David Beaver

Website: https://webspace.utexas.edu/dib97/

Posts by David Beaver:

    We never make assertions

    We never make assertions clip

    That's the greatest philosopher in the world speaking, in a little book I'm reading so that I better understand the American spirit – Ayn Rand's Atlas shrugged, Random House, 1957; p. 735 in the 1992 edition.  Perhaps Rand had a really, really dry sense of humor.

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    ommmm picToday's Guardian offers Improbable research: The repetitive physics of Om. Tantalizing. In turn, this links to Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddharth A. Ladhak, Time-Frequency Analysis of Chanting Sanskrit Divine Sound "OM" Mantra, International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, VOL.8 No.8, August 2008. Even more tantalizing. A new field of theophonetics!

    Unfortunately,  the article is not divine.

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    Second. Best. Summer. School. Ever.

    NASSLLI PIC NASSLLI 2010 is a week long summer school that offers 15 superlative graduate level courses and workshops on Language, Logic and Information from leading scholars, plus pre-session tutorials to bring you up to speed. And the price is incredibly low, just $150 for the entire week if you're a student and register by May 1.

    "Second best"? We'll come to that.

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    Update on the annihilation of Computational Linguistics at KCL

    [What follows is a guest post from Robin Cooper, Professor of Computational Linguistics, Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, and Director of the Graduate School of Language Technology, University of Gothenburg. He reports on the ill-considered and appallingly executed destruction of the Computational Linguistics group at King's College London. -- David Beaver]

    The crisis at King's College, London and in particular the targeting for redundancy of its computational linguists and logicians has stirred significant international protest (see http://sites.google.com/site/kclgllcmeltdown/). Many hundreds of highly distinguished scholars from around the world have organized letters of protest querying the rationale behind these moves, which have happened at the same time as the College invested more than £20 million in acquiring Somerset House, a prime piece of central London real estate. Moreover, in contrast to universities that have undergone similar budgetary pressures in the US (e.g. in the UC system where senior faculty have been asked to take pay cuts in order to preserve jobs), at KCL moves towards firing permanent staff has been the first resort.

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    The annihilation of computational linguistics at KCL

    [What follows is a guest post reporting on a very disturbing situation at King's College London involving the sacking of senior computational linguists and others in a secretly planned, tragically stupid, and farcically implemented mass-purge. The author of the post is currently employed at KCL, and for obvious reasons must remain anonymous here.

    Although it is clear that KCL is suffering from severe budgetary problems, the administration has reacted to the problems inappropriately and unconscionably: the administration is sacking some of KCL's most successful, academically productive and influential scholars, showing arbitrariness and short-sightedness in its decision making, and acting with extreme callousness in the manner by which the decisions have been imposed on the victims.

    For those out of the field, I would note that I and other Language Loggers are intimately acquainted with the work of those under fire at KCL. It is among the most important work in syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and computational linguistics, presenting ideas that many of us cite regularly and have absorbed into our own work, and which nobody in the field can ignore. - David Beaver]

    Philosophers have been aghast at recent developments at King's College, London
    where three senior philosophers, Prof Shalom Lappin, Dr Wilfried Meyer-Viol and Prof Charles Travis, have been targetted for redundancy as part of a restructuring plan for the KCL School of Arts and Humanities. The reason for targetting Lappin and Meyer-Viol has been explained to be that KCL is `disinvesting' from Computational Linguistics. One of the many puzzling aspects of this supposed explanation for targetting Lappin and Meyer-Viol is that there is no computational linguistics unit in Philosophy to disinvest from. (For detailed coverage see the Leiter Report here, here, and here, and these letters protesting the actions taken in the humanities.)

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    In a world with no rules … one man … broke them all.

    That's the tagline for Banksy's soon to be released film Exit Through the Gift Shop. This is turning out to be a good day for sentences you need to read twice. And it's rare to find one which says nothing and everything (about street art, grammar, movies, you name it) so precisely.

    [via the Guardian]

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    How can we test that theary?

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    A deeply flawed character

    When phrases are coordinated, readers infer that the the juxtaposed elements are in some way parallel. Careless coordination produces unwanted inferences. Today's Daily Beast serves up an object lesson:

    Stunned colleagues Friday described veteran CBS News producer Joe Halderman—who was arrested outside the network’s West 57th Street offices Thursday in the alleged scheme to blackmail David Letterman—as a rogue and a womanizer, a lover of literature, a “smart frat boy,” a swashbuckling journalist, and an occasional barroom brawler who distinguished himself in dangerous war zones and occasionally displayed a certain reckless streak.

    Fucking literature lovers.

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    Ig Nobel Onomastics

    Polish Driver\'s License

    First, a new twist on a story that our legal desk covered back in February: at the annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony earlier tonight, the Prize for Literature was awarded to the Garda Síochána na hÉireann (i.e. the Irish Police Force) for the 50 or more speeding tickets they've issued in the name "Prawo Jazdy", Polish for "driver's license."

