April 01, 2005

News of the day

I'm too busy for a real post, but here are a couple of language-related links...

That Media Lab researcher who invented a way for nearby merchandise to call you on your cell phone has also created a writer's assistant that translates English-language stories into computer programs. These programs don't actually run, but "they help writers to understand the implicit structure of their narratives", claimed the author, who is working on a C++ translation of The Mill on the Floss. Another Media Lab whiz has created Dynamix, a wearable digital assistant that turns data from body sensors into a heads-up display of coupled differential equations for athletes and dancers to use in planning their movements, and Mandelbroken, an image-processing program that calculates the Hausdorff dimension of a cookie in real time as it crumbles.

In breaking news from the Amazon basin, it turns out that the Pirahã and the Mundurucú actually have a complete number vocabulary, but regard numbers as deeply obscene, and will never say them in public. However, it has been confirmed that both groups definitely do lack a word for FCC. The IAWJ (International Association of Whorfian Journalists) has convened an emergency meeting to decide on a response.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 1, 2005 08:02 AM