News from Denmark 24.07.00

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Recognising Danish

Last week the Norwegian company Nordisk Språkteknologi, which deals in language technology, started recording 600 voices of people from across the country, between the ages of 18 and 67, all speaking Danish.

The point of the project is to load the voices into a computer, which will analyse the data to create a profile of how Danes speak. This profile can then be used in conjunction with commercial voice recognition software to allow for recognition of the Danish language.

Each of the 600 people have been asked to read aloud for about one hour from different texts including words of common usage. Voice samples from an equal number of men and women will be gathered from seven areas in Denmark where there are distinct dialects.

A similar project was recently completed in Sweden, where they found that the software was unable to create a useable profile of the Swedish language until voices from the southern Swedish province of Skåne were separated from the rest. Eventually it was necessary to create two profiles of the Swedish language.

For this reason the dialect spoken on the Danish island of Bornholm, south of the Swedish mainland, will not be included in the project. Unfortunately there will be only one profile made of the Danish language, as the market for those who speak the Bornholm dialect is not large enough.

Commuter future: Bus ahoy!

Copenhagen's newest public transport vehicles are soon set to enter service in the city's canals and waterways. Two 63-seater water buses are currently undergoing safety trials in Copenhagen's inner harbour.

The two vessels, painted bright yellow like any other Copenhagen buses... although with a marine blue trim... are set to begin operations as part of the capital's public transport system.

The water buses are scheduled to run a regular daily route, making three departures per hour between the tip of Langelinie quay and the new royal library building, the Black Diamond. The service is due to start next month.

Although a ticket for the harbour route alone will cost DKK 24, passengers will be able to use ordinary bus tickets and passes covering the cost of transport within a single zone.

Initiators of the scheme predict that the water buses will be hugely successful, both with tourists and as an inner-city commuter route. The service, however, is not immediately expected to make money.

'This route will dramatically improve the city's infrastructure and we will be receiving state support of DKK 2 million per year.'

Bus Company project boss Lene Jensby said.
'Even so, it is unlikely that the route will break even, at least at the beginning. We would need to be full every day on every departure to make a profit.'

The vessels were built by a Swedish shipyard at a cost of just under DKK 10 million, and will be operated on a daily basis by Arriva, the same company that operates most of the capital's more traditional buses. A captain and one crew member will man each bus.

Copenhagen's Harbour Authority has commissioned the building of six prefabricated harbour-bus stops, designed by Knud Holscher Industrial Design, which are currently being erected by construction firm Skanska along the route. Funded by Copenhagen's Harbour Authority, the six stops will cost DKK 8 million to complete.

Unanswered questions in puberty mystery

Asian girls living here are reaching puberty much earlier than their Danish counterparts.

In a phenomenon doctors are at a loss to explain, large numbers of Asian girls are reaching puberty much earlier than the average, with some young girls starting to menstruate as early as five or six years old. Many of the girls affected are adopted from Asia, causing doctors to suspect a link between family and environment.

Professor Niels Erik Skakkebæk, director of Copenhagen's Clinic for Growth and Reproduction comments:
'When a process as important as the onset of puberty suddenly alters, it is a sign that something is wrong. We have yet to come up with a satisfactory explanation for this phenomenon, but we know these girls experience biological change after moving to another continent. We suspect, therefore, that the answer must lie in the environment. It cannot be just because the girls move to a rich country like Denmark. Children in well-to-do families in New Delhi don't reach puberty any earlier than poorer Indian children.'

Based at Copenhagen's City Hospital (Rigshospitalet), Professor Skakkebæk is treating some of the girls with drugs designed to inhibit their body's ability to produce hormones.
'It's not a good idea to interfere with a young girl's hormone production, but bone formation can be affected by premature puberty,'

continues Professor Skakkebæk.
'If they do not receive treatment, these girls risk growing up to be 10-15cm shorter than average.'

He adds that although their progress is being carefully monitored, strong support exists for a more detailed scientific investigation into the cause of the problem.

According to the textbooks, Danish girls start menstruating at an average age of 13, but these figures are nearly 30 years out of date. Professor Skakkebæk admits that there are no current statistics relating to the average age that Danish children reach puberty. However, a recent survey in England has shown that out of a sample of 14,000, one-in-six girls reach puberty as early as eight years old.

Live net-birth

The nations first live Internet broadcast of a childbirth took place last night at the home of Rie and Lars Refslund in the town of Sønderborg in Southern Jutland. Rie gave birth to a healthy girl at 02:49 without complications. The girl weighed 3,600 grams and measured 52cm. Web-cams broadcast the birth HERE where a digital recording is still available

OB1 Knordic

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