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Advances in evolution

Susan Lindquist, professor in molecular genetics and cell biology (below), led a team that identified a link between outside temperatures and genetic changes in body structure. They reported in the November 19 issue of Nature that temperature and other environmental changes can cause a chemical known as heatshock protein to stop performing its role in preventing genetic irregularities, which helps explain some rapid evolutionary changes.

Try reasoning with your crying baby...

They catch on to the actions of those around them a lot faster than researchers once thought, according to findings by Amanda Woodward, assistant professor in psychology. In the current issue of Cognition, Woodward reports that babies begin to develop social reasoning skills as early as 5 months of age. Her studies show that young babies can understand, for example, the purpose of some of their adult caregivers’ movements and that two objects cannot occupy the same space—disputing long held views that infants under 1 year old cannot grasp goal-directed action.

When do birds sing?

In the December 18 issue of Science, U of C neurologist Daniel Margoliash describes how the zebra finch appears to rehearse its song while sleeping. Exploring the role of dreams in human learning, Margoliash discovered a pattern of activity in the sleeping bird’s brain that had been expected to appear only when it’s awake and singing.

New Zealand—here we come!

GSB professor Robert Vishny contributed to a report for the National Bureau of Economic Research that looks at what makes good governments work. The most effective formula, per Vishny: Big governments overseeing rich, homogeneous populations in temperate climates.—J.P.

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