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The next-most-recent xkcd:

Mouseover title: "Slowly progressing from 'how do protons behave in relativistic collisions?' to 'what the heck are protons even doing when they're just sitting there?'"

This progression accords with most of my professional experience — for one example, see my 2018 paper "Towards Progress in Theories of Language Sound Structure", in Brentari & Lee, Eds., Shaping Phonology, or the examples discussed in the blog post "On beyond the (International Phonetic) Alphabet", 4/19/2018.

And for my own purposes, here's a far-too-long list of other relevant posts:

"'Tortured syllables'?", 6/14/2023
"Toxic bird pits?", 2/10/2023
"Spectral slices of overtone singing, animated", 10/25/2022
"Against physics", 9/10/2022
"Gender polarization of accommodation in conversational pitch", 7/20/2022
"Stigginit", 7/9/2022
"More post-IPA astronauts", 5/16/2022
"Pronunciation evolution", 5/15/2022
"First novels", 3/13/2022
"Congratulate", 12/14/2020
"Affidavid", 12/12/2020
"Radical Liberal Raphael Warnock", 12/8/2020
"Consonant lenition + r-less perception = FUN", 8/16/2020
"Farther on beyond the IPA", 9/18/2020
"Hysteresis", 12/4/2020
"Third-g?ra(d|t)e phonetics", 10/17/2019
"Cumulative syllable-scale power spectra", 6/11/2019
"Syllable-scale wheelbarrow spectrogram", 5/28/2019
"Towards automated babble metrics", 5/26/2019
"Was it 'getting' or 'gay'?", 1/9/2019
"A better way to calculate pitch range", 11/26/2018
"LRNLP 2018", 8/18/2018
"All the thyme in the world", 8/10/2018
"My poster for the 'Prosody Visualization Challenge'", 6/14/2018
"Audiobooks as birdsong", 6/10/2018
"Kim Cattrall's alveolar plosives", 6/7/2018
"On beyond the (International Phonetic) Alphabet", 4/19/2018
"Ask LLOG: 'friends' vs. 'flense'", 3/18/2018
"Opamacare", 1/31/2018
"Doubletalk challenge", 1/18/2018
"Trump: To 'd or not to 'd?", 1/14/2018
"Ask LLOG: Easy but unused initial clusters?", 1/13/2018
"Administrative reductions", 12/9/2017
"Dysarthria or dentures?", 12/7/2017
"Toe-ly gumby a sound change", 9/12/2017
"Pitch contour perception", 8/28/2017
"[t]-less -ists", 4/8/2017
"Weak t", 4/6/2017
"The over/under on linguistic discovery", 4/5/2017
"Inaugural addresses: SAD", 2/5/2017
"MLK day: Pitch range", 1/17/2017
"Transcription, lenition, and allophonic variation", 1/8/2017
"Political /t/ lenition", 8/7/2016
"Ask Language Log: Trend in the pronunciation of Clinton?", 7/30/2016
"Ted Cruz's 'basketball ring' — or was it 'rim'?", 4/28/2016
"Some phonetic dimensions of speech style", 4/16/2016
"Poetic sound and silence", 2/12/2016
"Political sound and silence", 2/8/2016
"Steampunk phonetics, continued", 8/24/2015
"Steampunk phonetics", 8/23/2015
"The shape of a spoken phrase in Spanish", 5/29/2015
"Totes", 5/9/2015
"Man: reduced or not?", 3/28/2015
"Bring the cavalry", 3/27/2015
"Your tension has been exterminated", 3/24/2015
"bibbity ~ bibbidi, bobbity ~ bobbidi",3/14/2015
"Vocal creak and fry, exemplified", 2/7/2015
"Sarah Koenig", 2/5/2015
"Pre-filled-pause lengthening", 2/10/2014
"Phrasal trends in pitch, or, the lab subject's moan", 11/7/2014
"The shape of a spoken phrase in Mandarin", 6/21/2014
"Real fry", 6/19/2014
"Consonant effects on F0 in Chinese", 6/12/2014
"Vocal fry probably doesn't harm your career prospects", 6/7/2014
"Consonant effects on F0 are multiplicative", 6/6/2014
"Consonant effects on F0 of following vowels", 6/5/2014
"Bus v. buzz", 4/2/2014
"PSDS", 3/30/2014
"Doubletalk of the month", 3/9/2014
"How Sid Caesar learned double-talk", 2/13/2014
"Can you tell the difference between English and Chinese?", 12/20/2013
"Metal v. medal", 11/27/2013
"English prosodic phrasing", 9/21/2013
"Clipping McDonald's", 7/29/2013
"Mid-Sagittal music", 2/6/2013
"Portuguese is disappearing, one vowel at a time", 12/2/2012
"Call in Language Log", 11/2/2012
"Sound waves", 10/19/2012
"Glottal opera", 8/7/2012
"Phonetic reanalysis", 7/27/2012
"Interdental substitutions", 5/17/2012
"Pausal epenthesis in Brussels", 2/22/2012
"Gesture at 8:00 a.m.", 2/19/2012
"Alyssa 'talks backwards'", 1/30/2012
"DRESS-raising in New Zealand", 1/28/2012
"Vocal fry: 'creeping in' or 'still here'?", 12/12/2011
"What English sounds like if you have Wernicke's aphasia", 10/22/2011
"Jill Abramson's voice: difference tones?", 10/21/2011
"Jill Abramson's voice", 10/18/2011
"Is a title and is a campaign too WHAT?", 9/29/2011
"How truck starts", 8/9/2011
"Hwæt about WH?", 4/13/2011
"Symbols and signals in g-dropping", 3/23/2011
"British Movie", 2/15/2011
"Mele Kalimaka!", 12/25/2010
"Phonetic marketing", 10/23/2010
"The rɑɪt sɑʊnz?", 10/2/2010
"Kennedy speed: Fact or Factoid?", 9/15/2010
"How you speak and how you think you speak: Part I", 7/28/2010
"Pin or pen?", 7/27/2010
"Yoghurt medley", 7/23/2010
"More on a#n vs. an#", 5/9/2010
"The phonetics of a#n vs. an# juncture", 5/8/2010
"Guide dogs = gay dogs?", 4/27/2010
"A little Icelandic phonetics", 4/19/2010
"Eyjafjallajökull fail", 4/16/2010
"Drunkenness at the LSA", 1/11/2010
"Phonetics quiz", 11/2/2009
"Reverse English", 11/1/2009
"Prisencolinensinainciusol", 10/25/2009
"Yaourter", 7/21/2009
"Conversational rhythms", 4/13/2009
"How fast do people talk in court?", 3/21/2009
"The shape of a spoken phrase", 4/12/2006


  1. D.O. said,

    July 6, 2023 @ 7:49 pm

    Just want to mention that relativistic collisions is not an "edge case" for understanding proton structure. It is the easiest case to understand at least something. People wouldn't be so keen to build all those accelerators otherwise. Or maybe they would have been (kinda cool), but no one would have paid for it.

    The coolest law energy thing about protons is sitting by a large water tank waiting when one of them decays. Nothing yet, but they found massive neutrinos, which is also cool. xkcd should make a cartoon about what people mean by "massive" when they talk about neutrinos…

  2. Aristotle Pagaltzis said,

    July 7, 2023 @ 2:09 am

    This of course recalls the famous humorous quote:

    We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.

    (As examined by Quote Investigator in )

  3. bks said,

    July 7, 2023 @ 7:59 am

    "There are no answers, only cross references" –Norbert Wiener

  4. KeithB said,

    July 10, 2023 @ 7:26 am

    This applies to programming, too.

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