David Beaver

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

Posts by David Beaver:

    When I heard the learn'd astronomer

    meteor painting

    —Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven; Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads, (A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads, Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)

    — Exerpt from Walt Whitman's Year of Meteors, 1859

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    Free Summer School

    Busy June 20 – June 26? Could you manage to squeeze one of the most intellectually intense weeks of your life into your summer schedule? For free?

    NASSLLI PICI'm talking (once again!) about the North American Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLI 2010), of which I am program chair. It's aimed at graduate students, researchers, and advanced undergraduates, in fact anyone interested in formal approaches to language, philosophy, and computation. And I bring you, Language Log reader, some hot news that gives you the chance of attending the school and making 100-150 new friends for life for free… provided you apply by June 1.

    Here's the news (and this is aimed at students). The National Science Foundation has given preliminary approval for a sizable grant to NASSLLI 2010. Together with other funds we have raised this will enable us to provide students with financial support to attend the school. We expect to be able to reimburse the registration fees of about 40 deserving students, and to pay further travel expenses for those whose need is greatest. You can find online information on how to register and how to apply for the grants – see the Support is Available from NASSLLI Itself section on the NASSLLI grants page. Basically, you need to send NASSLLI an email with a reason why NASSLLI is relevant for you, and have your academic advisor send an email too.

    I'm really, really looking forward to meeting many of you in Bloomington, Indiana at the end of next month, and if you want to ask me personally about it, send me an email.

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    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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