Bird Fact Friday: the Red-winged Blackbird (as seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Red-winged Blackbird, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • The Red-winged Blackbird is a conspicuous, wetland-dwelling herald of spring.
  • These birds are abundant throughout the US year-round and into Canada in summer.
  • They prefer wetlands; can also be found in open areas and feeders during the winter and migration. They may from large mixed flocks in winter.
  • They are sleek, all black, with variable red and yellow shoulder patches. Female plumage is streaked brown and sparrow-like, with a conical bill.
  • In the spring, males sing territorial “conk-a-ree” songs throughout the day.
  • Diets mainly consist of insects in summer, seeds in winter.
  • They nest polygamously, with males having up to 15 female partners. Typically, they build their nests in low marsh vegetation.
  • They have a lifespan of up to 15years.
  • Population: 190 million and stable.

Have you seen (or heard) a Mallard?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Insect of the Week: Food Collection for Honey Bees

Adapted from pages 187-191 of The Lives of Bees:

Worker bee flying home bearing loads of yellow- green pollen on her hind legs and a load of nectar in her crop (honey stomach). That she is carrying a nectar load is indicated by the distension and translucence of her abdomen.

We generally think of a honey bee colony as a family of bees living inside a bee hive or a hollow tree. A moment’s reflection will disclose, however, the important fact that during the daytime many of the bees in a colony are dispersed far and wide over the surrounding countryside, where they toil to gather their colony’s food. To accomplish this, each forager bee flies as far as 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) to a patch of flowers, gathers a load of nectar or pollen, and then flies home, where she quickly off- loads her food and then heads out on her next collecting trip. On a typical day, a colony will field several thousand worker bees, or about one- third of its members, as foragers. Thus, in acquiring its food, a honey bee colony functions as a large, diffuse, amoeboid entity that can extend itself over great distances and in multiple directions simultaneously to exploit a vast array of food sources. To succeed in gathering the pollen and nectar it needs, a colony must closely monitor the food sources within its environment, and it must wisely deploy its foragers among these sources so that its food is gathered efficiently, in sufficient quantity, and with the correct nutritional mix. The colony must also properly apportion the food it gathers between present consumption and storage for future needs. Moreover, it must accomplish all these things in the face of constantly changing conditions, both outside the nest as foraging opportunities come and go, and inside the nest as the colony’s nutritional needs change with the seasons.

Pollen, nectar, and water are the substances most commonly gathered by a colony’s foragers. But during late summer and early fall, if you keep a close watch at a hive’s entrance, you will also spy a few bees returning home with shiny brown loads of tree resin stuck in their pollen baskets. As discussed in chapter 5, the bees jam this gluey material into cracks and small holes in the walls of their nest cavity, making their home more weathertight and easier to defend. We also saw that they use this resin to coat the walls of their nest cavity because it has antimicrobial properties that promote colony health. 

The Lives of Bees: The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild
By Tom Seeley

Humans have kept honey bees in hives for millennia, yet only in recent decades have biologists begun to investigate how these industrious insects live in the wild. The Lives of Bees is Thomas Seeley’s captivating story of what scientists are learning about the behavior, social life, and survival strategies of honey bees living outside the beekeeper’s hive—and how wild honey bees may hold the key to reversing the alarming die-off of the planet’s managed honey bee populations.

Seeley, a world authority on honey bees, sheds light on why wild honey bees are still thriving while those living in managed colonies are in crisis. Drawing on the latest science as well as insights from his own pioneering fieldwork, he describes in extraordinary detail how honey bees live in nature and shows how this differs significantly from their lives under the management of beekeepers. Seeley presents an entirely new approach to beekeeping—Darwinian Beekeeping—which enables honey bees to use the toolkit of survival skills their species has acquired over the past thirty million years, and to evolve solutions to the new challenges they face today. He shows beekeepers how to use the principles of natural selection to guide their practices, and he offers a new vision of how beekeeping can better align with the natural habits of honey bees.

Engagingly written and deeply personal, The Lives of Bees reveals how we can become better custodians of honey bees and make use of their resources in ways that enrich their lives as well as our own.

