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News Currents: Talking Whales and Math at the Solar System's End

Wed, 2012-10-24 11:39 -- cgorski
Oct 24 2012 - 11:30am
By: Chris Gorski
Image of Voyager Spacecraft. Credit: NASA http://1.usa.gov/P2uQVr

To start off this edition of our News Currents links series, please follow this link and listen to the audio clip embedded there.  

This NBCnews story, written by Alan Boyle, provides numerous interesting details on these whale sounds. 

The whale responsible for making these kazoo-like utterings, called NOC, managed to make noises that could be confused with human speech and words. NOC, a white beluga whale, was captured in 1977 and worked with the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. The story also mentions some other talking whale anecdotes -- pretty interesting stuff. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal also wrote about the same newly published research that features NOC. The story also references a failed effort to build a dolphin embassy. "The embassy was to be a place to commune with 'delphic' civilization in groovy repose," he wrote.

The US spacecraft called Voyager 1 and 2 are inching towards the far edges of our solar system, albeit at roughly 39,000 mph. They're nearing the point where they'll break out of our solar system and keep going to explore what lies beyond. Here's a great story from the BBC's Christopher Riley and Dallas Campbell, about how a graduate student's math breakthrough made both spacecraft possible.

This story from Slate's Benjamin Phelan discusses the incredible history of humans drinking milk. Up until about 10,000 years ago, the article says, only infants could process the milk sugar called lactose. Following a genetic mutation, the article states, "In an evolutionary eye-blink, 80 percent of Europeans became milk-drinkers; in some populations, the proportion is close to 100 percent. (Though globally, lactose intolerance is the norm; around two-thirds of humans cannot drink milk in adulthood.)"

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