Why Do People Say “Axe” or “Aks” Instead of “Ask”?

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‘Shetland Islanders, descendents of Jamaican immigrants living in London, and African Americans all tend to say “axe” or “aks” instead of “ask” when speaking. Linguist Geoff Lindsey traces the history of differing pronunciations of ask/aks from all the way back to the beginnings of written English up to the present day….’

— via kottke

I really enjoyed this discussion that centered around John McWhorter’s take on historical and ethnic speech diversity. I’m not only interested in linguistic prejudice, but it imposes hurdles on me every day as a psychiatrist. Communication is such an intrinsic part of my work, and I interact with people from diverse backgrounds and linguistic styles. This is particularly important because when people are in distress, they may not make the effort to ‘code-switch’ to standard English, which can make it difficult to understand them. Just this week, a colleague shared an anecdote with me about her recent difficulty in understanding a client on death row in the rural South during a forensic consultation.

Entertaining fact gleaned: something similar to what is happening to the word “ask” was true of “fish”, which started out as “fisk,” 

with the same -sk ending that “ask” has. Over time, in some places people started saying “fisk” as “fiks,” while in others they started saying “fisk” as “fish.” After a while, “fish” won out over “fiks,” and here we are today. The same thing happened with “mash.” It started as “mask.” Later some people were saying “maks” and others were saying “mash.” “Mash” won.

Maybe you had to be there…

How and When the War in Ukraine Will End

Original jpg’Prepare for the possibility of a long, shape-shifting conflict, perhaps lasting years, even a decade or more. Watch how the rest of the world regards the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions. Expect any negotiated settlement to be fragile and reliant on third-party intervention. And don’t anticipate a dramatic finish, such as a Russian nuclear detonation in Ukraine or the overthrow of Vladimir Putin in Russia. Notably, in a reversal of perceptions a year ago, some experts could envision a decisive Ukrainian victory against Russia, but none forecast a decisive Russian win against Ukraine.…’

— via he Atlantic

Can the Republican establishment stop trump in 2024?

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‘Both the Club for Growth — an anti-tax group — and the donor network created by the billionaire Koch brothers plan to intervene in the GOP presidential primaries, the New York Times recently reported, and both hope to turn the page on the former president. But it’s not clear whether they will endorse one specific alternative to trump and, if so, who that would be, with several other Republicans expected to enter the race.

As many are pointing out, that would be a familiar scenario. The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins writes that “a sprawling cast of challengers could just as easily end up splitting the anti-trump electorate, as it did in 2016, and allow trump to win primaries with a plurality of voters.”

Politico’s David Freedlander opened a recent article citing an anonymous Republican donor’s worries “that once again donald trump will prevail over a splintered Republican field.” The New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher, too, wrote that “a fractured field” could “clear the way” for trump to win with just “a fraction of the party base.”…’

— via Vox

Doth the Lady Protest Too Much?

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‘“I know there’ve been questions and concerns about this, but there is no—again no—indication of aliens or extra-terrestrial activity with these recent take downs,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a Monday afternoon press briefing. “Again there is no indication of aliens,” she emphasized for a third time, adding “We wanted to make sure that the American people knew that.”

“Would you tell us if there were?,” one journalist in the crowd of reporters shouted back. In response, Jean-Pierre chuckled and made a brief joke about the movie ET.

As recently as Sunday night, Pentagon officials had indicated that they weren’t ruling anything out yet—meaning aliens were still technically on the table. But the White House’s announcement seemingly squashes that pipe dream…’

— via Gizmodo

Prion proteins link Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome

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‘People with Down syndrome who live beyond age 40 develop progressive dementia similar to people with Alzheimer’s disease. In the last few decades, scientists have found that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s contain abnormal clumps of pathogenic, self-propagating proteins called prions. New research shows the same is true for those with Down syndrome. Unfortunately, drugs that target these protein clumps are unsuccessful at treating Alzheimer’s, suggesting that our understanding of the disease is incorrect….’

— via Big Think

Scientists Find Dwarf Planet With an ‘Impossible’ Ring, And They’re Unsure How It Exists

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‘Rings in the Solar System are not exactly rare. Half the planets have them, and others may have in the past. Some asteroids have rings, as does the dwarf planet Haumea. Even the Sun has rings of a sort.

