TY - JOUR
T1 - In This Issue
JF - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
JO - Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
SP - 1223
LP - 1224
M3 - 10.1073/iti0414111
VL - 111
IS - 4
A2 - ,
Y1 - 2014/01/28
UR - http://www.pnas.org/content/111/4/1223.abstract
N2 - More than 300 years ago, the German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz demonstrated the computational advantages of a binary number system, or base 2. Although Leibniz’s theory laid the foundation for computing with machines, humans largely continue to use verbal number systems built on base 10, raising the question of whether binary numeration is compatible with human cognition. Andrea Bender and Sieghard Beller (pp. 1322–1327) describe a traditional number system in use on Mangareva, a small island in French Polynesia, that superposes three binary steps onto a decimal structure. The authors demonstrate how this unique counting system, which arose from specific aspects of daily life on Mangareva, functions and facilitated arithmetic. Furthermore, the authors’ analysis suggests that counting systems represent complex cultural tools for numerical cognition, with seemingly unwieldy conventions that are cognitively advantageous. The invention of binary steps centuries before Leibniz, the authors report, reveals that humans can advance numeracy even in the absence of a formalized system of mathematics, thus highlighting the role of culture in the evolution and diversity of numerical cognition. — T.J.An adult migratory locust. Image courtesy of Matsumomushi/Wikimedia Commons.Locust swarms, which often inflict agricultural devastation, can be triggered and sustained by a mix of aggregation pheromones that induce otherwise solitary locusts to gather into a migratory group. To investigate the effect of a common microsporidian locust parasite, Paranosema (Nosema) locustae, on swarming behavior, Wangpeng Shi et al. (pp. 1343–1348) exposed locusts to chambers containing fecal volatile chemicals from both healthy locusts and locusts infected with P. locustae. The authors report that …
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