`Discover' looks into Ditch Day, baby talk

Stuffed shirts in the scientific world are being dealt another blow to their private universe of seeming mumbo jumbo. Discover (PBS, Wednesday, 8-9 p.m., check local listings) once again shoots host Peter Graves into orbit with a series of pop science film segments that simultaneously entertain and explain ongoing events in specialized worlds.

Viewers can learn why and how you and the babies in your family talk baby talk, how Cal Tech students make scientific fools of themselves during Ditch Day every year, how a new device aids deaf people. You will also be taken on a visit inside the Mt. St. Helens crater and experience a thrilling ride in a helicopter simulator.

This issue of electronic ``Discover'' is especially fascinating in its spotlighting of the Cal Tech version of fish-swallowing -- ``scientific'' puzzles created by seniors to keep lowerclassmen from gaining entry into their rooms.

The baby-talk segment explains why adults can't resist going ``goo-goo'' and rubbing noses with baby. According to ``Discover,'' adults are inherently attuned to the baby world and almost automatically raise their voices to a high pitch and exaggerate facial expressions. Human babies, on the other hand, seem to understand instinctively.

The ``Discover'' series of specials, produced by the Chedd-Angier Production Company, has consistently fished in the dark pond of complex technology and caught fascinating specimens, then added a solid portion of demystification to prepare them for popular digestion. This is the last of the series, and it is to be hoped that the underwriters will see fit to bring it back. It has proved itself to be a uniquely challenging electronic magazine of science.

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