Six Figure Deal for Economist Claudia Goldin, Jill Kneerim, Princeton University Press

In a significant six-figure deal, Joe Jackson, senior editor for economics and finance at Princeton University Press, has acquired world rights for all languages and audio to A LONG ROAD: THE QUEST FOR CAREER AND FAMILY by Harvard economist Claudia Goldin. Agents Jill Kneerim and Lucy V. Cleland at Kneerim & Williams handled the deal.

© Bryce Vickmark. All rights reserved. www.vickmark.com 617.448.6758

A LONG ROAD is a dynamic, comprehensive survey of a century of college women’s options, obstacles, and progress in work and family. Goldin delivers a fresh understanding of one of the most intractable problem in today’s economy—the gender earnings gap—by exploring five distinct groups of women of modern history, who collectively trace how we got here, and why. Filled with startling insights into the forces that have catalyzed real change in women’s choices and definitions of success, A LONG ROAD interweaves captivating stories with decades of deeply-sourced, original data to illuminate how the structure of work and other systemic issues are the primary causes of gender disparities. This multi-layered work debunks long-held presumptions and inadequate theories by accurately diagnosing why—despite exceptional, meaningful strides made throughout the 20th century—a large fraction of highly talented women still cannot achieve both an equitable family life and a successful career…but not for the reasons we’ve been led to believe. This urgent book will elevate the cultural conversation, allow the collective past to help make sense of our turbulent present, and point the way toward true gender equity, both in our homes and workplaces.

Professor Goldin is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. From 1989 to 2017, she served as the director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Development of the American Economy program.

A LONG ROAD is slated for publication in 2021. 

 

What is Calculus?: The Two Pillars

By Oscar Fernandez

This is the third in a series of short articles exploring calculus. The first article explored the origins of calculus, including the three “big problems” that drove calculus’ development. The second article explored limits, the foundation of calculus. This article discusses how limits help us solve the three “big problems” and introduces two of calculus’ pillars: derivatives and integrals.

In the first article in this series I discussed three Big Problems that drove the development of calculus: the instantaneous speed problem, the tangent line problem, and the area problem. I illustrated these via the figure below.

Reprinted, with permission, from Calculus Simplified (Princeton University Press). Click to expand.

These problems stumped mathematicians for millennia. (We briefly talked about why in the first article.) But their inability to solve these problems—echoing Morpheus in the movie The Matrix—was not due to the techniques they were using; it was due to their mindset.

How a Dynamics Mindset Solves the Three Big Problems

If you’ve read the second article in this series, you’ll remember my first characterization of calculus: calculus is a dynamics mindset. Yet nothing about the figure above says “dynamics.” Every image is a static snapshot of something (e.g., an area). So let’s calculus the figure. (Yep, I’m encouraging you to think of calculus as a verb.)

The figure below takes each Big Problem from the figure above and adds in the dynamics.

Reprinted, with permission, from Calculus Simplified (Princeton University Press). Click to expand.

These images show apples falling, gray lines approaching a blue tangent line, and areas being swept out. Lots of movement (dynamics)! Moreover, notice that as the central change in each row of the figure gets closer to zero —the quantity ∆t in the first row and ∆x in the second and third rows—the resulting diagram approaches the respective diagram in the first figure in this article. We’ve met this “as ∆t  approaches zero” language before—it’s the language of limits we discussed in the second article! Adding this new revelation to the figure above produces…

 

Reprinted, with permission, from Calculus Simplified (Princeton University Press. Click to expand.

Finally, expressing our result in terms of equations involving limits yields the final piece of the puzzle…

Notice how each row employs a dynamics mindset to recast the Big Problem (contained in the “limiting picture” column) as the limit of a sequence of similar quantities (e.g., speeds) involving finite changes, changes which pre-calculus mathematics can handle. Specifically:

  • Row #1: The instantaneous speed of the falling apple is realized as the limit of its average speeds  ∆d / ∆t (ratios of changes in distance to changes in time) as ∆t —> 0.
  • Row #2: The slope of the tangent line is realized as the limit of the secant line slopes ∆y / ∆x (the gray lines in the figure) as ∆x —> 0.
  • Row #3: The area under the curve is realized as the limit as ∆x —> 0 of the area swept out from x = a up to ∆x  past b.