Now astronomers have found an entirely new ring system. Only this one has left them scratching their heads, as it’s unlike anything else in the Solar System.

Quaoar, a small dwarf planet that hangs out in the Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto, is also circled by a dense ring – a ring circling at a distance so great it should still be stuck together as a moon.

The discovery means that scientists may need to revise our understanding of how moons and rings form and are affected by the gravitational interaction with their larger companion.

Quaoar, measuring just 1,110 kilometers (690 miles) across, was discovered in 2002 and, over the years, has turned out to be quite the interesting little ball of rock. It shows signs of ice volcanism, and it even has a cute little moon called Weywot, just 170 kilometers across.

But in 2021, astronomers noticed something else….’

— via ScienceAlert

First vaccine to target deadly fungal infections passes preclinical tests


‘Trillions of micro-organisms live inside each of us. This is known as our microbiome. The vast majority of these microbes are bacteria but plenty of other things can also be found, including parasites and viruses.

About a decade ago researchers discovered a thriving population of fungi also reside within the human body. Dubbed the mycobiome, several dozen types of fungi have been found to symbiotically live inside of us, and most are relatively harmless. But some are not our friends, particularly when we are immunocompromised.

It’s estimated about 1.6 million people die every year globally from invasive fungal infections. In 2022 the World Health Organization released its first ever list of “fungal priority pathogens,” citing fungi as an emerging serious public health threat. There are limited anti-fungal medications, and increasing rates of fungal resistance to these crucial drugs.

“There’s a significant unmet clinical need for this kind of prevention and also treatment, particularly among immunocompromised individuals,” said Karen Norris, lead investigator on the new study. “The patient population at risk for invasive fungal infections has increased significantly over the last several years.”

Three specific genera of fungus account for the vast majority of deadly fungal infections in humans – Aspergillus, Candida, and Pneumocystis. So researchers set out to develop a recombinant peptide vaccine that targets those three primary pathogens.

A new study published in the journal PNAS Nexus is reporting on the efficacy of this experimental vaccine in several animal models. The study revealed the vaccine, dubbed NXT-2, effectively induced broad, cross-reactive antibody responses in all animal models. The vaccine also reduced morbidity and mortality in immunosuppressed animals exposed to the three key pathogenic fungi….’

— via New Atlas

Fungi were the forgotten infectious diseases. No longer, with the popularity of The Last of Us.

What’s the Correct Color of Bees? In Austria, It’s a Toxic Topic

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‘Across the world, pesticides, new diseases, climate change and habitat loss are killing bees and other pollinators, which play an essential role in agriculture, at an ominous speed, with the mass die-off putting many fruits and grains at risk. 

Yet the mostly rural state of Carinthia, which borders Slovenia and Italy, doesn’t care only about the health of the bees pollinating its apple orchards and chestnut trees. It also insists that all of them be Carniolan honey bees, with their signature light-gray abdominal rings, the only subspecies that state law has allowed here since 2007. As with all domesticated and semi-domesticated animals, bees have long been bred by their keepers for certain traits, and the Carniolan is considered well adapted for its alpine home, better than other honey bees at surviving the snowy winters and often capricious weather. And while Carniolans will aggressively defend their hives against parasites and honey thieves, they are known to be quite docile around their human handlers.

0205 for webNAZI BEESmap 335So Carinthia’s law has many supporters among the state’s apiarists, eager to keep unwelcome characteristics
out of the local bee gene pool. The neighboring state of Styria has a similar law, as does Slovenia.

But the law’s opponents see in it at least the echo of the area’s Nazi past — and cite Nazi history to further their point….’

— via The New York Times thanks to Abby

‘De-Extinction’ Company Colossal Aims to Bring Back the Dodo

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‘Adding the dodo to its official docket brings Colossal’s total de-extinction targets to three: the woolly mammoth (the company’s first target species, announced in September 2021), and the thylacine, a.k.a. the Tasmanian tiger, the largest carnivorous marsupial…

Mammoths died out about 4,000 years ago on Wrangel Island, off the northeastern coast of Russia. The dodo, a species of flightless bird native to the island of Mauritius, was gone by 1681. The last known thylacine died at a zoo in Tasmania in 1936. Scientists have sequenced the genomes of all three species—the mammoth’s in 2015, the dodo’s in 2016, and the thylacine’s in 2018….’

— via Gizmodo