Language Evolution and Tetris!

Hello, people of the Blogosphere!

Why not take some time out from your dedicated reading to do a little language evolution experiment!  And all you have to do is play Tetris!

The Evolution of Tetris

… and learn an alien language.  It takes no more than 10 minutes.

The instructions and game are here:

http://blake.ppls.ed.ac.uk/~s0451342/tetris/Tetris_Experiment.htm

Due to me being a terrible programmer, it’ll probably crash or do some weird things.  But it’s all in the name of pseudo-science!

P.S. – users of the latest Firefox will need to update java.

Language Evolved due to an “animal connection”?

New hypothesis of language evolution. Language Evolved due to an “animal connection” according to Pat Shipman:

Next, the need to communicate that knowledge about the behavior of prey animals and other predators drove the development of symbols and language around 200,000 years ago, Shipman suggests.

For evidence, Shipman pointed to the early symbolic representations of prehistoric cave paintings and other artwork that often feature animals in a good amount of detail. By contrast, she added that crucial survival information about making fires and shelters or finding edible plants and water sources was lacking.

“All these things that ought to be important daily information are not there or are there in a really cursory, minority role,” Shipman noted. “What that conversation is about are animals.”

Of course, much evidence is missing, because “words don’t fossilize,” Shipman said. She added that language may have arisen many times independently and died out before large enough groups of people could keep it alive.

Nothing but wild conjecture as usual but still interesting.

Original article here.

Bayesian Bilingualism

Recently, David Burkett and Tom Griffiths have looked at iterated learning of multiple languages from multiple teachers (Burkett & Griffiths 2010, see my post here).  Here, I’ll describe a simpler model which allows bilingualism.  I show that, counter-intuitively, bilingualism may be more stable than monolingualism.

Continue reading “Bayesian Bilingualism”

Language – An Embarrassing Conundrum for the Evolutionist?

Hello! This is my first post on the blog and whilst I didn’t want it to be an angry rant after I found this youtube video there seemed little could have been done to avoid it.

This is a video by a creationist named “ppsimmons” who writes on the front page of his youtube channel that he “apologizes for not knowing enough to scientifically refute the evidence for creation nor for being clever enough to “scientifically” support the theory of evolution.” And yet he feels to be enough of an authority to make videos refuting evolution using ‘science’.

I know I shouldn’t let this annoy me as much as it obviously has, I know that there will always be creationists out there and I know that these creationists will never listen to anything I have to say. However, in this case, I’ve decided to respond mostly to set straight the interpretation of Robert Berwick’s words used in this video.

Continue reading “Language – An Embarrassing Conundrum for the Evolutionist?”

An article a day… starting some time soon

Having handed in my disseration and, with the notable exception of graduation, all but completed my course, I’m now free to spend much more time working on this blog. From now on I’m hoping to post at least an article a day — varying from research-related posts to just my reading for the day. Probably the most pertinent thing to write about is what I have been working on over these past few months, but being a precocious topic-hopper I’m going to provide a video of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, an economist who appears to hold a lot of sensible views about the economy.

N.B. The video I was watching doesn’t appear to be compatible with wordpress. So, here is the link to that video, and the video below is a far shorter segment from Newsnight. It’s dumbed down to the extreme, but you get the gist of Mr Taleb’s stance. Enjoy.


BBC is impartial, apparently?

…Or so the news story goes:

BBC director general Mark Thompson said that if the corporation transmitted the appeal it would be “running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in its wider coverage of the story”.

It always amuses me how the BBC retains a sense of commitment to impartiality when it continually fails to adhere to these standards on an almost daily basis. A greater irony is that through their reluctance to broadcast the Gaza Appeal, the BBC inadvertently drew the attention of Tony Benn, who decided to tell everyone the charity’s address live on BBC News (scroll down article to see the video). So now I guess the BBC’s just left with its principles…

To donate, visit: http://www.dec.org.uk (see BBC, it’s not that hard!)

The atheist on the bus is shrill and strident…

… shrill and strident, shrill and strident. Okay, Dawkins, we get the point: atheists are accused of being shrill and strident. If you’re too lazy to click the links, then you’ll probably be a bit baffled as to what I’m ranting about. Long story short: Dawkins is getting on my nerves with his repeated use of the adjectives ‘shrill’ and ‘strident’. Nearly every piece I’ve seen him in lately involves some moment where he takes the opportunity to say these words. His latest effort being in the brilliantly devised atheist bus campaign. I mean, come on, there are plenty of other adjectives available to negatively describe atheists, with Dawkins probably knowing more than most.

Still, the master of atheism isn’t alone in his campaign of continued repetition, as AC Grayling proves when he decides to wade in with absolutely nothing new to offer. Instead, we’re treated to a completely pointless recap about there probably being no fairies etc. Moan, moan, yawn.

This photo is taken from the atheist bus website. I will, however, be on the lookout in Edinburgh, camera phone at the ready.
This photo is taken from the atheist bus website. I will, however, be on the lookout in Edinburgh, camera phone at the ready.

Ariane Sherine on the other hand, well, she’s a breath of fresh air, and I congratulate her on a successful campaign. Her positive and jovial approach to atheism is a delightful contrast to the vast numbers of Dawks (my word for the unquestioning followers of Dawkins), who seem intent on dumbing down the debate. Still, having spent the previous two paragraphs bitching, I think it’d be a bit hypocritical of me to harp on about these virtues. Let’s just hope she can spearhead some more innovative thinking in the atheist movement, much in the same vein as the aforementioned bus campaign… But next time, give Dawkins something new to say, allow more airtime for Ariane and preferably no Polly ‘New Labour cheerleader’ Toynbee.

And just to reiterate the message: There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

More information

The official atheist bus campaign website