- Website: http://ling.upenn.edu/~myl
Posts by Mark Liberman:
Jamison Hensley, "Ravens' John Harbaugh defends Colin Kaepernick's right to protest anthem", ESPN sports 8/29/2016:
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that he respects Colin Kaepernick's right to protest the national anthem and cited a French Enlightenment philosopher in doing so.
"Voltaire so eloquently stated, 'I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend it until death your right to say it,'" Harbaugh said. "That's a principle that our country is founded on. I don't think you cannot deny someone the right to speak out or mock or make fun or belittle anybody else's opinion."
Mouseover title: "I'm excited about the proposal to add a 'brontosaurus' emoji codepoint because it has the potential to bring together a half-dozen different groups of pedantic people into a single glorious internet argument."
Arvind Narayanan, "Language necessarily contains human biases, and so will machines trained on language corpora", Freedom to Tinker 8/24/2016:
We show empirically that natural language necessarily contains human biases, and the paradigm of training machine learning on language corpora means that AI will inevitably imbibe these biases as well.
"In Tom Wolfe's 'Kingdom,' Speech Is The One Weird Trick", NPR Weekend Edition Saturday 8/27/2016:
One of America's most distinguished men of letters says he believes that speech, not evolution, has made human beings into the creative, imaginative, deliberate, destructive, and complicated beings who invented the slingshot and the moon shot, and wrote the words of the Bible, Don Quixote, Good Night Moon, the backs of cereal boxes, and Fifty and Shades of Grey [sic].
The Kingdom of Speech is Tom Wolfe's first non-fiction book in 16 years. Wolfe tells NPR's Scott Simon that speech is "the attribute of attributes," because it's so unrelated to most other things about animals. "We've all been taught that we evolved from animals, and here is something that is totally absent from animal life," he says.
Mouseover Title: "The 95% confidence interval suggests Rexthor's dog could also be a cat, or possibly a teapot."
Alison Flood, "Oxford Dictionaries halts search for most disliked word after 'severe misuse'", The Guardian 8/26/2016
The #OneWordMap, an online survey soliciting readers’ least favourite words, is abandoned after site is flooded with offensive choices
It was intended to be a lighthearted quest to find the least popular word in the English language, but only a day after it launched, Oxford Dictionaries has ended its search following “severe misuse” of the feature by visitors to their website.
The dictionary publisher had invited users around the world to name their least favourite English word, intending to highlight differences between countries, genders and ages. When it opened for submissions on Thursday, “moist” was an early contender to top lists in the UK, US and Australia. It was later overtaken by “Brexit”, which went on to head the UK’s list, with “British” in third place.
But the #OneWordMap feature has now been closed, with a notice blaming the shutdown on “severe misuse”.
Mark Ziemann, Yotam Eren and Assam El-Osta, "Gene name errors are widespread in the scientific literature", Genome Biology 2016:
The spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel, when used with default settings, is known to convert gene names to dates and floating-point numbers. A programmatic scan of leading genomics journals reveals that approximately one-fifth of papers with supplementary Excel gene lists contain erroneous gene name conversions.
Emily Hopkins, Deena Weisberg, and Jordan Taylor, "The seductive allure is a reductive allure: People prefer scientific explanations that contain logically irrelevant reductive information", Cognition 2016:
Previous work has found that people feel significantly more satisfied with explanations of psychological phenomena when those explanations contain neuroscience information — even when this information is entirely irrelevant to the logic of the explanations. This seductive allure effect was first demonstrated by Weisberg, Keil, Goodstein, Rawson, and Gray (2008), and has since been replicated several times (Fernandez-Duque, Evans, Christian, & Hodges, 2015; Minahan & Siedlecki, 2016; Rhodes, Rodriguez, & Shah, 2014; Weisberg, Taylor, & Hopkins, 2015). However, these studies only examined psychological phenomena. The current study thus investigated the generality of this effect and found that it occurs across several scientific disciplines whenever the explanations include reductive information: reference to smaller components or more fundamental processes. These data suggest that people have a general preference for reductive information, even when it is irrelevant to the logic of an explanation.
Update — Comment from a friend:
Replace “rocks” with “verbs” and you have us pretty much nailed.
… that there is an apparently serious and respectable institution called the Center for Advanced Hindsight ("With our ‘Advanced Hindsight’ superpower we develop, apply and share behavioral insights").
This suggests a large space of available institutional names: there could be Institutes (or Centers or Laboratories) for (the Advanced Study of) many interesting things: Higher-Order Cognitive Bias; Unprecedented Errors; Failing Presuppositions; Novel Fallacies; …
Two of the hardest problems in English-language parsing are prepositional phrase attachment and scope of conjunction. For PP attachment, the problem is to figure out how a phrase-final prepositional phrase relates to the rest of the sentence — the classic example is "I saw a man in the park with a telescope". For conjunction scope, the problem is to figure out just what phrases an instance of and is being used to combine.
The title of a recent article offers some lovely examples of the problems that these ambiguities can cause: Suresh Naidu and Noam Yuchtman, "Back to the future? Lessons on inequality, labour markets, and conflict from the Gilded Age, for the present", VOX 8/23/2016. The second phrase includes three ambiguous prepositions (on, from, and for) and one conjunction (and), and has more syntactically-valid interpretations than you're likely to be able to imagine unless you're familiar with the problems of automatic parsing.
Shaun King, "North Carolina police kill unarmed deaf man using sign language", New York Daily News 8/22/2016:
This is as bad as it gets.
A North Carolina state trooper shot and killed 29-year-old Daniel Harris — who was not only unarmed, but deaf — just feet from his home, over a speeding violation. According to early reports from neighbors who witnessed the shooting this past Thursday night, Harris was shot and killed "almost immediately" after exiting his vehicle.
He appeared to be trying to communicate with the officer via sign language.
Sent in by Michael Robinson:
I saw this traffic sign in Toledo, Ohio. Luckily I wasn't driving a truck, or I would have had no idea what I was allowed to do. Since we were in a car, we figured U-turns must be OK. Because we were heading to a place that sold coffee, and nothing must stand between us and our morning latte.