Tag Archives | Language

Experts Determine The Age of A Book That ‘Nobody Can Read’ — The Voynich Manuscript

Voynich ManuscriptReally fascinating. I think the conventional wisdom is the book is a prank, but a truly elaborate one. Daniel Stolte writes on PhysORG:

While enthusiasts across the world pored over the Voynich manuscript, one of the most mysterious writings ever found — penned by an unknown author in a language no one understands — a research team at the UA solved one of its biggest mysteries: When was the book made?

University of Arizona researchers have cracked one of the puzzles surrounding what has been called “the world’s most mysterious manuscript” — the Voynich manuscript, a book filled with drawings and writings nobody has been able to make sense of to this day.

Using radiocarbon dating, a team led by Greg Hodgins in the UA’s department of physics has found the manuscript’s parchment pages date back to the early 15th century, making the book a century older than scholars had previously thought.

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Hidden Messages Woven Into Birds’ Nests

kitenestJust more evidence that non-human animal species have deeper intelligence than we give them credit for, and communicate in ways to which we are oblivious. Wired Science discusses a secret form of bird-language, which we should probably learn if we hope to foil the coming avian takeover:

The discovery of messages in raptors’ nests has raised the possibility that many bird species encode signals into these structures, with seemingly decorative flourishes actually full of meaning.

Among black kites, scraps of white plastic are used to signal territorial dominance. To other kites, the scraps are a warning sign. To humans, they hint at an unappreciated world of animal communication.

“It’s probably very common that other bird species decorate their nests in ways compatible with what we found,” said Fabrizio Sergio, a biologist at the Doñana Biological Station in Spain. “And not only birds, but fish and mammals.”

A few species, such black wheateaters and bowerbirds, are already known to use nest design in courtship displays.

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The Personal Is Not Political

Personal is PoliticalVia The First Church of Mutterhals:

The phrase ‘the personal is political’ always bugged me, but I could never articulate why. There’s just something off about it, like conflating religious belief and science, or the mixture of church and state. I was recently reading the Christopher Hitchens autobiography and I came by this quote regarding the inception of the phrase:

“At the instant I first heard this deadly expression, I knew as one does from the utterance of any sinister bullshit that it was — cliché is arguably forgivable here — very bad news.”

He goes on to say that now you only needed to flout your attachment to whatever arbitrary delineation (as he brilliantly puts it, “a member of a sex, or gender, or epidermal subdivision, or even erotic “preference,”) to be considered a revolutionary. This is coming from a person who wears his arrest record proudly, having been done in for numerous protests and rallies and the kind of rabble rousing people my age and younger can’t even imagine.… Read the rest

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Six Easy Theses – Tools for Cosmological Discussion

sacred_scienceEnjoy as I have the recent posts concerning God and the New Atheists (great band name btw), and there is nothing as comical to me as reading atheists argue for the futility of engaging in these arguments, I do think that the ground needs a little clarifying so that these discussions, that I believe have value in the platonic sense, can gain some traction given a few tools to help the language.

The dichotomy between theism and atheism is perhaps a step of generality too far, and leads one to engage in those kinds of circular arguments that both sides find frustrating.  So I propose the following terms, in order to help us identify our beliefs, or non-beliefs, in a way that fosters informed discussion.

1. There are at least 2 types of atheists. One I will call the Micro-Atheist, that type of person who approaches the cosmos without the need to ascribe consciousness to things he/she has no evidence to support.  The Micro-Atheist is the quietest type since he/she admits that his/her non-belief is simply grounded in not having any first hand experience of such evidence.  The second type I will call the Macro-Atheist.  This latter type approaches the cosmos with scientific rationality, and supposes that such scientific principles are universal, and given the inability of theists to prove their claims, these atheists propose that there is no divine consciousness directly influencing human affairs.  And this is a reasonable assertion, however, it is still an assertion.… Read the rest

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The Most Annoying Word (What)Ever

Personally I would have voted for “like,” as more people than I care to think of are incapable of voicing a thought without using that once useful but now despicable word. “Whatever” is also fairly heinous, though! From Reuters:

Whatever you think about using grating words, at the end of the day it’s actually better not to say whatever, if you know what I mean.

WHATEVER

For the second consecutive year “whatever’ topped a Marist poll as the most annoying word or phrase in the English language.

Nearly 39 percent of 1,020 Americans questioned in the survey deemed it the most irritating word, followed by “like” with 28 percent and the phrase “you know what I mean’ at 15 percent…

[continues at Reuters]

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Top New Words For 2011: Palinism, Obama-mess

2011‘Palinism and ‘Obama-mess’ are funny, but what has me worried is the prediction that we’ll all be talking about the Great Recession in 2011. The Global Language Monitor has released their top 10 words to be in vogue in 2011:

  1. Twenty-Eleven – The English-speaking world has finally agreed on a common designation for the year: Twenty-eleven far outstrips ‘two thousand eleven’ in the spoken language. This is welcome relief from the decade-long confusion over how to pronounce 2001, 2001, 2003, etc.
  2. Obama-mess – David Letterman’s neologism for 2010 also works for 2011. This word is neutral. If Obama regain his magic, he escaped his Obama-mess; if his rating sinks further he continues to be engulfed by it.
  3. Great Recession – Even the best case scenario has the economy digging out of this hole for the foreseeable future.
  4. Palinism – Because the media needs an heir to Bushisms and Sarah Palin is the candidate of choice here.
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Kanji Character List Gets First Update In 30 Years

Young woman practicing kanji. Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Yoshu Chikanobu, 1897

Via The Japan Times:

The government on Tuesday updated the list of kanji designated for everyday use for the first time in 29 years, deleting five and adding 196, including difficult-to-write characters that have become easier to use with computers.

The new total is 2,136

In the postwar period, the list was first compiled in 1946, when 1,850 kanji were approved for common use. It was revised in 1981 to 1,945 characters.

In line with the new list announced by the Cabinet Office, the Justice Ministry revised a ministerial order to reflect the changes in its list of kanji that can be used for people’s names

The education ministry revised its curriculum guidelines to ensure that junior high school students can read most of the new characters.

Government documents will be written in accordance with the new list.
The reform reflects that the widespread use of personal computers and mobile phones has generally made it easier for people to write kanji.

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Ignorant Sarah Palin Stumbles Into Creating ‘Word Of The Year’

Whatever your feelings about Sarah Palin, you have to admit that she certainly seems to know how to fail upwards. Mock her all you like for using the non-word “refudiate,” but she’s having the last laugh as it now becomes the New Oxford American Dictionary’s ‘Word of the Year.” Nick Bilton reports in his Bits blog for the New York Times:
palin tweet

At the start of the year the word “refudiate” didn’t exist. In mid-July Sarah Palin, Alaska’s former governor, changed that when she used the word in a Twitter message, somehow mashing up “refute” and “repudiate,” while trying to say something like “reject.”

Now refudiate has been named the word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary, published by the Oxford University Press, beating out a number of other locutions — many technology-related — that have spread through the language and the Web over the past year.

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New Language Discovered In India

Cultures about to be lost, are still being found. The new language discovered in India, Koro, leaves more questions than answers. From Discovery News:
A team of linguists announced Tuesday that they have discovered a new and unique language, called Koro, in northeastern India, but immediately warned that it was highly endangered. Only around 800 people are believed to speak the Tibeto-Burman language, and few of them are under the age of 20, according to the researchers who discovered Koro during an expedition as part of National Geographic's "Enduring Voices" project. The language, they said, has never been written down.
Continues at Discovery News ... From National Geographic:
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