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Baby Talk…Is It Good for the Kid Or Not?

baby-17327_640Is baby talk hurting your child? Is it helping him? These are the questions that researchers from the Laboratory for Language Development at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Tokyo asked recently. And their results are quite surprising. Moms may actually speak less clearly to their infants when they use baby talk.

The researchers looked at 22 Japanese moms talking to their children who were aged 18-24 months. Then spent five years annotating these 14 hours of speech that they captured. As the researchers said, “To our knowledge, this is one of the most finely annotated large corpora of child-directed speech in the world.” They went on to look at acoustic similarities between two syllables like “pa” and “ba.”

They found that the moms spoke slightly less clearly when they were talking to their child than they did to an experimenter. As Alejandrina Cristia, a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, said, “This finding is important because it challenges the widespread view that parents do and should hyperarticulate, using very robust data and an analysis based on a study of 10 times as many syllable contrasts as previous work.”

As researcher Andrew Martin, a member of the Tokyo team, said “Our results suggest that, at least for learning sound contrasts, the secret to infants’ language-learning genius may be in the infants themselves — the fact that they are able pick up sounds from input that is less clear than that used by adults with each other makes this accomplishment all the more remarkable.”

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Is Your Gum Keeping Your Mouth Clean?

chewing-gum-115162_640Some people find it distasteful to be around gum chompers…but that gum that they are chewing just might help them with their teeth. A study which appeared in the journal Plos One, and led by researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, has found that gum can be effective in getting rid of bacteria in the mouth.

They discovered that the first thirty seconds of chewing were the most effective and that the gum worked only if it was sugar free. They used two types of un-named spearmint gum for their study. They gave it to the participants and asked them to chew their gum for ten minutes. They found that about 100 million bacteria were detected on just one piece of the chewed gum. Chewing one piece of gum can remove as much as 10% of the oral microbial load in saliva.

They did note, however, that “Continued chewing changes the structure of the gums, decreasing the hardness of the gum due to uptake of salivary components and release of water soluble components. This presumably affects the adhesion of bacteria to the gum, causing a release of initially trapped, more weakly adhering bacteria from the gum. Such a change in composition of trapped bacteria is supported by the observation that the diversity of species trapped in chewed gum increases with chewing time.”

Their research could be used for companies that want to develop gum that can selectively remove specific disease-related bacteria.


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Valentine’s Day Ideas

You may think you have plenty of time, but Valentine’s Day really is approaching soon. Here is a clever idea to tell that someone you love them. More will be coming so watch the space for further ideas.


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Bride for a Day…without the Groom

dress-349675_640What will tour companies think of next? A Japanese tour operator may have just taken the cake, offering women who dream of that magical wedding to have it – without the groom. Cerca Travel is offering this two-day bridal package for brides…on their own in the city of Kyoto in Japan. What do brides get for this package?

With prices starting at well over a thousand dollars, you can put on a traditional Japanese gown or a white wedding gown, have a bouquet arrangement and have pictures taken. While, as their website says, you are still “young and beautiful.” You’ll have your hair and makeup done and have your gown specially fitted.

The package also includes one night in a hotel (alone?), a mini photo album and USB stick and even a groom, should you decide to throw one in.

Now as a tourist that would certainly be an interesting way to see a new city!


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Smurf Town Gets Flooded with Visitors

Picture from Wikimedia Commons of Juzcar, Spain by Jordi Hernandes

Picture from Wikimedia Commons of Juzcar, Spain by Jordi Hernandes

Talk about a random chain reaction. A tiny village in Spain painted all of its buildings blue when it was approached by Sony with the request. They were releasing The Smurfs in 3D movie and used the village of Juzcar, 13 miles from the town of Ronda, as part of their publicity stint.

Now, the village has received such a flow of tourists that they’ve agreed to keep their homes blue. And they are about to launch a Smurf theme park as well. They have attracted over 200,000 tourists with their blue color.

The Smurf Park will cost cost £36.9million to build but they are hoping to bring in at least £11 million a year to the area. The theme park would be the first of its kind in the world that focuses on the Smurfs.

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Hobbit Premieres in London

Certainly, movie buffs (and even more so Hobbit buffs) were waiting for the premier of the third installment of The Hobbit series. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies premiered in London recently. It has now opened around the world and viewers are flocking to enjoy it. Directed by Peter Jackson and starring Ian McKellen among others, this is the final installment of the three-part film based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Here, Kevin Ulrich and Gary Barber are enjoying the premiere of the movie in London with actor Ian McKellen.

Kevin Ulrich

Kevin Ulrich with Gary Barber and Ian McKellen; picture owned by Kevin Ulrich

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