Nov 10, 2010

An Excellent Tool for Learning English

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Nov 7, 2010

The Discovery Files: Tell and Show

Cognitive psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania and University of California have shown that an image displayed too quickly to be seen by an observer can be detected if the participant first hears the name of the object.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Say It -- See It.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

The results of a study led by cognitive psychologists from the University of Pennsylvania say we're more likely to see and recognize an object flashed on the screen -- if we first hear what that object is. Even if it is only on the screen for a virtually invisible 50 milliseconds! That's half as long as the blink of an eye.

In some of the tests, participants were asked to detect the presence or absence of large capital letters that flashed on the screen. In other experiments researchers showed the object ahead of time instead of verbalizing but that didn't seem to help. Only the correct verbal cues consistently led to the most positive IDs; those verbal cues worked even if the object appeared in an unexpected part of the screen.

The study is part of a larger effort to understand how high-level expectations can affect low-level sensory processing. It's like a reverse game of show-and-tell -- if we tell first, the object is more likely to show. Perception being shaped by language.

There can be many factors that influence the way we see things. One of the strongest may be the power of the spoken word -- which -- I'm out of right now.

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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The Discovery Files

Nov 1, 2010

What's Up for November, 2010:
Crescent Venus, Brilliant Jupiter, and Shower Meteors

What's Up for November?

Venus in the morning, gas giants in the evening and meteors after midnight.


Hello and welcome! I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. If your skies are clear this month, you're in for some real treats!

Venus is up first ... literally. Start looking for our nearest planetary neighbor just before dawn. You'll be treated to a very slender crescent. On the fifth, two crescents rise 35 minutes before dawn: first Venus and then the Moon. By the 15th, the crescent Venus widens to 10% of the planet's disk. And by month end, it's 25 percent lit. Galileo captured sketches of the changes in the appearance of Venus 400 years ago.

Jupiter reigns supreme again in November. You can really see the light and dark bands of clouds on the planet.

Uranus and Neptune are both easy to see through a telescope, too.

Comets are storytellers, preserving the stuff from which our solar system's family was born. November 4 marks the EPOXI spacecraft's flyby of comet Hartley 2. Last month offered the best time to view this comet.

The bright and slow Taurid meteor shower peaks the first two weeks of November. You'll only see about 5 of the distinctive Taurids per hour.

November's more famous shower is the Leonids. The faint and swift Leonids peak on the 17th and 18th. Wait until the moon sets in the hours before dawn for your best chance of seeing them.
NASA's Year of the Solar System missions will shed light on our solar system family's birth story. The Cassini Solstice mission is making new discoveries about the mini-solar system at Saturn, complete with a disk of rings and moons orbiting the dynamic gas giant. JUNO launches in 2011 and will seek to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter.

Learn more about this month's Year of the Solar System resources at

And you can learn all about NASA's missions at

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.