Introducing…Derivatives and Integrals

The limit obtained in the second row of the last figure is called the derivative of f(x) at x = a, the x-value of point P. The limit obtained in the third row of the Figure is called the definite integral of f(x) between x = a and x = b. Derivatives and integrals round out the three most important concepts in calculus (limits are the third).

You now have a working understanding of what derivatives and definite integrals are, what they measure, and how they arise from the application of a dynamics mindset to pre-calculus mathematics. The next post in this series will explore the derivative in greater details. We’ll discover that it has a nice geometric interpretation and a powerful real-world interpretation. (The last figure above hints to what these are.) Near the end of this series we will return to these interpretations to illustrate the power of derivatives, using them to help us understand phenomena as diverse as the fate of the Universe and, more pragmatically, how to find the best seat in a movie theater. Stay tuned!

 

Calculus Simplified
By Oscar E. Fernandez

Calculus is a beautiful subject that most of us learn from professors, textbooks, or supplementary texts. Each of these resources has strengths but also weaknesses. In Calculus Simplified, Oscar Fernandez combines the strengths and omits the weaknesses, resulting in a “Goldilocks approach” to learning calculus: just the right level of detail, the right depth of insights, and the flexibility to customize your calculus adventure.

Fernandez begins by offering an intuitive introduction to the three key ideas in calculus—limits, derivatives, and integrals. The mathematical details of each of these pillars of calculus are then covered in subsequent chapters, which are organized into mini-lessons on topics found in a college-level calculus course. Each mini-lesson focuses first on developing the intuition behind calculus and then on conceptual and computational mastery. Nearly 200 solved examples and more than 300 exercises allow for ample opportunities to practice calculus. And additional resources—including video tutorials and interactive graphs—are available on the book’s website.

Calculus Simplified also gives you the option of personalizing your calculus journey. For example, you can learn all of calculus with zero knowledge of exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions—these are discussed at the end of each mini-lesson. You can also opt for a more in-depth understanding of topics—chapter appendices provide additional insights and detail. Finally, an additional appendix explores more in-depth real-world applications of calculus.

Learning calculus should be an exciting voyage, not a daunting task. Calculus Simplified gives you the freedom to choose your calculus experience, and the right support to help you conquer the subject with confidence.

  • An accessible, intuitive introduction to first-semester calculus
  • Nearly 200 solved problems and more than 300 exercises (all with answers)
  • No prior knowledge of exponential, logarithmic, or trigonometric functions required
  • Additional online resources—video tutorials and supplementary exercises—provided

Dino Day: Bistahieversor sealeyi

Adapted from page 44:

The Bistahieversor sealeyi lived during the late Upper Cretaceous (Campanian, ca. 78–72.1 Ma) in western Laurasia (present-day New Mexico, USA). It was a sturdy carnivore with an appearance similar to tyrannosaurids, leading it to be known previously as Aublysodon cf. mirandus or Daspletosaurus. At the end of the Cretaceous in western North America (paleocontinent Laramidia), tyrannosauroid derivatives were replaced by tyrannosaurids. In the east (Appalachia), where there was no exchange of fauna with Asia.

From the late Lower Cretaceous (Valanginian, ca. 139.8–132.9 Ma) area of eastern Laurasia (present-day Mongolia). The incomplete remains of a maxillary tooth and a tibia and a fibula that are about 1 m long are attributed to Prodeinodon mongoliensis, although these remains can not be compared with this species.

Dinosaur Facts and Figures: The Theropods and Other Dinosauriformes
By Rubén Molina-Pérez and Asier Larramendi
Illustrations byAndrey Atuchin and Sante Mazzei

The theropod dinosaurs ruled the planet for millions of years, with species ranging from the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex to feathered raptors no bigger than turkeys. Dinosaur Facts and Figures is a stunningly illustrated book of records for these marvelous creatures—such as the biggest, the smallest, and the fastest theropods, as well as the ones with the most powerful bite.

