How do we become mimics?

Many of us will be familiar with the experience of inadvertently copying someone else’s accent. While such mimicry might get you mocked, as it has for David Miliband recently when he adopted Russell Brand’s cockney accent during the election campaign, it is, in fact, an important signal that we use to try to convey a sense of similarity between ourselves and others. We don’t only mimic accents, we mimic others’ body postures, mannerisms, and facial expressions, and we seem to do this unconsciously.

Adaptations for low drag, downforce and eddy use in hillstream loaches

High in the hills steep gradients lead to raging torrents in the streams. Hillstream loaches are a group of fishes specialised to cope with these violent high-speed flows. These fishes have evolved an array of adaptations to reduce drag and to stick to the bottom, equivalent to the downforce generating wings and skirts of F1 racing cars, and drag-reducing riblet skin-architecture of Mako sharks. However, the conditions hillstream loaches live in are more severe than either Mako sharks or F1 cars experience.

Assessing the potential of lunar geology as a window into galactic history

Our Solar System has orbited the Milky Way galaxy approximately twenty times since it formed 4.6 billion years ago, and during this time it will have been exposed to a wide range of galactic environments (Figure a).  Reconstructing this history would provide astronomically valuable information on the structure and evolution of this galaxy. In addition, because galactic events may influence life on Earth, knowledge of the galactic environment through time is of interest in assessing the past habitability of our own planet.

The role of cross-modal information in inter-performer musical communication

In contrast to what may perhaps be expected, musical communication is at the heart crossmodal, not unimodal. It is true that audition is central to typical musical experiences (e.g. listening over headphones), and musical sounds receive meaning in reference to each other (e.g. one tone forms the bass with respect to a higher melody tone). Nevertheless, when music is acoustically produced and when musicians perform together, music is as much a physical and visual activity as an auditory one.

The Oxford Children's Corpus: lessons for learning to read

The written word is arguably the greatest cultural invention. Orthography (the conventional writing system of a language) provides a set of tools that allows us to write words so that others who share our tools can also share our thoughts, ideas, and dreams. The written word allows us to create narratives that play to our imaginations or teach us about the world; transcending space and time, it is almost impossible to imagine the world without it.

Cell wall mechanics and stomatal function

Although leaves may look solid, their surface is covered with microscopic pores, termed stomata. These pores play a key role in controlling how much carbon dioxide enters the plant for photosynthesis and, at the same time, how much water escapes. The pores are formed by two cells (guard cells) which swell and shrink via the control of an internal pressure called turgor. This pressure is the result of the pumping of salts into and out of the cells, leading to the flow of water into and out of the cells.

Screening art. Modernism and the socialist imaginary in East German cinema

It is tempting to dismiss the cinema of the former German Democratic Republic as nothing more than a minor episode in the history of European film production. However, during the 40 or so years of its existence, the DEFA studios in Potsdam-Babelsberg produced some 700 feature films and a huge quantity of newsreels, documentaries and films for children.

A 3D atlas of the heliosphere and solar storms

The corona, or the solar atmosphere, is a hot, magnetised plasma. At a million degree or higher, it is very hot – hot enough to almost completely ionise the gas so that it is composed of separate protons and electrons instead of neutral atoms. It is a very different environment to our atmosphere on Earth. Its structure and time evolution is dominated by the solar magnetic field. The plasma is constantly outflowing outwards into interplanetary space, and as it does so, it drags the magnetic field with it.

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