    And as if that wasn't enough onomastic excitement, the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize for Veterinary Medicine was awarded for work reported in Bertenshaw, C. and Rowlinson, P., Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production, Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People and Animals 22:1, pp. 59-69, 2009. Specifically, Dr. Bertenshaw and Dr. Rowlinson share the prize for their demonstration that (and here I quote from the article's abstract): "On farms where cows were called by name, milk yield was 258 liters higher than on farms where this was not the case (p < 0.001)."

    Yet all this groundbreaking research leaves me with more questions than answers. What is the causal direction behind the correlation? And if my cow produced 238 liters too little milk, would I admit to the researchers the names I used for her? And how much milk can an Irish policeman get from a speeding Polish cow?

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    UCLA linguist vastly overestimates prevalence of sarcasm

    A casual inspection of the 59 (true) Google hits on "Oooo, you look", suggests that Dr. Willis Jensen, a recent presenter in the brownbag lunch series at Language Log Plaza, vastly overestimated the correlation between utterance initial "Oooo" and sarcasm: the true rate is less than 50%. However, he is correct to identify "Oooo" as a common marker of sarcasm, e.g. the comment "oooo. you look lovely:)" in the comments here from the above search.

    (A video report on Dr. Jensen's groundbreaking work is below the fold.)

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    First American Dies of Swine Flu

    Here's what I heard today on my local National Public Radio station:  "The first American has died of swine flu." And also, for clarification, "The first American has died of H1N1." But who is or was the first American, I mused, heartlessly, while being an asshole in the defenseless Texan evening traffic. Obama? Benjamin Franklin? Some spear-wielding mastodon hunter? At any rate, not the unfortunate woman who just died.

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    Industrial bullshitters censor linguists

    A bullshit lie detector company run by a charlatan has managed to semi-successfully censor a peer reviewed academic article. And I don't like it one bit. But first, some background, and then we'll get to the censorship stuff.

    Five years ago I wrote a Language Log post entitled "BS conditional semantics and the Pinocchio effect" about the nonsense spouted by a lie detection company, Nemesysco. I was disturbed by the marketing literature of the company, which suggested a 98% success rate in detecting evil intent of airline passengers, and included crap like this:

    The LVA uses a patented and unique technology to detect "Brain activity finger prints" using the voice as a "medium" to the brain and analyzes the complete emotional structure of your subject. Using wide range spectrum analysis and micro-changes in the speech waveform itself (not micro tremors!) we can learn about any anomaly in the brain activity, and furthermore, classify it accordingly. Stress ("fight or flight" paradigm) is only a small part of this emotional structure

    The 98% figure, as I pointed out, and as Mark Liberman made even clearer in a follow up post, is meaningless. There is no type of lie detector in existence whose performance can reasonably be compared to the performance of finger printing. It is meaningless to talk about someone's "complete emotional structure", and there is no interesting sense in which any current technology can analyze it. It is not the case that looking at speech will provide information about "any anomaly in the brain activity": at most it will tell you about some anomalies. Oh, the delicious irony, a lie detector company that engages in wanton deception.

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    Even more Phenomenology of Error

    In the comments to my post Orwell's Liar, Beth posted a link to Joseph William's article The Phenomonology of Error, and Mark reposted the link in a follow-up post here.

    Well, I just finished reading the Williams article, and what I want to know is how the fuck an article riddled with errors could ever be published in a respectable journal…

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    Orwell's Liar

    Orwell's Politics and the English Language is a beautifully written language crime, though it pretends to lay down the law. Furthermore I just noticed that its final law is rather curious. We'll get to that shortly.

    Orwell begins with the unjustified premise that language is in decline – unjustified because while he viciously attacks contemporary cases of poor writing, he provides no evidence that earlier times had been perennially populated by paragons of literary virtue. He proceeds to shore up the declining language with style suggestions that, regrettably enough, have never turned a Dan Brown into a George Orwell.  

    Customers who buy into Orwell's shit also buy Strunk and White, and further milquetoast simulacra of one or the other, so it's worth looking more closely at what he proposes. Let's start off in time honored Language Log style, by seeing how Orwell breaks his own rules. Showing a lack of imagination that would be worthy of someone who lacked imagination, Orwell suggests the following rule, his fourth rule, a rule that in various forms has been heard many times both before and since. Verily shall I yawn unto you Orwell's unoriginal original (c.f. this discussion of how it predates Orwell):

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    My brain hurts

    The Typalyzer website gives an instant and fun psychological profile of any blog based on the language used. Asked about Language Log, it says we're "scientists". It's true! It's true!

    Although we are "intellectually curious and daring", we "might be pshysically hesitant to try new things." I admit it. I'm so pshysically challenged that I can't even pronounce it.

    Further, we "tend to be so abstract and theoretical in [our] communication [we] often have a problem communcating [our] visions to other people and need to learn patience and use conrete examples." Yes, also true. Communcating has never been our strong point. Note to self: more conrete.

    But ok, spelling aside, this stuff isn't bad at all, until you get to the next part of the analysis. Which is the most misleading picture of a brain since Dan Hodgins showed us where to find the Crockus:

    That's why my brain hurts.

    [Below the fold, a note for the curious on how the Typalyzer website works.

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