This one-of-a-kind compendium features more than 3,000 records, covers some 750 theropod species, and includes a wealth of illustrations ranging from diagrams and technical drawings to full-color reconstructions of specimens. The book is divided into sections that put numerous amazing theropod facts at your fingertips. “Comparing Species” is organized by taxonomic group and gives comparisons of the size of species, how long ago they lived, and when they were discovered. “Mesozoic Calendar” includes spreads showing the positions of the continents at different geological time periods and reconstructions of creatures from each period. “Prehistoric Puzzle” compares bones, teeth, and feathers while “Theropod Life” uses vivid, user-friendly graphics to answer questions such as which dinosaur was the smartest and which had the most powerful bite. Other sections chart theropod distribution on the contemporary world map, provide comprehensive illustrated listings of footprints, compile the physical specifications of all known theropods and Mesozoic birds, and much more.

  • The essential illustrated record book for anyone interested in dinosaurs
  • Features thousands of records on everything from the smartest and fastest theropods to the largest theropod eggs
  • Includes more than 2,000 diagrams and drawings and more than 300 digital reconstructions
  • Covers more than 750 theropod species, including Mesozoic birds and other dinosauromorphs
  • Provides detailed listings of footprints, biometric specifications, and scholarly and popular references

Bird Fact Friday: the Mallard (as seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Mallard, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • The Mallard is a classic dabbling duck found in parks and waterways.
  • These are widespread around North America in ponds, parks, wetlands and agricultural areas.
  • Mallards are large ducks with rounded heads and flat bills for dabbling.
  • Males have iridescent green heads, yellow bills, gray bodies, brown breasts, and black rears. Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
  • Unsurprisingly, they “quack” frequently.
  • Typically, these ducks dabble for vegetation and aquatic life (rarely diving), or feed on agricultural grain; park birds often accept handouts.
  • Pair bonding begins in fall through winter; nests on ground near water.
  • They have a lifespan of up to 27 years.
  • Population: 11 million and stable.

Have you seen (or heard) a Mallard?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Insect of the Week: Bee Reproduction

Adapted from pages 156-157 of The Lives of Bees:

A honey bee swarm, with approximately 12,000 worker bees and one queen bee, resting safely inside the cluster.

Although reproductive success by a honey bee colony involves producing both fertile drones and big swarms, the two production processes do not unfold in perfect synchrony. Instead, a colony usually has a peak in its drone production approximately 30 days before the colonies in its neighborhood begin casting swarms and then sending forth virgin queens to be mated. The reason is simple. Drones have a 24- day developmental period, and they require another 12 or so days after emerging from their brood cells to reach sexual maturity. (Queens have much shorter times for development and sexual maturation: about 16 days and 6 days, respectively.) So, if a colony is to have a maximum number of sexually mature drones ready for active service at the time of year when virgin queens are most abundant—the swarming season—then it must start rearing its drones long before the seasonal peak of swarming.

The Lives of Bees: The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild
By Tom Seeley

Humans have kept honey bees in hives for millennia, yet only in recent decades have biologists begun to investigate how these industrious insects live in the wild. The Lives of Bees is Thomas Seeley’s captivating story of what scientists are learning about the behavior, social life, and survival strategies of honey bees living outside the beekeeper’s hive—and how wild honey bees may hold the key to reversing the alarming die-off of the planet’s managed honey bee populations.

Seeley, a world authority on honey bees, sheds light on why wild honey bees are still thriving while those living in managed colonies are in crisis. Drawing on the latest science as well as insights from his own pioneering fieldwork, he describes in extraordinary detail how honey bees live in nature and shows how this differs significantly from their lives under the management of beekeepers. Seeley presents an entirely new approach to beekeeping—Darwinian Beekeeping—which enables honey bees to use the toolkit of survival skills their species has acquired over the past thirty million years, and to evolve solutions to the new challenges they face today. He shows beekeepers how to use the principles of natural selection to guide their practices, and he offers a new vision of how beekeeping can better align with the natural habits of honey bees.

Engagingly written and deeply personal, The Lives of Bees reveals how we can become better custodians of honey bees and make use of their resources in ways that enrich their lives as well as our own.

Dino Day: Giganotosaurus carolinii

Adapted from page 38:

The Giganotosaurus carolinii (“southern giant lizard of Rubén Carolini”)  lived during the late Upper Cretaceous (lower Cenomanian, ca. 100.5–93.9 Ma) in southwestern Gondwana (present-day Argentina). It was one of the largest predators of all time, as long as an urban bus, and weighing as much as an African elephant and a white rhinoceros together. The largest specimen is based on a very incomplete tooth that turns out to be 6.5% larger than that of the MUCPvCh1 type specimen. This individual would be as heavy as the largest specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex. Giganotosaurus was longer than Tyrannosaurus, but its body was less sturdy.

