag of chocolate french fries from Seattle called Cocoa Crispers.

Star Forum
WineStar is an excellent, Australian online retailer of wine. This link isn’t to promote their sales, but rather there excellent forum. If you even have questions about wine or want to enjoy a surprising discovery of new wine, this is great for a regular, fireside visit.
They have a news section, a wine tasting section where users post their takes on various wines, a World of Wine section which captures everything else and, finally, a meet the winemaker section.
At the moment, the featured winemaker in the forum is Ben Glaetzer (Heartland, Mitolo, etc) and he answers a range of questions with frankness and a very down-to-earth demeanour. He gets drilled on why his wines have such high alcohol levels and he explains it is to do with our sunlight and climatic conditions as much as anything else. “Physiological ripeness in the Hunter for Semillon is around 9 to 11 Baume – the fruit tastes ripe and balanced at that stage. If I harvested McLaren Vale Semillon at that level the grapes would be as hard as bullets and have nothing other than acid – simply the difference between the regions. The regions I make wine from generally show flavour ripeness between 14 and 15 Baume hence 14 to 15.5% alcohol, I’m not looking for the alcohol I’m looking for the integration.”
And if you wondered what a young, Aussie winemaker keeps in his cellar, he reveals “Cellar wise it’s a fairly good mix, 80% Italian (Tuscans, Sardinians etc), 10% French and the balance Argentine/Spanish/Portuguese/Aussie.”

Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today.
The mission of Project Gutenberg is simple: To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.
This mission is, as much as possible, to encourage all those who are interested in making eBooks and helping to give them away.
Therefore Project Gutenberg is powered totally by volunteers.
Many of their most popular eBooks started out with huge error levels–only later did they come to the more polished levels seen today. In fact, many of their eBooks were done totally without any supervision–by people who had never heard of Project Gutenberg–and only sent to Project Gutennberg after the fact. They then ask volunteers to convert them to other formats, and to incrementally correct errors as times goes on.
The library contains 20,000 free books and also includes audio books too. (the complete library contains 100,000 books).
Mark Twain is one of my favourite authors and he has a whole host of books in the library.
Some of the top, most downloaded books include:  Jokes For All Occasions by Anonymous (361) , Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period by Paul Lacroix (324) , Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (268) ,  Kamasutra by Vatsyayana (252) , Woman as Decoration by Emily Burbank (226) , and Illustrated History of Furniture by Frederick Litchfield (203).

Adelaide’s Archetecture
This wonderful pool of photos all feature great architecture and landscapes from around Adelaide. There are a number of photographers who have contributed to this pool and I recommend selecting the “slideshow” button so you can sit back and enjoy our wonderful city.
I particularly enjoyed the classic shot of the Elder Park rotunda. Click on the high res version and enjoy the beautiful detail of the blue and gold paintwork. This collection will really help us rediscover our city.
There’s great shots of the cathedral at night, statues, windows, and sunset at Henley Beach is very meditative.
Then there’s the delightful shot of pegs on a clothesline that takes you by surprise.