A River No More

Young Kingfishers. The bird book: illustrating in natural colors more than seven hundred North American birds; also several hundred photographs of their nests and eggs by Chester A. Reed.

Young Kingfishers. The bird book: illustrating in natural colors more than seven hundred North American birds; also several hundred photographs of their nests and eggs by Chester A. Reed.

By William Yardley for the New York Times

Philip Fradkin, who died on July 8th, was a writer whose 13 books often focused on the legacy of environmental destruction in the West and took aim at what he and others viewed as the persistent misunderstanding and simplification of the region and its culture by many in the East.
One, “A River No More: The Colorado River and the West,” detailed how water wars, dams and development devastated that river’s natural course.

Philip Lawrence Fradkin was born in Manhattan on Feb. 28, 1935, the son of Dr. Leon H. Fradkin, a dentist who had migrated from Russia, and Elvira Kush, an activist who wrote and advocated for disarmament and women’s rights. He became enamored of the West during a road trip with his father when he was 14.

After graduating from Williams College he made his way westward, working for small newspapers in California in the early 1960s before being hired by The Los Angeles Times in 1964. He shared in a Pulitzer Prize the paper received in 1966 for its coverage of the Watts riots, and later covered the Vietnam War.

In 1970 he created an environmental beat at the paper. He left in 1975 — he said his editor had told him his articles were tilting toward environmentalism — and became an environmental policy expert in the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/us/philip-fradkin-writer-of-western-themes-dies-at-77.html

Is Grammar Unique to Human Language?

the strawberry thief
While birdsong has long been known to share similarities with human language, the ability to convey different bits of information by simply rearranging word order was thought to be exclusively human.

This study revealed that Bengalese finches can learn grammar and, furthermore, that their grammatical abilities involve a specific part of the brain region distinct from other brain regions involved in singing. This is similar to what neuroscientists understand about human language processing.

If the tweets of birds can be roughly likened to strings of human words, and if bird brains process songs in a way similar to how human brains process language, future research may tackle whether these animals possess other cognitive abilities once thought to be singularly characteristic of human intelligence.

About the Author: Danielle Perszyk is a social neuroscience researcher at the Yale Child Study Center, where she studies autism using electrophysiological methods. At Williams College, studying cognitive science and neuroscience, she wrote a thesis on the neural mechanisms underlying syntax in birdsong. She is interested in the mind from an evolutionary perspective and is pursuing her PhD in cognitive psychology.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/10/28/are-birds-tweets-grammatical/

Strawberry Thief is one of William Morris’s most popular repeating designs for textiles. It takes as its subject the thrushes that Morris found stealing fruit in the kitchen garden of his countryside home, Kelmscott Manor, in Oxfordshire. To print the pattern Morris used the ancient and painstaking indigo-discharge method he admired above all forms of printing.