One of the largest theropods that left its imprints was a carcharodontosaurid (this group of dinosaur) from the early Upper Cretaceous of southwestern Gondwana (present day Brazil).

Dinosaur Facts and Figures: The Theropods and Other Dinosauriformes
By Rubén Molina-Pérez and Asier Larramendi
Illustrations byAndrey Atuchin and Sante Mazzei

The theropod dinosaurs ruled the planet for millions of years, with species ranging from the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex to feathered raptors no bigger than turkeys. Dinosaur Facts and Figures is a stunningly illustrated book of records for these marvelous creatures—such as the biggest, the smallest, and the fastest theropods, as well as the ones with the most powerful bite.

This one-of-a-kind compendium features more than 3,000 records, covers some 750 theropod species, and includes a wealth of illustrations ranging from diagrams and technical drawings to full-color reconstructions of specimens. The book is divided into sections that put numerous amazing theropod facts at your fingertips. “Comparing Species” is organized by taxonomic group and gives comparisons of the size of species, how long ago they lived, and when they were discovered. “Mesozoic Calendar” includes spreads showing the positions of the continents at different geological time periods and reconstructions of creatures from each period. “Prehistoric Puzzle” compares bones, teeth, and feathers while “Theropod Life” uses vivid, user-friendly graphics to answer questions such as which dinosaur was the smartest and which had the most powerful bite. Other sections chart theropod distribution on the contemporary world map, provide comprehensive illustrated listings of footprints, compile the physical specifications of all known theropods and Mesozoic birds, and much more.

  • The essential illustrated record book for anyone interested in dinosaurs
  • Features thousands of records on everything from the smartest and fastest theropods to the largest theropod eggs
  • Includes more than 2,000 diagrams and drawings and more than 300 digital reconstructions
  • Covers more than 750 theropod species, including Mesozoic birds and other dinosauromorphs
  • Provides detailed listings of footprints, biometric specifications, and scholarly and popular references

Bird Fact Friday: the Summer Tanager (as seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Summer Tanager, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • The Summer Tanager is a colorful bee-eater in the southern US.
  • During the summer, they are common in the the Southeast and Southwest US. They spend their winters in Central and Southern America.
  • These birds are medium-sized, stout-bodied songbirds with long tails and thick bills.
  • Males are solid red; females are mustard; young males are a patchy mix.
  • These birds prefer forest edges or riparian habitats, often high in canopies where they catch flying insects, especially bees and wasps.
  • They feed on  fruits.
  • They usually nest in trees overhanging an open area.
  • They have a lifespan of up to 7 years.
  • Population: 12 million and stable.

Have you seen (or heard) a Summer Tanager?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Noah Webster’s civil war of words over American English

In the United States, the name Noah Webster (1758-1843) is synonymous with the word ‘dictionary’. But it is also synonymous with the idea of America, since his first unabridged American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828 when Webster was 70, blatantly stirred the young nation’s thirst for cultural independence from Britain.

Webster saw himself as a saviour of the American language who would rescue it from the corrupting influence of British English and prevent it from fragmenting into a multitude of dialects. But as a linguist and lexicographer, he quickly ran into trouble with critics, educators, the literati, legislators and much of the common reading public over the bizarre nature of his proposed language reforms. These spelling reforms – for example, wimmen for ‘women’, greeve for ‘grieve’, meen for ‘mean’ and bred for ‘bread’ – were all intended to simplify spelling by making it read the way that words were pronounced, yet they brought him the pain of ridicule for decades to come.

His definitions were regarded as his strong suit, but even they frequently rambled into essays, and many readers found them overly aligned with New England usage, to the point of distortion. Surfeited with a Christian reading of words, his religious or moral agenda also shaped many of his definitions into mini-sermons or moral lessons rather than serving as clarifications of meaning. A typical example is one of his expositions of purpose: ‘We believe the Supreme Being created intelligent beings for some benevolent and glorious purpose, and if so, how glorious and benevolent must be his purpose in the plan of redemption!’ Overall, his dictionary was prescriptive rather than descriptive, a violation, if you will, of a central tenet of lexicography that holds that dictionaries should record the way language is used, not the way the lexicographer thinks it should be used. 

