Six year old science

Today's SMBC:

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Voice recognition for English and Mandarin typing

In all tech considered (8/24/16), Arrti Shahani has an article titled "Voice Recognition Software Finally Beats Humans At Typing, Study Finds".

Turns out voice recognition software has improved to the point where it is significantly faster and more accurate at producing text on a mobile device than we are at typing on its keyboard. That's according to a new study by Stanford University, the University of Washington and Baidu, the Chinese Internet giant. The study ran tests in English and Mandarin Chinese.

Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng says this should not feel like defeat. "Humanity was never designed to communicate by using our fingers to poke at a tiny little keyboard on a mobile phone. Speech has always been a much more natural way for humans to communicate with each other," he says.

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Who knew?

… 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; …

 

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Annals of parsing

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.

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Unattended luggage

On her way back from Cornwall in April, Janet (Geok Hoon) Williams saw this sign, put up by Great Western Railway, at the train station:

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Gestures of death

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.

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The Festival are clear

One of the rare syntactic dialect differences between British and American English (there really aren't many) concerns verb agreement in present-tense clauses: British English strongly favors plural agreement with any singular subject noun phrase that denotes a collectivity of individuals rather than a unitary individual. And the extent to which it favors that plural agreement is likely to raise eyebrows with speakers of American English. This example, for example, from an email about a lecture at the Edinburgh International Book Festival:

The Festival are very clear that if you arrive after the start of the lecture you will not be admitted.

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Modal logic of traffic signs

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.


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Bilingual Spanish-Chinese street signs

Germán Renedo recently noticed that the government has installed bilingual street signs in the Belgrano neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where Chinatown is located. The signs transcribe the sounds of the Spanish words rather than translate their meanings.

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Ask Language Log: why is "inch" a family relationship in Korean?

Katie Odhner asks:

I have lately been teaching myself Korean and have become quite interested in Sino-Korean vocabulary. Recently two words in particular caught my attention: samchon 삼촌 ("paternal uncle"), from Chinese s ān cùn 三寸 ("three inches"), and sachon 사촌 ("cousin"), from Chinese sì cùn 四寸 ("four inches"). I wondered how "three inches" and "four inches" could turn into family members. According to one website I found, chon 寸 can refer to "degree (of kinship)", which makes some sense. But when I looked on ctext.org (Chinese Text Project), I couldn't find classical Chinese examples of this usage, so I'm thinking maybe it's a Korean invention.

Have you ever encountered cùn 寸 ("inch") in Classical Chinese to refer to degree of kinship? Do you think it's a Korean invention? And does "third degree of kinship" for uncle and "fourth degree of kinship" for cousin have any roots that you can think of in the Confucian tradition, or is that also a native Korean concept?

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The Female Brain movie

Silas Lesnick, "An ensemble cast has come together for Whitney Cummings’ The Female Brain movie", comingsoon.net 8/17/2016:

Black Bicycle Entertainment has today announced the ensemble cast for their upcoming The Female Brain movie, which marks the directorial debut of Whitney Cummings. Cummings herself will also star in the film, which she co-wrote alongside Neal Brennan, adapting the nonfiction book by neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine. […]

The Female Brain movie aims to comically detail the inner workings and complex power of brain chemistry among couples at different stages of their relationships. […] The film’s story follows five couples struggling through various stages of their relationships: whether it’s finding the right romantic balance; parenting; overcoming commitment issues; expressing emotion; or simply admitting to being useless around the house.

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Heart residue

Stuart Luppescu writes:

I recently ate at a yakiniku 焼肉 ("grilled meat") place in Kyoto that serves only chicken and pork — rather atypical. One menu item was kokoronokori 心残り. I asked the server what that was, and was told it was the flesh, blood vessels, and fat around the heart that is left over when they prepare the heart to be served. Since I am a gaijin 外人 ("foreigner"), they gave me a menu that had the entries with English glosses. For this one they wrote "regret" — they had obviously relied on Google Translate for their rendering. After I left I realized I should have taken a picture and sent it to you, but this message will have to do.

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Universal journalistic clichés?

Tank McNamara for 8/8/2016:

The Olympic Games are unique in showcasing competition in so many sports by the elite athletes of so many nations. It is an amazing stew of many cultures, yet there are common experiences. For instance it is amazing to hear "at the end of the day …" spoken in so many different languages by pundits from all over the globe.

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