Archive for March, 2016

Brain Wars: Tobermory

Joe Pater's Brain Wars project "is intended to support the preparation of a book directed at the general public, and also as a resource for other scholars":

The title is intentionally ambiguous: “wars about the brain” and “wars between brains”. As well conveying the some of the ideas being debated, their history, and their importance, I plan to talk a bit about the nature of intellectual wars: Why do they happen? What are their costs and benefits?  I hope that I’ll finish it by 2021, the 50th anniversary of Frank Rosenblatt’s death.

The planned book is about debates in cognitive science, and Joe is currently focusing on Frank Rosenblatt.  The most recent addition describes Tobermory, a 1963 hardware multi-layer neural network for speech recognition:

Nagy, George. 1963. System and circuit designs for the Tobermory perceptron. Technical report number 5, Cognitive Systems Research Program, Cornell University, Ithaca New York.

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The mostest and the bestest

Photograph of a sign in Hangzhou:

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More sweary maps from Stan Carey

Stan Carey, "Sweary maps 2: Swear harder", Strong Language (A Sweary Blog About Swearing), 3/22/2016:

You may remember Jack Grieve’s swear maps of the USA. Now he has a nifty new web app called Word Mapper that lets anyone with an internet connection make use of the raw data behind those maps.

Being a mature grown-up, I put on my @stronglang hat and went searching for swears and euphemisms. What emerged were some intriguing – and visually very appealing – patterns of rude word use in contemporary discourse.

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An impressive moustache

Alon Lichinsky sent in a link to this P.C. Hipsta comic:

And a reminder of another attachment ambiguity joke:

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Down with vs. Up for: We have maps

From Jack Grieve, in response to "Up (for) and down (with)", 3/17/2016:

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Semantic differential: Podium or lectern?

Today's xkcd illustrates a technique pioneered by Bill Labov:

Mouseover title: "BREAKING: Senator's bold pro-podium stand leads to primary challenge from prescriptivist base."

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Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 5

Previous posts in the series:

As mentioned before, the following post is not about a sword or other type of weapon per se, but in terms of its ancient Eurasian outlook, it arguably belongs in the series:

Today's post is also not about a sword, but it is about a weapon, namely an arrow.

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Mysterious sign in Japanese and Russian

Victor Steinbok sent in the following photograph:


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Now that there are effectively just two Republican and two Democratic presidential candidates left, I'm starting to get questions about comparing speaking styles across party boundaries. One simple approach is a type-token plot — this is a measure of the rate of vocabulary display, where the horizontal axis is the sequentially increasing number of words ("tokens"), and the vertical axis is the total number of distinct words ("types") at each step.

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[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

I live in the central Japanese industrial hub of Nagoya, the city that Toyota (re)built. Despite the greater Nagoya metro area's twelve million inhabitants and a GDP trailing Switzerland for #20 on the world country rankings, the locals in particular refer to the city as inaka, the boonies. Nagoya is a city almost universally described as, "not much to visit, but a nice place to live."

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Fruity bar

One of the items in the gift box handed out to the thousands of runners in the Qingyuan marathon in Guangdong province last Sunday:

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Good question

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AI for youth: success and failure

Success: Xiaoice is a Microsoft chatbot program that has become popular in China.  Her name is written in various ways:

"Xiaoice" 42,400 ghits (that's pronounced "xiǎo ice")
"小冰" 362,000 ghits (that's pronounced "xiǎo bīng")
"小ice" 11,200 ghits (that's pronounced "xiǎo ice")
"Little Bing" 16,000 ghits (she's obviously named after Microsoft's search engine*)
"Little Ice" for the chatbot doesn't work, because that's the name of Ice-T's son.

Not all of these ghits are to the Chinese chatbot program; some are for Facebook and Twitter monikers, etc., but most do refer to the Microsoft chatbot.

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