Webster’s etymology, meanwhile, which he spent a decade dreaming up, was deeply flawed because of his ignorance of the exciting discoveries made by leading philologists in Europe about the evolution of Indo-European languages from roots such as Sanskrit. His etymologies conform entirely to the interpretation of words as presented in the Bible. He was convinced that ‘the primitive language of man’ spoken by the ‘descendants of Noah … must have been the original Chaldee’.

Webster fought his battles over language not within philology circles but within the larger context of an emerging American dialect (pejoratively dismissed by the British as provincialisms). He believed that increasing immigration, the multiplication of unique American words, the new meanings attaching to English words and the proliferation of slang – or, as the English saw it, vulgar and undisciplined language – made an American dictionary essential to American life.

New words came from several sources. Native Americans contributed wampum, moccasin, canoe, moose, toboggan and maize; from Mexico came hoosegow, stampede and cafeteria; from French, prairie and dime; meanwhile, cookie and landscape came from the Dutch. Existing words were combined to make new ones, for example rattlesnake, eggplant and bullfrog. Settlers of the West borrowed mesa and canyon from Spanish, and came up with robust words and expressions such as cahoots and kick the bucket. There were also entirely new words: gimmick, fudge, notify, currency, hindsight, graveyard, roundabout. Shakespearean and other Old World words returned: gotten (got), platter (plate), mad (angry). There were new spellings, too, a few of them of Webster’s own invention: some of those were preserved – specter (spectre) and  offense (offence) for example – but many more were mocked: wimmen (women), blud (blood), dawter (daughter). Idiomatic ‘tall talk’, as Daniel Boorstin called it in The Americans (1965)– the robust informality and ‘brash vitality’ often attacked by the British as vulgar Americanisms – thrived, especially out West: down-and-out, flat-footed, to affiliate, down-town, scrumptious and true-blue. Not surprisingly, the British worried that, one day, if this mushrooming of Americanisms continued, they would scarcely be able to understand Americans.

That didn’t happen. Because of high mobility and the blending of different cultures and backgrounds in the US, there were far fewer dialects or dramatically different pronunciations than in England, where isolation was more common in spite of the smallness of the country. 

The British thought that Samuel Johnson’s great Dictionary of the English Language (1755) would suffice for America as it did for Britain. Many Americans agreed, but many more wanted their own national dictionary to lend them a type of secular authority that was analogous to the spiritual authority of the Bible. But then there was the question of whose American dictionary would provide such an authority – which consideration instigated the ‘American dictionary wars’. Should Webster’s voice prevail, on behalf of the Americanising of English and the writing of dictionaries that would record such usage? Or would Webster’s great rival Joseph Emerson Worcester (1784-1865) with his more traditional, well-informed and solid scholarship triumph? Their conflict became America’s. What emerged in the country was an adversarial culture concerning language in which Americans fought each other in a civil war of words. It was also partly an ideological war, pitting various sectors of society – political, social, educational, religious – against each other over the direction that American English should take. 

Webster died before these wars were resolved, feeling that he had failed as a lexicographer (and a visionary), and disheartened by poor sales of his dictionaries. His legacy and eventual iconic standing was secured largely by his editors (chiefly Webster’s son-in-law Chauncey Allen Goodrich) and publishers (Charles and George Merriam) who began to remove most of his work from his dictionary while he was living, and continued the process over the 20 years following his death. The Merriams knew that Worcester was the superior lexicographer, but they recognised that Webster was more marketable because of his patriot credentials, so they dedicated themselves to cleaning up his dictionary and defeating Worcester in the marketplace.

Ultimately, the Merriams were the real winners in the American dictionary wars, having made a fortune from Webster’s name. Had Webster returned to see what had happened to his dictionary, he probably would have thought of himself as one of the big losers. Meanwhile, American English would pursue its own inevitable national development, with little help from him.Aeon counter – do not remove

Peter Martin is the author of numerous books, including the acclaimed biographies Samuel Johnson and A Life of James Boswell. He has taught English literature in the United States and England and divides his time between West Sussex, England, and Spain.

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.