Archive for Language and mathematics

Axing languages and linguistics at West Virginia University

From M. Paul Shore:

Article that appeared on the Washington Post website this morning (and is therefore likely to appear in tomorrow's print edition) about the recently proposed demise of, among other things, the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at West Virginia University's flagship Morgantown campus (note that that department name really should be something like "Department of World Languages and Literatures and of Linguistics", since "World" doesn't really apply to "Linguistics"):

Recently proposed demise of languages, linguistics at WVU (Morgantown)

WVU’s plan to cut foreign languages, other programs draws disbelief

Academic overhaul at West Virginia University, in response to budget deficit, outrages faculty and students

Nick Anderson , WP (8/18/23)

A proposal from West Virginia University would discontinue 32 of the university’s 338 majors on its Morgantown campus and eliminate 7 percent of its faculty.  As of 6:30 PM, the article had attracted more than 900 comments, which I'm fairly sure is well above average for the Post website.  By 11 PM, it had garnered 1,400 comments.

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Learning sinitic and sinoglyphic "zero"

Plus Indic, plus Arabic, Korean, Vietnamese, Hokkien (Taiwanese), Hakka, and Fuzhou (Eastern Min).

For an exciting read / ride, be sure to follow the whole thread, travelling through time and space.

Courtesy of Egas Moniz-Bandeira ᠡᡤᠠᠰ ᠮᠣᠨᠢᠰ ᠪᠠᠨᡩ᠋ᠠᠶᠢᠷᠠ

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Mathematical parking

Sign on the campus of Zhōngguó kēxué jìshù dàxué 中国科学技术大学 (University of Science and Technology of China) telling people how to park:

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Liuzhou Snail Rice Noodles

Liuzhou Snail Rice Noodles from China. (Facebook, Li Chong-lim photo)

The photograph is from this article:

China’s ‘propaganda noodle soup’ ordered off the market in Taiwan

Noodle packaging has ‘You are Chinese, and I am too’ emblazoned across it

By Huang Tzu-ti, Taiwan News (1/17/23)

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What do the Friedmann equations have to do with the student protests in China?

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The paradox of hard and easy

If you're interested in one-way functions and Kolmogorov complexity, you'll probably want to read this mind-crunching article:

"Researchers Identify ‘Master Problem’ Underlying All Cryptography", by Erica Klarreich, Quanta Magazine (April 6, 2022)

The existence of secure cryptography depends on one of the oldest questions in computational complexity.

To ease our way, here are brief descriptions of the two key terms:

In computer science, a one-way function is a function that is easy to compute on every input, but hard to invert given the image of a random input. Here, "easy" and "hard" are to be understood in the sense of computational complexity theory, specifically the theory of polynomial time problems. Not being one-to-one is not considered sufficient for a function to be called one-way….


In algorithmic information theory (a subfield of computer science and mathematics), the Kolmogorov complexity of an object, such as a piece of text, is the length of a shortest computer program (in a predetermined programming language) that produces the object as output. It is a measure of the computational resources needed to specify the object, and is also known as algorithmic complexity, Solomonoff–Kolmogorov–Chaitin complexity, program-size complexity, descriptive complexity, or algorithmic entropy. It is named after Andrey Kolmogorov, who first published on the subject in 1963.


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Kurt Reillag and House of Cats and Dogs

A recent email from my colleague Jean Gallier explains why the new edition of Discrete Mathematics is available on his website:

A bit more that three years ago, Springer suggested that I revise my
“Discrete Mathematics” (published in 2010).
Unfortunately, Jocelyn and I
waited too long and now that we are done
Springer no longer wants it.

I added a chapter on probability theory and made some
significant changes (improvements!). I also changed the title.
There is even an intro to the simply-typed lambda-calculus!
In any case, temporarily I am falling back on the little known publisher
“Kurt Reillag and House of Cats and Dogs”.

Interested readers may observe a certain relationship between "Reillag" and "Gallier", and in any case web search will turn up Reillag's home page — which provides this post's main linguistic relevance.

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Odevity or parity

[This is a guest post by Jeffrey Shallit]

A Chinese student here at Waterloo used the term "odevity" for what English-speaking computer scientists typically call "parity" — the property of an integer being odd or even.

I had never heard this term before, so I used Google Scholar to look at where it is being used.  It is used almost exclusively by Chinese engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists.  The first usage I was able to find with Google Book Search was in 1972, obtained with this search.

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