If Cupid wanted to make songbirds fall in love, he’d better aim at their brains. That’s because songbirds, which form lifelong mating pairs, have brain systems perfectly tuned to fit together.
Take finches. A male learns his father’s song, and performs it to attract a mate.
A female finch also learns her father’s song, but she doesn’t perform. She’s the critic. She decides if she wants to keep him around. (Females tend to prefer elaborate songs with more syllables.)
Researchers say that each sex uses what’s called its sound control system to convert sound waves to social messages and then use them to find mates. “The magic of the songbird is that vocal learning is incredibly rare to find in animals,” said Sarah Woolley, a neuroscientist at Columbia University.
She believes that by understanding how songbirds use their brains to make sense of sound, she can learn more about how humans use theirs to develop language.
Is the moon key to deep space missions?
A University of Central Florida scientist is developing a process that could mine the moon of its ice, which could open the way for rocket-fuel production on the lunar surface. That would make it more likely that rockets could take off from the moon with enough force to, for the first time, expand a vehicle’s range.
“The cost of spaceflight is primarily driven by the launch of propellants into space,” said UCF’s Phil Metzger, who has a contract with United Launch Alliance to explore the potential. “If we could get those propellants from space, we could cut those costs.”
But sending hardware to the moon might not be cost-efficient, said Jon Goff, who runs robotics company Altius Space Machines. “Once you get stuff launched from the moon, will it still always be cheaper than launching from Earth? That is an open question.”