Main content

Chimpanzee Language

Chimp Language; Cosmic Renaissance; Flying in a V; Carl Djerassi

Have you ever thought about the difference between language and communication? Human language is a far more complex expression than physical or even simple vocal animal communication - there are grammatical rules, as well as social conventions. But new work, published in Current Biology this week, shows that our closest animal relatives, chimpanzees, have shown a grasp of language which demonstrates adaptive and socially learned communication. This may just mean different grunts to describe 'apple', but they can be interpreted as pretty meaningful. When two groups of adult chimps were merged into one super-group, over time, they altered their previously different grunts for apple into the same sound.

Cosmic Renaissance
European researchers using the Planck Space Telescope have just published some new information on exactly when the first stars started shining after the Big Bang. The universe emanated from a hot and extremely dense initial state – the Big Bang at about 13,700 million years ago. It was quickly filled with glowing plasma composed mainly of hydrogen and helium. As the universe expanded and cooled, the atomic nuclei and electrons combined to make atoms of neutral gas. The glow of this "recombination era" is now observed as "cosmic microwave background radiation". The universe then went into its own Dark Ages for 560 million years, before the emergence of the first galaxies and quasars. This cosmic renaissance is also referred to as the Reionization Era.

Flying in a V
Scientists have worked out how flocking birds, flying in the famous ‘V’ formation decide who leads the flock. They pair up and take it in turns to take the very energy-depleting lead. This allows every bird to take advantage of extra lift produced by the wings of the bird in front.

Carl Djerassi
Obituary – Carl Djerassi (October 29, 1923 – January 30, 2015). A chemist, novelist, poet and philanthropist, Djerassi created the world’s first contraceptive pill.

(Photo caption: Female chimpanzee with fruit and vegetables © VINCENT JANNINK/AFP/Getty Images)

Presenter: Jack Stewart
Producer: Fiona Roberts

Available now

28 minutes

Chapters

  • Chimp Language

    New insights into the complexity of chimpanzee language

    Duration: 07:28

  • Cosmic Renaissance

    News on when the stars were first switched on in the Universe

    Duration: 07:04

  • Flying in a V

    Birds flying in a V formation take it in turns

    Duration: 05:03

  • Carl Djerassi - Obituary

    Carl Djerassi, inventor of the contraceptive pill, died 30th January 2015

    Duration: 05:38

Broadcasts

Gravitational Waves

Gravity and ripples in the fabric of space time - what do these mean for us?

Podcast