CLOSE
Original image
istock

Studies Show Babies Understand Skype

Original image
istock

What exactly do babies think is going on when they Skype with their grandparents? Or when they watch TV? In both cases, they might react to the people on screen, but it’s often hard to tell exactly how they’re processing those images. Can they tell the difference between Grandma and Grandpa blowing them kisses in real time, and Dora the Explorer waving to them from the TV set? 

According to The Atlantic, babies are surprisingly savvy at differentiating between television and video chat. Several studies have shown that infants develop the technological fluency to distinguish between the two as early as six months old. They’re able to pick up on certain cues, like time lag and direct address, that distinguish between real-time chat and the faux interactions on shows like Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer. They also pick up on social cues from their guardians—parents can help babies understand what’s going on by showing them how to interact with people on screen. 

According to Elisabeth McClure of Georgetown University, “Babies are very sensitive to eye contact, physical contact, pointing at things, and all of those can be compromised.” Because of this, they can tell the difference between the responsiveness of a person on Skype and a character on a TV show. "Really tiny babies pick up on the social responsiveness of a person," says Georgene Troseth of Vanderbilt University. “If there’s something wacky about it, it bothers them.” 

That’s not to say that small children have a perfect understanding of video chat—it’s still hard for them to understand exactly what’s happening when they see loved ones inside the computer. McClure told The Atlantic the story of one little girl who would leave snacks for her grandparents behind her parents’ iPad. “The mother kept saying, ‘Where does Grandpa live?’ And the little girl pointed to the screen and said, ‘Right there!’" Mc Clure recalled. "And in a sense, that is where he lives. When you want to see Grandpa, you go to the screen and ask for him.”

[h/t: The Atlantic]

Original image
arrow
science
11-Year-Old Creates a Better Way to Test for Lead in Water
Original image

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a Colorado middle schooler has invented a better way to test lead levels in water, as The Cut reports.

Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old seventh grader in Lone Tree, Colorado just won the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, taking home $25,000 for the water-quality testing device she invented, called Tethys.

Rao was inspired to create the device after watching Flint's water crisis unfold over the last few years. In 2014, after the city of Flint cut costs by switching water sources used for its tap water and failed to treat it properly, lead levels in the city's water skyrocketed. By 2015, researchers testing the water found that 40 percent of homes in the city had elevated lead levels in their water, and recommended the state declare Flint's water unsafe for drinking or cooking. In December of that year, the city declared a state of emergency. Researchers have found that the lead-poisoned water resulted in a "horrifyingly large" impact on fetal death rates as well as leading to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that killed 12 people.

A close-up of the Tethys device

Rao's parents are engineers, and she watched them as they tried to test the lead in their own house, experiencing firsthand how complicated it could be. She spotted news of a cutting-edge technology for detecting hazardous substances on MIT's engineering department website (which she checks regularly just to see "if there's anything new," as ABC News reports) then set to work creating Tethys. The device works with carbon nanotube sensors to detect lead levels faster than other current techniques, sending the results to a smartphone app.

As one of 10 finalists for the Young Scientist Challenge, Rao spent the summer working with a 3M scientist to refine her device, then presented the prototype to a panel of judges from 3M and schools across the country.

The contamination crisis in Flint is still ongoing, and Rao's invention could have a significant impact. In March 2017, Flint officials cautioned that it could be as long as two more years until the city's tap water will be safe enough to drink without filtering. The state of Michigan now plans to replace water pipes leading to 18,000 households by 2020. Until then, residents using water filters could use a device like Tethys to make sure the water they're drinking is safe. Rao plans to put most of the $25,000 prize money back into her project with the hopes of making the device commercially available.

[h/t The Cut]

All images by Andy King, courtesy of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Original image
iStock
arrow
fun
Here's How to Turn an IKEA Box Into a Spaceship
Original image
iStock

Since IKEA boxes are designed to contain entire furniture items, they could probably fit a small child once they’re emptied of any flat-packed component pieces. This means they have great potential as makeshift forts—or even as play spaceships, according to one of the Swedish furniture brand’s print ads, which was spotted by Design Taxi.

First highlighted by Ads of the World, the advertisement—which was created by Miami Ad School, New York—shows that IKEA is helping customers transform used boxes into build-it-yourself “SPÄCE SHIPS” for children. The company provides play kits, which come with both an instruction manual and cardboard "tools" for tiny builders to wield during the construction process.

As for the furniture boxes themselves, they're emblazoned with the words “You see a box, they see a spaceship." As if you won't be climbing into the completed product along with the kids …

Check out the ad below:

[h/t Design Taxi]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios