Friday, October 19, 2012

A Comet Ride-by: Spotting Exo-Planets

I swore I'd just let this blog quietly fade in the sunset of years yore. But lately I've been chock-full of astronomical excitement, so had to snag a passing comet and get back here.
 

NASA Images: the sharpest picture yet of Mars, including its ice cap.

Planets, those fellow massive worlds, are thus called from the greek word for "wanderer" for how they move against the stars.  Until Gailieo, that was how we knew planets: observations, tracking their movements, trying to figure out why Mars went retrograde. They were gods to many religions. The Mayans developed complex calendars based on the orbit of Venus. Then-- technology!

Telescopes let us see their moons, even their complexion.  Space probes have visited, taken snapshots, even sampled their atmosphere. Now we have robots poking around Mars. And still, we observe and do math to figure out their quirks.

When it comes to exo-planets, meaning these worlds wandering around other stars, we have powerful telescopes, logging tons of data which computer munch, but machines do not discover the unexpected. They can't.

So, it all comes back to the human eye noticing oddly steady patterns in the night sky created by planets moving against stars. We recognize patterns far better than any computer; that sudden twitch in the grass could be a snake, or a tiger's tail.

Abrupt darkness on a star's brightness graph may well be a planet eclipsing the star during its orbit. Once the exo-planet is discovered, then it can be observed and further analyzed with the help of physics and machines.

But who will discover those planets? Planet-hunters, of course-- and you could be one.

And that's why I'm riding this comet over the moon. In the last few months we've discovered far more exoplanets than humanity has discovered planets in our solar system over millennia. They're popping out everywhere!

Alpha Centauri Bb, as we had hoped, has an earth-sized planet just 4.2 light years away from us, but it's orbiting at a Mercury-like distance, with an total year of 3.2 days.  We hope to find more planets in the star's habitable zone from their transit of the sun-- it just may take a few months, in case they're still on the other side.

Speed does matter, and size, in helping spot the planets. The first exoplanets discovered were gas giants, even bigger than Jupiter.  In addition to the increased light changes from such a big planet, a big planet can also create a wobble in a star's orbit.

Thus far we've discovered many planets in the habitable zone  (also known as the Goldilocks zone) of red dwarf stars. They're easier to spot red dwarf stars, at their biggest, have a surface mass less than half that of the sun, and temperatures to match. Since radiation obeys the inverse square law, that means the goldilocks zone is around 1/4  closer than our sun's-- for the biggest red dwarfs.

Most are far smaller. For instance, Barnard's star, a red dwarf only 6 light-years away, is 14.4% the mass of our sun.  Therefore its Goldilocks zone would be less than 2% the distance of our sun's zone, meaning any habitable planets would be orbiting much closer than Mercury does to our sun!  It is no suprise that millions of earth-size planets are estimated to orbit the habitable zone of red dwarf stars.  We've detected some habitable-zone planet around more sun-like stars, often "super-earths"
 The longer we study the skies and the data, the more we detect smaller planets , with the smallest being earth-twins orbiting around Kepler-20. Unless somebody's discovered even smaller, which is very likely; it just needs time to be confirmed.

But that's not all that's exciting me. You see, a lot of stars live with buddies. There are binary, trinary, quadruple, etc. star systems.  Finding multiple-sunned planets, of course would be great for people afraid of the night,  and vindicate generations of science fiction writers and filmmakers, but more importantly, such exoplanet discoveries help answer important questions of how planets may form and how they would orbit more than one star.

Composite picture of Asteroid 951 Gaspara and Phobos and Demios, Mar's two moons (NASA, 1977).

We have learned how complex orbitics can be from studying asteroids in horseshoe orbits, such as Cruithne, often referred to "Earth's Second Moon"-- which has a cycle in Earth's orbit which takes 770 years to complete, as this cool graphic shows.  

Now let your mind boggle at the recent discovery of PH-1  (yes, through Planethunter!) which is in a binary binary system:  PH-1 is orbited by two stars, and in turn orbits two other suns (meaning it has four suns.) 
Interestingly, PH-1 is 6.0 earths in radius, slightly fatter than Neptune, half the width of Jupiter, but we don't know its mass yet.  The complex orbitics make it hard to judge
 So we don't know yet if it is a gas giant or something different.  It seems unlikely it could be a diamond planet  (the barren core of a long-dead star) since such a planet would be very dense and far more massive.  But it'll be interesting to see the final mass estimates; it might tell us something about how this planet came to be.

The skies are full of wanderers.  Go ahead, catch a falling planet.

And I'm off on my comet again and may not be back for years.

-Wilbrod-

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When Weight Can Land You in Jail.

The Royal Society for Protection of Animals prosecuted two brothers owning a loved, 11-year old rottweiler (which is pretty old!) for animal cruelty because their dog was grossly overweight.

An Englishwoman who had a very old german shepherd who was underweight spent a lot of money to fight a case prosecuted by the Royal Society for Protection of Animals for animal cruelty because her dog was "in lean condition."

The case was thrown out in court, because the RSPCA had not properly disclosed documents that undermined their case completely and worked from the wrong case file for another dog altogether. Turns out their case was lousy. If the woman hadn't spent money to fight it, she could have been convicted based on lies. The case reports involves some interesting judge's findings on the problems of "imposing an uniform standard of care."

He also objects to stigmatizing defendants by implying they are also likely to abuse children. This link is most likely only when pets are assaulted by domestic abusers in a fit of rage.

Many prosecutions for animal cruelty involve lack of veterinary care, neglect, which active malice need not exist.

Let us take a hypothetical example. A woman who owns a dog or other pet, always has taken care of it. One day, she gets in an accident when coming home and falls into a coma or undergoes emergency surgery and is out of it for over a day or four. This happens to thousands a year.

She has no family and nobody to check on her dog, and it is a few days before she recovers. Meanwhile the dog is at home, unable to be let out or taken care of. The neighbors may act IF they know she hasn't come home yet and they've been entrusted to take of her dog before. If not, the dog could well starve and foul the home while the owner is in a coma. When the investigators come, they see the animal frantic from hunger and anxiety and a mess everywhere. It doesn't look nice, does it?
By a "strict objective standard of care" as the RSPCA advocates, the woman should be arrested for neglect or felony animal cruelty because she was hit by a car and was NOT able to take care of her pet.

People who find a starving stray dog and nurse it back to health can be prosecuted and targeted for having obviously ill or underweight dogs that have been poorly taken care of-- never mind the person just found the dog and has taken it to a vet already. You see, the person is in the possession of an obviously maltreated animal, ergo the person is guilty of abusing it.

If you think this happens only in England, you're wrong. Animal Control Officers (who often have no law OR veterinary training whatsoever) will prosecute owners for apparent cases of cruelty.

Imagine you're walking and talking with your friend in a wheelchair after a severe car accident. He has a black eye, broken limbs, etc. Would you like to be immediately suspected of assaulting your friend without any proof or questions asked? Of course not! When it is a human involved, people ask "What happened?!"

We need to get back to that "What happened?!" attitude when we see hurt and sick animals. Often the story isn't what you might think it is.

This explanation of rights that the RSPCA do and do NOT have are also fairly applicable to Americans and any agencies seeking to prosecute for animal cruelty. Under the law, NOBODY can enter your property for a search and seizure without your permission without a warrant. DO not give this permission.

Private agencies like the RSPCA, ASPCA, or others MUST get a warrant from court, and even then they are not authorized enter your property without your permission or the presence of law personnel. They are private citizens, not officers of the law. They need a court order to gain access, not a warrant.
If they come waiving a warrant but without law officers, insist on reading it and make sure they WAIT for law officers to get there.

The ADA Restoration Act: What's the fuss?

Why do we need a new law to restore the Americans with Disabilities Act? Here's Senator Harkin's words on this:

"Unfortunately, since the ADA was passed, a series of court decisions have ignored Congress’ clear intent regarding who should be protected under the law, and have narrowed the category of who qualifies as an “individual with a disability.”

“Many individuals who Congress intended to protect under the ADA – including people with epilepsy, diabetes, and cancer – are no longer protected as a result of these court decisions,” said Harkin. “These cases have created a bizarre catch-22 where people with serious conditions like epilepsy or diabetes could be forced to choose between treating their conditions and forfeiting their protections under the ADA, or not treating their conditions and being protected. That is not what Congress intended when we passed this law 17 years ago. This situation clearly cries out for a modest, reasonable legislative fix, and that's exactly what I am doing, today, by introducing the ADA Restoration Act of 2007.”


The law has been interpreted to mean that you are not covered if you aren't disabled, leading to such controversial rulings such as Kirkingburg v. Albertson's Inc. The original judge said basically, Mr. Kirkingburg could be an "individual with a disability" in other lawsuits, but not in this particular case, because of existing federal law. It has been overturned on appeal.

The ADA restoration act would change the word to prohibit discrimination on the BASIS of disability, just as discrimination is now prohibited on the basis of gender, age, sexual orientation, or race. You don't have to prove you're a certain color even under a bright light in order to prove racial discrimination, and so it should be with discrimination on the basis of disability.

Properly written and clarified to businesses, with guidelines on what is safe and not safe to do, this may help employment potential. This clarity was missing with the first ADA. Many businesses fired their disabled employees when the ADA was about to pass for fear of lawsuits and increased costs. Employment for the disabled has NOT improved since the ADA.

The Federal Aviatian Administration (FAA) gave airlines clear guidelines about how to accomodate disabled fliers, and for the large majority disabled flyers find airports amazingly much more accessible than before the ADA (although discrimination still exists.)

Yet the average employer has no such resource, other than what case law involving the ADA has stated. Business briefs published by the U.S. Department of Justice involve accomodations, customer service, but not much on advertising, hiring and firing practices to avoid discrimination.

The closest non-disabled example of discrimination in hiring against the disabled would be for women of a certain age who arouse the covert fear that "they could get pregnant and leave after they've used up their employer-paid family leave", and same goes for older people who might be in worse health, but women face fewer obstacles to employment in the first place that disabled people do.

Despite the paranoia of some die-hard critics, The ADA does and the ADA restoration act would actually allow business to fire people for not doing work they were paid to do, whether disabled or not, or to simply reduce hours if the employee is not able to work full-time, without fear of a lawsuit related to the fact they're disabled.

Alas, employer-paid health insurance is unfortunately the major elephant in the room when it comes to discrimination against current employees. Businesses can't always afford to pay health insurance for part-time employees, but if they cut benefits due to disability causing reduced hours, they wind up risking lawsuits or paying health insurance for disabled employees and not healthy employees, and risking a lawsuit all around.

In a way, this is why the COBRA act was passed-- to obligate businesses to allow people to buy-in their health plans after termination of employment, or reduction in hours worked-- but without having to make the business chip in as well.

The Family and Medical Leave Act also protects employees' rights in case of emergency, and actually restricts the leave taken due to disability or family situations to 12 weeks (3 months). This may be paid or unpaid, or a combination of both. The employer is not obligated to pay it. Some might argue that Europe has a better model. However, COBRA is flat and includes disablity in its definition.

Interestingly, many websites (here's one!) talking about life after being laid-off suggest that if you're healthy, find a better plan. If you're ill, stay with COBRA... because of the problems of being rejected by new insurance policies. (Don't believe that one? Here's another with the same advice.)

So benefits, once intended to entice workers, now have become a fixed cost of employment that is nearly the same for the CEO and the mailboy. This massive obligation is fraught with continuing costs as the cost of health insurance spirals upwards out of the reach of average people without employer clout in getting group plans. That mean employees MUST hold out for benefits from employers, and often stay for the sake of benefits. Because larger businesses can get health insurance cheaper in bulk, they have an overhead advantage to smaller business. This MUST be changed for the sake of both businesses and employees alike.

The disproportionate, fixed costs of employing people full-time with benefits drives employers to hire 2-3 people part times, no benefits. In some areas (such as here), people may work 2-3 part-time jobs without benefits, when the business could likely provide full-time jobs... if they could afford the benefits.

Sadly, there are no part-time CEO jobs. The part-time jobs without benefits are generally the jobs that pay moderately or poorly to start with. Also, there's the family restriction on health insurance group plans, which means your friend, roommate, or sibling can't add you to his health plan for you while you're out of work or not getting benefits! Only your spouse can do that... if he/she has insurance.

If you're fostering a child, you probably can't add him to your health insurance, either. Thankfully, since 1999, foster children have Medicaid until age 21.

Employer-paid health insurance is not a benefit that is not equal for single people versus people with spouses or kids then. Because the employer pays part of the insurance for every person on the plan, we would expect some discrimination against parents, as well. And we do. So, employment discrimination can be based on many factors, including health insurance costs, as well as a perceived higher risk of being sued without cause. Doesn't make it right in any case.

When discrimation in hiring affects the bottom line, I fear that anti-discrimination laws will only work when employers are sued into compliance... or they are shown how their fears aren't true, and taught their rights in this case. A third path, that of meditating employment disputes, also depends on well-trained meditators.

The ADA restoration act will make it easier for us to sue for employment discrimination under the correct wording of the law. Business however need guidelines on how not to discriminate without bending over backwards inappropriately. Nobody should keep an employee just because they're fearful of a lawsuit and then use it as an excuse not to hire qualified people in the future. That means doing it right in the first place!

I get upset when businesses refuse to hire employees because of disability issues, qualifications aside. This is the WORST discrimination out there right now.

I've had people be rude to me and say "we don't want you, you're deaf." Well, they just wanted me a minute ago when they left me a voice message or e-mail after seeing my resume and I answered exactly what I could do per the job ad.

The ADA says I don't have to disclose my disability at any point, even when I am hired. Experience has taught me that I shouldn't allow employers the opportunity to discriminate before I get a foot in the door.

On your resume you shouldn't put any information (about gender, age, sexual orientation, martial status) that could lead to discrimination. It is also illegal for employers to ask for this information up front because they can use it to discriminate against you before even meeting you. Disabled people merit the same protection.

I've learned that I don't get callbacks if I tell people to use the relay. So voice mail it is for me. I've gotten a few interviews that way by calling THEM back via relay and talking to them first.

One manager said "you can't do this job" and when I asked why, began making excuses, lying about the job description which suddenly was nothing like what was written down on the job ad in front of me. She then wanted to revoke the interview which she had already offered to me on the voice mail.
I filed an complaint with the president of that company, explaining the situation and saying, whether the job ad was incorrect or the manager was lying, there was a significant problem here that should be fixed.

Many job ads specify "verbal or oral communication skills"-- which to to many is code for "deaf, stutterers, extremely shy, autistic, or other communication disorders need not apply." Sadly, it's not even true in all cases.

I once applied for a job that demanded oral communication, said so in the ad. I really wanted that job, and the ad didn't make it clear WHY. I applied for the job. They hired me-- there was nearly zero communication that couldn't be done by e-mail, except for meetings. It was one of the most quiet places I had ever worked in.

Now, whether intended or not, asking for physical, speech, mental or sensory requirements that are not key to the job is discriminatory. Key tasks should be part of the job information.

A business needs to be clear about the job they're advertising or they won't get good core skill fits. We shouldn't allow the trend of discrimination in advertising and interviewing for jobs to continue unchecked. It is a crime against us all.

All would-be recruiters and HR employees should try it from the other side: send out two similar resumes. Have a disabled and a nondisabled person phone the company, record or listen in the conversation. See how the callback goes, and/or the interview. Try with another disability, and so on.

Maybe we'll all learn something together about why the disabled aren't employed enough, despite all the laws out there. 66% unemployed is a really high rate.

Many disabled people start their own businesses of some sort. It's not for everybody, but if you're ever interested, The Small Business Association has information on how to do so.

Knowing what you don't know...

Every creature must know when they need to explore, to check out what is out there, when they don't have what it takes to do a death-defying leap quite yet.
But do most creatures stop and scratch their head before deciding whether they can do a task or not? Turns out self-reflection can be found in rats deciding whether they have the stuff it takes to do a test.

O Sweet Memory!

As banana bread odor wafts past my nose, I am reminded of many things. Unlike Proust, the infamous author of "Remembrance of Times Past" though, I do not plan to write thousands of pages on my memories.

People have known for some time that smell has a peculiar link to memory. When we sniff something, we can often conjure up the episode when we last smelt that smell, including how we felt. Also in Korsakoff's syndrome, olfactory memory seems oddly untouched by thiamine deficiency.

We also literally smell with our brains, so perhaps this is not all that surprising. The amylagda, important in fear/anger response, also receives inputs directly from the olfactory bulb and helps form emotional reactions to odors.

Therefore, you will never catch yourself thinking wistfully "that smell smells rather odd, kind of like eggs that's gone rotten, what should I do?" Instead you'll be screaming "AHHHHHH ROTTEN EGG ODOR, GET OUT OF HERE" and leaving in time to avoid inhaling lethal amounts of hydrogen sulfide. Or to avoid ingesting more of rotting food. And so on.

Rats have been shown to only need 1-2 trials to learn to associate a smell with an experience. Dogs have been shown to have much keener smell-memory of people after 1-2 exposures than people have of people's appearance, and be much more reliable about it.
Dogs in fact can discriminate between different body parts of people; most "mistakes in identification" appear to be from the dog not having smelled enough to make a match to the person. They almost never make false matches.

Now, a recent issue in Science mentions that if you are exposed to a smell while learning a task, and then later smell that during slow-wave sleep, you can remember the tasks MUCH better. This is interesting.

Mice have a stronger sense of smell at night, thanks to their circadian rhythms . But they are nocturnal animals that are normally awake at night. We don't know when our sense of smell is most acute, although hordes of pregnant women would probably personally vote for early to mid morning. Gack.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

From Russia with Gimbels and Awe

Merry Christmas to y'all. I was about ready to let this blog fold as I have so much other writing to do, but I could not resist sharing this amazing video (on Windows Media Player) of a Russian SU-30MK fighter jet.

The pink smoke is to show any vortex formation around the wingtips-- vortexes forming over wings are bad news for flight stability. Pretty, eh? You can see the smoke changes angles, as does the plane ITSELF when flying. This fighter jet has vectored thrust, using nozzles that can change direction of thrust.

This ain't anywhere near my field of expertise, so I wound up knocking at NASA's website on gimbaled thrust, for further info on how you get moveable nozzles. Gimbals are found in gyroscopes and other systems, and have their flaws (especially in the 3-gimbal style).

If you still haven't gotten enough of those bad boys, check out this YouTube video set to Metallica-- at around 0:29 you will get to see a SU-37 waggle its gimbled nozzles before takeoff.

-Wilbrod-

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Hacking Days!

A case of bronchitis has me housebound and seriously burning up with cabin fever. So I'm expanding my computer skills a little. Somebody told me GIMP (GUI manipulation program) could be used to make animated gifs.

With help from a fellow blogger, I also figured out why Blogger wouldn't animate the gifs. Apparently, blogger copies and displays a trimmed version of the picture, not the original. The solution was to link to the picture instead. I opened a photobucket album.

Once I was all set to blog, I needed a better demo. This picture Smiley toon bear face with compulsive lip-licking
took me around 15 seconds to create this from two pre-existing pictures, including flipping one into its mirror image with GIMP to create a third image. Now you know why those annoying animations are everywhere.... grin.

Can I make the picture stop moving? Voila! Smiley toon bear face licking chops once Hmm, I have only an option between "loop forever" and a single cycle. Bites. That can't be right; I did better on Visual Basic 10 years ago.

Looks like I could always duplicate it a few times for a longer animation cycle. That would mean more memory for the same stuff, and that's a total waste of broadband. I don't like it. Time to get more GIMP-savvy and see if I can do advanced settings instead.

This is all part of my mad plan, of course. Today, a simple little licky bear face; tomorrow it shall be animated diagrams bringing Pulsating Science to a Computer Near You. Well maybe not tomorrow; but as soon as I get all sciency-bloggy again, I promise you, I'll also be GIMPy. Or something.

In the meanwhile, here's a hot review of a 71-year old guy who is a YouTube superstar for his amazing lectures/demos on physics at the Massaschusetts Institute of Technology.

MIT has open courseware of various lectures for all to enjoy. You can download them; MIT even allows you to translate them into the language of your choice, as long as you identify their source. Therefore, those videos can be copied and captioned for the benefit of the hearing-impaired.

I understand various video editing softwares can make captioning relatively simple, but I'm not very savvy on video editing-- yet. Google has some information here, as well as instructions for how to subtitle your google video uploads.

Unfortunately Youtube, while popular, still stinks at its captioning features, according to this blog's review.

So... will we have captioned MIT open courseware for the deaf soon?

-Wilbrod-

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reload that magazine for me, please...

I grew up subscribing to science magazines. The idea of reading fiction in magazines was alien to me, except for the usual "ELVIS FATHERED MY 3-HEADED ALIEN BABY!" titles that I inched away from in the supermarkets.

Now, I'm looking to broaden my magazine tastes. Enter the internet-- many magazines have websites with covers, table of contents, and samples of their issues. So I went a-browsing, and I turned up two gems thus far.

One is Image magazine, which advertises itself as "art, faith, and mystery". It's challenging to pigeonhole what it IS. But I found some good stuff in it, such as this poignant essay, "The Fifth Chair" by Mary Swander. Still, I don't always want serious reading.

This poem was a nice change and very hip.

I also found this blog which discusses writing as a form of healing. Very interesting!

To that article, I would add that writers should never forget to take their daily dose of laughter while writing for therapy, as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

O Midsummer!

As benefits a good gnome, I have been trying to master the rudiments of knitting. I just got shown the basic "casting on" stitch around 50 times before I finally realized I kept doing some moves in the opposite direction than I should. Who would have guessed I have knitting dyslexia? Ah well. It's safer to be confused on up and down when knitting than when flying.

I'll eventually learn knitting somehow and then watch those needles smoke... and if I don't, these needles will DEFINITELY go up in smoke.

I was told that in ye old gnomish pioneering days, when sheep were more plentiful than clothes stores, that every gnomelet would be expected to practice knitting for 2 hours an evening until they either poked their eyes out with needles or got that Phygrian cap just right. I guess it was prehistoric Nintendo.

Nowadays they're thinking kids don't know how to go outside anymore-- thanks to the siren song of the computer. Someday we'll MAKE computers be good camping buddies and have tactile interfaces to teach us to knit and start fires, In the meanwhile I say pack those spoiled brats off to camp-- you know, no e-mail, no cell phones, and all.

Until then, I'll keep unhooking myself from cyberlife to enjoy the Great Outdoors with Wilbrodog.

I live in an area with some risk of Lyme disease if you get bit by deer ticks. I've caught 2 crawling up my arm and removed them before they could bite. Just a word of warning, try not to handle ticks directly. Even if lyme disease is not epidemic in your area, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other tick-borne diseases may exist instead. Vaccines are being worked on for those.

But heck, life isn't meant to be safe-- it's meant to be lived. Just pay attention to any hitchhikers on you and your pets that are NOT carrying towels.

Otherwise, I like this place in summer a lot. Today, at the summer solistice, the sun rises shortly after 5 AM and sets at around 9:30 PM. Now that's what I call a LONG day-- more than 16 hours of sunshine!

And it's time for me to unplug and go and enjoy me this midsummer day. I am not allowed to indulge the gnomish rituals of midsummer, but here are some ideas for celebrating the outdoors.

Don't forget to take your knitting along.

-- Wilbrod the Gnome

BTW, hope you like the updated pic of me to the side. Spiffy for a gnome, eh?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Reeling, Writhing and Fainting in Coils... in Sign?

... As Lewis Carroll wrote, the Mock Turtle Academy teaches those three subjects, as well as the major branches of Arithmetics-- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision. My childhood is long past, yet I still smile at those puns.

Play with words helps learning. Interestingly, pretend play can help with the development of reading skills. This link is about as readable as mud, but the bottom line is, imaginative play helps develop the language skills needed for reading.

Daily, we find it easier to rely on environmental cues to communicate just what "give me that" means. But the rules in pretend games are different! You must communicate more clearly-- "give me the glass of lemonade you have in your hand." The ability to construct a story is also very important for reading.

Studies on language and our short-term memory indicates we only have so much memory for a chain of nonsense words-- from a low of 3 to a best of 7 on average. We need to chunk words and ideas into bigger concepts that we then memorize in order. By this chunking process, a person can memorize Pi to ten thousand digits, as a series of phone numbers, whatever... and then on demand, reel it all out. Amazing! That's REAL reeling.

When a child is struggling with reading words, the words themselves first need to make sense, then the child must be able to recognize chunks. The whole sentence needs to be understood, too, and the understanding comes from building a mental storyline in your head of the sentence.

Man bites dog. (Latin: Canem homo mordit)
Dog bites man. (Latin: Canis homem mordit)

Read right, these sentences give very different ideas of what's happening. Here's the question: how does the reader or language speaker learn to recognize the difference between the two sentences? No 2-year old endures daily language drills to learn grammar.

Instead, kids learn by example, repetition, looking for patterns. And they often get it wrong now and then on the way as they learn language.

By age 3-6, a child will start doing wordplay such as:
Rhymes: recognizing how words sound
Tongue-twisters: pronouncing similar words
Jokes based on simple puns
Repetition of words in songs, especially culmulative songs

Culmulative songs especially may test and develop memory strongly.

When kids begin reading, they can be introduced to wordplay on paper-- rebuses, "wacky words", which can help teach idiomatic language. This of course is the timetable for children growing up with spoken languages.

ASL
The pattern with sign language is slightly different. Kids can learn to sign clearly quicker than for speech, but will otherwise develop grammatically on a schedule similar to hearing children.

Older kids may do the following games in American sign language (ASL):
ABC or number stories, using different handshapes-- like acrostics in English.
Bilingual word play== "I understand" (I STAND (under))
Play on mistranslation of homonyms-- RIGHT as (correct, righthand, legal rights)

There are not many "finger-twisters" told using the same hand signs, as they are easier in ASL.

My personal favorite example of a true finger-twister is: "Silly yellow dutch pipe cow phone." This will truly make your wrist writhe as you spell it.

Another type of finger-twister may occurwhen the signer attempts to sign two different simple words at the same time, such as DOG/CAT... and then try and speed it up to normal fingerspelling levels. This will make your mind reel-- as it's impossible without a lobotomy.

Another game in sign language might be "Mirror sign" in which two hands will fingerspell or do signs in unison, facing each other, as in a mirror. This is easy to sign, but challenging for others to read.

And of course, ASL signers can do visual word play in English by moving their hands as they fingerspell. Many "loan words" in ASL incorporate movement.

A simple example: "B-a-c-k" is often signed rapidly as "B-ck" and the direction of movement will show the meaning-- "back to me", "back to you", etc.

Many ASL signers spontaneously show diacritical marks (`' ~^ over letters) by moving the letters they are fingerspelling.

Therefore an ô will bounce, an ì will slope downwards, an Ä will be signed "A " rapidly followed by a crooked V stabbing the dots over it. An Ç will be a C moving down in a short J.

Apostrophes such as in "C'est" will be spelled as a twisting C followed by EST as the C handshape is used to paint the apostrophe. The exception may be for "O'" in Irish names where the O may move in a circle before moving to the next letter.

Compared to painting French punctuation in the air while spelling the words, "FAINTING" in coils is easy.

Now you can see why I enjoy Lewis Carroll.

I am curious, though-- where are the memory games in sign language? There is no precise parallel to culmulative songs in ASL. Echolalia does not count. But now I think of it, culmulative songs could be done in turn, with each new signer contributing a verse in logical order.

This makes it similar to an ASL-story around, also known as a round-robin story. This does test listening memory and the ability to keep a story going.  Many people can tell you that inventing, memorizing, and performing an ABC story is indeed challenging to the memory.

Round robin stories were in fashion among educated Victorians during the 19th century, when ASL had its strongest development period before the Milan Congress in 1880.

However, among hearing people, culmative songs can be played even further as a memory game if the person is required to repeat what others have already said before adding a new verse.

I have not seen a ASL Round-robin story played this way. I would be interested to know if anybody has in fact played a round-robin story like this.  I doubt it.

I think I have seen ABC stories done like a culmative song, as one narrator gets stuck on an letter and another child repeats the ABC story and tries to devise a new letter.

What are your favorite word games from a child?